Draft preview: Will another catcher be top pick?
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There is no Pedro Alvarez awaiting the Pirates tonight when they select at No. 4. There are no power hitters or position players who cause scouts to drool as noticeably as last June's second overall pick. This 2009 first-year MLB player draft is rife with regarded pitchers but scarce on polished fielders and catchers.
And the Pirates seem to fall somewhere at the ends of that conundrum: pricey pitcher or affordable catcher?
Among the Pirates' possibilities tonight are: Florida prep third baseman Bobby Borchering; one of several high school pitchers such as Georgia's Zack Wheeler; former University of Missouri pitcher Aaron Crow (too expensive?); or Kyle Gibson (too risky after the disclosure of a right arm stress fracture?). Then again, management may well decide to snag a catcher whose coach says is better than the Pittsburgh-infamous Matt Wieters: Boston College's Tony Sanchez.
No matter that Baseball America ranked Sanchez anywhere from No. 27 to sandwich-round pick.
It's a murky draft where, after San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg and possibly North Carolina outfielder Dustin Ackley, debates rage over whether the next dozen or three dozen prospects are all the same level.
• When: Rounds 1-3 starting at 6 p.m. today.
• TV/Internet: MLB Network and MLB.com.
• On deck: Rounds 4-30 Wednesday, Rounds 31-50 Thursday
• Pirates' picks: No. 4 overall, No. 49 in sandwich round (for failing to sign last June's second-round pick), No. 53 in the second, No. 84 in the third and No. 115 in the fourth.
Of note: This is the third in a series on the Pirates and today's first round of the MLB draft.
• First profile: Kyle Gibson (6/7/09)
• Second profile: Aaron Crow
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington acknowledged after the big deal Wednesday, and again in an online Q&A Sunday, that the club may decide to use for other draftees whatever multi-millions are saved between Nate McLouth's contract and the potential $4 million-plus price tag of a No. 4 choice.
If a choice perhaps half as expensive as Sanchez were to come their way, that translates into a potentially fatter Pirates wallet to spend on tonight's other selections: Nos. 49 (for failing to sign last June's second-round choice), 53 and 84. As the club did last June when taking a flyer on ailing pitcher Tanner Scheppers of Fresno State in the second round or using $1 million to lure outfielder Robbie Grossman from his University of Texas scholarship, the club might elect to roll the dice and spread its money over more of the draft than merely the first-rounder.
"The baseball draft is such a crapshoot," Boston College coach Mik Aoki said. "That signability [factor] ... makes such a huge difference in the way the draft plays out. You don't have it in the NBA, NFL or NHL."
Over dinner with Huntington and scouting director Greg Smith not long ago at Boston's famed Legal Seafood, Sanchez informed them he considers himself but a fraction of the $6.355 million man that was Alvarez, and none of the difficulty that were those 2 1/2 months of wrangling and allegations.
"I made it clear: You won't have issues like last year," Sanchez, 21, said this past weekend. "I'm not looking for a $6 million contract. I know who I am. I kind of know what I'm worth. You don't have to go to [the wall] for $200,000. I want to go out and start getting my feet wet at the next level."
About that comparison to Wieters, the former Georgia Tech catcher whom the previous Pirates administration passed to draft Clemson closer Danny Moskos at No. 4 in 2007: Sanchez's Boston College coach also lumped him in with another former No. 5 overall pick, Florida State's Buster Posey, taken last June by San Francisco.
"The past couple of years, we've had guys like Buster Posey [and] Matt Wieters ... who may do some things better," Aoki said. "But I would take Tony over those guys. Posey's a better power guy, Wieters, too. But I don't think each at the same age played as well as he does."
That assessment left Sanchez relatively speechless: "Those guys are the greatest catchers to come out of college."
Admittedly, the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Sanchez -- who shed 35 pounds at Boston College -- possesses highly refined defensive skills, but his hitting needs work.
"We're talking about a kid who hit .346 with 14 homers ... in [the Atlantic Coast Conference,] arguably the best baseball conference in the country," Aoki said. "We're nitpicking. But I think his plate discipline can still be improved. He's a draftable guy with the bat. What vaults him into the first round is he's an excellent receiver."
The question remains: Will the Pirates, a team with a 28-year-old Ryan Doumit signed for the future and two more mid-twentysomethings playing in his injured place, Jason Jaramillo and Robinzon Diaz, spend less money and the No. 4 choice on a catcher less widely regarded than a pile of collegiate and scholastic pitchers?
"I have no control over it," Sanchez said. "We'll see what happens."
First Published June 9, 2009 12:00 am