Legend has it the Pirates’ latest phenom established himself as a legitimate candidate to become a top-five selection in baseball’s First-Year Player Draft by distinguishing himself in the fabled Cape Cod League, a traditional stepping stone from somewhere to stardom.
Minutes after the Pirates justified the hype by making the University of Houston’s Brad Lincoln the fourth overall selection on Tuesday, the 6-foot, 200-pound right-hander was asked if the 2001 movie “Summer Catch,” chronicling romance, hi-jinx and adventure in the Cape Cod League was at all accurate.
“In some parts, it is,” Lincoln offered. “In some parts, it ain’t.”
The follow-up question was as natural as it was inevitable.
Had Lincoln noticed any Jessica Biel types decorating the ballparks in Cape Cod?
“There’s a few,” Lincoln acknowledged.
That’s also about how many impact players the Pirates have selected in the draft’s first round since its inception in 1965.
There have been a few, from Richie Hebner (1966) to Steve Nicosia (1973) to Barry Bonds (1985) to Jeff King (1986) to Jason Kendall (1992) to Kris Benson (1996). But there have also been many forgettable, regrettable selections among the Pirates’ 40 previous first-round picks. Only 18 have ever played for the Pirates, and the list of those who made it to the big leagues at least briefly in black and gold includes the likes of Jim Winn, Sammy Khalifa, Chad Hermansen and J.J. Davis.
There are no Jessica Biels in that bunch.
Nor is the Pirates’ current roster a tribute to the draft being a reliable measure of a player’s major-league potential.
Of the 25 Pirates who suited up Tuesday night in Colorado, only three broke into professional baseball as first-round picks, while nine were signed as non-drafted free agents.
Only two were second-round picks, while seven were drafted in the 20th round or later.
And so on.
Still, none of that was about to rain on Lincoln’s parade, or the Pirates’.
Scouting director Ed Creech wore a coat and tie while dropping the names of Paul Maholm and Ben Sheets in referencing how long it might take Lincoln to make it to the majors and his makeup as a pitcher.
Creech admitted to being “jacked” about the selection.
Lincoln, speaking to Pittsburgh media via a teleconference, recognized fellow native Texan Roger Clemens as his idol and Roy Oswalt as a pitcher he identified with because of how the two resemble one another physically (Oswalt is a 6-foot, 170-pound flame-thrower).
Clemens (Texas), Sheets (Louisiana-Monroe) and Maholm (Mississippi State) also pitched in college.
General manager Dave Littlefield resisted any such name dropping or comparisons. But Littlefield wore a coat and a tie that suggested he was as “jacked” as Creech while allowing himself the use of the words “accomplished” and “advanced” in assessing Lincoln’s game.
“He pitched well in the Cape Cod League, which is a very talented summer league for college players,” Littlefield said.
In some cases, that means something.
In some cases, it doesn’t.
Short of Jessica Biel, there’s no such thing as a sure thing.
Even in the Cape Cod League.