Pirates Expected To Pass On Vandy Boys, Go Underslot At Pick 1:1

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The 2021 MLB Draft begins July 11, and after quite a few mock drafts have been released, it’s becoming more likely that the Pirates pass on Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker of Vanderbilt. That’s a bizarre move if you ask me, but it likely has more to do with money than anything else.

California high school shortstop Marcelo Mayer is now projected to be the No. 1 overall pick. According to The Athletic’s Keith Law, the team is “focused on position players.” That makes little sense since Pittsburgh is short on talent everywhere. Instead, they’re probably just re-enacting the draft success the Astros had with heavy position players like George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Alex Bregman.

Here’s how the money changes things

The Pirates have $14,394,000 in draft bonus pool money, the highest of any team in the league. That said, a player demanding the max bonus as the No. 1 pick would rack in $8,415,300 alone, heavily diminishing the remaining assets in the rest of the team’s draft.

So the fact that the Pirates want to steer clear of a money-hungry, can’t-miss star makes sense in theory — it’s just that the team probably shouldn’t play games this way. If there’s a star to be had, the Pirates should take him, regardless of the price tag.

There haven’t been any reports yet about what Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter will ask for in next month’s draft, but we’ll know come draft day. I just can’t imagine this drafting style will land well with Pirates fans. That is, if they’re still watching…

Written by Gary Sheffield, Jr

Gary Sheffield Jr is the son of should-be MLB Hall of Famer, Gary Sheffield. He covers basketball and baseball for OutKick.com, chats with the Purple and Gold faithful on LakersNation, and shitposts on Twitter. You can follow him at GarySheffieldJr


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  1. Many years ago, the Astros went “cheap” and picked some kid from Puerto Rico at #1 and he took and undervalue bonus of $4.8 million instead of the slot of $7.2. The Astros passed on Byron Buxton who went #2. Otherwise, there’s no other players that can approach HOF consideration.

    Me thinks picking an undervalue 5 tool shortstop instead of a prima donna pithcer that have been in the media eye for two years is a good move.

    • If anyone has actually watched Jack Leiter pitch they leave with jaws dropped. You need to watch tonight if not. You can’t ask for a bigger can’t miss arm prospect. If teams are dumb enough to pass on him over money they’ll look like idiots in 4-5 years when this guy is a perineal all star. Not only is he off the charts with arm talent and a bulldog mentality, he has the pedigree from growing up around the pro game with his dad. The scary thing is he hasn’t approached his potential at 21. He sits on cruise control at 94-96 mph for 100 pitches, touching 98-99, with a complete hammer of a curve. Kyle Pederson has said on air he hasn’t seen a college fastball like this in a long time. It’s got special carry and insane spin rate which makes it hard to square up. As a comp, I saw Walker Buehler at Vandy a few years ago, and Leiter is WAY ahead of where he was at the same time. So if you consider Buehler a worthy investment Leiter’s a jackpot. He’s special. A no brainer franchise player type pick. Again you want to watch him pitch tonight against AAA level hitting with miss state if you want to see for yourself.

  2. One report I read said Leiter could choose not to sign with the Pirates and go back into the draft next year.

    This is another flaw of MLB. We never hear stories of an NFL team not having enough draft money to sign the best players. Imagine if Jacksonville had passed on Trevor Lawrence for the same reason.

      • It works different than the NFL. Agents and teams work out the number in advance so they know what they’re getting. Mike Elias who used to run Houston works for Baltimore now. Last year they picked 2nd overall but took the 17th rated talent and paid him the 17th pick value. That freed up a bunch of money for the rest of the draft. The year before they had the #1 overall pick, had a guy on the board they loved (Adley Rutschman) and chose him #1 and paid him. This year is one of those years where 8-10 guys could go number 1. Their is no Bryce Harper generational talent clear number 1 in this draft.

  3. Pirates are not a professional team. Don’t care about winning or even try to win. Should be kicked out of MLB for non-participation. There are no real fans left. Unfortunately, Steeler management has caught the same disease.

  4. Pittsburgh has a poor track record developing pitching, so they may not know what to do with arm talent. That’s a good excuse to say they like a position player… not to say they know how to develop them either. They’ve gotten great arm talents many times and done zip to develop them. Garrett Cole, Kris Benson, Charlie Morton, Bryan Bullington, James Tallion and several others. Cole and Morton were semi successful there, but didn’t reach their potential until they left.

  5. I don’t think Leiter will be an ace in MLB. But I’m no scout. Rocker could be once MLB further refines his mechanics and control . He only pretty recently dedicated to baseball. Most here probably know his dad was a stud DL in college, winning national awards. Kumar could have chosen that route, but smartly decided on baseball. More longevity, more contracts, better players union.

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