The Pirates went back to the prep pitcher well in this draft. After taking college third baseman Will Craig in round one, they went for prep pitchers with three of their next four picks. They failed to sign Nick Lodolo, whom they took with a competitive balance pick, so they have a compensatory selection in the 2017 draft. They’d accumulated some extra pool money for their attempt to sign Lodolo, who was expected to be a tough sign. They used that money to sign another prep pitcher, Austin Shields, whom they’d picked in the 33rd round as a backup plan.
Will Craig, 1st (22nd overall), 3B (College): This one already isn’t looking that good. Craig has moved to first due to serious issues playing third during his debut and also due to the presence of Ke’Bryan Hayes. That puts even more pressure on his bat. Although he’s shown a good eye at the plate, he hasn’t hit for much power and isn’t hitting for a good average at Bradenton now, either. There were concerns at draft time that his power in college was mostly a product of his home field and also over the fact that he didn’t hit well in wood-bat summer ball. Those concerns are looking justified at this point.
Travis MacGregor, 2nd (68th overall), RHP (HS): MacGregor is a projectible righty who may have been a little over-drafted. He showed good control in his debut in the Gulf Coast League, but didn’t miss many bats. As Mitch Keller showed, though, it’s too soon to be drawing any conclusions.
Stephen Alemais, 3rd (105th overall), SS (College): Alemais is an at-times spectacular defensive player with a suspect bat, although scouts have always thought he had the ability to be at least a solid hitter. He was making limited progress at the plate at West Virginia — Cole Tucker’s presence at Bradenton kept him there — but he suffered a wrist injury recently. It’s unknown at this point when he’ll be back.
Braeden Ogle, 4th (135th overall), LHP (HS): Ogle has looked the best of the team’s prep pitching draftees, with mid-90s velocity and a developing slider. His command, as you’d expect, is a work in progress. Like most or all of the other prep pitchers, he’s expected to be at Bristol once they start play.
Blake Cederlind, 5th (165th overall), RHP (JC): Cederlind is a high-risk, high-reward pick out of junior college. He throws in the mid-90s, but his command has a ways to go. He missed some time after the draft with forearm tightness. This year he’s at West Virginia pitching in a swing role as the Pirates gradually increase his workload. He’s gotten mostly good results so far, with a good K rate.
Cam Vieaux, 6th (195th overall), LHP (College): Vieaux is a finesse lefty who’s similar to Brandon Waddell. He’s at West Virginia now due to the rotation logjam at Bradenton. He’s getting very good results without dominating, but needs to be pitching at a higher level soon.
Brent Gibbs, 7th (225th overall), C (JC): Gibbs has more offensive upside than Arden Pabst, who was drafted later. He missed most of 2016 after the draft with an injury and got hurt again in spring training. The Pirates recently activated him at West Virginia and he’s gotten off to a good start.
Dylan Prohoroff, 8th (255th overall), RHP (College): Prohoroff is another high-risk pick with a pretty good ceiling. He’s had to adjust his delivery as the Pirates are trying to eliminate a violent head-jerk. Prohoroff is pitching in relief now at West Virginia. He had a couple of control meltdowns in April, but has pitched well and hasn’t walked a batter in over a month.
Clark Eagan, 9th (285th overall), OF (College): Eagan’s selection was a little puzzling. He doesn’t have much power, he’s not a speedster and he doesn’t have great plate discipline. He’s having a solid season at West Virginia, but that’s a low level for a college draftee.
Matt Anderson, 10th (315th overall), RHP (College): Anderson had very high strikeout rates in college and has continued to miss a lot of bats as a pro. He doesn’t have great stuff, but has a tricky delivery. The Pirates are trying him as a starter at West Virginia and he’s had uneven results.
Max Kranick, 11th (345th overall), RHP (HS): Kranick was an above-slot signing who was regarded by many scouts as an early-round talent. His stuff is a little similar to Ogle’s, with a little less velocity and a more advance breaking ball. Kranick pitched well in his debut and should go to Bristol this year.
Arden Pabst, 12th (375th overall), C (College): Pabst is a good defensive catcher whose bat is suspect. He’s sharing the catching duties now at West Virginia with Gibbs and hitting for a little more power, but not especially well overall.
John Pomeroy, 13th (405th overall), RHP (College): Pomeroy was pretty much a lottery ticket, a big guy with good velocity whose control problems limited him to a very small number of innings in college. With the Pirates in 2016, he struck out a lot of hitters but walked over one an inning. He had Tommy John surgery in spring this year, so it’ll be another year before the Pirates can resume trying to help him with his control.
Matt Frawley, 17th (525th overall), RHP (College): A starter in college, Frawley is pitching very well in relief for West Virginia.
Hunter Owen, 25th (765th overall), OF (College): The Pirates have moved Owen to third, where he’s the starter at West Virginia. He’s hit well so far, with solid power but suspect plate discipline.
Austin Shields, 33rd (1005th overall), RHP (HS): The Pirates signed Shields for an above-slot bonus after they were unable to sign Nick Lodolo. He’s a big guy with solid present velocity and the potential for more. He’s from Canada and has limited experience; not surprisingly, his command has a long ways to go. Whether he goes to Bristol or heads back to the GCL this year will tell us something about the progress he’s made between fall instructionals and extended spring training.
Still in the Organization
Matt Diorio, 16th (495th overall), OF (College): Diorio struggled at Morgantown in 2016 and is in extended spring training now.
Kevin Mahala, 18th (555th overall), SS (College): Mahala settled in quickly as a utility player. He’s at West Virginia now.
Adam Oller, 20th (615th overall), RHP (College): Oller didn’t pitch especially well in 2016 for Bristol. He’s out now with a shoulder impingement.
Matt Eckelman, 21st (645th overall), RHP (College): Eckelman was by far the best pitcher at Bristol in 2016. The Pirates moved him to the West Virginia bullpen this year and he’s struggled.
Brandon Bingel, 22nd (675th overall), RHP (College): Bingel pitched well as the closer for Morgantown, although with a low K rate. He’s still in extended spring training, which is not a good indicator.
Garrett Brown, 23rd (705th overall), OF (College): Brown has very good speed, but struggled at the plate at Morgantown in 2016. He’s still in extended spring training.
Geoff Hartlieb, 29th (885th overall), RHP (College): The Pirates have used Hartlieb in relief. He struggled some at Bristol last year and is pitching better for West Virginia this year, but with a very low K rate.
Jordan Jess, 31st (945th overall), LHP (College): Jess is a lefty with decent stuff. He’s putting up good all around numbers this year at West Virginia.
Pasquale Mazzoccoli, 35th (1065th overall), RHP (College): Mazzoccoli struggled badly at Bristol in 2016. He’s in extended spring training now.
This draft is very likely to turn on the prep pitchers. Craig just doesn’t look good at this point, all the more so because all the warning signs before he was drafted seemingly are being borne out. It’s tempting to say “it’s early,” but I just don’t buy that with a major college hitter drafted in the first round. Barring a breakout on offense, Alemais is strictly a glove guy, which means the Pirates may not get any hitting out of this draft. The prep pitchers, especially Ogle and Kranick, have real upside, but as we saw with Mitch Keller it’ll probably be a while before we can start drawing even preliminary conclusions. Beyond all that, Cederlind, Anderson, Prohoroff and Pomeroy have interesting upside, mainly as relievers, but they’re closer to lottery tickets.