Pittsburgh Pirates: A Potential 2021 Draft Scenario
The Pittsburgh Pirates have the first overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, along with the top bonus pool. This could allow the club to get creative.
With the Pittsburgh Pirates picking first, there is great expectations for the pick. The team is rebuilding and looking to add as much talent as possible and this is the first step. A rebuilding team like the Houston Astros back in 2012 used the draft to lay a foundation for their future 2017 World Series championship.
The presumptive first pick in the 2012 Draft was right-handed pitcher Mark Appel. However, the Astros went a different route taking shortstop Carlos Correa. At the time, Correa was ranked sixth overall in Baseball America’s top 500 Draft Prospects. Why did the Astros do this? The first overall pick had a slot value of $7.2 million and the club was able to take their savings from Correa’s $4.8 million signing bonus to give to Lance McCullers Jr., who ranked as the 13th best prospect per Baseball America. Compare this with Mark Appel, who reportedly had a higher bonus demand and turned down $6 million from Houston and then $3.8 million from the Pirates, who drafted him. This worked out for Appel, who went back to Stanford.
The Pittsburgh Pirates could face a similar situation with Jack Leiter, who had high bonus demands out of high school. The favorite to go with the first overall pick could have a higher demand and sign for a value above slot value since he can go back to school. The Pirates, as they look to build the farm, could thus turn to Kumar Rocker, who seems more likely to sign for slot value.
Additionally, the top prep prospect Jordan Lawlar, could be a below slot deal that allows the club to sign more “hard to sign” players at picks 37 and 64. Most prep players sign below slot and with the value of $8.4 million with the first pick, this type of player could be attractive. Lawlar is considered to be a top three prospect in the MLB Draft and could potentially allow the Pirates to utilize their bonus pool more creatively.
Overall, Jack Leiter seems to be the safe bet to go first overall, as he has been dominant this college baseball season. However, if he has a higher bonus demand, then Rocker or Lawlar could be more appealing as the Pirates look to add the most talent. This would be a similar strategy to what the Houston Astros did in 2012.