This is part five in our weekly draft preview leading up to the draft. We profile four players each week, focusing on a college pitcher, college hitter and prep pitcher, prep hitter, who have all been mentioned in the Pittsburgh Pirates range in the first round. Next week we will do our final draft preview, covering all the top possibilities for the Pirates. The 2014 amateur draft starts next Thursday and the Pirates have the 24th overall selection. You can view the previous previews below.
Alex Blandino, 3B, Stanford – Blandino has been mentioned as a possible Pirates pick often, both early in the season and recently. There seems to be some split on him with both his defense and offense. He didn’t hit much as a sophomore at Stanford, but then he crushed the ball in the Cape Cod League last Summer. He seems to have answered the power questions this year, hitting 11 homers and 13 doubles, while showing good plate patience and a strong batting average. Blandino has the arm for third base, but some see him as a possible second baseman. When you combine plate patience and decent power from an infielder, you have a solid pick that might interest the Pirates. Because there is such a split on him, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him go in the mid-20’s or fall back, going well into the second round. Despite being a college player, the improvements he has shown in one year suggests he could have a higher upside than most give him credit for. Video courtesy of Moore Baseball. Photo credit to Stanford University.
Brandon Finnegan, LHP, TCU – Finnegan is a 5’11”, 185 pound lefty that can hit high 90’s with his fastball. He’s a strike-thrower too, mixing in a slider and an occasional change-up. As a command southpaw with a fastball that usually sits 93-95 MPH, he is a rare pitcher, deserving of the high ranking. He has his flaws though, which could hurt him on draft day. He has been durable, throwing 225.2 innings in his three seasons(missing one start this year), but scouts see a high-effort delivery and a small frame for a pitcher. That coupled with a change-up that is average at best, have some feeling that he could be a dominant reliever. While that’s always something great to have on your team, not many clubs want to spend a first round draft pick on a reliever. If he can stick as a starter and improve his change-up, you could have a top of the rotation lefty and that would be hard to pass up if he drops to the Pirates. He still has one more start before the draft, taking on Siena on Friday. Video courtesy of Baseball Prospectus.
Ti’Quan Forbes, SS, Columbia HS (MS) – The Pirates could take a chance and draft a high school shortstop in the first round, but that’s only likely if they feel that Forbes can stick at the position. Right now he is at least average defensively, but he is also 6’4″, 175 pounds, so there is a lot of room for growth with that frame. He is a fast runner now, with quick hands at the plate. If he fills out, he could add power to his game, but that could also take away some of that speed and cause him to move to third base, where he would need to reach his full potential with the bat and that isn’t a given. The question on draft day will be, do the Pirates think they could have a long-term solution at shortstop, who provides adequate defense, speed and a decent average? If they think Forbes fits that bill, then you might see another Forbes field in Pittsburgh(bad pun intended). While he’s never been mentioned as a possible Pirates pick in any mock drafts, he has been mentioned often in their range. Video courtesy of Big League Futures.
Luis Ortiz, RHP, Sanger HS (CA) – Ortiz was Keith Law’s recent selection for the Pirates in his latest mock draft. He’s a hard throwing righty, that already has a big 6’3″, 220 pound frame. As is the case with a lot of high school pitchers, when they already have good size like he does, scouts tend to think they don’t have much upside left. That might be true, but for Ortiz, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He already throws a plus fastball that touches 97 MPH and a slider that has all the makings of being a plus pitch in the pros. He also has a change-up that is at least average and he has good control of all three pitches. All that means, is that you have a workhorse type pitcher, who throws strikes with a strong three-pitch mix. Ortiz had some injury concerns this season with a forearm strain(some said it was probably elbow issues), but he seemed to answer questions about it when he hit 95 MPH in his first game back. Video courtesy of Big League Futures.
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.