top of page

The Pirates are Winners….of the Draft Lottery

By Emmet Mahon

The 2022 MLB season start was delayed while the owners and players hammered out a

new CBA. Important items they fought over were things such as competitive balance linked to a

salary cap and floor, revised free agency and arbitration, an international draft and revenue

sharing. When the dust settled, most of those issues were unresolved and both sides could pat

themselves on the back for solving the biggest obstacle in baseball, tanking. A strategy employed

in every professional sport, from the godfather of tanking, Penguins GM Eddie Johnston putting

peanut vendors in the net to secure franchise icon Mario Lemieux, to Sixers GM Sam Hinkie and

The Process (how did that work out?), to, well, several MLB franchises this century.

To address this scourge and threat to the very integrity of the game of baseball, this latest

CBA instituted a convoluted and complex draft lottery to set the order of the first round of the

MLB draft. All non-playoff teams would have their selection in the first round determined by a

weighted lottery. The top three teams with the worst 2022 records would have the greatest

chance of winning the top pick and the largest bonus pool that accompanied it. The lottery was

conducted during a primetime telecast on December 6th and in a stunning reversal of recent

history, the Pirates won. They will now be able to select the player they desire next summer.

This draft could be Pirates GM Ben Cherington’s legacy draft. During his Pirates tenure,

he has never had a first-round selection outside of the top 10. His first draft was the COVID

impacted draft of 2020. It was a crapshoot for all GMs because of the inability to conduct

extensive scouting of players. He selected 2B Nick Gonzales, who, while beset by injuries and

inconsistency, is still regarded as a top prospect. The next year he had the top pick. With several

players worthy of being that selection, but with no consensus top player, he chose C Henry Davis

and signed him well below slot, freeing up money for later in the draft to acquire intriguing,

younger prospects for over slot bonuses. It was an audacious strategy, and now is regularly

followed by teams at the top of the draft. In his most recent draft, he selected prep 2B Termarr

Johnson. He supplemented that selection with several pitchers, mostly from the college ranks.

This strategy should allow these picks to move quickly through the system to be part of the

team’s unstated goal of contention in 2024 and beyond. The player he selects in July will send a

clear message if that is, in fact, the plan, or just more lip service.

The Pirates absolutely, positively must take the best player on the board and pay him

what is necessary. The system is already burgeoning and can afford lesser regarded prospects

later in the draft to procure the next championship caliber player. Who that player will be

remains to be seen. Eight months is an eternity in amateur scouting. Players will plateau, players

will surge, players will get injured once they start keeping score. Heading into 2023, three names

are in the discussion for top player. LSU OF Dylan Crews, Tennessee RHP Chase Dollander and

high school OF, Max Clark from Franklin HS in Indiana. Early mock drafts have the Pirates

selecting Crews.

Dylan Crews, OF, LSU. The Pirates are in good shape at the front of the diamond.

Pitchers, catchers, and infielders, particularly in the middle, all have at least one prospect who

has the look of being a solid, everyday contributor, or better, on a major league roster. The

outfield is a different story. There are players that if a lot goes right, could be very good players.

Right now, there is not one prospect you could put your finger on and say, that’s The Guy. Dylan

Crews is The Guy. The Florida native would have been a top selection in 2020, however, shortly

before the draft, he withdrew his name from consideration and matriculated to LSU. He bet on

himself, and he won. In 125 college contests spanning 594 plate appearances, Crews collected

176 hits, 27 doubles, 6 triples and 40 home runs. He drove in 114 runs and stole 17 bases. His 81

walks and 100 strike outs resulted in a career slash line of .356/.458/.677, an absurd OPS of

1.135. He is a solid defender, adequate in center, but shows ability to be a plus RF down the

road. Most of all, he has a championship mentality.

Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee. Dollander was undrafted in 2020 out of his Georgia

high school. He initially attended Georgia Southern for his freshman year before transferring to

Tennessee where he blossomed into an ace. He has a fastball that reaches 99 MPH and has

supplements it with a tight slider and big curve. He has a consistent delivery and commands his

pitches quite well. Between the two schools, he has a 14-3 record. He has fanned 172 batters

while walking only 41 in 128 innings. His 3.02 career ERA is slightly inflated by the 4.04 ERA

he posted in his freshman year at Georgia Southern. His Tennessee ERA was 2.39 and had a

combined WHIP of 1.09. He could move quickly through the minors and be a front-line starter

for a contending Pirates team.

Max Clark, OF, Franklin HS, Indiana. Clark is the only prep player currently under

consideration for the first overall pick. He is a five-tool player and would represent a long view

strategy by Cherington. His arrival would likely not coincide with the opening of the window in

2024 but could be a player to extend the window when the always financial driven decision

making occurs with players already in the system. His stock will hinge on upcoming tournament

play against better caliber opponents. If he continues to dominate and develop, it would not be a

surprise to see him donning a Pirates jersey on draft night.

While these three names dominate the evaluation for who should be the first player

selected, there are others who with an exceptional spring, could catapult themselves into the

discussion. Names to keep an eye on after the calendar turns to 2023 include Ole Miss SS Jacob

Gonzales, North Carolina HS OF Walker Jenkins, Wyatt Langford from the Florida Gators,

intriguing and toolsy Vanderbilt OF Enrique Bradfield and Infielder Jacob Wilson from Grand

Canyon. Should Wilson somehow play his way up to the first selection, it would probably be a

popular choice. Jacob is the son of former Pirate fan favorite Jack “Flash” Wilson. If the Steelers

tab Joey Porter, Jr. with their first draft pick, Pittsburgh fans could have several years of enjoying

watching two heralded second-generation players.

Notes: The draft lotter only establishes the order for the first round. All subsequent

rounds are determined by won/loss record, worst to best. In those rounds, the Pirates will be

selecting third based on a tie breaker with the Reds. Playoff teams will draft in the order of their

2022 record, with Astros going last. In addition to the Pirates, the Tigers (3rd ), the Rangers (4th )

and the Twins (5th ) all improved their first-round selection position.

57 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page