The Interesting Case of the 2009 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft

The 2009 Pittsburgh Pirates draft was filled with talented prep pitchers.

In 2009, the Pittsburgh Pirates made Tony Sanchez their first round pick, but the big news would come in later rounds.   The Pirates started an aggressive draft strategy that hadn’t been seen in Pittsburgh.  Owner Bob Nutting signed checks that, in the end, would add up to five high school pitchers receiving $3.93 million.

The ball club selected each of the arms between the second and eighth rounds.  Second round pick Brooks Pounders passed on USC.  Zach Dodson skipped Baylor, Zack Von Rosenberg was LSU’s lost crown jewel.

Like Josh Bell did last year, Colton Cain told The University of Texas thanks, but no thanks.  Trent Stevenson skipped out on his scholarship to Arizona.   It was a big splash for a Pittsburgh franchise that typically didn’t go big in the amateur draft.

But three years later, the most important question is this one:  Did the Pirates invest the money wisely?

In a Chuck Finder article in the PG at the time, an AL scout had this to say about the Pirates strategy:  “The players’ performance, however, will be the ultimate determination of  whether the investment was made competently.”

Pirates fans are still waiting for one of the young arms to have a break out season.  Actually, none of the draft class has really had a breakout.  We certainly realize that there is still time, but with Tony Sanchez having his first down season, it points to 2012 being a huge year for the Pirates first draft class.

It certainly didn’t help the progress of the prep arms that they didn’t sign until mid August.  Nevertheless, keep an eye out for one of these players to have a bust out 2012 season.  It’s time for a Robbie Grossman-like breakout.

The checks are cashed – it’s “Go!” time.

Here were the Pittsburgh Pirates selections in each of the first ten rounds of the 2009 draft. [Kudos to Pirates Prospects 2012 Prospect Guide]

Tony Sanchez could be the first of the 2009 draft class to join Alex Presley (06 draft) and Chase d'Arnaud (08 draft) in Pittsburgh.

Catcher Tony Sanchez was taken with the fourth pick.  He received a bonus of $2.4 million.  Sanchez has flashed his bat in 2009 and 2010, but struggled in his first season at the AA level.  Sanchez will be 24 years old in May.

RHP Victor Black was a supplemental first rounder who received a bonus of $717,000.  Black has battled injuries, pitching just 71.2 innings since being drafted out of Dallas Baptist.  He will turn 24 years old in May and will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December 2012.

RHP Brooks Pounders was the second rounder and the first prep pitcher selected by the Bucs.  He received a bonus of $670,000.  In December, he was traded to the Royals for 24-year old Yamaico Navarro.

OF Evan Chambers was the third round pick, and received a bonus of $423,000.  He has struggled in three years of A level ball for the Bucs, striking out 31 percent of the time, but he does flash some power.  Chambers will turn 23 in March and will be Rule 5 eligible this December.

LHP Zack Dodson was the fourth round pick who got a bonus of $600,000. Dodson was the second prep pitcher and, despite an injured hand, put up some nice numbers in his age 20 season.  He has a lively fastball and can be the breakout pitcher of the draft class with continued development.

LHP Nathan Baker was the fifth round pick signed from The University of Mississippi who received a bonus of $176,000.  Baker repeated high A this year, throwing 148.1 innings with a 3.34 ERA and 6.4 K/9 while walking just over three batters per nine innings.  You might remember Baker pitching in the Arizona Fall League this year, where he struckout 16 in 15.1 innings pitched, but walked twelve while allowing 24 hits.

RHP Zack Von Rosenberg was the sixth round pick, the third prep pitcher signed by the Bucs, who received a bonus of $1.2 million.  The two-time “Mr. Louisiana” in baseball struggled last year in his first full season, but seemed to figure it out toward the end of the year.  He has pitched 185.2 innings with 7.5 K/9 with 1.7 BB/9 , but the long ball has been his enemy.

RHP Trent Stevenson, the fourth prep pitcher and the seventh round pick, received a bonus of $350,000.  The lanky Stevenson pitched 85 innings last year, and just couldn’t put hitters away when we saw him.  He has made 14 starts, pitched in 51 games, and has struckout just 4.4 batters per nine innings.  He turns 22 years old in June.

LHP Colton Cain was the fifth prep pitcher and the eighth round pick and received a bonus of $1.125 million.  Cain will turn 21 in February, and showed the best promise of the pitchers in the draft class.  In 154.2 innings he has struck out 7.4 batters per nine innings.  A closer look at Cain’s numbers show the whiffs dropping as he has moved up the levels:  Cain posted 9.4 K/9 in the GCL.  He posted 8.5 K/9 in A- and 6.9 K/9 in 106.1 innings at the A level.  On the plus side, he has also reduced his walks per nine.

Infielder Brock Holt was the ninth round pick, receiving $125,000.  Holt played at Rice and has moved quickly through the Pirates system.  He has a .368 OBP in 959 at-bats.

Catcher Joey Schoenfeld was the tenth round pick who received $195,000.  He was released from the Pirates in July of 2011.

Three later round pitchers of note are 12th rounder Jeff Inman who received a bonus of $425,ooo.  Injuries have crushed the one time hyped Stanford fireballer.  He has pitched just 40 innings with the Bucs before making a surprise (to us at least) appearance in the Arizona Fall League.  Inman gave up six runs in 7.1 innings while striking out three in the AFL.

In Spring Training last year, we saw Kevin Correia get knocked out of the game early.

One man's struggles.... another man's opportunity.


The 6’4″ Ryan Beckman was called to the mound.  He surprised us with a solid effort.  The 18th rounder in 2009, he didn’t impress for the Spikes in 21 games, but the Bucs liked him.  The right hander proved them right as the closer this year at high-A with 8 K/9.  Beckman is 22 years old and Rule 5 eligible in December.

Filthy Phil Irwin is a favorite of ours, signed in the 21st round out of Mississippi.  Irwin will turn 25 next month.  He  put up nice numbers in 14 starts at AA after pitching well in 53 innings at Bradenton.  Irwin was also sent to the AFL, but injured his forearm and appeared in just one game.   He is Rule 5 eligible in December.

Lefty Zachary Fuesser was a 34th round pick who has thrown 177 innings.  He has improved on his strikeouts and walk ratios each season.  Fuesser will be 21 in July and Rule 5 eligible this year.

So now that you’ve read all that, who will be the breakout player?