Numbers are draft rounds.
1-19. Kevin Newman, SS. Newman is what he is: He’s a solid defensive shortstop who puts the bat on the ball, but doesn’t hit for power and doesn’t draw walks because pitchers aren’t afraid to challenge him. Baseball America probably said it best a couple days ago — several days into his current hot streak that has his average above .300 — in characterizing Newman as a shortstop who’ll bat at the bottom of the order. That’s far from a bust, but not what the Pirates were hoping to get. After playing mainly second this year, Newman has been back at short lately. He probably has somewhere around a 50-50 chance of being the Pirates’ starter there next year.
1-32. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B. Hayes is remarkably similar to Newman, the main difference being that he’s a plus defender at third base. He puts the bat on the ball, but so far the power hasn’t arrived. A second difference is that, unlike Newman, who’s getting a little old for a prospect still in AAA, Hayes is a good age for AA. He also hasn’t been at Altoona long, so maybe he’ll get the bat in gear.
2. Kevin Kramer, SS. Kramer initially seemed similar to Newman and Hayes, but last year he started hitting for good power. That’s carried over somewhat to this year, but his strikeout rate has been very high. The Pirates moved him to second immediately after the draft. This year, they’ve had him playing mostly short until a few days ago. Neal Huntington said a year ago that the Pirates see Kramer at second long-term; they may have changed their minds or they may be preparing him for a utility role. He should be ready to compete for a big league job next year, which will leave the team with a lot of infielder-sorting to do.
3. Casey Hughston, OF. A big but very athletic guy with power potential, Hughston has never been able to overcome contact issues. He’s currently repeating high A, struggling as a backup.
4. Jacob Taylor, RHP. Taylor was a JC draftee with a good arm, but he’s struggled with health and control problems. After a very rough 2017 season at Bristol, he was showing signs of progress this year with West Virginia, but he’s currently injured. He profiles as a reliever if he manages to make progress.
5. Brandon Waddell, LHP. A college, finesse lefty, Waddell got to AA very quickly, but ran into trouble from nibbling too much, then last year had trouble with a forearm strain and eventually tried PRP injections. He’s been healthy and pitching very well this year. Presumably, he’ll move up to AAA before long and could be a depth starting option next year.
Others of Note
6. J.T. Brubaker, RHP. The Pirates were able to help Brubaker add velocity, as they’ve done with quite a few of their pitching prospects, and he now sits in the mid-90s. The results didn’t match the stuff last year, but he got off to a great start in AA this year and was recently moved up to AAA. Like Waddell, he could be a rotation option next year, or maybe even late this year.
7. Mitchell Tolman, 3B. The Pirates moved Tolman to second base and he’s shown solid all-around ability without standing out in any area. He could eventually be an option as a utility player, but there are a lot of players ahead of him, most of whom look better. He’s currently serving a 50-game suspension, a result of testing positive for a drug of abuse.
8. Seth McGarry, RHP. McGarry has put up good but not dominant numbers as a reliever. The Pirates sent him to the Phillies late last year in their foolish move to acquire Joaquin Benoit. He’s currently pitching decently in AA and probably looks like an upper level organizational guy.
9. Bret Helton, RHP. Helton has more or less average stuff and doesn’t miss many bats. he appears to be settling in as an organizational swing man, pitching as a long reliever and spot starter. He’s currently pitching just okay out of the Altoona bullpen.
10. Logan Sendelbach, RHP. Everything I said about Helton I could repeat here, except Sendelbach is struggling at Altoona.
11. Christian Kelley, C. The Pirates like Kelley’s defense, which is why he’s been a spring training NRI the last two years. He showed very little with the bat before this year, but he’s hitting very respectably at Altoona now. He could be an example of catchers’ bats developing late. He’s also throwing out 39% of base stealers this year. Kelley could add another catching depth option next year, which would provide some insurance against a return of Dusty Brown.
13. Logan Ratledge, SS. Ratledge is an organizational utility infielder.
15. Scooter Hightower, RHP. A tall, JC draftee, Hightower doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he’s consistently had low ERAs and walk rates, and decent K rates, as a reliever. He’s currently pitching well for Bradenton.
19. Ike Schlabach, LHP. Uncharacteristically, the Pirates signed only two prep pitchers out of this draft and the other one never pitched as a pro due to health issues. He’s made slow progress, but pitched well at Morgantown last year as a starter. He’s currently pitching as a starter and long reliever with West Virginia.
20. Tanner Anderson, RHP. Anderson is a finesse righty who employs a Bronson Arroyo-style leg kick. He pitched decently as a starter with Altoona last year and is currently in the Indianapolis bullpen. He doesn’t miss many bats, but he throws strikes and keeps the ball in the yard, so he could be a depth option ultimately.
21. Nick Economos, RHP. A JC draftee, Economos has gotten mixed results at best so far, initially as a starter but last year as a reliever. He did have a good strikeout rate as a reliever. He has yet to reach full season ball and is currently in extended spring training.
24. John Bormann, C. Bormann had his 15 minutes of fame last year with a midnight ride to Miami to serve as an emergency catcher. He’s a good defensive catcher but not much of a hitter. He’s currently in extended spring training.
25. Logan Hill, OF. Hill seemingly had a breakout year at Bradenton last year, hitting for a lot of power. He was, though, a couple years old for the level. He’s struggling to make contact this year with Altoona.
28. Albert Baur, 1B. Baur is hitting well for Bradenton this year, but he’s 26.
30. Mike Wallace, RHP. The Pirates have employed Wallace as a swing man. He has good control but is very hittable. He’s currently struggling with Bradenton.
33. Sean Keselica, LHP. Keselica got to Altoona quickly as a reliever. He’s been very effective against left-handed hitters, but he’s repeating AA now. Control has been something of an issue.
35. Jordan George, 1B. George hits for good averages, but he doesn’t have any defensive value and doesn’t hit for power. He’s at Altoona now.
36. James Marvel, RHP. The Pirates signed Marvel out of Duke after he’d had Tommy John surgery. He’s made it to Bradenton as a starter, but with just okay numbers and low strikeout rates.
39. Tate Scioneaux, RHP. Scioneaux has gotten very good results as a reliever, more with deception than great stuff. He had a good year as Altoona’s closer last year, but the Pirates sent him back there this year, which says something.
40. Daniel Zamora, LHP. Zamora’s moved up steadily as a reliever, with high strikeout rates due to good secondary stuff. The Pirates sent him to the Mets in the offseason for Josh Smoker. He’s currently striking out a dozen batters per nine innings in AA.
This draft produced a lot of players who could conceivably reach the majors, including a good numbers who could see more than just token time there. Getting two potential back-of-the-rotation starters and a potential backup catcher out of rounds 5, 6 and 11 is a good result.
The downside is a lack of upside. The Pirates went in heavily for contact-oriented, all-fields hitters with their early picks, although Kramer has apparently changed his approach. The top three picks all look like they’ll reach the majors, but unless Hayes starts showing some power, nobody from this draft looks like an above-average player.