Last night I wrote why I thought the Pittsburgh Pirates had a bad draft. A draft is something that can be constantly evaluated over multiple periods in time. The first evaluation obviously comes right after the draft, and is meant to give the first impression. However, that’s hardly set in stone. Things can change, players can see unexpected improvements or declines, or a player can just flat out prove his scouting reports wrong in either a good or bad manner.
I wrote briefly about this subject over the weekend, but here are some of the things the Pirates need to go right in order for this draft class to improve. Not all of these things need to go right, but every little bit helps, especially at the top of the draft.
Cole Tucker – It seems that the Pirates were higher on Tucker’s offense than other teams. There might have been a few teams that were equally high, as Neal Huntington said that a few teams picking after him confirmed that Tucker wouldn’t have made it to pick 39. That was the fear the Pirates had, and it was why they took him at 24. This could end up being a good pick if Tucker’s offensive improvements from the 2014 season are a sign of things to come.
Connor Joe – I actually like Joe better as a catching prospect. That’s where his bat profiles the best. The Pirates drafted him as a right fielder, and said he could get time at first base. He doesn’t project to have the bat to provide strong offensive value at either position. Huntington said on Sunday that they viewed Joe as one of the better college bats in the draft. If they’re right, and if he does develop more power, then this wouldn’t be a bad pick. Just like with Tucker, they seem to be higher on his offense.
Mitch Keller/Trey Supak – I grouped these two together because they are very similar. These are your typical projectable right-handers, and the Pirates have had success in this department. I like Keller better, and he might be my top prospect from the draft, narrowly edging out Tucker.
I’m not going to go through every pick from here on out, but I’ll point out a few guys who could provide an impact.
Jordan Luplow – He hit well in 2014 after finally getting healthy. If he’s fine from a medical standpoint, then he might be a nice sleeper bat with some good offense.
Taylor Gushue – One of the big things the Pirates stressed about Tucker and Gushue is that they were younger than most in their class. The theory is that they’ve got an extra year to develop and mature. In Gushue’s case, that could lead to a nice catching prospect. The Pirates don’t really have a big need for catching prospects with Reese McGuire and Tony Sanchez, but it can’t hurt to have another.
Tyler Eppler – He’s a projectable college right-hander with a fastball that can reach 95. He needs to work on the secondary stuff. If he can improve the changeup, and add a good breaking pitch, he could turn into an interesting starting pitching prospect.
The guys who could make a difference on day three are mostly the guys who have signability issues. The key thing for most of these guys will be actually signing them. Not all of them will sign, and if a guy has said he won’t sign, I didn’t include him here. The more guys that sign, the better it is for this draft.
Gage Hinsz – He might be the best pick on day three. He’s a 6′ 4″ prep pitcher who sits 90-93 MPH, and needs work on his secondary stuff. Just like Keller and Supak, this is an area where the Pirates have had success.
Tyler Filliben – He’s not a prep guy, but he is a college hitter who has some power potential and could end up at third base. He might not hit for average, but if his power translates over and he sticks at third, he could be an interesting hitting prospect.
Eric Thomas Jr. – A prep outfielder who is raw with his defense and hitting, but has a ton of speed, with 80 grades in the 60-yard dash. He’s more of a project, but is athletic and has speed, which are two things you can’t teach.
Zach Warren – He’s a lefty who works in the mid-to-upper 80s, and has some room to add velocity. Once again, this is an area where the Pirates have had success, and if they can have that success with a lefty, it would be even better.
Denis Karas – Karas is a prep hitter who profiles as a third baseman who could hit for power. He’s got a strong arm, but also a strong commitment to Cal.
Luis Paula – He’s a starter at UNC who sits 88-91 and touches 95. Just like Eppler in the sixth round, Paula could be a nice arm to add to the system, with the chance to develop into a starter.
Colin Welmon/Bryant Holtmann – These two are similar in that they’re both highly rated college pitchers who somehow fell beyond the 30th round. Welmon isn’t a hard thrower, and none of his pitches are plus offerings, but seems like a good all around pitcher. Holtmann probably fell due to a forearm injury, which came a few years after having Tommy John surgery. He sits 89-92, topping out at 94 when healthy.
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