Welcome to BD's coverage of the draft, which kicks off June 9. An important note before we begin: The Pirates' first pick is No. 22 overall. No one doing mock drafts knows exactly who will be available at No. 22, and since the Bucs generally play these things close to the vest, no one really knows what they're thinking either.
Two years ago, the Pirates' selection of Cole Tucker with the 24th overall pick came almost completely out of nowhere, as outside experts generally regarded Tucker as something like a third-round pick. Last year, the Bucs' selection of Kevin Newman at No. 19 was a little less surprising, and experts did have a pretty clear read on the Pirates' interest in No. 32 overall pick Ke'Bryan Hayes, but I'm not sure anyone would have nailed the Newman pick before the Pirates actually made it.
So there's a right way and a wrong way to look at these mock drafts. I find them informative, in that they identify teams' tendencies and match them to players generally perceived to be likely to come off the board at particular points in the draft. They are a great guide if you're watching the draft as it unfolds. But the people making them just don't know exactly what's going to happen, because no one does. That isn't a criticism of the people who make them. It's just that knowing who the Pirates will pick at No. 22 involves too many variables for anyone to project with certainty, and besides, no one with the Pirates is going to say directly who they're most interested in.
With that in mind, here are a couple recent mocks. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo has the Bucs taking Nolan Jones, a high school infielder from the Philadelphia area.
Jones' name pops up with a few teams up a bit higher, and there was some talk the Pirates were leaning arm, but the eastern Pennsylvania prepster's pure bat might be too good to pass up.
Jones is committed to Virginia. MLB.com rates him the No. 25 prospect in the draft, noting that he's a good left-handed hitter with raw power and that he could wind up at one of any number positions, perhaps second, third or corner outfield.
John Manuel of Baseball America, meanwhile, suggests the Bucs will pick Georgia high school outfielder Taylor Trammell.
The value at 22 will be in the high school class, such as signable prep bats Josh Lowe and Taylor Trammell or such as Forrest Whitley or Kyle Muller, as college players get pushed up.
MLB.com notes that Trammell has a Georgia Tech commitment he isn't likely to honor. It describes him as something of a project, due to the fact that he split his time between football and baseball in high school, but identifies him as a potential center fielder with offensive upside and good speed.
Manuel also points out that there are two local products who could potentially be available to the Pirates at No. 22. One is Plum outfielder Alex Kirilloff, who MLB.com says has good raw power and looks likely to be a corner outfielder. The other is Pitt righty T.J. Zeuch, who's 6-foot-7 and reportedly sits in the 92-94 MPH range, with decent breaking stuff but without much of a changeup. It makes no sense whatsoever for the Pirates to select someone just because he's local, and their success with Neil Walker aside, there's no way they'll do that. But Kirilloff and Zeuch are both worth watching if they're still available when the Pirates pick. Both Mayo and Manuel have Kirilloff going earlier, in the teens; Zeuch might be the better bet to still be on the board for the Pirates' selection.