This piece is less objective and much more subjective. The Pirates have picks 9 and 14 in the upcoming draft. That means eight players will be gone before they pick first and thirteen - including the Pirates first selection - before they make their second choice. It must be noted that the 9th pick is a compensation pick, but under the new CBA, it's protected for two years so they will have complete freedom in using it. With those two picks, I have my personal favorites for the Pirates to take. Below are my four favorites, with a corresponding objective profile (three of the four are from previous articles) and a subjective reasoning behind my attraction.
Bats: L, Throws: R
School: North Carolina
Colin Moran is arguably the best pure hitter in this draft class, similar to another former UNC product, Dustin Ackley. Moran's pure hitting skills might also make him the highest college bat to come off the board, also like Ackley.
However, to mimic Ackley in becoming the number 2 overall pick, Moran will have to improve both his power and defense. Currently, he could end up at first base - where his bat won't play as well - if he doesn't improve at third base, although it's entirely possible for him to be adequate or better at the hot corner. In addition, Moran will have to do better than the 3 homeruns he hit his sophomore year to see his draft stock skyrocket.
Moran has his negatives - issues and potential defensive problems. That said, he does a one thing very well. He gets on base, both with an elite hit tool and excellent plate discipline. That should translate to the majors and with repetition and coaching, he has a solid shot to stick at third base. As he matures, he could also add power to his game. He will never be a prodigious slugger or a gold-glove third baseman, but Moran should field the hot corner adequately, has a chance to provide average pop, and will get on-base at a very high clip, making him a potential offensive force. As a college player, he's also close to being major-league ready.
Measurables: 6'2, 180
School: Gaither High School (Tampa, FL)
Throws: R; Bats: R
Commitment: Florida State University (FSU)
The draft won't be complete without a Latino prep shortstop from down south being drafted in the top 10. In fact, it's been three straight years now, with Manny Machado and Francisco Lindor - both from Florida - being drafted in 2010 and 2011 respectively. This past draft, Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa went #1 overall to the Houston Astros. Mercado looks to continue that trend. The kid from Tampa, Florida already has outstanding defensive tools at shortstop. He's a great athlete with tremendous range, good hands, and an above-average arm that could get stronger. Currently, Mercado doesn't project to have a ton of power, but he's also already 6'2 and has the frame to add significant muscle in the future. His swing is a bit long as well, but if he matures into his frame and refines his swing, his offensive potential is massive. Mercado has a long way till draft day, but good progression over the next 12 months could give him one of the highest ceilings in next year's class, resulting in his name being called early on during the draft.
I loved last year's number one pick Carlos Correa. Mercado doesn't necessarily have the offensive game or potential that Correa has, but he has a slicker glove. In fact, there's no fear that Mercado will have an issue defensively have shortstop. Instead, he's got the tools to be plus-plus with the glove at one of the most valuable defensive positions in baseball. If Mercado can develop to even average offensively - and I believe he can do that and more - he'll be extremely valuable. With the premium put on middle infield prospects lately, Mercado would look good in any farm system, including the Pirates system.
Measurables: 6'4, 210 lbs
Bats: R, Throws: R
Austin Wilson was a highly touted prep outfielder who was considered a first round talent back in 2010. He lasted until the 13rd round because of an allegedly ironclad commitment to Stanford. Alleged fact became actual fact as Wilson chose not to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals and instead became a Stanford Cardinal.
Wilson is a prototypical right fielder with a strong arm, enough athleticism to be plus and the ability to hit for average and power. Currently, most of Wilson's pop is in the batting cage, but he began turning his raw power into game power late in his Sophomore year and this summer in the Cape Cod League this summer. With a strong Junior campaign, Wilson could turn himself into a top 5 pick come June 2013.
Wilson just screams - to me at least - ideal right fielder that slugs his way into the middle of a lineup. He's big, talented, and athletic. His swing generates plenty of pop, but it's not long enough that he'll be exposed by better pitching. After a strong career at Stanford, he should be a fast-riser in the farm system of the team that drafts him. Even with the Pirates depth in the outfield from the bottom to top of the organzation, it's possible Wilson will be the best player available when the Pirates are on the clock and it would be unwise to pass on a talent like that.
Measurables: 6'1, 185 lbs
Bats: L, Throws: L
Most elite pitching prospects feature a premium fastball as the headline pitch in their arsenal. Marco Gonzales does not fit such a mold. That doesn't mean Gonzales doesn't have a good fastball; the southpaw's heater sits in the low 90's and he has excellent command of the pitch. Gonzales best pitch is his changeup, which is already plus and could get even better. To round out his pitch repertoire, Gonzales mixes in a useable slider.
The Gonzaga Bulldog pitcher will get critiqued for not having a power arsenal and his upside will get docked as a result. He'll be given a mid-rotation starter label. That's a characterization of his potential. Gonzales has the command, secondary offerings, and pitchability to be a frontline starter, even if his fastball is only above-average. One of the key factors will be Gonzales's slider. If he can improve with, his nasty changeup complimented by two above-average or better pitches along with great command could make him a very valuable starting pitcher in the major leagues in the near future.
Two facts. It's not possible to have too much pitching (and even if it is, depth can always be traded). The Pirates have multiple solid pitching prospects, but most are right-handed and most are power pitchers. Gonzales would mix it up while still offering plenty of upside. To me, Gonzales will see his pitches develop significantly as he continues to learn and mature. His clean mechanics and present command suggest he'll be a pinpoint location guy with above-average stuff highlighted by a killer changeup. That could be a potential ace or at the very least, a left-handed rotation mate to fall in behind Cole, Taillon, and Heredia. Gonzales is polished he enough he's expected to move quickly once he turns pro.