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2017 MLB draft: Reviewing the Pirates’ drafts - 2015

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates-Media Day Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s always risky to try to read an over-arching strategy into the Pirates’ drafts. Like most teams, they reflexively answer all questions about their picks with the standard, “He was the best player available.” Still, with their top three picks — they had a compensation round pick from the loss of Russell Martin — they seemed to be pursuing a distinct strategy. They used all three picks on infielders with strong plate discipline and line drive bats who tend to hit to all fields. The idea, possibly, is to defeat the increasing tendency toward shifts.

Top Selections

Kevin Newman, 1st (19th overall), SS (College): Newman got some notoriety when Keith Law rated him the second best prospect in the draft. The rating seemed justified when Newman had a huge first half in 2016 at Bradenton and continued hitting well after a promotion to Altoona. He slumped in the last month, though, and has continued struggling at the same level this year, including a terrible month of May. His range at short is just passable but he’s very reliable defensively.

Ke’Bryan Hayes, 1st Supp. (32nd overall), 3B (HS): The son of Charlie Hayes, Ke’Bryan so far has been what the Pirates thought they were getting: a very polished prep player with a good approach at the plate and potentially above-average skills at third. He was starting to show some power at West Virginia in 2016 when he got derailed by back problems and a cracked rib. The Pirates moved him up to Bradenton and he’s hit well, without much power. He’s one of the youngest players in the league and probably isn’t at full strength, as he got underweight while recovering from his injuries.

Kevin Kramer, 2nd (62nd overall), SS (College): Kramer has played second since the draft. After a solid 2016 season, he’s having a breakout year with Altoona. He’s shown solid all-around skills, including good plate discipline, and is starting to hit for decent power.

Casey Hughston, 3rd (96th overall), OF (College): Hughston is a big guy with impressive tools, including considerable raw power and good enough speed to be a legitimate center fielder. He’s struggled severely so far to make contact, mainly due to an inability to hit anything over the outer half of the plate. After a very rough 2016 season, he seemed to be making great progress at Bradenton, but he’s run into another slump recently in which he’s had a very tough time putting the ball in play.

Jacob Taylor, 4th (127th), RHP (JC): The Pirates drafted Taylor as a relatively inexperienced junior college pitcher with a power arm and command issues. After one pro outing, he had Tommy John surgery. He made a few rehab outings in 2016, so he’s still an almost completely unknown quantity.

Brandon Waddell, 5th (157th overall), LHP (College): After five dominant starts at Bradenton in 2016, the Pirates moved Waddell up to Altoona. He found AA a different matter, struggling with walks and high pitch counts. He has only average-ish stuff and tends to nibble around the edges of the strike zone. He’s back at Altoona this year, but was hampered by an early-season injury.

J.T. Brubaker, 6th (187th overall), RHP (College): Brubaker has decent velocity and a good change, but he struggled in 2016 at Bradenton. The Pirates moved him up to Altoona this year anyway and he’s been uneven there, although he’s improved from last year.

Mitchell Tolman, 7th (217th overall), 3B (College): The Pirates moved Tolman to second and he’s been strong defensively. He’s patient at the plate and has had good OBPs, but hasn’t hit the ball with a lot of authority. He’s playing at Bradenton this year.

Seth McGarry, 8th (247th overall), RHP (College): McGarry was limited by arm problems in college, which probably accounts for the fact that the Pirates have used him strictly in relief since 2015. His fastball got up to 97 in college, but he hasn’t shown that kind of velocity as a pro. He’s having a very good year at Bradenton, though, so far in 2017.

Christian Kelley, 11th (337th overall), C (College): Kelley was drafted as a relatively inexperienced college sophomore. He struggled to hit in 2015-16, but he’s hitting very well this year for Bradenton, albeit with limited power. He’s good defensively, enough so that the Pirates brought him to major league camp on an NRI in 2017.

Tanner Anderson, 20th (607th overall), RHP (College): The most noticeable thing about Anderson is his throwback-style leg kick. The Pirates surprisingly put him in the Altoona rotation this year, where he’s gotten uneven results with a very low K rate.

Logan Hill, 25th (757th overall), OF (College): Hill struggled badly through much of last year, getting demoted from Bradenton to West Virginia. He’s back at Bradenton now and he’s easily leading the Florida State League in HRs. The big caveats are that his plate discipline is poor and he’s already 24.

Sean Keselica, 33rd (997th overall), LHP (College): Keselica pitched well in relief for half a season at West Virginia in 2016, but missed time due to an injury. A little surprisingly, the Pirates jumped him up to Altoona this year and he’s put up very good numbers in relief. It’s always a good idea, though, to be skeptical with relief prospects.

James Marvel, 36th (1087th), RHP (College): Marvel had Tommy John surgery before the draft, so the Pirates knew he’d miss his first season when they signed him at a little over the slot amount. He didn’t put up very good numbers as a starter at Morgantown in 2016, but he’s doing better this year at West Virginia, with a much higher K rate. It’s still a low level for a college draftee at this stage, but Bradenton had a crowded rotation.

Tate Scioneaux, 39th (1177th overall), RHP (College): Scioneaux doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he seems to get by very well with deception. He’s been strictly a reliever as a pro. This year at Altoona, he’s given up very few runs or baserunners, although his K rate has dropped steadily as he’s moved up. Again . . . relief prospects . . . .

Still in the Organization

Bret Helton, 9th (277th overall), RHP (College): Helton has mostly struggled so far. He’s pitching mainly out of the bullpen for Bradenton and isn’t getting good results this year.

Logan Sendelbach, 10th (307th overall), RHP (College): Sendelbach pitched a little better than Helton in 2016 as a starter at West Virginia. This year, he’s served in a swing role for Bradenton and has gotten hit hard.

Ty Moore, 12th (367th overall), OF (College): Moore struggled in a brief trial at West Virginia in 2016 and ended up spending most of his time back in short season ball. He’s hitting well for the Power this year, but it’s a low level for a 2015 college draftee who’ll turn 24 before the season ends.

Logan Ratledge, 13th (397th overall), SS (College): Ratledge settled in quickly as a utility player. He started this season back at West Virginia, but was promoted recently to Bradenton.

Scooter Hightower, 15th (457th overall), RHP (JC): The aptly named Hightower (he’s 6’6”) pitched fairly well in short season ball in 2015-16, with good walk and K rates. He’s been out with an injury this year.

Stephan Meyer, 18th (547th overall), RHP (College): Meyer is a finesse righty. The Pirates put him in the rotation at Morgantown in 2016 and he was fairly hittable. He’s still in extended spring training this year.

Ike Schlabach, 19th (577th overall), LHP (HS): Schlabach was unusual in being the first prep pitcher the Pirates drafted in 2015. He has good size and projection, especially for a lefty. Schlabach pitched in the rotation at Bristol in 2016 and didn’t have good numbers. He’ll probably be in the Morgantown rotation this year.

Nicholas Economos, 21st (637th overall), RHP (JC): Economos has good size, at 6’6”, and projection. The Pirates put him in the Bristol rotation in 2016 and he didn’t get good results. He’ll probably be at Morgantown in 2017.

Nathan Trevillian, 22nd (667th overall), RHP (HS): Trevillian has yet to pitch as a pro due to forearm tightness that eventually led to Tommy John surgery.

John Bormann, 24th (727th overall), C (College): Bormann achieved some notoriety when he got an emergency callup up to serve as a backup catcher. He even got one plate appearance in the majors. He’s since been removed from the 40-man roster and is the backup catcher at Bradenton. He’s a good defensive catcher who doesn’t hit much.

Shane Kemp, 26th (787th overall), RHP (College): Kemp spent his first full year pitching in relief at Bristol, which isn’t a high level at that point for a college draftee. He’ll probably be at Morgantown in 2017.

Ryan Nagle, 27th (817th overall), OF (College): Nagle signed for a slightly over-slot bonus and played in the outfield regularly for West Virginia in 2016, but he hit very little. He’s in extended spring training now, which says a lot.

Albert Baur, 28th (847th overall), 1B (College): Baur spent two years at Morgantown and now he’s at West Virginia. He’s not hitting all that much and, at 25, he’s very old for the level.

Mike Wallace, 30th (907th overall), RHP (College): Wallace is a finesse righty. He had a very rough time in 2015 at Bristol, then pitched well there last year. He started this season in extended spring training, probably slated for Morgantown, but he’s seen some time in the West Virginia bullpen when they’ve needed a pitcher.

Jordan George, 35th (1057th overall), 1B (College): George has hit for good averages with high walk rates, including this year at Bradenton. He doesn’t have much power, though, and he’s been old for the levels at which he’s played.

Daniel Zamora, 40th (1207th overall), LHP (College): Zamora has mostly pitched well as a reliever, with good K rates. He’s at Bradenton this year.


This draft will turn almost entirely on Newman, Hayes and Kramer. All three are more or less on track, although Newman’s struggles this year are a concern. The pitching from this draft does not look good, but having Kelley develop into a real catching prospect would be helpful.

Grade: C+