Pittsburgh Pirates: Recapping the 2011 MLB Draft

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2021 MLB Draft quickly approaching, the Pittsburgh Pirates are working towards narrowing in on a prospect for them to select with the first overall pick. While they do that, we look back at some of their previous drafts to see how they have worked out. This will feature the draft class of 2011.

Crazy how things turn out sometimes, as the last time the Pirates selected first overall was ten years ago. This year will be the fifth time they will make the first selection of the MLB Draft and like each time before that they look to find a player that can help turn their franchise around.

Pittsburgh 'earned' the first overall pick in the 2011 draft by finishing a league worst 57-105 the year prior. Only the Seattle Mariners finished with 100 or more losses to go along with the Pirates, with 101.

Under Neal Huntington, no matter what you had to say about his deals, signings, and player development, you have to admit that the Pirates were ready to spend money at the draft. They didn't get the extended success they were hoping for, but we did get that window where it all came together.

The Pirates were so openly ready to spend on the draft, that they actually broke the system - and a lot point back to the 2011 class as the ones that forced the change. 

Throughout the draft process it seemed that it was only a handful of names up in contention for the first pick, with Gerrit Cole leading the pack. Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon was the consensus top hitter in the draft, and Cole's teammate - Trevor Bauer - also were mentioned but the Pirates went with the guy who led the way all season.

First Round - Gerrit Cole, RHP UCLA

Cole struggled and looked fairly hittable at certain points in the college season (sound familiar?), even to the point some were wondering if Bauer could leap frog him and go first overall. In the end the Pirates went with the overpowering righty who was also selected in the first round a few years prior by the New York Yankees.

While he was traded during his arbitration years, Cole was exactly what the Pirates would hope he would be. A front-line starter that would push the Pirates to be contenders. He pitched in Game 5 of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals, finished 4th in the Cy Young voting, as well picking up some MVP votes in 2014.

A Scott Boras client, it was always clear that Cole was going to be traded at some point, and he eventually was dealt to the Houston Astros in exchange for Colin Moran, Joe Musgrove, Jason Martin and Michael Feliz. Moran is now the team's starting first baseman and Musgrove was traded to bring in a haul of prospects that includes Hudson Head and David Bednar.

Second Round - Josh Bell, OF/1B Jesuit Col Prep (TX)

This is where the Pirates broke things. Before teams were free to spend what they wanted on prospects. This would allow high school players to hold a little more leverage as they could just go to college if a team didn't offer enough.

Bell was thought as one of the top prep hitters in the draft, talent wise someone who could have gone in the top 10-15 of the draft. A letter that was sent out to all the teams during the draft process stating to not take him as he would honor his college commitment to Texas caused him to fall to the Pirates in the second round.

Believing they could get him to sign, the Pirates offered him a then record of $5 million to sign. So with the $8 million bonus they gave Cole in the first, the Pirates spent $13 million on two players to get them both signed.

Bell hit 26 home runs his rookie season, finishing third in the rookie of the year voting and then went on to hit 37 two years later. A disastrous 2020 season that saw him even struggle at first base, Bell was traded in the offseason in exchange for Eddy Yean and Wil Crowe.

Third Round - Alex Dickerson, OF/1B Indiana

The Pirates went with a college bat in the third round, drafting Alex Dickerson out of Indiana. An advanced college bat that played in the outfield, Dickerson made the move to first and opened up as the Pirates 10th ranked prospect - the fifth overall amongst first basemen.

He posted an .803 OPS with 13 home runs and 90 RBIs his first full season, putting him on the fast track to Pittsburgh. But he would never arrive as a member of the organization, as he was traded to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Jaff Decker and Chris McGuiness.

Dickerson has since moved on to the San Francisco Giants, and has batted to a tune of .264/.333/.476 over his career.

Fourth Round - Colten Brewer, RHP Canton (TX) HS

Look at any high school arm the Pirates took around this point in the draft under NH and you will notice a common theme. Standing at 6'4 Brewer fit that mold, and the Pirates took him in the fourth round. After missing most of the 2013 season and all of 2014, Brewer  could never really get things on track.

He was selected by the New York Yankees in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, and has spent the last three years in the Boston Red Sox system. His ERA is over five in 91 career major league innings.

Fifth Round - Tyler Glasnow, RHP Hart (CA) HS

We all know what Glasnow is famous for during his time with the Pirates, and that was being included in that horrific Chris Archer deal that aged horribly almost immediately.

The Pirates took him in the fifth round thanks to his imposing size and potential two-plus pitches. He quickly soared to the top of prospect charts, even with the Pirates easing him into pro ball. He just was never able to harness his stuff and control it enough to be effective in Pittsburgh. 

He has emerged as one of the better pitchers in the game with the Tampa Bay Rays, only magnifying the same old cliche about the Pirates.

Sixth Round - Dan Gamache, 2B Auburn

The Auburn product posted an .878 OPS in his final year before being selected by the Pirates. Ganache worked his way all the way up to Indianapolis, not really doing anything to stand out before being released in 2016. After bouncing around a couple different organizations he last played in 2019.

Seventh Round - Jake Burnette, RHP Burford (GA) HS

Another young projectable arm taken out of high school, Burnette never made it out of Single-A, mostly due to control. The righty posted a minor league career mark of 6.8 BB/9. 

Eighth Round - Jason Creasy, RHP Clayton (NC) HS

Notice a common theme with this draft? Creasy continued the trend of HS arms taken. His best season came in 2013 when he posted a 2.74 ERA in 108 innings. He started 25 games for Altoona in 2015, but could never make the successful leap after that. After stints in the Indy League, Creasy last played in the Atlanta Braves system in 2019.

Ninth Round - Clay Holmes, RHP Slocomb (AL) HS

The Pirates had to pay seven figures to get Holmes to sign instead of going to Auburn. His power stuff made him an excited prospect to watch. Missing 2014 to injury and struggles with control kept his major league debut pushed back to 2018.

After two lackluster years with the Pirates (6.01 ERA combined in 2018 and 2019), it looked like Holmes was starting to figure things out last year before getting hurt in his first appearance and being forced to miss the rest of the year.

Since giving up five earned runs in one-third of an inning on April 6 against the Cincinnati Reds, Holmes has posted an 0.71 ERA and batters have slugged just .203 against him, becoming an important part of the team's bullpen.

Tenth Round - Taylor Lewis, OF Maine Orono

Lewis stole 20 bases his final year at Maine before the Pirates drafted him in the 10th round. He would go on to steal 63 bases in his four years in the minors, but also struck out 233 times. 

Notable Names after 10th Round

Eric Skoglund was drafted in the 16th round only to not sign with the Pirates. He would attend Central Florida for three years before being drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the third round. He is currently on the 60-day IL and hasn't pitched since 2019.

Oh yea, the Pirates took a guy named Trea Turner in the 20th round. Turner decided to go to NC State and ended up being drafted 13th overall in 2014 by the Padres before being traded to the Washington Nationals in a three team trade that included Wil Myers and the Rays.

The 2011 draft seemed destined to be great. While they had a couple of good years out of Cole, and Bell, and Holmes looks to be turning into a good bullpen player - they never got the sustained success they were hoping for compared to what they invested into it.

Unfortunately, this draft may always be remembered for the trade that Glasnow ended up being a part of and the success he had afterwards. 

What was your biggest takeaways from the 2011 draft class? For what they invested into it, did they get their return back? Would you have done anything different at the top of the draft knowing what you know now? Let us know in the comment section below, subscribe to the site at the link above and follow the site on Twitter @SportBlogMurphy.

You can also follow me on Twitter @AJ_Murfy.


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