The Pirates haven’t had a whole lot of success with draft picks especially the last couple of decades. But the Pirates have made good on some. So here are the Top 5 best Pirates draft picks of all-time.
5. Richie Hebner – The Pirates selected Hebner in the first round of the 1966 draft. He became the Pirates starting third baseman in 1969 and played there until he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as a free agent prior to 1977. From 1969 to 1976, Hebner hit .277 with a .350 OBP and a .796 OPS. He hit 121 home runs and drove in 482 runs while helping the Pirates win the 1971 World Series. He played for the Pirates again in 1982 and 1983 as a utility player.
4. Jason Kendall – The son of former big league catcher Fred Kendall, Jason Kendall was taken by the Pirates in the first round of the 1992 draft. Kendall spent his first nine seasons for the Bucs from 1996 to 2004. He was a three time All-Star who hit .306 with an astonishing .387 OBP and an .805 OPS. He hit 67 home runs, drove in 471 runs, and stole 140 bases, easily the most by a catcher in Pirates history.
3. John Candelaria – The Pirates took Candelaria in the second round of the 1972 draft. An All-Star in 1977, Candelaria was 124-84 during his first eleven seasons in Pittsburgh, posting a 3.16 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP while help leading the Pirates to the 1979 World Series. He won 20 games in 1977 while posting the National League’s lowest ERA that year at 2.34. His biggest moment came in 1976 when he no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers, becoming the first pitcher in Pirates history to throw a no-hitter. He came back to the Pirates in 1993 where he pitched out of the bullpen and would end his career where it all started.
2. Dave Parker – The Pirates selected Parker in the fourteenth round of the 1970 draft. “The Cobra” played eleven seasons with the Pirates while batting .305 with a .353 OBP and an .848 OPS while hitting 116 home runs, driving in 758 runs, and stole 123 bases. Parker was a four time All-Star with the Bucs and won three Gold Gloves. He captured two NL batting titles in 1977 ans 1978 and won the NL MVP in 78′, becoming the first Pirate in history to win a batting title and MVP in the same season. He helped the Pirates win the 1979 Fall Classic and there has been some debate to whether Parker should of been inducted into Cooperstown.
1. Barry Bonds – The Pirates took Bonds in the first round of the 1985 draft. Bonds could not have entered that draft with a better baseball pedigree. He was the son of former All-Star Bobby Bonds, the God son of Hall of Famer Willie Mays, and the cousin of Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. Bonds made his Pirates debut the year after he was drafted. He spent seven seasons in Pittsburgh compiling a .275 avg with a very impressive .380 OBP and an .883 OPS. He hit 175 home runs, drove in 556 runs, and had 251 stolen bases. Bonds was a two time All-Star and won three Gold Gloves. He helped lead the Pirates to three straight NL East division titles and won the NL MVP twice in 1990 and 1992. His first MVP in 1990, Bonds hit 33 home runs and stole 52 bases, becoming the first Pirate ever to hit 30 home runs and steal 50 bases in the same year. Whether you like Barry Bonds or dislike him, you can’t deny that he was not only the best Pirates best draft selection in history, but one of the best players to ever play the game.