COMMENTARY | Predicting success for any baseball draft pick is an exercise in futility, given their young age and unpolished skills coupled with the fact that Major League Baseball is the hardest professional sports league for amateurs to break in to.
In the case of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who drafted two 18-year-old high school students in the first round, the task of predicting success almost becomes impossible given the fact that neither pick had the added benefit of growing their game in college.
But that's not to say jumping from high school to professional ball is a negative. Plenty of players like Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker never went to college and made their way to the bigs with a combination of skill and determination.
It just might take a little longer than some would expect. McCutchen spent three and a half seasons in the minors, while it took Walker five years to make it to the Bucs. Both were former first round picks.
And like the aforementioned players, both Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire are position players with tremendous upside. Let's first take a look at Meadows, a player that Baseball America rated as the fifth overall best player in the 2013 draft.
Widely hailed as the consummate five-tool player, the Pirates selected Meadows with the ninth overall pick in the draft. The 6'2, 200-pound 18-year-old comes out of Grayson High School in Georgia, where he hit a ridiculous .535 in his senior year to go along with 14 doubles and 17 stolen bases. He has a scholarship to Clemson to play ball, but will likely defer when the Pirates wave millions of dollars in front of his face.
Meadows, who bats and throws as a lefty, first drew the attention of scouts in 2011 during the World Youth Championship in Mexico, a competition won by the United States. The outfielder was named to the all-tournament team after finishing with a .528 average with 25 RBI and 6 stolen bases in eight games.
Some scouts have said that Meadows might have the highest ceiling of anyone in the draft. However, it's important not to get ahead of ourselves. Even with stellar production in the minors, Meadows is still years away from seeing action in Pittsburgh.
The team selected McGuire with the 14th overall pick in the draft. What they got was the undisputed best catcher in this year's class. The 6'1, 190-pound 18-year-old bats left and throws right, and comes out of Kentwood High School in Washington. He committed to San Diego to play college ball, but he too will likely decide on professional ball.
While labeled as a player who needs significant growth in his offensive game, many scouts suggested drafting McGuire early for his defense alone. The catcher was rated as a perfect 60 out of 60 on scouting reports for his work behind the plate, given high praise for his ability to call games and to pop up from the plate on stolen base attempts.
The scouts went on to say that his quick feet and frame are built perfectly for a catcher, meaning that he shouldn't have to transfer to other places on the field to make it in the big leagues. And it's not like he struggled to hit above the Mendoza line. He hit .436 as a senior in high school and was named the best catching prospect in the draft by Baseball America.
This draft represented a stark departure from years past for the Pirates and their strategy. Indeed, the front office for the last three years had drafted a right hand pitcher in the first round and often waited to fill offensive slots until later. Not this time. The team got two of the highest rated position players in the draft as other franchises focused more on pitching, allowing stellar talent to fall a little further than usual.
Indeed, some scouts and publications had projected that McGuire would go to the Pirates with the ninth pick. Imagine the surprise and excitement felt by the front office when Meadows was still around, let alone the fact that they got McGuire only five picks later.
Pirates fans have Mark Appel, the Stanford pitcher who spurned the team last year, to thank for the abundance of picks. Their inability to sign Appel last year resulted in the Pirates getting the ninth overall pick this year as compensatory pick. What they got in return was two of the best prospects in the draft. It's a shame we'll have to wait a few years to see if either pick pans out.
Jared Stonesifer has covered the Pittsburgh Pirates on a freelance basis since 2010. He lives in Pittsburgh.
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