COMMENTARY | By virtue of 20 consecutive losing seasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates consistently have earned the right to pick near the start of the draft.
And, as evidenced by those same 20 losing seasons, the Pirates haven't had much success with their selections. While the 2013 club is relying heavily on previous first-rounders like Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez, the streak of injuries to their pitching draftees was so bad, the team was one torn ligament away from getting a free shoulder or elbow surgery of its choice.
Here are the Pirates' five worst draft busts of the last 20 years:
5. Brad Lincoln - 2006 draft, 4th overall
Career fWAR with Pirates: 0.4
Lincoln was viewed as one of the best arms in the 2006 draft, but then the hands of fate reached down and, less than a year after being selected, decided that it was time for his Tommy John surgery. He was soon shifted to relief and, after half a season as a productive member of the Pirates' bullpen, was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Travis Snider. Meanwhile, Pirates fans must think about alternate realities where Cy Young winners Kershaw or Lincecum front the rotation.
4. J.J. Davis - 1997 draft, 8th overall
Career fWAR with Pirates: -0.8
Players still on the board: Michael Cuddyer, Lance Berkman, Jayson Werth
The Pirates, perhaps, overreached on Davis, enticed by the high schooler's power potential. Unfortunately, Davis was also very good at racking up strikeouts and would only hit .163/.236/.213 with one home run in 80 at-bats with the Pirates.
3. Daniel Moskos - 2007 draft, 4th overall
Career fWAR: 0.2
Players still on the board: Matt Wieters, Madison Bumgarner, Jayson Heyward
With this draft still paying dividends to other clubs, Daniel Moskos has become the representative of then-GM Dave Littlefield's failures. Rather than selecting a high-impact player, the Pirates drafted a pitcher that many saw as nothing more than a late-inning reliever. He pitched 24.1 innings for the Pirates in 2011 and is now struggling in AAA for the Chicago White Sox.
2. Chad Hermansen - 1995 draft, 10th overall
Career fWAR with Pirates: -2.2
Players still on the board: Matt Morris, Roy Halladay
Hermansen, expected to be an impact bat in center field, was ranked 54th or higher for five consecutive years on Baseball America's Top 100 lists thanks to his combination of power and speed. Unfortunately, his inability to make contact was his undoing at the major-league level, never topping a .657 OPS while with the Pirates. The Pirates were even burned when he was traded to the Cubs in 2002, as the player the team got in return, Darren Lewis, decided to retire rather than report to the team.
Career Combined fWAR with Pirates: -1.7
Players still on the board: Barry Zito, Ben Sheets, Adam Wainwright, Bobby Crosby, Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Matt Cain
If you want to know just how badly the Pirates drafted, look no further than the four consecutive pitchers they chose from 1999-2002. Bobby Bradley never threw a major-league pitch; Sean Burnett would show some promise as a starter in 2004 before arm injuries turned him into a reliever; John Van Benschoten threw 90 innings with an ERA of 9.20; and Bryan Bullington went 0-3 with a 5.89 ERA in only 18.1 IP for the Pirates. Four pitchers, four drafts, 169 innings. That rarely translates into success.
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