Allan Simpson is the Direct of PG Crosschecker and can be reached via email at AllanSimpson@nc.rr.com
It has been routinely documented that the Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992—a record 18 straight losing years, and counting—but the club reached new depths last year with a 105-loss season.
That easily insured Pittsburgh will pick first in the 2011 draft for the third such time since their losing ways began. On both prior occasions, the Pirates picked college righthanders: Clemson’s Kris Benson in 1996 and Ball State’s Brian Bullington in 2002. They also had the No. 1 pick in 1986, and took Arkansas third baseman Jeff King.
In the past five drafts, the Pirates have picked no lower than fourth—second in 2008 and 2010, and fourth in 2006, 2007 and 2009—and they outdid themselves in 2010 by posting the worst record in the big leagues, assuring themselves the No. 1 pick.
Not since the San Diego Padres picked no worse than fourth for six consecutive drafts from 1970-75 (including the No. 1 overall pick three times) has a big-league team had such a favorable drafting position for as long a stretch as the Pirates, though the Tampa Bay Rays went 10 straight years (1999-2008) picking no worse than eighth (including No. 1 overall four times).
For the second consecutive draft in 2010, the Washington Nationals had the luxury of picking first overall. In both years, they had two of the greatest talents in draft history at their disposal. In 2009, the Nationals took San Diego State righthander Stephen Strasburg, possibly the most-hyped pitcher in college-baseball history. A year ago, they showed no hesitation in selecting College of Southern Nevada catcher Bryce Harper. Strasburg is expected to miss all of the 2011 season while undergoing Tommy John surgery, while Harper has begun his transition towards becoming an everyday outfielder.
Pittsburgh’s options with the No. 1 pick are much less clear cut than Washington’s, but the 2011 draft overall is considered one of the strongest in history.
The 47th edition of the baseball draft will be held from June 6-8, with the first round and supplemental first round scheduled to be televised on the MLB Network, beginning June 6 at 7 p.m. The draft will continue the following day, with Rounds 2-30, and conclude on the third day. It will be conducted by conference call, originating from the commissioner’s office, on the final two days. In all, there are 50 rounds.
Teams pick in reverse order of their 2010 winning percentage—and the Pirates secured the top pick in relatively easy fashion. They picked second a year ago.
There will be 33 picks altogether in the first round this year, and 27 more supplemental first-round picks. The extra picks are in the form of compensation—the extra three picks in the first round going to teams that failed to sign their first-round selections a year ago. The additional selections are awarded to teams that lost ranked free agents to other clubs during the off season.
There will be numerous adjustments through the first three rounds to the draft’s established order of rotation, based on draft picks changing hands from one club to another as additional compensation for Type A free agents.
The Tampa Bay Rays will be the busiest team on the first day of the draft as they will have 10 selections in the first 60 picks. They’ll have their own pick (32nd overall), plus two picks each for the loss of Type A free agents Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano and Grant Balfour, and one each for Type B free agents Brad Hawpe, Randy Choate and Chad Qualls.
Rated free agents who are offered arbitration by their former clubs provide for compensation in the form of draft picks when they sign major-league contracts with new teams. A club losing a ‘Type A’ free agent (rated in the top 20 percent at his position, as determined by a statistical formula compiled by the Elias Sports Bureau) gets the signing team's first-round pick as well as a supplemental first-rounder. A team losing a ‘Type B’ free agent (rated in the 21-40 percent bracket at his position) receives a supplemental first-round pick.