A few weeks ago, Baseball America started posting their top prospect lists for the summer leagues. One particular league stuck out in regards to the Pirates, the California Collegiate League (CCL). The CCL is a summer league composed of college players of all levels, incoming freshmen to 4th year seniors. In the CCL, the players use wood bats for the first time and get a real taste of what pro baseball is all about. The reason that this particular league is of interest to Pirate fans is because 2 of the top 3 players were drafted and unsigned by the Bucs.
Austin Kubitza was ranked as the top prospect in the CCL by Baseball America. In the 2010 draft, the Pirates selected him in the 7th round. He was one of 4 prep pitchers that didn’t sign that were taken in the first 10 rounds by the Pirates. As a freshman at Rice, Kubitza posted impressive numbers earning Freshman All-America honors. In the CCL, he continued to put up excellent numbers including striking out 51 batters in 39 innings. Baseball America writes “With some more polish and added strength, Kubitza has a very good chance to climb into the first round of the 2013 draft and has front-half-of-the-rotation big league potential.”
For the 3rd overall prospect in the CCL, Baseball America chose Aaron Brown. The Pirates chose Brown in the 17th round of the 2011 draft and reportedly offered him 3rd round money which he turned down. Slots for the 3rd round range from 270k-430k. Coming into the draft, Baseball America had him ranked as its 149th draft prospect which puts him somewhere in the 4-6th round, but he fell to the 17th due to his commitment to Pepperdine. His performance in the CCL only helped his leverage in negotiations with the Pirates. In 39 games, he batted .303 with 7 HRs and a .900 OPS. He also was 23 for 25 on stolen base attempts. One of his most notable accomplishments in the CCL was that he stole the show at the CCL All-Star game. In that game, he hit a home run and made a fantastic leaping catch against the center field wall. Baseball America says that he shows signs of legitimate five-tool potential.
As far as the Pirates not signing these guys, it’s not entirely their fault. Brown most likely got caught up in a numbers game. When the Pirates signed Josh Bell for $5 million, they didn’t have a lot left over for other prospects. As the summer wore on, Brown seemed amicable to signing if the money was right, but I imagine that the budget ran out after the Bell signing. With Kubitza, he was an extremely tough sign to begin with. A lot of prep pitchers that commit to Rice end up on campus and Kubitza was no different. The Pirates made a big mistake in not signing more of their top draft picks in this draft and Kubitza looks like he will be the most glaring example. Chances are good though that the Pirates will get a second shot at him when he is eligible to be drafted again.