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Pirates draft recap: 2016

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Numbers are draft rounds.

Top Picks.

1-22. Will Craig, 3B. Just two years later, this pick isn’t looking good. Craig had to move to first early on due to defensive problems. He hasn’t hit nearly well enough for the position. Prior to this year, he showed little power. He’s hit for solid power this year, but his hitting otherwise has suffered. As an ostensibly advanced hitter from a major college program, Craig shouldn’t still be getting acclimated to AA at this point.

2. Travis MacGregor, RHP. MacGregor looked like he might have been an overdraft and got hammered severely at Bristol last year. This year has been completely different. Although he hasn’t been completely consistent with West Virginia, he’s doubled his strikeout rate while halving his walk rate. The addition of a slider seems to be at least partially responsible. So he seems very much on the prospect track, which for a prep pitcher at this stage is about what you want.

3. Stephen Alemais, SS. An often spectacular defensive player, Alemais faces questions about his bat. He seemed to be making progress, both at Bradenton last year and early this year, by giving up on trying to drive the ball. Like many of his Altoona teammates, though, he’s mired in a massive slump right now. He’s playing second in deference to Cole Tucker, but profiles as a major league shortstop, at least defensively.

4. Braeden Ogle, LHP. At this point, Ogle probably has the highest ceiling remaining in this draft. He throws in the mid-90s, but like most prep draftees still needs to work on his secondary pitches and command. He was off to a promising start with West Virginia, but is currently hurt. He’s not expected to be out long.

5. Blake Cederlind, RHP. A JC pitcher with a fastball that got up to 97 mph before the draft, Cederlind struggled with control problems last year. He returned to West Virginia this year and is pitching well out of the bullpen, which is probably where he’s going to stay going forward. He’s currently striking out 13 batters per nine innings and walking only three and a half.

NOTE: The Pirates failed to sign their supplemental first round pitch, prep lefty Nick Lodolo. They turned the comp pick into prep right Steven Jennings in 2018.

Others of Note.

6. Cam Vieaux, LHP. Similar to Brandon Waddell — i.e., a college finesse lefty — Vieaux hasn’t been as effective. His ERA was well above four in the second half last year at Bradenton and it is again so far this year. The fact that he isn’t in AA yet says a lot.

8. Dylan Prohoroff, RHP. Prohoroff when he was drafted had good velocity, but a violent delivery (the Pirates call it “head-whacking”) that the team has tried to smooth out. His velocity hasn’t totally returned, although he has shown the ability to miss bats. He appears to be strictly a reliever and opened the year back at West Virginia for a second time, but he’s currently on the disabled list.

11. Max Kranick, RHP. Signing Kranick, a prep righty, was something of a coup for the Pirates as he would have gone somewhere in the fairly early rounds if scouts hadn’t thought he’d want too high a bonus. He’s shown promise, partly on the strength of a good breaking ball, but he was slowed by shoulder soreness last year. He’s expected to join West Virginia at some point this year.

12. Arden Pabst, C. Like Christian Kelley from the 2015 draft, Pabst looked like a glove-only catcher, but he’s hitting very well for Bradenton so far this year, albeit in just 20 games. He’s throwing out 43% of base stealers.

13. John Pomeroy, RHP. A big righty with mid- to upper-90s velocity, Pomeroy pitched only a few innings in his college career due to control problems. He seemed like an interesting lottery ticket, but he missed 2017 due to Tommy John surgery. Hopefully, he’ll emerge somewhere in short season ball this summer.

17. Matt Frawley, RHP. A college righty with average-ish stuff, Frawley’s been effective as a reliever and is now in AA. The Pirates sent him to the Yankees for Johnny Barbato.

18. Kevin Mahala, SS. An organizational infielder, Mahala is in extended spring training.

20. Adam Oller, RHP. Oller relies on good command rather than stuff, but he’s managed to strike out over a batter an inning, mainly as a reliever. He’s at Bradenton now after opening the season at West Virginia.

21. Matt Eckelman, RHP. Eckelman is similar to Oller and has played a similar role, shifting from starter to reliever as he’s moved up. He wasn’t that effective at West Virginia last year, but he opened this year at Bradenton and has done very well, including a strikeout rate in double figures.

23. Garrett Brown, OF. Brown is a speed outfielder who hits for a solid average, but doesn’t hit for power or draw walks. He was at West Virginia last year, at age 24. This year he’s still in extended spring training, a victim of the young outfield talent the Power has.

25. Hunter Owen, OF. Shifted to third base, Owen put up good numbers last year, including power, at West Virginia, but he was 23. This year he’s struggling at Bradenton.

29. Geoff Hartlieb, RHP. The 6’6” Hartlieb is a former basketball player who switched to baseball a few years ago. Since the Pirates’ drafted him, he’s increased his velocity, reaching 100 mph. The Pirates have pushed him aggressively as a reliever. He’s currently at Altoona, where his ERA is a lot worse than his other numbers, which include ten strikeouts per nine innings. He’s probably the best darkhorse candidate in this draft.

31. Jordan Jess, LHP. Jess has pitched strictly as a reliever and probably profiles as a LOOGY. He struggled badly after a mid-season promotion to Bradenton last year, but is pitching better there this year.

33. Austin Shields, RHP. When they didn’t sign Lodolo, the Pirates turned to Shields as plan B. He’s also a prep pitcher and was expected, correctly, to be a significant project. Control problems — over seven walks per nine innings — kept him in the Gulf Coast League last year.

Overall

This draft contrasts with the 2015 group, from which a relatively large number of players still stand a reasonable chance of reaching the majors. The obvious problem here is the apparent whiff on the first pick, but three other players from the first ten rounds have already been released or retired. The Pirates also didn’t do as well as in other years with the college pitchers they took in the first ten rounds.

What could save this draft are the prep pitchers. Shields hasn’t developed so far, but Ogle, MacGregor and Kranick still look like good prospects. Of course, they’re light years from the majors, so the picture on this draft could change a lot — in either direction — by this time next year. Pabst and Hartlieb could turn out to be solid late-round pickups.

Grade: C.