Pittsburgh Pirates Mock Draft MLB.com: Update 3


The 2016 Major League Baseball draft starts on June 9th with the Pittsburgh Pirates picking in the first round at both 22 and 41, with the pick number 41 coming in the Lottery Round A portion.

This extra first round pick is where the Pittsburgh Pirates took players such as Vic Black and Barrett Barnes under the old draft rules in the supplemental first round, Connor Joe in the Lottery A Round with the pick coming from their trade of Bryan Morris to the Marlins, and Ke’Bryan Hayes with their compensation for Russell Martin signing in Toronto. This season, pick number 41 comes from the Lottery Round A pick, which is the first portion of the Competitive Balance Picks. Competitive Balance picks are rewarded to those in the smallest ten markets or smallest ten revenue streams.

Major League Baseball’s prospect website, mlbpipeline.com, ranks Louisville Cardinals pitcher Zach Burdi as their 41st draft prospect, which in terms of prospect rankings to draft picks, would put him in the area of the Pirates Lottery A pick. Baseball America ranks Burdi as their number 21 draft prospect, putting him in the range of the Pirates first round pick at number 22. However, we all know player rankings have no real effect on the draft itself and he could go anywhere in the first round or even slide somewhere to the second round.

Even more so with Burdi, as the recent MLB Pipeline mock draft done by Jim Callis, has the Pittsburgh Pirates selecting Burdi with their first round pick at number 22, saying:

"Burdi could help Pittsburgh’s bullpen as soon as this summer and be developed as a starter in the Minors next season if desired. Local products Kirilloff (unlikely to get here) and Zeuch also are on the Pirates’ radar, as is fellow Pennsylvanian Jones."

Jim Callis brings up an excellent point about how Burdi could help the bullpen this summer, as it appears the team needs that help. The back three of Neftali Feliz, Tony Watson, and Mark Melancon have been excellent as they have posted a 2.37 ERA in 64.2 innings, along with a 3.47 K/BB ratio. Jared Hughes has a 3.65 ERA in 12.1 innings, but even as a pitcher who has to work around a higher FIP, he has struggled this year coming off of an injury. Hughes has a 5.39 FIP, a very low groundball percentage at 45.5 percent, and his K/BB ratio is less than one at 0.75. Hughes is not a strikeout guy, but him walking more than striking players out and getting a low groundball percentage is concerning.

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Outside those top four there have been some question marks. Arquimedes Caminero has a 5.19 ERA and 6.53 FIP in 17.1 innings and was walking 6.75 per nine before being placed on the disabled list. Ryan Vogelsong has been placed on the 60 day disabled list. Kyle Lobstein and Cory Luebke have pitched to a 4.79 ERA/4.77 FIP and 14.73 ERA/13.21 FIP respectfully before both being optioned to Triple A Indianapolis. Wilfredo Boscan and Rob Scahill have both looked good so far with their 2.92 ERA/3.37 FIP and 3.18 ERA/3.12 FIP, but both have pitched in a small sample of 12.1 innings and 11.1 innings respectfully this season. AJ Schugel has appeared less than stellar with his 4.56 ERA in 23.2 innings, but his 3.04 FIP show he should improve. With the combination of these three, the bullpen appears to need some help, and Burdi would make sense.

But here’s the thing, the Pirates have the help they need coming up within the next month. Once Jameson Taillon makes his anticipated debut, assuming no injuries or “injuries” in the case of Francisco Liriano, Juan Nicasio is the obvious choice to slide into the bullpen. Nicasio is more suited for the pen, having a .208/.287/.347 slash against by right-handed pitching and having a .256/.315/.476 and 4.57 K/BB the first time through the order. His two pitch mix- fastball and slider – works better in the pen as well. Once Taillon gets the call up, the back end of Feliz, Watson, and Melancon will get another hard thrower to pitch in the sixth and in different situations in Nicasio to go along with Hughes.

The bullpen with Nicasio stands at five strong options, and that does not include the eventual callup of Tyler Glasnow to the rotation with Chad Kuhl being another option to get the call, allowing Jeff Locke or Jon Niese to pitch from the bullpen. A waiver wire move or trade can also occur, and even the possibility of using Rob Scahill, Wilfredo Boscan, or even AJ Schugel in the pen as the sixth or seventh options because of their performances this season.

Jim Callis would be right, he would be a much needed help to the Pirates bullpen, if we looked at how the top four have pitched, and how Nicasio is better suited for the bullpen, along with the performances of bottom two or three bullpen pieces, that fit of helping the bullpen this year doesn’t really fit. The argument could be made he would fit next year with Feliz and Melancon being free agents, but you don’t draft bullpen pitchers for next year.

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With all this said, Burdi does possess an electric arm, sitting upper 90s and possessing a mid to upper 80s slider, and a very good change up. Starting pitchers need a three pitch mix, and despite being an elite reliever for the Louisville Cardinals, teams could view Burdi as a starter do to having this mix. However, Baseball America notes that with his “fringe-average control” he would be better suited for the bullpen. So taking a player who is better suited for the pen do to control issues, and one that likely wouldn’t be in the pen this year, would be the most non Neal Huntington pick ever. It’s just not how he operates, they pick players based on the way the players project, they turn starters who have struggled into relievers – see Luis Heredia and Justin Wilson – and they find buy low relievers who will rebound based on their metrics – see Feliz and Melancon.

Another way to look at why Burdi is likely not going to be the Pirates pick is based on past drafts. In the first round, Huntington has taken four pitchers in the first round, three being college pitchers –Vic Black, Gerrit Cole, and Mark Appel. Black was a starter at Dallas Baptist and he started 9 of his first 15 games in the minor leagues before a shoulder and bicep injuries, as the Pirates moved him to the pen full-time. Gerrit Cole was seen as having the makings of a frontline starter. Mark Appel – who I still think the Pirates had no intention for signing unless he would sign below slot value – was also seen as having the makings of a front line starter.

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Even when looking at the second round history of Neal Huntington, the round in which he has selected six pitchers of his nine picks, with only one being a pitcher. The team took Tanner Scheppers at number 48 from California State University Fresno. Baseball America described Scheppers:

"With his workable mechanics and terrific stuff, Scheppers has the stuff to be a top of the rotation starter, but it all now depends on his recovery from the stress fracture. He’s now the wild card of the 2008 draft."

Further proof of not taking pitchers that are primarily relievers, Huntington has taken zero college arms in the third round. The two he has taken in the second are Cody Dickson from Sam Houston State University and Jacob Taylor from . Dickson has started 78 of his 79 games in the Pirates minor leagues and started 40 of his 50 games in college. He was selected in 2013. Taylor comes from Pearl River Community College, and he had Tommy John Surgery, but made one start in the minors going two innings. Taylor split time hitting in pitching in 2014, so he was primarily a reliever, but last year at age 19, Taylor started eight of the eleven games he pitched in, and will be presumably be used as a starter once he recovers from surgery.

Related Story: The Pirates Bullpen Appears To Have Righted The Ship

Although Burdi throws hard and has three pitches, his control being an issue and his lack of starting experience, 0 starts in 58 collegiate games, the odds are not in his favor of being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates at picks 22 or 41. The bullpen coming around behind their string top four, with starting pitcher replacements coming up, will only allow the bullpen to get stronger with Juan Nicasio sliding to the pen. Scahill, Boscan, and Schugel pitching well, with a trade or waiver pick up being possibilities, Burdi helping the Pirates this season would also have a low probability. Come June 9, I would not expect to hear his name called.

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