In 2012, the Pirates took a hit when they were unable to sign Stanford right-hander Mark Appel with the eighth overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft. Appel chose to return to school and went No. 1 overall to the Astros this past June.
Pittsburgh wasn't left empty-handed, however. As compensation for missing out on Appel, the Pirates received the ninth selection in 2013. Coupled with their regular pick at No. 14, they were the only club to have two choices in the upper half of the first round.
Pittsburgh took full advantage, using those two picks to put together the strongest 2013 Draft class in the game. (Disclaimer: We fully acknowledge that it takes at least five years to really know what a team gets out of a Draft, but there's always a demand for instant analysis -- and we're here to satisfy that demand.)
While Jonathan Mayo thinks the Twins' Draft stands out the most -- and their No. 4 overall choice, Kohl Stewart, may have a higher ceiling than any 2013 draftee -- no team can match the Pirates. They got a pair of potential All-Stars at up-the-middle positions, and plenty of depth beyond them.
At No. 9, the Pirates grabbed the best all-around high school position player in the 2013 Draft. Georgia high schooler Austin Meadows has a chance to be a four-tool center fielder, with arm strength his only below-average attribute. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder entered pro ball with a reputation for having a smooth left-handed swing and an advanced approach at the plate, and he backed it up by hitting .316/.424/.554 in his debut.
Meadows also blasted seven homers in 177 at-bats, and he could have plus power once he fills out. He's fast and plays a quality center field, though he may have to move to a corner spot with reigning National League MVP Andrew McCutchen in Pittsburgh.
The Pirates strongly considered taking the top catcher in the 2013 Draft class at No. 9, and they were thrilled to get him five picks later. Washington high schooler Reese McGuire is extremely athletic for a backstop, and his quick feet enhance his already strong arm. He threw out 44 percent of basestealers in his pro debut and also showed fine receiving and blocking skills behind the plate.
McGuire can hit, too. He batted .323/.380/.380 in his first taste of pro ball and should continue to hit for average as he advances. Once he adds strength to his 6-foot, 181-pound frame, he could develop 15-homer power as well.
While Meadows and McGuire are the centerpieces of Pittsburgh's 2013 Draft, the club acquired several talented players behind them as well. In California prepster Blake Taylor (second round) and Sam Houston State's Cody Dickson (fourth round), it got a pair of left-handers who can hit 94-95 mph with their fastballs and show promise with three pitches.
Louisiana State center fielder JaCoby Jones (third round) was the best college athlete in the entire Draft, featuring well above-average raw power and plus speed, and he could be a star if he develops more consistency at the plate. Mississippi State's Adam Frazier (sixth round) was the top college shortstop available, though he may wind up at second base or in a utility role. He's a gamer who knows how to handle the bat.
The Pirates also stockpiled some intriguing right-handers in the seventh through 10th rounds: UNLV's Buddy Borden, Connecticut high schooler Neil Kozikowski, Delaware's Chad Kuhl and Long Beach State's Shane Carle. The college arms all have good sinkers, while Kozikowski may have more upside than any of them with a projectable 6-foot-4, 180-pound frame and a low-90s fastball.
Even with all that additional talent, it's the success of Meadows and McGuire that ultimately will determine how Pittsburgh's 2013 Draft is judged. At this point, no team's Draft class looks better.