Any fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates will tell you that Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole are two cornerstones of the Pirates’ franchise for the next few years. But if you were to throw all of the baseball players in the world together, would you pick either of them to start your franchise?
ESPN attempted this very task as they held their fifth annual Franchise Player Draft on Friday afternoon (which you can view the details of here). 30 of ESPN’s baseball experts and gurus were randomly assigned a place between one and thirty and each picked a player with whom they’d begin a baseball franchise. Contracts were not considered.
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The first Pirate selected was none other than Andrew McCutchen at number nine overall by ESPN Insider Tony Blengino.
Here’s part of what Blengino had to say about snagging McCutchen:
"McCutchen, however, ultimately was No. 4 on my Big Board — and my selection — due to his big-time offense/defense combination at an up-the-middle position. At 28, he’s got plenty of prime years left, and his skill set should age gracefully. The only reason he lasted this long in this draft is likely his relatively slow 2015 start, and he’s picked up the pace of late. About the only area of concern I can find is his puzzlingly low liner rate in 2014-15, which I still believe is just a blip. Sign me up for a high probability of .300/.400/.500 in the middle of the field for at least the next five years."
Some interesting players picked before McCutchen include Felix Hernandez, Anthony Rizzo, and Manny Machado. The only reason I can see for not picking McCutchen earlier is his age. He’s 28, so he doesn’t have as many great years left as some of the younger guys taken in the draft. But he should age better than some of the power hitters and pitchers.
The only other Pirate selected in the draft was Gerrit Cole with the 29th selection. Cole is just 24 years old and is setting the world on fire in 2015 with eight wins and a 1.90 ERA. Justin Havens from ESPN Stats & Info had the second to last selection and took Cole. Here’s what Havens had to say about drafting Cole:
"Given how aggressive people were in drafting young position players, I’m comfortable taking Cole, who appears to have taken a bit of a leap and is a better pitcher than several arms already selected in this draft. His strikeout rate is up from last year, his walk rate is down, he’s getting more ground balls, and his 2.42 FIP suggests his 1.90 ERA isn’t completely ridiculous. He was expected to be an ace, and looks like he’s fulfilling that expectation in 2015 — and he’s only 24."
Cole has his youth going for him, as he’s younger than many of the other pitchers drafted before him, including Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Madison Bumgarner, and Matt Harvey. Some interesting picks ahead of Cole include Yoan Moncada, Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts, and Shohei Otani (from the Pacific League of Nippon Profession Baseball in Japan). Cole should only continue to get better from here, and is a steal with the 29th overall selection.
What are your thoughts? Were there any Pittsburgh Pirates that were left out? Were McCutchen and Cole drafted too low? Let us know in the comments or @rumbunter on Twitter!