In 2004 the Pirates had the 11th overall choice in the draft. There were two top stars out there in the college ranks out west in Jared Weaver and Stephen Drew. Both the younger brothers of major leaguers and both had plenty of potential. The Pirates chose instead to keep things close to Pittsburgh and select Neil Walker. Walker was a top high school catcher, more an athlete than anything else, but a pick that many locally liked and nationally many seemed to think it depended on how the athlete would develop.
It took Walker a little while and a few position changes, but he eventually made it to the majors, though not as the catcher he was drafted as. Instead he would be moved to second base, a position he never really played prior to the majors, and has made a nice little career for himself. He is better than average as an offensive player at second and has improving defensive. A cornerstone? Maybe? Maybe not? A nice player though.
Considering what happened in the rest of the draft, it is almost amazing that Walker amounted to anything. Looking over the draft, there are a total of 4 players that have sniffed the majors. Walker has played the most. The second most is the second round pick from that season, Brian Bixler. One could end the story there, when Brian Bixler is the guy with the second most major league time, there is something wrong.
Two others have made the majors, albeit with different teams. Jeremy Horst (40th round) would sign with the Reds in 2007. He made the majors last season as a LOOGY out of their bullpen. The other player is Corey Luebke, now with the Padres. Luebke was a swing man turned starter for the Padres, who looked to be a pretty promising arm for the club with a ton of potential, until he got Tommy John at the start of this season. He will be out of action for the next year or so.
Most of the other guys in the class that signed were either out of baseball after one season, a common theme in Littlefield drafts, or became journeymen minor leaguers, again another common theme of the Littlefield era. There were some names that fans that have followed the farm system will probably remember.
Eddie Prasch the 3rd round choice was to be a star at third. He never developed any power and played very little. He hung around in the system for 6 seasons mainly due to the fact that he was a 3rd round choice. Joe Bauserman was a hard throwing righty that I believe injuries did in after three seasons. He would later be a quarterback at THE Ohio State University, post Terrell Pryor.
Kyle Bloom was the late bloomer that flourished in the Hawaiian league, but never seemed to do much on the mainland. He was a Rule Five selection that was returned to Pittsburgh. Todd Redmond has sort of stalled in AAA, though not in Indianapolis in Gwinnett, as he was a guy that was sent to Atlanta in the now ill fated Adam LaRoche trade.
Showing a lot of potential but never getting anywhere were Jason Quarles and Justin Byler. Quarles was a super athlete moved to the mound, it never worked out. Byler was one of many first base prospects over the years, but he never seemed to get out of the New York Penn League. Derek Hankins was another signee that went through the whole organization, except for Pittsburgh. He spent planty of time around the organization. Brad Clapp was another though he never really rose above high A ball.
Out of the 50 players drafted, the team is left with Neil Walker. Brian Bixler was a bust that could never adapt at the majors, though even if he did the stunning fact that so few guys ever even got to AA ball, make this a rather disappointing draft of years gone by.