Yesterday, we took a look at the top college pitchers in this draft class, along with some notes on a few of the better prep players. Today we look at the best college hitters available. If you missed it from Thursday, we posted an article on what the Pirates could expect with their first round pick this year. The 2014 draft begins on June 5th, just under seven weeks away. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the 24th pick in the first round this year. They also picked 65th overall in the second round and 74th, which is their competitive balance pick. For more information on the top players in this draft class, check out our four-part draft preview.
Outfielder Bradley Zimmer from San Francisco is the top rated college bat for many. Despite that ranking, there is a chance he may not be picked until after the top ten picks because overall, this draft class is weak for college hitters. Zimmer took on Pepperdine this weekend, a team that features two former Pirates picks in their rotation. Zimmer had a rough game on Thursday, going 0-for-5 with a strikeout. On Friday, he went 0-for-2 with three walks and a stolen base. Zimmer ended up without a hit this weekend, finishing on a real down note by going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts on Saturday.
Aaron Brown from Pepperdine was drafted by the Pirates in 2011 and now he is one of the best two-way players in college. He homered on Friday night and had three hits and three RBIs on Thursday. On Saturday, he went 2-for-4 with a double and run scored at the plate and picked up his eighth win of the season on the mound. He went six innings, allowing two earned runs on nine hits and two walks, with ten strikeouts. Jackson McClelland, a 2012 draft pick of the Pirates, made his start on Tuesday this week. He gave up two earned runs over six innings in a win against Cal State Northridge. McClelland has shown excellent control this season, allowing nine walks over 51.1 innings.
North Carolina State shortstop Trea Turner was taken by the Pirates in the 20th round of the 2011 draft and they probably wouldn’t mind getting him in the first round this year. Early on, he was a likely top five overall pick, but he has dropped into the middle of the first round due to questions about his bat and his defense. On Saturday, he hit two homers and scored three runs in NC State’s 7-5 loss to Boston College. Turner’s Friday night was covered yesterday. He now has six homers on the season.
Michael Conforto and Oregon State had off this weekend. Conforto is rated by most as a mid-first round pick, though he has been mentioned as a possibility for the Pirates. His teammate Dylan Davis is also going to be picked fairly high, with most ranking him 2nd-3rd round.
Third baseman Alex Blandino and Stanford, went up against Arizona State this week. Blandino is a possible late first round pick if he finishes strong and has less weekends like he had this week. He went 0-for-5 with a strikeout on Thursday. On Friday he was 1-for-5 with a double. He finished his weekend series with a 1-for-3 day on Saturday.
Max Pentecost, a catcher from Kennesaw State, had a two game series this week versus USC Upstate. Pentecost was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a walk on Thursday and he was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two walks on Friday. He is hitting .387/.447/.572 through 41 games. There is a chance he could drop to the Pirates as most have him in the 15-20 range.
Indiana and their two big bats in this draft, took on Michigan State this weekend. Catcher Kyle Schwarber went 1-for-3 with a double and walk on Friday. First baseman Sam Travis was 1-for-4 with a run scored. On Saturday, Schwarber played left field and went 0-for-4 with a walk. Travis was 2-for-5 with a triple and run scored. Schwarber is a strong possibility for the Pirates and although he catches in college, most feel his future will be at first base, possibly outfield. Travis will go in the second round, possibly a little later due to a poor power showing early on in the season.
First baseman Casey Gillaspie from Wichita State has recently moved into the first round talks. He is a big switch-hitter with a strong bat. He went up against Southern Illinois on Friday and had two RBIs, a walk and his tenth double of the season. On Saturday, he went 2-for-5 with his tenth homer. He also drew a walk and stole his fourth base of the season.
Mike Papi from Virginia is another first baseman that could sneak into the first round. His teammate Derek Fisher should return from a broken hamate soon and if he does well, they may have two first round picks on offense. Papi went 0-for-3 with a walk on Friday against North Carolina. On Saturday, he was 0-for-3 with a walk and RBI.
Virginia’s Nick Howard was getting top 50 rankings early this year as one of the better two-way players in college. He showed off that skill on Friday and Saturday, collecting two hits, score two runs and driving in the other in a 3-2 win Friday night. He also pitched a perfect ninth and struck out the side. On Saturday, he picked up his 13th save of the season, throwing a scoreless ninth, striking out two batters. He was 1-for-3 at the plate.
In yesterday’s draft article linked at the top, we covered the day of Cal State Fullerton’s third baseman Matt Chapman, as he took on possible first round pitcher Matt Imhof from Cal Poly. On Friday, Chapman went 1-for-5 with a solo homer and a walk. He could be a first round pick and may be someone the Pirates look at, although recent rankings have had him outside the first round. Early in the year, he was being mentioned often in the 15-25 range. Chapman’s teammate J.D. Davis shouldn’t last too much longer in the draft than Chapman. He is another two-way player of note. On Friday, he pitched the last 4.1 innings of the 13 inning game and allowed just one run, though that ended up being the game-winning run. At the plate, he was 0-for-5 with a walk and run scored.
On Saturday, Chapman went 0-for-2 with two walks. Davis was in right field and he went 1-for-3 with a walk. Each of them struck out once.
One top pitcher didn’t go until Saturday. Sean Newcomb and Hartford took on Albany and won 3-2 in the opener of a doubleheader. Newcomb went seven innings, allowing one unearned run on three hits and four walks. He struck out seven batters. Newcomb had two subpar outings in a row before this week, so he could be getting back on track. Right now, he is mentioned often in the 15-20 range for the first round.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.