It’d didn’t take long after the 2018 draft order was set for Baseball America to post its first mock draft. As we all know, as far as predicting what player any team will take, these things mean exactly squat at this stage. If you ignore the specific projections, though, a mock draft at least can give you a sense of the available talent pool.
In the 2018 pool, the upper end appears to be heavy with prep pitchers (at least until they all have TJS). They make up a third of BA’s projected first round. That includes Matthew Liberatore, a lefty from an Arizona high school whom BA slots in at the Pirates’ pick. He has a fastball that gets up to 93-94, and a promising curve and change. My guess is that the Pirates won’t take a prep pitcher in round one unless they think he projects as a top-of-the-rotation starter. That’s how they viewed both Jameson Taillon and Shane Baz, the only prep pitchers the current regime has drafted in the first round. Whether Liberatore or any of the other prep hurlers projects that way I don’t know.
The talent pool includes pair of prep shortstops, Brice Turang and Nander De Sedas, but if they have good senior seasons I doubt they’ll get anywhere near the Pirates. (BA has them going 3rd and 4th.) Prep shortstops have made a big impact in recent years. Teams aren’t going to risk missing out on a Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa or Manny Machado (who moved to third only because of J.J. Hardy).
There do seem to be some prep and college bats who, based on current scouting, seem to belong more or less where the Pirates are picking. These include the top power hitter in the pool, prep 3B Nolan Gorman; prep OF Jarred Kelenic; and college outfielders Griffin Conine, Greyson Jenista and Tristan Pompey. Then again, considering how Will Craig is doing, maybe the Pirates should pass on a college bat in round one.