Pittsburgh Pirates 2022 Draft: Tanking For Who, Wait Again?
The Pittsburgh Pirates are on pace to have one of the worst records in baseball, setting them up for another top pick.
Everyone knew that the 2021 season would be another tough year for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ben Cherington continued his organizational tear down this past off-season when he dealt away several established veterans. While this was expected, there was still hope that the 2021 Pittsburgh Pirates would outperform the 2020 team.
So far that has not been the case. As of now, the Pittsburgh Pirates have a .362 winning percentage, which puts them on pace for one of the worst records in Major League Baseball. Now there is a lot of time until the end of the season and the team could very well start to play better baseball. After all, it does seem like the organization is ready to start giving the younger players more of an opportunity. Not to mention Bryan Reynolds continues to put up MVP-like numbers and Ke’Bryan Hayes is looking to turn a corner at the plate after a tough July.
Even if some of the younger players come up and perform, the Pittsburgh Pirates are likely to end up with one of the top three picks in the 2022 MLB draft. Now depending on who you are as a fan, this can be viewed as a good thing or a bad thing. However, the reality of the situation is that the Pittsburgh Pirates are once again going to be drafting in a spot with the potential to get a future Franchise-like player.
If there is one thing that the 2021 MLB Draft taught us, it’s that you can never be too sure who will go at what pick. In most cases, there is not a stand-out number one prospect who should be drafted. Yes, we have seen this in the past with the likes of Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole, but in today’s game with so many more upside athletes, the margin between these prospects has grown closer. So with that being said, Pittsburgh Pirates fans need to hold up on the “tank” talk.
For the better part of the 2020 season, the slogan that was popular among Pittsburgh Pirates fans was “tank for Kumar”. Rocker at the time was the clear name for the top pick in 2021. Even our site here at Rum Bunter pushed the “tank for Kumar” movement.
However after the 2020 season finished and it became official that the Pittsburgh Pirates would have the topic in the 2021 draft, the “tank” movement became a reality. What was not expected to many was that other names would enter the conversation. Before the 2021 season even started we started seeing names like Jack Leiter and Jordan Lawlar enter the conversation. I wrote about both players during the off-season, speculating that the number one pick would still be Rocker’s to lose.
As time went on, more information came out, and with more information came more concerns. As the 2021 collegiate season started, Rocker along with Leiter got off to solid starts. This kept their names firm at the top of Draft boards. However, both pitchers saw their velocities dip throughout the season which raised questions about their upside. Also, prospects like Marcello Mayer and Henry Davis were climbing up the rankings.
When Rocker failed to answer the questions, he saw his draft stock slide. He ended up going 10th overall to the New York Mets and was the only first-round pick not to sign. In a somewhat mysterious situation, the Mets and Rocker couldn’t come to an agreement due to his physical.
So was “tank for Kumar” worth it? Looking at the 2021 draft now, yes it was. The Pittsburgh Pirates got several elite prospects including potentially the best college bat in Henry Davis. After night one of the draft, it was obvious that there were a good bit of fans who were unhappy with the team passing on Rocker still. In turn, there was a division of sorts created with one side trying to explain why the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted the way they did and the other side wanted the team to take the “proven” name.
The 2022 draft could very well end up in the same place. Right now if you look at any draft board prep outfielder Elijah Green is considered the top prospect. Not only is he considered the top prospect, but his father Eric Green played for the Pittsburgh Steelers. So Pittsburgh Pirates fans are already making the connection that he could be in play for next year’s selection.
In fact, we have already seen the “tank” comments pop back up. If the Pittsburgh Pirates continue to lose this season it is because they simply are not ready to compete. No player on the team is not trying to win or perform at their highest level. So to say the team is trying to “tank” is fundamentally wrong.
Now, this may not necessarily be the same thought process for others in the organization as they continue this rebuild. Regardless, there is only so much both sides can control, if the players perform better than expected then it is a thing and the Pirates will pick lower. If not, then the team will be in a prime position to continue and enhance their future.
The team is not “tanking” for a certain player because there is just so much time between now and the draft. There are several other players who could enter the mix for the first pick in 2022, including Drew Jones, Termarr Johnson, and potentially others depending on what players rise or fall between now and the draft. If Green is the top player come next Spring and the team has a chance to get him then great. But keep in mind, there is only one way for Green to move on the Draft board entering 2022.
So try not to set an expectation this far out as we did with “tank for Kumar”. Based on what happened in 2021, a very similar situation could play out in 2022. Remember as everyone always says: the baseball draft is very much the hardest to predict. The team is rebuilding and yes, the higher the pick the better for the rebuild. But let’s not get our hopes up for a specific player like we did as fans last year.