After reviewing some of the potential choices the Pirates could be considering with the No. 7 selection in next month’s first-year player draft, it might be a good time to take a quick look back on the top picks from last year’s draft.
With their first pick, the Pirates chose Quinn Priester, a tall right-handed high school pitcher from Illinois who was committed to TCU. With the 37th pick overall, the Bucs opted for another prep player, this time a center fielder from William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia named Sammy Siani. Another center fielder came next: Matt Gorski, a junior at Indiana University, who was taken 57th overall. He was followed by third baseman Jared Triolo from the University of Houston at No. 72 overall. Rounding out the top five was Matt Fraizer – yet another center fielder – from the University of Arizona, who was the 95th pick overall.
It would be foolish to try to judge or grade a draft less than a year after it takes place, but there’s certainly no harm in looking how the top five members of the ’19 draft class performed in their first professional go-rounds.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Priester, chosen 18th overall as an 18-year-old, appeared in nine games overall, the first eight of which came in the Gulf Coast League. In seven starts, he allowed 29 hits and 11 earned runs in 32 2/3 innings, striking out 37 and walking 10. He finished with a 1-1 record and a 3.03 ERA and was ranked as the Gulf Coast League’s No. 2 prospect at season’s end.
Priester also appeared in one game for West Virginia of the short season New York-Penn League, giving up four hits and two runs in four innings with four walks and four strikeouts.
Priester is one of two Pirate farmhands to be featured in a list of 13 prospects with Top 100 potential by Baseball America. Liover Peguero, the Dominican infielder who came from Arizona as part of the return in the Starling Marte trade, was also on that list.
Peguero, incidentally, was named the top prospect in the Pioneer League a year ago while playing in the Diamondbacks organization.
Siani, who turned 19 in December, also spent his rookie season in the Gulf Coast League where he appeared in 39 games for the Pirates. He batted .241 with a .680 OPS, driving in nine runs with three doubles and three triples and driving in nine runs. He also stole five bases in five attempts. Siani is ranked as the Pirates’ 10th best prospect according to Baseball America. While Peguero is at No. 4 and Priester No. 7.
Gorski, 22, appeared in 49 games for West Virginia and had a rough time transitioning from the college game to the professional ranks as he hit just .223 with a .643 OPS in 179 at-bats. He had 14 extra-base hits, three of which left the park, and drove in 22 runs to go with 11 stolen bases. In three seasons at Indiana, the 6-foot-4, 198-pound right-handed hitter hit 24 homers, drove in 108 and compiled an overall OPS of .869.
The 6-foot 3, 212-pound Triolo, who turned 22 in February, also was assigned to West Virginia where he appeared in 60 games and finished with a .239 batting average and an OPS of .703 in 234 at-bats. He had 26 extra-base hits, including two homers, and drove in 34 runs. In his three collegiate seasons, Triolo finished with 14 homers and 89 RBIs and hit .317 with an .853 OPS.
Fraizer, 22, appeared to have the toughest time making the jump from collegiate ball, as he batted just .221 with six extra-base hits in 154 at-bats at West Virginia. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound left-handed hitter sustained a broken hamate bone during his junior season at Arizona, and that might account for his lack of power at West Virginia.
There’s no telling which way the Bucs will go in next month’s draft, the first under the Ben Cherington/Steve Sanders regime. It’s hard to know if Cherington and Co. will follow a similar pattern as the man he replaced – Neal Huntington, who went after high school pitchers in four straight drafts with either the first pick or one of the supplemental round picks every year since 2016. As noted last week, several publications have the Pirates choosing different players with the No. 7 pick, including West Allegheny outfielder Austin Hendricks.
I’m a fan, but given the outfield-heavy draft a year ago and the fact that three of the top 14 prospects in the system – at least according to Baseball America – are outfielders, it wouldn’t bother me to see the team go after the best arm in the draft at that spot. There are dozens of axioms in baseball, but perhaps the one that rings clearest is this: you can never have enough pitching. And with three of the top 44 picks in this year’s draft, the Pirates should come away with at least one – if not two – top-notch pitching prospects. CBSsports.com has the Bucs choosing Mick Abel, a 6-foot-5 right-hander from Oregon, with their first-round pick. Two other publications (Prospects365.com and Baseball America (subscription) have Max Meyer, a right-hander from Minnesota, headed to Pittsburgh. Prospects365.com believes that Sanders – who served as the Blue Jays’ amateur scouting director before joining Cherington in Pittsburgh – will go after a college arm, hence the Meyer selection. In a previous iteration, Baseball America had the Pirates going after Reid Detmers, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound left-hander from Louisville, and mymlbdraft.com has Detmers as the Pirates’ top choice as well.