Pittsburgh Pirates: MLB Draft and Relievers

Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports /

Baseball America has Louisville reliever Zack Burdi ranked at #22 on their draft prospect list.  The Pittsburgh Pirates have the #22 pick in the draft.

The MLB draft is less than a month away as it starts on June 9th.  Here at RumBunter we have been putting out some draft previews for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Prep pitchers, catchers, first-baseman, and college pitchers thus far.

Baseball America recently released their new top 100 prospect draft list.  Listed as the #22 best prospect is Zack Burdi, a relief pitcher from the University of Louisville.  Now these are rankings, not a mock draft so that does not mean that the Pittsburgh Pirates have interest in Burdi. In fact, they most likely have no interest in him.

Burdi projects to be the best available bullpen arm  in the draft.  Typically college relief pitchers can move up to the big leagues quickly.  In fact we have seen some teams draft them in June and call them up to help spark the bullpen in September.

The Pirates are a small market team.  With that when small market teams draft they look for the player they think will provide the most productivity in their big league careers.  Essentially a player who is going to play every day or start every five days (pitchers).

The Pirates will not invest a first round pick in a potential relief pitcher.  Not that relief pitchers are not valuable, but they will not provide enough of an impact to warrant a first round pick. Most relief pitchers give you about 70 innings per year out of a total of at-least 1458 innings per season (162games x 9innings).  The Pirates want a player who will ply 140+ games a year or pitch 200+ innings.

This is not a new philosophy by any means.  If one looks at their drafts under Neal Huntington you can only find one true reliever that was drafted high by him. In 2009 he draft Victor Black out of Texas-Baptist University.  He was a power arm who had command issues, he later was traded for Marlon Byrd.

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The Pirates draft starting pitchers for the reasons above. If those specific pitchers are not working out as starters they then will convert them to relievers.  If you look at the current bullpen there is two current pitchers who were drafted by the Pirates who took this track to the majors.  Jared Hughes and Tony Watson were starting pitchers during the minor league careers.  Watson made 56 starts and Hughes made 115 starts.  Justin Wilson, the former Pirates left-handed reliever, also made 98 stats.

My points is the Pirates rather take high upside starting arms in the draft and convert them to relievers than to use a pick on a guy who will never have a chance to start at the big league level. If they stray away from this philosophy then it would be because they are trying to save money on their draft pool.  Other than that reason, you will not see them use their #22 pick on a prospect like Burdi.