Should the Pirates Draft Deven Marrero?
Major League Baseball’s First Year Player Draft is fast approaching. This has always been one of my favorite days of the baseball season, but the recent changes in the CBA have dampened my enthusiasm. Still, while nothing could approach the excitement of last year, when the Pirates – first to dive into a pool loaded with talent – spent money like a drunken sailor on leave, my interest is beginning to heighten as June 4th approaches.
The 2012 crop is nothing like last year’s bounty, when there was a minimum of seven to eight players who were good enough to be selected #1. The overall quality is considered to be subpar; one veteran scout was quoted recently as saying that this year’s crop of collegiate position players was the worst he had ever encountered. Still, the debate has begun as to which player the Pirates should select with the 8th pick. Writers and bloggers with nary a shred of scouting experience or knowledge have begun to pontificate about this subject, despite having never seen any of the available players actually, you know, play baseball. I certainly don’t begrudge anyone some fun, and this is a fun exercise, like making out your Ten Best Movie list every year. But let’s face it; the opinion of the least knowledgeable scout in MLB (who is probably on the Pirates’ payroll) is more valuable than that of any casual, or even serious, fan.
While I partake in this behavior myself, experience has taught me to be much more circumspect in my approach. I value the opinions of other scouting directors, serious draft analysts and commentators; if they are strongly critical of a draft decision by the Pirates, I will almost certainly agree with them. After all, the Pirates have a poor track record when they take a contrarian approach in the draft (Tony Sanchez). But, ultimately, I take a results-oriented stand; if, two or three years later, no prospects are on a fast track to Pittsburgh, that was a bad draft, regardless of whether or not the players taken were consensus picks (Pedro Alvarez).
This year the Pirates have been closely connected to Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero; Neal Huntington met with him recently. Marrero, who was mentioned as a top 5 pick prior to this season, tailed off considerably with the bat this year, on top of regression in his sophomore season. There is no doubt as to his defensive ability; Marrero is a true shortstop with plus skills in all facets of the position. Unfortunately, his stock on offense has fallen so far that many scouts do not believe that he is capable of becoming a league average performer at the position.
Despite my previous disclaimer, I think that Pirates’ fans are in somewhat of a unique position in their ability to form an educated opinion of Marrero – we already drafted a teammate of his, also a shortstop, Drew Maggi. Maggi played with Marrero at ASU in 2010, when he was a sophomore and Marrero a freshman.
First, here are Marrero’s numbers at Arizona State:
|2010 – F||156||12||3||6||13||24||.397||.442||.628|
|2011 – S||219||14||3||2||14||30||.313||.352||.434|
|2012 – J||188||7||4||4||16||14||.261||.320||.404|
One look at Marrero’s stats and you can see why he has become a polarizing player for Pirates’ fans. A freshman who puts up a SLG% of .628 should not be down to .404 two years later. More importantly, Marrero is currently next to last on his team in BA and OBP, and is fifth worst in SLG% – something is drastically wrong here. Robbie Knoph of Seedlings to Stars wrote here that Marrero should be given credit for increasing his ISO and K/BB% while struggling this season. This is a bit like congratulating a starving man for losing weight – it takes a lot of filtering out the bad to reach the conclusion that Marrero is making progress with the bat.
Now let’s look at Maggi’s numbers in his two years at ASU (he was a draft eligible sophomore):
|2009 – F||181||5||5||0||40||35||.309||.442||.392|
|2010 – S||261||10||3||5||36||53||.326||.412||.444|
It is clear that Maggi was more of a selective hitter, and as a result both walked and struck out with much greater frequency. He is very fast, and his game is based around speed – he stole 57 bases in 68 attempts at ASU. He played some shortstop, and saw time in the outfield, and was considered to be a decent, albeit raw, prospect, whose stock fell because of signability concerns, as he was eligible to return to ASU as a junior. The Pirates went considerably over slot to sign him in the 15th round, almost certainly because he can run fast.
A comparison of the two players as freshmen isn’t particularly useful, as Marrero – fueled by a .437 BAbip, was off the charts, and does not appear to be the same player today. Their sophomore seasons are interesting; despite their vastly different approaches at the plate, their BA, SLG% and ISO are very close. What does this tell us? I am certainly aware that performance scouting in and of itself is of little significance, but it would be difficult to argue that Marrero will turn to be a much better hitter than Maggi, who has not established himself as a serious prospect thus far in his professional career. Despite coming out of a major college program, the Pirates, in their infinite wisdom, started Maggi in the South Atlantic League at age 22 – where he did not distinguish himself – therefore guaranteeing that he will not be age relevant to his level at any point in his career. I did not rank him in the Top 30 in the off-season, and Pirates Prospects had him at #29.
|2011 – A||565||3||.091||.267||.361||.357||101|
|2012 – A+||140||1||.096||.281||.406||.377||145|
Perhaps the book is not closed on Maggi; this year he has taken a nice step forward with his OBP. However, he is in the Florida State League at age 23, is not developing any power, and has been moved off of SS in favor of Gift Ngoepe.
Given what we have seen of Maggi, Pirates’ fans come by their skepticism of Marrero honestly. Perhaps Marrero will turn out to be an elite defensive shortstop, but really, who cares? Defense-first shortstops grow on trees; the Pirates plucked one from the Tigers in the 2011 Rule 5 draft, and I can assure you that no one is very excited at the prospect of Gustavo Nunez playing shortstop for this organization. Unfortunately for Pirates’ fans, Neal Huntington seems to believe that the new dead ball era is for real, and is here to stay. With that mindset, I don’t know if I feel very warm and fuzzy about Marrero as a hitter.
Despite the hoopla surrounding Gerrit Cole and Josh Bell last year, and the subsequent jump in the annual organization rankings, the Pirates have actually drafted quite poorly with Greg Smith at the helm, which, given his reign of terror in Detroit, should be a surprise to exactly no one. Joe Delli Carri will be handling the draft for Smith this year; with the Pirates about ready to make a move on the division, they cannot afford a repeat of the 2009 draft debacle. I can understand why Marrero is tempting, based on the needs of the organization, but I am extremely skeptical that this front office will make an accurate projection of his ability to become a major league hitter.