The deadline to sign 2008 draft picks is Friday at midnight, making this week a very important one in Pittsburgh. The new front office has followed through with their two most significant promises, to draft high-ceiling players and to focus on long-term success rather than breaking the streak of losing seasons. The final step is signing those high-upside draft picks and adding talent to the farm system. Let’s check in with the remaining unsigned players among the team’s top ten picks.
First Round – Pedro Alvarez
Being the first round pick, Alvarez has received the most publicity as the deadline approaches. Many fans are worried that he will not sign, and MLB.com beat writer Jenifer Langosch has doubts about a deal getting done. However, I am extremely confident that Alvarez will be a Pirate on Saturday. The team is under quite a bit of pressure from fans to make it happen, and it would clearly be in Alvarez’s best interest to sign. He is unlikely to be selected as high next year, leaving him with a smaller bonus in the distant future. In addition, the chance of an injury or drop-off in production makes it a huge gamble. It is very likely that a deal will be struck late Friday night.
Second Round – Tanner Scheppers
The Pirates want to be convinced that Scheppers’ shoulder is healthy before signing him, and he is currently in Pittsburgh to meet with the team’s doctors. If he is deemed healthy, he will most likely be signed for an above-slot bonus. If he is still having issues with the labrum, the Pirates will probably let him go and take the compensatory pick in the 2009 draft. I have no idea what will happen with this situation.
Fifth Round – Justin Wilson
Wilson pitched very well in the College World Series in June, and decided he was worth more because of it. I disagree, and it seems the Pirates do as well. Wilson is not a unique talent, and the Pirates should not cave to his demands. He will have to drop his asking price drastically for a deal to get done.
Sixth Round – Robbie Grossman
Grossman was drafted out of high school, and most expected him not to sign so that he may attend college. However, after visiting Pittsburgh, Grossman stated that there was a 50-50 chance that he would sign. Rocco Demaro has stated numerous times on the Pirates’ postgame show that his sources have indicated that Grossman will sign close to the deadline. I would not be surprised if this is true.
Tenth Round – Drew Gagnon
Gagnon rounds out the top ten. To be honest, I know very little about him. I believe he throws in the low 90’s with a good curveball. In order to sign him, the Pirates will have to offer a bonus well above slot.
The Pirates must sign at least a few of these guys (and hopefully a few other high-upside picks in later rounds) for this to be considered a successful draft. The front office has indicated that it will attempt to lock up all of the top ten picks, which would be great news to hear on Saturday morning. Considering Major League Baseball encourages teams to hold off on above-slot signings until closer to the deadline, I am confident that things will go well in the next 84 hours.