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Pirates’ 2017 Draft Manifesto

Two weeks ago I sat down with Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com and we talked about the Pirates over coffee.   We agreed that the Pirates have some interesting draft tendencies:

  • draft young for class whether its college or high school
  • draft pitching and up-the-middle players
  • draft players with solid defensive skills
  • spread high school pitching money around (ie. not all to top pick)
  • avoid players with questionable maturity
  • draft pitching (intentionally redundant)
  • they’ll pull a Will Craig and surprise everyone

So the Pirates have tendencies and a tendency to surprise.

Since the MLB draft is a crapshoot I likened it to betting on a horserace.    If you watched this year’s Kentucky Derby you noticed there were 20 horses in the field.  With the Pirates picking #12, I still don’t feel like I’ll guarantee my success with only twenty prospective picks but I think I have a shot.   That being said these aren’t the twenty best players in the draft; these are the twenty that I believe the Pirates are most likely to select.

The Odds

Name

Status

Odds

JB Bukauskas

college RHP

6-1

Shane Baz

prep RHP

6-1

Keston Hiura

college bat

6-1

Trevor Rogers

prep LHP

6-1

Nick Pratto

prep 1B

6-1

Austin Beck

prep CF

6-1

Jake Burger

college 3B

9-1

Mark Vientros

prep SS

9-1

Alex Faedo

college RHP

9-1

D.J. Hall

prep LHP

9-1

Sam Carlson

prep RHP

12-1

Adam Haseley

college CF

12-1

Jeren Kendell

college CF

12-1

Evan White

college 1B

12-1

Logan Warmouth

college SS

15-1

David Peterson

college LHP

15-1

Pavin Smith

college 1B

15-1

Griffin Canning

college RHP

15-1

Quentin Holmes

prep CF

15-1

Blaine Knight

college RHP

25-1

Here’s a blurb on all the players with odds.   Click on their names for a video of each.

J.B. Bukauskas (6-1) – JBB or Kaus or Buke (no way he doesn’t get a nickname) might be the youngest college draft prospect (born 10/96).  He’s been comped to Sonny Gray and has a plus-plus fastball and a plus slider.  His only knock is his shorter stature at 6′-0″.  Mayo discussed the worries of him going to the bullpen but agrees that he’d he a great reliever and that’s not a bad floor.    The odds would be higher on him but I think there’s a good chance he doesn’t get to 12.  Also, he has the leverage of a junior AND senior season so he’d require slot.

Shane Baz (6-1) – The best of the second tier of players (the first won’t reach #12)  Baz has 5 legit pitches: a plus fastball, a plus cutter, a plus slider and a curve and a changeup.    He also is one of the youngest high school players (born 6/99). He adds plus makeup and plus athleticism.  He’d be the perfect Mitch Keller-type of sandwich round pick but it’s doubtful he makes it out of the top 15.   Jonathan Mayo and I discussed Baz as a possible pick but we noted that the Pirates don’t seem to want to take a HS arm with their first pick due to the large chance of injury and the large 1st pick slot value.    That’s the only thing not bumping Baz up to the favorite. He also has a  TCU commit which means he might require slot.   Finally for you Statcast junkies, the Pirates love spin rate and Baz has the highest of high school pitchers.

Keston Hiura (6-1) –  Hiura’s plus-plus hit tool is almost savant-ish, with hitting being just second nature.   He reminds me of a RHH John Jaso with a touch of Adam Frazier.   He also shares Jaso and Frazier’s position uncertainty.   You can make a Matt Carpenter comp as well.   He’s one of the youngest college bats (6/96) and would be a top 5 pick if not for a elbow injury that might require Tommy John.    The Pirates might have some inside info on the injury as the doctor Hiura is seeing is the one who did Cole Tucker’s surgery (and Kobe Bryant’s).    Also, due to the injury concerns he could possibly sign underslot.  For you Steeler fans, this athlete falling due to injury reminds me of the Heath Miller draft pick.

Trevor Rogers (6-1) Rogers, the prep LHP, was rated by Baseball America as having the 2nd best fastball of the prep class.  He reminds me of a LH version of Tyler Glasnow.  He’s the lone top prospect out of New Mexico and he’s been linked to the Pirates both by Mayo and Keith Law.   That alone gives him high odds.   The one thing I don’t get is his age, as he’ll be 19 on draft day making him one of the oldest HS draft prospects, which normally isn’t the Pirates stance.  My only guess is that a 6′ 6″ LHP who has a plus fastball with command, with feel for three other pitches, might have the potential to have great control which makes him an ace.     I also think a weak commitment helps too.

Nick Pratto (6-1) – Pratto, the sweet swinging LHH first basemen out of California, might be the best pure high school hitter.    Mayo mentioned that the Pirates have drafted several players that performed well at the NHSI (National High School Invitational) and Pratto did the same.    He seems like a pick that will reach his potential and might even sign for underslot.   Why not higher odds?   He’s a 1B only player and just seems like too low a ceiling for a guy who doesn’t give anything back with the glove.  Too bad he’s not a catcher.

Austin Beck (6-1) –  The draft’s highest rated prospect that not many people know about.  After watching some videos he reminds me of Clint Frazier with how much bat speed he delivers.  Scouts give him future 60s in power, speed and OF arm with 50s in hitting and fielding.   He could be a steal at #12 if he becomes the next McCutchen.   I bet the Pirates hope he’s gone so they don’t need to make a decision on him.

Jake Burger – (9-1) – Burger seems like a guy who eats a lot of hamburgers with his thick 6’2″ frame.   But he is college young (4/96), has great power and plays a passable third base.    Imagine a less pretty David Freese with the same ability and you pretty much understand Burger.

Alex Faedo – (9-1) – The RHP from Florida was a preseason 1-1 favorite and has slightly fallen due to an OK junior season and other players jumping ahead.   He has a good fastball and plus slider with a workable changeup.    He seems ordinary, but he’s 3 years closer to the majors than a similar high school pitcher so that gives him value.

DJ Hall – (9-1) – Hall is a Georgia prep lefty who gets raves for his curve and its spin rate.    He sounds like a high school version of Rich Hill.  Scouts say he could have a future 70 fastball as well.    His small 6′-0″ frame doesn’t have much room for physical projection but he could get stronger.

Mark Vientros – (9-1) – Mayo said this is WAY too high for Vientros, the high school shortstop from Miami but this is for the Pirates, who are drafting a system and a draft class and not one player.   Vientros is the youngest player in the high school class by a long shot (12/99).   He’s 5 months younger than the young Cole Tucker was when he was the Pirates first round choice and four months younger than the really young Mike Trout was when drafted #22 by the Angels.    If he’d repeat his senior year he could have a chance for 1-1 in 2018.   He’s also a non-pitcher (read: safer) and he has a chance to stay at SS and he has a very projectable frame.      All this being said, he’s still not quite enough for the 12th pick other than the fact that he would sign for underslot and maybe a lot under the $4M pick slot.   Neal Huntington could do a lot with an extra $2M in a given draft.    This would be like Bill Belichick trading a 1st round pick for two seconds and getting Rob Gronkowski with the second pick.

Heliot Ramos – (12-1) – The exact same strategy as the Vientros pick with another very young player (9/99) but Ramos is a different type.   He’s a raw outfielder from Puerto Rico.  He’ll never play infield, but might be a 20/20 center fielder or right fielder if the Puerto Rican stars align.

Jeren Kendell – (12-1) – Kendell is a dynamic athlete (make sure to watch the video).  The accomplished Vandy centerfielder is a plus runner and fielder with a plus arm AND has power.   He just has a lot of swing-and-miss in his swing which makes everyone nervous.   He would be a rare gamble for the Pirates if he’s there at #12.

Adam Haseley – (12-1) – Haseley is a UVA outfielder who has been hitting around .400 this year.   He’s the classic high floor player with questions on his ceiling.   He’s capable of playing center but wouldn’t be plus and should hit enough to make the show.    The question: is he Jaff Decker or A.J. Pollock?

Sam Carlson – (12-1) – Carlson hails from the baseball hotbed of Minnesota.  He’s a RHP who is revered for his projectable frame, fastball and command.   He was relatively unknown until recently but should go within the top 20 picks.

Evan White – (12-1) – Our friends at Fangraphs use Evan White as a microcosm of this goofy draft.   White (born 4/96) is a plus runner who hits RH and throws LH.  He also is great at infield defense but since he throws LH he’s stuck at first.  His frame is huge and he could develop power to match his hit tool.    Would you take Sean Rodriguez if he could only play 1B and corner OF?  

Logan Warmouth (15-1) Warmouth is this year’s Kevin Newman: college shortstop with 50s across the board.  He’s not a sexy pick but one who should make the majors.   Doesn’t feel like a Pirates pick this year but pundits speculate he could be.

David Peterson – (15-1) – This might be the guy I struggle with the most.   The college LHP seems similar to the Brandon Waddell, Cody Dickson and Cam Vieux’s the Pirates have drafted, but the scouts love him.  Fangraphs even has him as a top 10.  He has four pitches that he commands rather well with his fastball and slider being his best.  If he becomes a LH version of Trevor Williams I wouldn’t be surprised.

Quentin Holmes – (15-1) – Another upside play in the vein of Vientros, Holmes is a 6″-1′ CF with 80 speed.  His bat is well behind his base running and defense but it shows potential.   Scouts use the Billy Hamilton comp but he could never play infield.   Holmes also has the upside as he’s really young (7/99) and he’s from a cold weather state so he might benefit from year-round play.   Looks like a blazing fast Josh Harrison to me.

Pavin Smith (15-1) is a LHH college 1B who is ranked very high in the draft prospect rankings.   At one point this season he had 10 homers and 3 K’s.   I don’t think he gets to the Pirates and I don’t think they’d necessarily pick him as he’s a 1B-only college player and we never draft those… oh right… Will Craig.

Tanner Houck – (15-1) is a RH throwing fireballer from Missouri so naturally he gets the Max Scherzer comp.   Houck’s fastball gets 65 grades from scouts as it is fast and sinks.    His secondary stuff isn’t that good and some scouts don’t love his 3/4 arm slot.   He is also very young for the class so that adds some upside (6/96).

Griffin Canning – (15-1) is a RH college starting pitcher who reminds some of Zach Grienke as he throws four different pitches for strikes with his top pitch being a changeup.   There is some worry of over work as he threw some 120 pitch outings this year for UCLA, but he is a young pitcher (5/96) so hopefully it will be just a blip on a long career.

Blaine Knight – (25-1)  I have a hard time ignoring a draft eligible sophomore from Arkansas after the last one snuck into the Red Sox’s coffers (Bienintendi).  Knight seems like a Chad Kuhl clone with more age upside (6/96) than Kuhl had and more experience against top-flight hitting playing for the Razorbacks versus the Delaware Blue Hens.

Quick notes

  • The Pirates have a lot more money than usual for their first several picks.  They pick 11, 40, 50, 72 and 88 with the slots values of $4.03M,  $1.64M, $1.36M,  $804k and $627k respectively.  Moving some of that money around could convince quite a few folks to sign contracts.
  • I’d be surprised if the Pirates didn’t draft a college catcher in the first 10 rounds.    Evan Skoug, Riley Adams, Matt Whatley and Daulton Varsho are possible picks, while I like J.J. Schwarz the catcher at Florida whose bat is fine but would need time getting the glove in shape due to an excellent receiver blocking him in Gainesville.
  • Jonathan Mayo also mentioned that the Pirates may have picked Will Craig due to the Trackman (aka Statcast) data that was present at Wake Forrest.   He alluded to UVA having good Statcast data as a possible hint at the Pirates drafting a UVA player…. which is where Heath Miller went to school BTW.

Video

ICYMI (in case you missed it) I made this video of a snippet of my interview with Jonathan Mayo about makeup:

About Michael Bradley (60 Articles)
Michael is a Pirates contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. Michael is former submarine officer and Naval Academy grad. He now runs a small consulting firm and does veteran related job fairs. He is a SABR member and regularly attends Altoona Curve games to scout the Pirate prospects.
Contact: Twitter

2 Comments on Pirates’ 2017 Draft Manifesto

  1. Miguel Antonetty // June 8, 2017 at 5:23 PM //

    Fantastic preview, best I’ve read so far.

    • Mike Bradley // June 8, 2017 at 11:49 PM //

      Thanks Miguel. It’s a byproduct of me trying to understand how they think approach these potential draftees.

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