Pittsburgh Pirates: Going Under Slot Led to an All-Time Great Draft Haul

PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 18: Catcher Henry Davis, who was selected first overall in the 2021 MLB draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, poses for photos on the field after signing a contract with the Pirates at PNC Park on July 18, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 18: Catcher Henry Davis, who was selected first overall in the 2021 MLB draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, poses for photos on the field after signing a contract with the Pirates at PNC Park on July 18, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates deciding to go under slot in the draft with select picks helped them put together an extremely talented draft.

The Pittsburgh Pirates had the number one overall pick during the 2021 MLB Draft. While there wasn’t a consensus number one overall pick, high school shortstop Marcelo Mayer was generally seen as the number one pick with many mock drafts having him go to the Pirates.

To the surprise of many, the Pittsburgh Pirates went with college catcher Henry Davis. While Davis was still seen as a top-5 draft pick, almost nobody had him going number one overall. Though his final defensive home is still a bit questionable, Davis was viewed as arguably the best hitter.

Still, this was an underslot decision by the Pittsburgh Prates. The Pirates ended up signing Davis for just under $2 million of slot value. But the decision to go under slot with the number one overall pick was a very wise choice, and ended up with the Pirates having an extremely strong draft. They had the best draft of any of the other teams.

Because the Pirates went with Davis, the team was able to draft Bubba Chandler with the confidence they were able to sign him. Chandler went to the Pirates in the 72nd pick. Chandler was one of the best high school players in the draft. Not only was he a consensus top 20-25 pick, but Chandler is also a two-way prospect. He’s both a pitcher and a shortstop. While he is a better pitcher than a position player, the Pirates will surely at least try the concept with him.

Chandler wasn’t the only player the Pirates were able to pick because they went underslot with the #1 pick, just the most notable. Their second-round pick, Anthony Solomento was the best left-handed pitcher in the draft. Competitive balance pick Lonnie White, and pitcher Owen Kellington are two more high-ceiling prospects the Pirates have a decent chance of signing.

The Pirates didn’t go under slot for the number one overall pick. They also were able to go under slot on their rounds 5-7 picks, as well as their round 9 and 10 picks. Going under slot gave them the confidence that they would again, be able to pick a player who was projected to go early in the draft, yet hadn’t been selected yet.

With the 403rd overall pick in the 14th round, the Pirates picked high school outfielder Braylon Bishop. Bishop isn’t your typical 14th round pick. He was projected to be a top 100 pick by MLB Pipeline and FanGraphs. The reason teams passed on Bishop wasn’t because of his talent. It was because of the chances of him signing. While it’s still up in the air whether or not the Pirates sign the talented high school prospect, the chances that they are able to are far from zero percent.

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With the Pittsburgh Pirates going under slot with the number one overall pick, as well as going under slot with a few other picks, the Bucs were able to put together an extremely strong draft class. They were able to draft high school players who had been passed up because of signing questions as they would have more than enough money to go over slot on those players. Many of those high school players fell to them in later rounds, giving the Pirates an opportunity to have one of their best drafts in quite some time, if not in their franchise history.