Pittsburgh Pirates: Current Draft Slot Could Lead to Strong Pick
By Noah Wright
While the Pittsburgh Pirates will have a top 5 pick once again in the 2022 MLB Draft, it does not appear they will get the top overall pick again. But this selection may lead to a great pick and arguably a top two talent based on recent drafts.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are currently sitting with the #4 selection in the 2022 MLB Draft. This past draft they had the #1 overall pick. They passed on some very highly talented players like Jack Leiter, Jordan Lawlar, and Marcelo Mayer, opting to go slightly under slot with catcher Henry Davis (that’s not a knock on Davis as he was still projected to go top 5 and the best power hitter in the draft).
In the end, selecting Davis led them to picking over slot players like Anthony Solometo, Bubba Chandler, Braylon Bishop, Lonnie White Jr. and Owen Kellington. But the Pittsburgh Pirates getting the #4 selection may be more beneficial for the team in the long run. Here’s how.
In the last two drafts, there have been players that were projected to go #1 or #2, yet fell to the fourth or fifth spot in the draft. Let’s take this year’s draft for example. Many sources had Mayer going #1 overall. He was, arguably, the most well-rounded player in the draft. He showed a great bat with some pop, as well as good defense with a strong arm at shortstop. He didn’t have proto-typical shortstop speed, but more than enough to man the position. He drew many comparisons to Corey Seager leading up to the draft.
Despite his status as arguably the best pick, Mayer went #4 to the Boston Red Sox. When a prospect of that caliber is still available three picks in, it’s almost an automatic selection. Same goes for Kahlil Watson. He was another potential top five pick, showing outstanding speed, a well above average hit and power tool, and the glove and arm to stay at shortstop long term. Watson was ranked #4 by FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline, yet went 16th to the Miami Marlins. He currently is 57th best prospect by FanGraphs standard and #28 by Pipeline.
Lawlar went 6th to the Arizona Diamondbacks. At one point, he was considered the #1 pick, even going into the 2021 season. Like Mayer, he was one of, if not the best high school player available. He was a potential five-tool shortstop but went a few picks later than many had him going. He’s another one of those players that if he’s available, you don’t skip on him.
Let’s rewind to the 2020 draft. The Pittsburgh Pirates had the 7th pick and got Nick Gonzales (who is reeling off an otherworldly month of August). However, he wasn’t the best middle infield prospect going into the draft. That title would go to then-Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin.
Martin could easily have gone over Spencer Torkelson (who went to the Detroit Tigers). Not only was Martin highly athletic with fantastic speed, a great hit tool, and some power, but also very versatile. He saw time at all infield positions (aside from catcher or pitcher), left field, and centerfield. A potential five-tool player who can play essentially anywhere you need? Sounds like an automatic #1 pick, if not #2. But where did Martin fall? #6 to the Toronto Blue Jays.
I’m not arguing that the Pittsburgh Pirates should be banking on someone like Elijah Green falling to their hands at #4. But it’s possible that’s what happens. A whole lot can change between now and the next draft. Players’ values will change. Kumar Rocker was considered the best pick back in mid-2020. He went #11 with the Mets and never ended up signing because of injury concerns.
But the point of the matter is that we’ve seen it happen the last two drafts. So I think it’s worthwhile keeping an open mind that the Pirates could get a top two draft talent with the #4 pick. Maybe lightning will strike a third time and give Pirates fans another big reason to be extremely hopeful about the future.