Opinion: Top pick in draft should set up Pirates for future


Photo by Connormah via Wikimedia Commons

Over the last 15 years, the Pirates have had 10 picks in the top ten.

Carson Chapel, Sports Editor

In the first lottery draft for the MLB, the Pittsburgh Pirates have received the first overall draft pick of the 2023 draft. The upcoming years for the young Buccos, if managed correctly, should be rather enjoyable.

Over the last 15 years, the Pirates have had 10 picks in the top ten. Some have seen success while others have been busts. 

In the last four years, the Pirates have drafted one of the top sets of prospects in the MLB. Among these former first-round picks and potential stars are Termarr Johnson (No. 4 overall), Henry Davis (No. 1), Nick Gonzales, (No. 7), and Quinn Priester (No. 18). 

These future players, if managed correctly, could lead the Pirates to the playoffs sooner rather than later. The situation could remind fans of the era that featured Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, and Gerrit Cole in the early to mid-2010s. 

Pedro Alvarez was the second pick in the 2008 MLB draft, and he provided the Pirates with a somewhat average career, posting a .233 average, a pretty solid gap for power with 131 home runs, but a big 809 strikeouts out of 2,500 at bats. He was the generic “home run or miss” player, but he was awesome. 

There also can be great value in trading great draft picks, yet the Pirates have been terrible at knowing who will pan out in the MLB. Gerrit Cole, who already showed signs of being an ace, going 19-8 in 2015, was just at the point where the Pirates could not afford that dominant of an arm. 

In the Cole trade in 2017-2018, the Pirates believed Joe Musgrove and Colin Moran were at a greater value. And as every baseball fan knows, Cole has become one of the most dominant pitchers in the league. So overall it was a lousy return for the Pirates. 

So it is a common occurrence that a player leaves the Pirates and has more success. 

A better trade involved Jameson Taillon (No. 2). His first two seasons were rough but he turned it around with a 14-win season. When he was traded to the Yankees in 2021, he underwent Tommy John surgery, and the Pirates got four prospects who were considered the top 21 prospects by MLB Pipeline at the time. On paper, this could be Ben Cherington’s best trade since taking over as general manager. 

Other top draft picks that are currently or recently played on the Pirates include Cole Tucker (No. 24), Kevin Newman (No. 19), and Ke’Bryan Hayes (No. 45). Newman has worked very hard and is respected by fans for having a great batting average. Hayes had a great shortened season in 2020 but has slowed down in the last two years. Tucker has definitely been disappointing, which is sad to see. 

As for the 2023 draft, the Pirates have a chance to score big. Some of the top prospects include LSU outfielder Dylan Crews, Tennessee right-hander Chase Dollander and Indiana high school outfielder Max Clark.

Clark is on a different level. This is who the Pirates should draft, but there is always a chance that he would not sign. This is unlikely, but Clark is already committed to Vanderbilt, a very successful college program. 

Overall, Pittsburgh’s future is bright and a lack of talent is not going to be an issue. Other teams such as the Dodgers, Phillies, and Astros have a solid group of players ranging from young guys to old guys. Sometimes this is an advantage, but as times have changed, so has the way a team is managed, just like the Pirates.