Why it wouldn't be a bad idea for the Pittsburgh Pirates to take pitchers early in the 2024 draft

Even though the Pittsburgh Pirates already have a ton of young pitching, there are many reasons why taking more pitching early in this year's draft wouldn't be a bad idea.
Jul 18, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Paul Skenes (left) is
Jul 18, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Paul Skenes (left) is / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Since Ben Cherington took over as general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2019-2020 off-season, his drafts have had a very heavy focus on pitchers. In 2020, all but one of his selections were arms. In 2022, he took 15 non-two-way pitchers. Last year, he added 14 more hurlers. But while many want the Pirates to put a heavier focus on position players early in this year’s draft, I don’t think it would be a bad idea to put a focus on more arms early in the draft again. That doesn’t mean take no position players, but here’s why they should take an arm somewhere with their first two or three picks, if not their first pick.

The first reason is that there’s a lot of pitching talent that will likely go in the top ten picks. Hagen Smith has been compared to Josh Hader with a real chance of staying in a rotation. Chase Burns can throw 100 MPH. Trey Yesavage is a talented arm with loads of pitchability and great breaking/off-speed stuff. 

Secondly, I trust this regime with developing and identifying young pitching talent much more than young position player talent. You can say that Paul Skenes was a sure thing, but Jared Jones went from about a nine percent walk rate in the minor leagues to having about the same walk rate as George Kirby. Mitch Keller turned things around the last few seasons after a rough start to his pro career, and many of the top prospects are doing well. 

Third, if the Pirates took some pitchers early in the draft, that would almost guarantee that they would be willing to move pitching prospects who are already in the system for proven and controllable bats at the deadline. They could very much improve both the current and future line-up by using some of the pitchers they have right now for a position player or two who has already had success in the bigs and has at least two years of control remaining beyond 2024, preferably three or more.

A fourth reason is that even if they do pick a college bat, it doesn’t help the team immediately. The Pirates need bats now, not in 2026 or 2027, but in 2024, or 2025 at the very latest. It would also be extremely preferable if the batters they added have already shown they can hit against Major League pitching.

Another reason is that if the Pirates are going to be good, it’s going to be on the backs of their pitching. Sure, they need hitting, too, but this core of pitching could carry them for a very long time. Even a slightly below-average to average offense will win a lot of games with how many arms they have. Currently, Jared Jones, Paul Skenes, and Mitch Keller look like the future. Bailey Falter isn’t a free agent until after the 2028 season. You have Johan Oveido returning next season with Bubba Chandler, Braxton Ashcraft, Anthony Solometo, and Thomas Harrington at Double-A already. Don’t forget about Mike Burrows returning sometime in the second half of this year. This is a team built around pitching, and I think they should stick with that.

Lastly, I don’t like the likelihood of a really good college bat still being on the board when the Pirates are on the clock. Now, of course, if something crazy happens, and one of Nick Kurtz, Braden Montgomery, or Jac Cagliaone somehow is still available when the Pirates are selecting, they should draft one of them. But the chances they are still there at the ninth overall pick are slim. Kurtz or JJ Wetherholt look like they have the best chance of still being available when the Pirates are on the clock, but I also wouldn’t hold my breath on either.

With all these things in mind, I don’t think it would be a bad idea if the Pirates added more pitching. Take some pitching early in this year’s draft, use some of the pitching already in the system to acquire bats, develop the guys that are still here, and continue to build a super staff in the Majors. The Pirates should play to their strengths, and drafting pitching early would do that.