MLB

MLB Draft: How Pirates’ approach landed four top-50 players, including Penn State, Clemson football commits

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When the Pittsburgh Pirates used the No. 1 pick in Major League Baseball’s 2021 draft on Louisville catcher Henry Davis, it was seemingly with a strategy in mind. The Pirates, it reasoned, chose Davis because his financial asks were the least among the handful of defensible No. 1 candidates. Whether or not that proves to be true is to be seen. The Pirates’ draft strategy since the Davis pick suggests it is, though, and that they’re all in on the portfolio approach. 

The Pirates selected three notable prep players to kick off the second day of the draft: lefty Anthony Solometo (taken with the 37th pick), outfielder Lonnie White Jr. (64th), and righty Bubba Chandler (72nd). If the Pirates can sign all three of those individuals in addition to Davis — and teams are reluctant to draft individuals who they don’t think they can sign — then they will walk away from this draft with at least four of the top 50 prospects in the class, based on CBS Sports’ pre-draft rankings. That’s an accomplishment given that the Pirates possessed just two of the draft’s top 50 picks.

What exactly are the Pirates getting? 

  • CBS Sports ranked Solometo 23rd, noting that he is “a polished strike-throwing lefty with a fastball that can touch the mid-90s and a good slider.” 
  • Chandler slotted in at No. 30 despite his rawness and his commitment to play both baseball and football at Clemson. He’s reportedly planning to sign with the Buccos.
  • And then there was White, at No. 39, who also has a football scholarship on the table from Penn State, as well as a good foundation of tools that includes above-average offensive potential. 

The Pirates likely wouldn’t have been able to land the same haul had they taken Jack Leiter or Jordan Lawlar at No. 1. Presumably that would’ve also been the case with Marcelo Mayer, the top player on CBS Sports’ board.

Of course, classes tend to appear better on draft day than they do down the road. The portfolio approach has paid dividends in the past for other teams, however. The most famous example occurred in 2012, when the Houston Astros chose shortstop Carlos Correa No. 1. Drafting Correa saved the Astros $1.2 million, which, in turn, they used to sign pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. and third baseman Rio Ruiz (who they later traded to secure Evan Gattis). 

The Pirates can only hope their gambit works out so well.



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