Q&A With Michael Rodgers of Buried Treasure: A Pirates Blog (Part 3)

Stephen Guilbert: In the last installment with Michael Rodgers of Buried Treasure: A Pirates Blog, we cover the 2012 draft and a recent mock draft that Michael completed that has the Mets taking 3B high schooler Trey Williams - a pick a lot of mock drafts project for the Mets as well.

SG: Both Norris and Bell provide nice examples about players' stock falling come draft day and the tough decisions teams have to make about upside, signability, injury, poise, etc. To change gears a bit, you recently released a mock draft that has Stanford RHP (Mark) Appel going #1, the Pirates snagging high school SS Carlos Correa (one of my favorites in this class) and the Mets taking high school 3B Trey Williams at #12. Can you share with us here at Mack's Mets a bit about your process of writing the mock and your overall opinion of this 2012 draft class?"

MR: Well, I’ve always been fascinated with the draft. I think the reason behind that has two parts. First, it’s just the shiny new toy syndrome almost everyone likes. The draft is exciting; adding prospects is exciting. Second is the emphasis the Pirates need to put and have been putting on the draft. Under Neal Huntington as a general manager, the Pirates have led baseball in money spent on bonus money in the draft. (For example, not all of the money paid to Stephen Strasburg in his major league contract was bonus money. Even if it was total money, the Pirates would be second behind the Nationals.)

Because of that, before I even started Buried Treasure I had done a solid amount of research on the draft. My first draft post highlighted two players, providing a scouting report. From there, I simply decided to do a mock draft. With no offense intended at any one in specific, mock drafts, especially those this early before the draft, always irk me. Generally the reasoning behind them make little sense and do not match up with how teams actually pick. In addition, the reader usually just gets a name and maybe a poorly written sentence. I wanted to do better than that, so I tried to incorporate factors that actually drive teams to their picks into my mock draft and then provide a detailed scouting report which also explains my reasoning behind my picks.

I honestly feel somewhat under qualified to gauge this year’s draft class as a whole due to a lack of context. Last year was the first year I seriously followed and researched the draft. As such, I can only compare this year’s class to last year’s class. Last year’s class was a really good one, highlighted by seven elite players at the top (Gerrit Cole through Archie Bradley) and incredible college depth, especially in the pitching ranks. This year, the strength seems to be in the depth of the high school players, both in the outfield and on the mound. I also think it is possible to see another good elite class of players emerge that would include Appel, Zunino, Giolito, Buxton, and maybe even guys like Gausman, Correa, and Williams.

SG: The Pirates have gone with pitchers each of the last two drafts. You project them taking Carlos Correa, a fantastic high school shortstop from Puerto Rico. Do you see them taking a position player like Correa or another pitcher to continue to build on that already impressive minor league pitching crew?

MR: Well, a bit of background on that. Neal Huntington has made it clear that he prefers positional players, especially college guys, when it comes to first round picks, if they are the best player available. That was evident when they selected Tony Sanchez instead of the high-upside, but flawed prep pitchers in 2009, such as Tyler Matzek, Shelby Miller, and Jacob Turner. In 2010, Machado and Taillon were clearly above the rest of the class for the #2 pick (behind Harper) and allegedly (emphasis on allegedly) scouts had to convince Huntington to take Taillon over Machado. Last year, I have no doubts Huntington would have preferred to take Rendon had he been healthy, but he was not, and so he went with the college pitcher with the insanely impressive stuff, Cole.

All that explained, I seriously doubt the Pirates take another prep pitcher unless someone dominant falls to #8; right now, that would be Lucas Giolito, and I'd be surprised and miffed if that happens. A prep batter is also doubtful, although to a lesser degree, so a Correa is more of a personal pipe dream. Again, for the Pirates to take a prep batter, he would have to be the clear best player available at #8, and even there, although no one would admit it, they might pass on a toolsy, but raw outfielder such as Buxton due to the Pirates depth at that position.

From there, it leaves the college guys. Considering how the farm system is developing and the window that could start closing when Andrew McCutchen becomes a free agent after the 2015 season, a college guys makes sense. In fact, it makes sense enough that the Pirates could reach at #8. They would definitely prefer a guy like Mike Zunino, Devin Marrero, or Kevin Gausman to drop to #8, but since right now that looks doubtful, the Pirates could take a guy like pitchers Chris Beck and Mike Wacha or bat Victor Roache and pass on a slightly better prep pitcher or hitter.

Being somewhat realistic, I hope the Pirates are able to grab a guy like Gausman. He would fit in nicely with that pitching staff, and won't be three or four years away like a prep pitcher will be, at least considering how the Pirates develop their pitchers.

SG: Last question, Michael. Given the loss of Albert Pujols from the champion Cardinals, the loss of Prince Fielder and 50 games of Ryan Braun from the Brewers, with the Reds still a team with a lot of question marks and the Astros and Cubs rebuilding for 2014, is this the Year of the Bucco in the central?

I hate to say it, but no. Last year was a bit of a fluke (for a microcosm on that, look at this article I just wrote about pitcher Jeff Karstens's crazy June and July, and while we have added Clint Barmes and Erik Bedard, neither are major difference makers, and we lost Paul Maholm and Derrek Lee, although Lee barely played for the Pirates.

Plus, the Reds were always really good, and added Mat Latos. The Cardinals will get Adam Wainwright back and added Carlos Beltran. The NL Central isn't as strong as it was last year, but the Pirates just aren't ready.

Now, what's exciting is the near future, rather than the distant future. As early as next year, the Pirates could see guys such as Starling Marte, Tony Sanchez and Gerrit Cole all in Pittsburgh. Plus, if Neal Huntington sees them getting close, I think he will pull the trigger on a trade.

In that same time, the Astros will have moved to the AL West. The Cubs will still be rebuilding now that they didn't get Fielder. The Brewers will get older and probably lose at least one of Shaun Marcum, Yovani Gallardo or Zack Greinke to free agency. Plus their farm system is barren. The Cardinals lost Pujols, and while they have a solid farm system, I think they will have trouble replacing Chris Carpenter, Lance Berkman, Beltran, and Matt Holliday in the near future, all of whom are on the wrong side of 30. The Reds will still be a force, and I believe the Pirates' main competition.

Stephen: We sincerely thank Michael for his time and urge you to check out his blog every so often. He has great knowledge of the game and covers prospects, the draft, and baseball in general with great writing and unique insight.


Mack Ade said...

excellent series, Stephen

Mack Ade said...


McCutchenistheTruth said...

Thanks for having me guys!

Stephen Guilbert said...

Thanks, Mack but the real appreciation goes to Michael and Buried Treasure. This was the most in-depth email correspondence I have had regarding the draft and minor leaguers and we thank Michael for his time. Hopefully there were be a 2.0 of this sometime soon (or a counter-interview?? hint hint* haha)

McCutchenistheTruth said...

Haha, I would love to do a counter-interview.

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