Pirates Top 5 draft picks of all-time

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. 



20 years ago: How Barry Bonds was almost traded to the Atlanta Braves

The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Barry Bonds as the sixth overall pick in the 1985 draft. From 1986 to 1991, Bonds hit .268 with a .367 OBP and posted an .850 OPS while hitting 142 home runs, driving in 453 runs, and stole 212 bases. In Spring Training of 1992, former Pirates GM Ted Simmons and former Braves GM John Schuerholz were about to pull off one of the biggest trades in baseball history with Barry Bonds going to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for outfield prospect Keith Mitchell, pitching prospect Alejandro Pena, and a player to be named later. The deal had been agreed upon from both GM’s, the players had passed their physicals and all that was left was an official announcement from the Braves. But as John Schuerholz was about to call Ted Simmons to tell him about when he could announce it, Simmons told Schuerholz that the deal could not be done. Simmons explained how Jim Leyland was very furious when he heard about the deal. Schuerholz himself was upset as well because the deal was called off at the last minute and that a lot went into a deal of that magnitude. Let’s think about for a second that had this trade been made how it would of effected things? For one, Bonds would not of been involved in trying to throw out Sid Bream at home plate. To go a step further, the Pirates probably don’t make the postseason that year without Bonds. Other things to consider is that the Braves would of signed him to an extension and he wouldn’t of signed with the San Francisco Giants as a free agent, and the big question is would the Braves have won more World Series titles with Bonds there? But all we can do as fans is speculate on what could of been had that deal went down.

Pirates sign Daniel Cabrera to minor league contract

The Pirates have signed veteran right-hander Daniel Cabrera to a minor league contract. The 30-year-old Cabrera spent most of his time in the Baltimore Orioles rotation from 2004-2008. He has a very good live arm, but walks have always been a problem for him throughout his career. As a matter of fact, Cabrera allowed the most free passes in the American League in 2006 and 2007. He last appeared in the Majors with the Washington Nationals and Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009. I’d have to think that he will be used mainly for AAA depth as opposed to competing for the fifth spot in the Pirates rotation. 

What Jonathan Mayo said about Taillon, Cole, Marte, and Bell

Yesterday MLB Network aired the Top 50 prospects for 2012. The complete 100 were then shown on MLB.com. MLB.com’s draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo had scouting reports for all 100 prospects. Here’s what he had to say about each of the four Pirates prospects that made the list.


#8 Jameson Taillon – Scouting report: Taillon uses all of his 6-foot-6-inch frame well on the mound, with a good downward plane, which should allow him to keep the ball down in the zone and continue to generate groundouts. He has a plus fastball that touches the upper 90s that he can maintain deeper into starts. His curve is a plus pitch, and his second breaking ball, a slider, can be as unhittable at times. He has a good feel for the changeup and just needs to throw it more to give him four outstanding offerings, all of which he can throw for strikes. With the gloves coming off in 2012, he should be able to become a more complete pitcher.

Upside potential: He has the stuff, size and presence to become the ace of the Pirates’ staff.


#11 Gerrit Cole – Scouting report: With the exception of a rough outing in the Rising Stars Game, Cole avoided overthrowing and opening his front side too much, the pitfalls that caused him to be hittable at times during his junior year at UCLA despite plus stuff across the board. He can reach the upper 90s easily with his fastball, even registering some triple digits, and sits at 95-96 mph deep into starts. He throws a hard slider in the upper 80s and even his changeup is a power pitch. All three are plus offerings, and he can throw all for strikes. He was catching too much of the plate at times last year at UCLA, but when he’s repeating his delivery correctly, he keeps things down in the zone, making him even tougher to hit.

Upside potential: A No. 1-type starter who shouldn’t take very long to get to the big leagues.


#40 Starling Marte – Scouting report: Marte has always shown an ability to hit for average, and he proved he can do it at a higher level, winning the Double-A Eastern League batting title in 2011. Improved plate discipline will help that even more. He started to grow into his power as well and there could be more as he matures. He has the speed to be a successful basestealer but needs to work on cutting down his caught-stealing rate. With more work, he’ll be a good basestealer, and he is an excellent defensive center fielder with more than enough arm to move to a corner if needed.

Upside potential: An exciting, toolsy everyday outfielder who could team up with Andrew McCutchen to make a dynamic outfield duo in Pittsburgh.


#69 Josh Bell – Scouting report: Bell was one of the best high-school bats in the 2011 Draft class but was deemed unsignable until the Pirates took a shot and got an above-slot deal done in the second round. He is a legitimate switch-hitter who has plus hit and power tools from both sides of the plate. He has an advanced approach at the plate and will work counts and draw walks along the way. He played center field in high school, but with average speed, he’ll probably move over to a corner spot, where he should be an above-average defender. He has the arm, and certainly the bat, to profile well in right field.

Upside potential: Plenty of average and power from both sides, an All-Star-caliber player who hits in the middle of the lineup.



Four Pirates prospects make Top 100 list

MLB.com has released it’s Top 100 prospects for 2012. After having just one prospect in the Top 50 last year, Jameson Taillon , the Pirates have four prospects that are on the list this year with three being in the Top 50. Those players include Jameson Taillon, Gerrit Cole, Starling Marte, and Josh Bell. Taillon returns to the list and is in the Top 10 at #8 after being ranked #18 a year ago. Cole, who was the first overall pick in last year’s draft, is ranked #11. Marte finds himself at #40 after being unranked last year. And Josh Bell, the Pirates second round pick from 2011, is ranked #69. Tony Sanchez did not make the list this year which isn’t surprising considering the year he had last season. However, I was a little surprised that Robbie Grossman wasn’t on the list. I thought the breakout season that he had would of been enough for him to sneak in there. But anyways it’s nice to see the Pirates have more prospects ranked this year as opposed to last year. 

Huntington says “Never say never” when asked about a McCutchen trade

Pirates GM Neal Huntington was recently on MLB Network Radio and was asked about maybe trading Andrew McCutchen. Neal replied, “Never say never.” He added, If someone wants to back up the truck and give us one of those organization-altering deals, it’s something that we’d have to listen too … It would have to be a dramatic overpay on the part of the other club.”  

Who posted the highest OPS in a season in Pirates history?

Yesterday I posted about who had the highest WAR season in Pirates history and now I’m going to post about who had the highest OPS season in Pirates history.

Pie Traynor .932 (1930)

Fred Clarke .946 (1903)

Jason Bay .961 (2005)

Roberto Clemente .963 (1970)

Dave Parker .979 (1978)

Honus Wagner 1.007 (1900)

Willie Stargell 1.038 (1973)

Brian Giles 1.072 (2002)

Barry Bonds 1.080 (1992)

Ralph Kiner 1.089 (1949)

So the Pirates have had five players who have posted an OPS of 1.000 or better in at least one season. Ralph Kiner’s 1.089 OPS in 1949 was the year he hit 54 home runs, becoming the first and only Pirate to hit 50 or more in a season. There were two other seasons in which Kiner posted an OPS over 1.000. Brian Giles also had an OPS over 1.000 two other times as well. 

Who had the highest WAR season in Pirates history?

By now all of you know what WAR or Wins Above Replacement is. It measures the value of a player compared to a replacement level player such as a bench player or pitcher in the minors. Let’s see who’s season was the most valuable in Pirates history using WAR.

Nate McLouth 4.6 (2008)

Pie Traynor 4.6 (1923)

Doug Drabek 4.6 (1989)

Oliver Perez 5.1 (2004)

Jay Bell 5.5 (1993)

Andrew McCutchen 5.5 (2011)

Freddy Sanchez 5.5 (2006)

Jason Kendall 5.7 (1998)

Dick Groat 5.7 (1960)

Bill Madlock 5.9 (1982)

Wilbur Cooper 6.0 (1922)

Bob Friend 6.3 (1956)

Fred Clarke 6.3 (1907)

Babe Adams 6.5 (1911)

Brian Giles 6.7 (1999)

John Candelaria 6.8 (1977)

Andy Van Slyke 6.9 (1992)

Dave Parker 6.9 (1977)

Vern Law 7.0 (1959)

Roberto Clemente 7.4 (1969)

Willie Stargell 8.1 (1971)

Ralph Kiner 8.1 (1949)

Barry Bonds 10.0 (1992)

Honus Wagner 11.1 (1908)

Don’t think anybody should be all that surprised that Honus Wagner had the highest WAR season in Pirates history. As a matter of fact, there were three other seasons in which he posted a WAR of 10 or better. Barry Bonds as you see is the only other to have a WAR of at least 10 for a season and no Pirate has had one that high since. For what it’s worth, Vern Law’s 7.0 WAR is the highest in a season by a pitcher in Pirates history. The one that surprised me was Doug Drabek’s WAR of 4.6 in 1989 which was actually higher than his Cy Young award season in 1990. 

Pirates farm system ranks #12

Milb.com has come out with their farm system rankings for all 30 teams and the Pirates are ranked #12. It’s pretty refreshing to see the Pirates ranked that high after ranking near the bottom almost every year when Dave Littlefield was GM. The one thing that has separated Neal Huntington from Dave Littlefield is the draft. Both of course have drafted high because of poor records from previous seasons, but Neal has actually taken the best players regardless of money. It’s easy to see why it’s better when you got two top of the rotation arms in Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon and possibly a third with Luis Heredia down the road, a potential five tool outfielder in Starling Marte, and a potential huge power bat with Josh Bell. Neal Huntington has done a solid job with the system since he’s arrived.

Marte and Dickerson make top prospects list

The Pirates have two more prospects that have made respective Top 10 list for MLB.com. Starling Marte has made the list for Top 10 outfield prospects as he ranks #7 and Alex Dickerson makes the list for Top 10 first base prospects at #9. Marte of course is the Pirates top Latin American prospect while Dickerson was selected by the Pirates in the third round of last year’s draft.