For what they hope is the last time ever—which is to say many, many years—the Pirates will have the first pick in the annual draft this evening.
Only this much is certain: 1) It behooves them greatly to hit a tape-measure home run, not a broken-bat single; and 2) It won't be easy.
The consensus is that there are a number of high-level prospects available, a lot of them on the mound. There are no can't-miss kids to speak of, though, and that leaves scouting director Greg Smith and his staff on the spot. If their reports, opinions and instincts are correct, then the organization will land a difference-maker at the first pick.
Otherwise, they will have wasted a golden opportunity because at least one future All-Star figures to be drafted early.
If the organization wants the athlete with the most potential, then either pitcher Dylan Bundy or outfielder Bubba Starling will be the pick. Both are 18-year-old high school seniors, however, and history says especially pitchers of that age have a high rate of failure. Starling also has committed to attend the University of Nebraska, where he is scheduled to play quarterback, and that complicates matters.
If they want the player with the most physical talent and experience, then Gerrit Cole will be the one. At the same time, the UCLA pitcher has been merely good this season. There's also talk that he may be a closer eventually, not a No. 1 or No. 2 starter in the rotation.
If they want the most major league-ready player, then Danny Hultzen is for them. Yet while the University of Virginia pitcher has impressive numbers this season, he lacks the dominant physical skills that one associates at the first overall selection.
If they want the best hitter, then Anthony Rendon will be numero uno. The flip side is, the University of Rice third baseman has a cloudy medical record. Like Cole, the junior hasn't always dominated the competition this season.
I haven't seen any of the candidates play in person, let alone spoken with them, so I'm not an authority on the subject. That being said, based strictly on the reports that I've read and heard about their raw talent, I would select either Bundy or Cole because they are widely considered to be the best power arms available.
An organization can never have enough quality pitchers, the theory goes. That's especially the case for the vast majority of mid-market franchises that have to build from the mound out because of financial limitations.
I'm just glad that my name isn't Greg Smith today.
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