The MLB draft was reduced from 50 rounds to 40 rounds with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. That was a good move, as nothing significant really happened after round 40. Usually the only players who signed were college seniors, who could just sign as non-drafted free agents after the draft. College juniors usually went back for their senior year of school, while JuCo and prep players would go to a Division I college to try and improve their stock.
MLB might want to consider making a cut in the future, and dropping the draft down to 30 rounds. This is a point Wilbur Miller brings up to me often. There’s not much that really happens in rounds 31-40 that can’t happen without those rounds. For example, the Pirates got a nice pick in 37th rounder Bryant Holtmann, but unless they go way over-slot for him, he’s probably going to return to college for his senior year, getting healthy and raising his stock next year.
39th round pick Daniel Keating looks like a very promising pick, but he also has no intention of going pro. Paul DeJong and Palmer Betts can both re-enter the draft again next year, and would still have leverage to return to school if they don’t sign next year. While it’s possible they sign, it’s more likely that they return and try to get drafted higher next year.
Out of the 31-40 guys taken this year, there will be some who sign. Montana DeRapau is one of them, as he was a college senior. They might also sign one of the college juniors. But the Pirates, and pretty much every other team, has a slim chance of getting future Major League talent from this portion of the draft. And the guys that do sign usually have the same upside as the NDFAs.
There’s a chance that the Pirates could sign someone like Holtmann, or 34th round pick Colin Welmon. But those guys could also be taken before the 30th round if the draft was shortened.
As the owner of a site that follows the draft, I don’t mind the extra players to follow and the extra posts these rounds generate. Looking at it from the stance of what these rounds actually accomplish, it seems MLB could afford to trim the draft length even further. – Tim Williams
36th Round, 1091st Overall: Palmer Betts, RHP, Chipola College
Betts went to Georgia in 2013, then transferred to Chipola college after one year. His numbers with Georgia were poor, but he improved with Chipola. He did deal with some control issues, but didn’t give up many hits. He displays a fastball that has been reported at 93, and touching higher at times. He was 87-89 MPH out of high school, so it looks like he’s added some velocity the last two years. He’s been described as having a violent delivery by Baseball America. He pairs the fastball with a slider. He pitched mostly in relief for Chipola. – Tim Williams
37th Round, 1121st Overall: Bryant Holtmann, LHP, Florida State
Holtmann is just the third left-handed pitcher the Pirates took in the 2014 draft and he didn’t go until the 37th round. He had Tommy John surgery and missed his senior season in high school. After pitching out of the bullpen his first two seasons, he was starting this year for Florida State, but a forearm injury ended his season early. With two arm injuries, he is obviously an injury risk. When healthy, Holtmann sits 89-92 MPH, topping out at 94. He throws a cutter, a curve and a change-up. He was rated 321st overall by Baseball America. – John Dreker
38th Round, 1151st Overall: Paul DeJong, C, Illinois State
DeJong played second, third, short and catcher for Illinois State. He didn’t spend all that much time behind the plate, but the Pirates announced him as a catcher. He red-shirted in 2012, so he was eligible for the draft as a sophomore. He had a breakout year as a hitter in 2014, leading a fairly good team in most offensive categories. He nevertheless didn’t appear on Baseball America’s list of the top 500 draft prospects. With two years of eligibility (both NCAA and draft), he may not be easy to sign. It’s possible the Pirates selected him as a fallback in case they’re unable to sign Taylor Gushue or Kevin Krause. – Wilbur Miller
39th Round, 1181st Overall: Daniel Keating, 3B, Gulfport HS (MS)
Keating has put up some solid numbers his last two years in high school, hitting for average and displaying a lot of power and speed. He played shortstop, although the Pirates announced him as a third baseman. He has a commitment to Southern Miss, and it seems like he will be impossible to sign. He is quoted as saying he always wanted to play college baseball, and would be attending USM even though he expected to be drafted. – Tim Williams
40th Round, 1211th Overall: Tyler Brown, 2B, College of Southern Nevada
Brown was the last pick for the Pirates in the 2014 draft. As a second baseman out of the College of Southern Nevada, with good size for the position, he is described as a solid all around player, though power doesn’t seem to be part of his game yet. As a freshman this year, he got on base a lot due to a high average and a tendency to get hit by pitches. When he did get on, he was a threat to steal, easily leading his team with 31 swipes in 36 attempts. He went undrafted out high school despite starring for a strong program from Coronado, Nevada. His HS batting average actually dropped each season, from a high of .509 as a sophomore, down to .345 his senior year. He could be tough to sign coming from a junior college, where he is draft eligible again next year. – John Dreker
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.