Just 33 days until Major League Baseball holds it’s amateur draft and the Pittsburgh Pirates make their first selection with the 24th overall pick. It’s Saturday, so we take a look at the weekend results from the top draft-eligible hitters in college baseball. If you missed it from yesterday, we covered the best starters in college baseball, along with posting some important links to check out as the draft gets closer.
Speaking of the draft being close, MLB has announced coverage of the draft and the Pirates first three selections(24th, 65th and 74th) will all be announced live on the air during the first day.
Sean Newcomb from Hartford is a pitcher that has been mentioned often in the Pirates range. On Saturday against UMBC, he threw a complete game shutout, giving up just two hits, two walks and two hit batters, while picking up nine strikeouts. According to a scout at the game, his last pitch was clocked at 95 MPH. He also featured a change-up that was described as excellent.
Another major starting pitcher made his start on Saturday this week and it didn’t go so well. Luke Weaver was pitching well through four innings, but in the fifth, he took a line drive off his right ankle, which caused him to leave the game. Weaver has been rated late first round recently, so this is a tough break for him if he misses any time. He has been rated within ten spots of the Pirates pick all season, so he is someone that have probably taken a close look at this year.
On to the college hitters that should go in the first round, or soon thereafter. Bradley Zimmer from San Francisco might be the only hitter you can eliminate from the Pirates. He has been rated as high as ninth overall and has maintained that spot. He went 2-for-4 with a triple and RBI in his team’s 6-5 win over Santa Clara on Friday. On Saturday, San Francisco lost 12-6 to Santa Clara and Zimmer went 0-for-3 with a walk.
NC State shortstop Trea Turner was ranked highest among college hitters coming into the year, but he has slipped into mid-first round range for many, at least before the first two games of this weekend. Turner scored five runs on Friday in his team’s 11-0 win. On Saturday against Coastal Carolina, he had an even better game. He went 4-for-4, with a walk, 2 RBIs, a double and four stolen bases.
Outfielder Michael Conforto from Oregon State went 1-for-3 with a double, walk, stolen base and he drove in two runs on Friday against California. Through 40 games, he is hitting .409/.559/.606 with 39 walks, 11 doubles and four homers. He has been ranked mid-first round for awhile.
Catcher Kyle Schwarber from Indiana is another mid-first round pick that could slip to the Pirates. He likely won’t stick at catcher, so he loses some value as a first baseman or corner outfielder, but the bat is solid. Schwarber went 4-for-5 with three singles and a double on Friday against Purdue. On Saturday, he went 1-for-3 with two walks and a double in his team’s 7-3 win.
Unlike Schwarber, catcher Max Pentecost from Kennesaw State projects to remain behind the plate in the pros. Just like the previous three players mentioned, he gets mid-first round range buzz, so it’s possible one or more slips to the Pirates due to the wealth of pitching in the first round. Kennesaw State has off this weekend. Pentecost next plays on Wednesday against Georgia State, then Kennesaw State starts a three game series against Northern Kentucky on Friday. Pentecost is hitting .412/.471/.619 through 46 games, with 17 doubles, seven homers and 12 stolen bases.
Virginia’s Derek Fisher was a likely first round pick early, then he missed over a month with a broken hamate and his stock took a hit. Since returning, he has shown a solid bat, so he could be working his way back to where he was pre-injury. Fisher’s teammate, first baseman Mike Papi is just outside the first round for many, which still puts him in the Pirates range with a late push. Virginia has off this weekend. They resume play with a single game against Liberty on Wednesday, followed on Friday by a weekend series against Georgia Tech.
Stanford third baseman Alex Blandino was picked for the Pirates once in an early season mock draft and he has been close to the same range most of the year. He had a tough Friday versus UCLA, going 0-for-4 with a walk, run scored and three strikeouts. Blandino is hitting .292/.392/.479 through 39 games, with nine doubles and six homers.
Third baseman Taylor Sparks from UC Irvine was a probable first round pick early, then dropped back, but he has picked up the pace late and could be a first round option for the Pirates with a strong finish. He went 1-for-4 with a run scored and strikeout on Friday against UC Santa Barbara. On Saturday, Sparks went 1-for-4 with the go-ahead RBI in the 8th inning of his team’s 3-2 win. Sparks also stole a base.
We finish with Casey Gillaspie, who has been either ranked 24th, or gone to the Pirates in mock drafts, three times recently. The Wichita State first baseman went 2-for-3 with a double and two walks on Friday against Bradley. On Saturday, he had a big game, going 3-for-4 with two homers(12 on the year) and three RBIs. You can find video of Gillaspie here and a scouting report on him here.
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.