With the 4th pick in the 2009 draft the Pirates took a catcher from Boston College by the name of Tony Sanchez. At the time of the selection this was viewed as a sign-ability pick and Sanchez wasn’t considered the best player available. Obviously this selection hasn’t panned out quite like the Pirates and their fans would have hoped. Not only has Sanchez struggled in the minor leagues but none of the high upside high school arms the Pirates selected later in the draft have turned out. So this obviously raises the question what could the Pirates have had if they would have taken someone who was appropriate for that spot? Using hind sight here and saying that Mike Trout should have been the selection isn’t really what I’m looking to do instead I’m going to look at players who were rated around the #4 overall spot. To keep this reasonable Strasburg, Ackley and Tate won’t be considered as they were already off the board. So I’m going to take a look at the rest of Baseball America’s top 10.
#4 Kyle Gibson: Gibson just completed an injury plagued season in which he threw only 28.1 innings. He has yet to make his major league debut but has pitched parts of 3 seasons in AAA compiling 117.2 IP at that level while supporting a 4.67 ERA, 1.402 WHIP, 8.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9.
#5 Jacob Turner: Turner was traded this season to the Marlins as the key piece in the Anibal Sanchez deal. He made his major league debut last season but got his first real taste of full time action this season with the Marlins. He looked good throwing 42.2 innings and posting a 3.38 ERA, 0.984 WHIP, 6.1 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9. His AAA numbers are also solid with a 2.85 ERA, 1.239 WHIP, 6.4 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 107.1 IP.
#6 Alex White: White was traded last season to the Rockies as a key piece in the Ubaldo Jimenez deal. He made his major league debut last season and got to make about half a season worth of starts this year. His time in the majors has thus far been a struggle with 149.1 IP and a 6.03 ERA, 1.688 WHIP, 6.1 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9. He was better in AAA posting a 3.20 EA, 1.198 WHIP, 7.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 84.1 IP.
#7 Aaron Crow: Crow made it to the majors quickly as a relief pitcher, even earning an All Star appearance in 2011. He has been very solid out of the bullpen throwing 126.2 innings while posting a 3.13 ERA, 1.279 WHIP, 9.2 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9. Crow spent no time at AAA and struggled in his time at AA posting a 5.66 ERA, 1.584 WHIP, 6.8 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 over 119.1 innings.
#8 Tyler Matzek: Matzek has yet to make his major league debut and in fact has not pitched above the A+ level. In 175.1 innings at the A+ level Matzek has posted and 5.60 ERA, 1.762 WHIP. 9.8 K/9 and 7.2 BB/9.The Rockies are still using him as a starter.
#9 Tanner Scheppers: As most of you may know the Pirates actually selected Scheppers during the 2nd round of the 2009 draft but he didn’t sign presumably because the Pirates had concerns about his medical history. Scheppers was drafted the next season by the Texas Rangers and made his major league debut this season. In 32.1 innings of relief Scheppers posted a 4.45 ERA, 1.732 WHIP, 8.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. In AAA Scheppers threw 120.2 innings posting a 4.77 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, 91. K/9 and 3.4 BB/9.
#10 Matthew Purke: Purke was drafted in the 1st round of the 2009 draft but did not sign. The Nationals selected him in the 3rd round of the 2011 draft and he made his professional debut this past season in A ball. Purke pitched sparingly only throwing 15.1 innings so he must have had injury problems but in those few innings he posted a 5.87 ERA, 1.761 WHIP, 8.2 K/9 and 7.0 BB/9.
Gibson and White are two players who have reached AAA and pitched decent but not great. They both will probably get a chance (or in White’s case another chance) to establish themselves in the majors but neither is a good bet.
Turner was a very solid prospect who shown good signs of establishing himself as at least a solid major league starter. Right now he appears to the best of the group.
Crow and Scheppers have both made the major leagues as a reliever and that appears to be their path going forward. Crow is now established while Scheppers looked decent in his first stint this past season.
Matzek and Purke have a long way to go to get established. Matzek has the look of a bust while it is too early to make a real call on Purke. Purke’s injury history does make him look like a real risky prospect though.
This does not excuse the Pirates for a poor selection but their belief that the remaining talent was a bit of a crap shoot does seem to have some validity. Outside of Turner there doesn’t appear to be a major impact player anywhere in the bunch. Again not an excuse for missing on the pick but this portion of Baseball America’s 2009 draft rankings certainly isn’t looking promising right now.