Baseball has been having a draft to select players since 1965, so this year is the 52nd time of this event. The Pittsburgh region is on the verge of making history for the first time in the MLB Draft by having two local players potentially selected in the first round.
The first player is a near-consensus lock to be selected in the first twenty picks — Plum H.S. OF Alex Kirilloff. The 6′-2″/200 Kirilloff has both speed and power, but he’s projected to be more of a right fielder long-term. In a recent mock draft, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo had the Indians selecting him at #14. Most other mock drafts that I have seen have clustered him in the #10-20 slot range. The recommended slot value for the #10 spot is $3.38M and for the #20 spot it is $2.32M, so if you are in the Plum area on Thursday night and hear loud cheering, it is probably from Clan Kirilloff becoming overnight millionaires.
With all of the turmoil that has surrounded Plum High School this past year with the multiple sex scandals involving teachers and students, this event could help ever-so-slightly lift the black cloud that has hung over the school district. In no way will one player getting drafted make up for the horrific conduct of teachers, but it can at least give the students something to be proud of from their senior year.
It’s hard to see Kirilloff lasting until the Pirates select at #22, but he would be a great get. Plus, he could fill the vacated Pittsburgh Kid slot that Neil Walker left behind when he was traded to the Mets. I’m sure the ROOT Sports team and 93.7 The Fan would only mention he was from Pittsburgh once, twice, or 689 times per week.
The second player that may help make history is from the University of Pittsburgh — RHP T.J. Zeuch. Although Zeuch is a native of Ohio, it would still be monumental to have two local products selected in the first round. For the University of Pittsburgh, it would be only their second 1st round pick of the MLB Draft. If you knew that pitcher Al Lachowicz was drafted in 1981’s first round, then give yourself a gold star. (Unless you are actually the Al Lachowicz. You get no credit for knowing that already.)
If you could design a pitcher that would intrigue the Pirates, it would probably be T.J. Zeuch. The Pirates love tall pitchers with long levers and the 6′-7″ Zeuch fits that bill. They love hard throwers and Zeuch’s 96-97 mph fastball with sinking action checks that box, too. Add in the fact that he pitches his home games just 20 minutes away from the offices on Federal Street. You have to think that Neal Huntington and/or a few key members of the Pirates’ draft committee have put some eyeballs on him at some point this spring.
Zeuch’s selection range seems to be a little wider than Kirilloff’s. I’ve seen Zeuch going #15 all the way down to the end of the first round at #34. Even if the arch-rival Cardinals select him at #34 don’t fret for Zeuch’s bank account. The recommended slot bonus at #34 is $1.88M. For me, I would love to see the Pirates grab Zeuch at #22 ($2.25M). Although Mayo’s report said that his offspeed stuff is a little below par right now, even if he doesn’t fully develop he could be a strong bullpen option with that heavy, sinking fastball. With the Pirates only having the 18th highest draft bonus pool at $7M, Zeuch would be a good get for them, as he would certainly sign for slot value or perhaps a shade lower.
The bonus pool money is for the first 10 rounds of the draft or any players after that given bonuses in excess of $100,000. There are various penalties for going over one’s bonus pool, ranging from small taxes to the loss of future draft picks, so teams get creative with their slot allocations. If a team wanted to select a high-value player with high bonus demands that slid down the draft, they could do so and then select some college seniors in the first 10 picks that would sign for far less than slot value. These guys are happy to sign for $25,000 (as many may not be drafted at all), even if their slot value is $500,000. The teams save money in the process to re-allocate accordingly.
So tune in to the MLB Network on Thursday, June 9th. There’s a good chance that you can witness some local history being made.