Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Draft Preview: Where Are the College Hitters?

In part three of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 draft preview, we take a look at the college hitters, or lack thereof this year. Using four different draft prospect rankings to put together these previews, only 11 college hitters got mentioned in the top 50 and five of them were back-end of the top 50 players that didn’t make every list.

The 2015 amateur draft is loaded with college pitchers, so that will be the main focus this year, but there are still some hitters in the college ranks to keep an eye on. Early on in the year, the players below will be the ones we concentrate on and if anyone else jumps up the ranks, they will be added to our coverage. The draft begins on June 8th and the Pirates have the 19th and 32nd overall picks. You can read the prep hitter coverage here, and yesterday we covered the top high school pitchers. Tomorrow we will tackle the huge class of college pitchers that are getting mentions among the top 50 prospects in this draft.

Starting with Vanderbilt middle infielder Dansby Swanson, who has been mentioned numerous times as a top ten pick. He is going to play shortstop this year and there are some questions as to whether he can handle the position full-time, so his draft spot will probably rely on how well he handles shortstop. He has a good glove and arm, so if he proves he is more than just a second baseman, then it’s unlikely the Pirates will have a shot at him. He is a solid line drive hitter, with below average power and above average speed.

LSU’s Alex Bregman was mentioned early last year as a possible first overall pick this year. That was after being named Freshman of the Year, but he followed it up with a disappointing season and has fallen back to the 10-15 range now. He plays shortstop now, but most believe he will move to second base due to his range. Bregman should hit for average in the pros and show a little pop. He stole 12 bases in 18 attempts, flashing average speed. He also had 27 walks and 21 strikeouts, while posting a team-best .397 OBP. You can view a recent article by Baseball America on Bregman here.

Outfielder Ian Happ from Cincinnati has been named by Jim Callis as the best hitting prospect in the Cape Cod League each of the last two years. He’s a switch-hitter, who has a 79:67 BB/SO ratio during his two seasons in college. He runs well and has a decent arm. Happ hasn’t hit for much power in college, but he should be a consistent double-digit home run hitter in the pros. He has played second base in the past, but multiple reports say he is better suited for the corner outfield. He is an interesting player to watch for two reasons. The first is that most sources rank him right around the Pirates first pick and he is from Pittsburgh, a graduate of Mt Lebanon HS.

Florida infielder Richie Martin falls right between the Pirates first two picks for many people, which makes him someone we will follow closely this year. He’s interesting because he is an above average shortstop defensively and there aren’t too many guarantees at the position in the draft. Martin has good speed, but his bat is the question mark that holds him back. He doesn’t hit for power, but he’s has a good eye at the plate and should hit for a decent average in the pros. His ceiling is a .280 hitter that gets on base, with 30 steals and Gold Glove defense.

Florida State outfielder D.J. StewartΒ is a solid-built athletic player that stands in at 6’0″, 230 pounds. He’s a solid lefty bat with a quick swing that should produce a strong average and a little bit of pop, possibly more. MLB.com’s scouting report says that Stewart’s batting stance limits his power and a change could make him a 20+ homer guy each season. So you can see what they are talking about, I’ve provided a video below courtesy of Baseball America. The rest of his tools are average at best, so the bat will have to carry him. He’s listed anywhere from 15 to 28 in the draft rankings.

Pacific outfielder Gio Brusa is a switch-hitter with power, who has average or better tools across the board. He profiles as a right fielder. Brusa moved up rankings with a strong showing in the Cape Cod League. He was considered a top prospect in high school, but hasn’t performed in college. He will have to prove the Cod League stats were legit if he’s going to stay in the first round. He has the tools and frame to be a solid all-around player, though his plate patience and strike zone judgement needs some work.

Boston College outfielder Chris Shaw is a huge lefty bat, listed at 6’3″, 248 pounds. It’s no surprise at that size that MLB.com called him the best power hitter in this college class. He plays right field, but he is painfully slow, so chances are his future is at first base. He has enough bat to make that move and be considered a productive first baseman. Rankings now have him in the 30-40 range, so right now he is someone to watch for that second pick.

On last player of note is Joe McCarthy from Virginia. The 6’3″ outfielder was ranked mid-second round by most sources, but that was before he hurt his back and now likely won’t return until late April. He’s a strong hitter from the left side, with a little power and above average speed, so he has probably dropped from a possible late first round pick, to someone that could be a steal when the Pirates pick in the second round.

Other college hitters of note are: Steven Duggar, OF/Clemson, Kevin Newman, SS/Arizona, Christin Stewart, OF/Tennessee

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.

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mike perry

Hitting on these kind of picks is a huge key to sustained success hopefully everything works out I’ll give nh the benefit of the doubt


As someone who never really followed the draft watches and didn’t know much about the prep and college players, I am only now getting over my disappointment from last year’s draft, which was the first year that I really paid attention to the articles here and the draft boards. I was all prepped to know about the Pirates selections and when the names got read it was “Cole who?” and Connor What? πŸ™ I hope this year is different. πŸ™‚


If your favorite team isn’t picking in the top 10, it is hard to really predict who a team might pick as each team has their own boards which can vary significantly from the media outlet boards. The top 10 is usually at least close but there is an occasional deviation.


Agreed. Outside of a few obvious top picks, the MLB draft is unpredictable. One cannot apply NFL draft mentality to MLB. I actually like the Pirates approach – high upside guys that are signable – makes sense to me.


Tucker was an excellent choice, there were 4 teams lined up to take him if the Pirates did not, Conner, nobody knows what they were thinking. As long as they are not picking near the top look for them to rely heavily on their scouts for whom ever they take, IMO, they don’t seem to rely on scouts as much when they are picking the cream of the crop.This organization seems to throw away their No. 2 picks often, with guys like Sheppers, Black, Barnes, Taylor, Joe when they could have picked better.


Sheppers and Black have been at least decent middle relievers. Barnes has been injury prone, so it’s tough to say if he was a throw away. Taylor was a projectionable lefty. Joe is the only one I’d agree with you on as I think he was a signability pick to maybe free up some extra money to go after Keller, Supak and Hinsz.
On the flip side, Allie was a high risk / high reward type. Bell was an excellent 2nd round gamble. Most teams are lucky to draft a star player in the 2nd round once every 5 or 6 years (the lone exception is the Braves who got Freeman, Simmons and Wood all in the second round since 2007). Funny thing about the Braves though is in the same time frame (since 2007) they only have Heyward and Minor to show for their first round picks.


After Tucker and Joe, my enthusiasm is tempered


Richie Martin is a pick that’s really interest me. I’ve read scouts put a 50 grade on his raw power, and is a bat that could’ve really taken off in the last year. Also is said to be a glove with all the tools to stick but not enough focus and discipline to make them work. Think Alen Hanson.


I’m a huge Gators fan and I love Richie’s makeup and attitude. However, he makes a lot of errors. He’s the type of SS who can make the spectacular plays look easy and the routine plays look hard. I haven’t seen much power from him and I watch a lot of Gators games, probably 30-40/year. I’m hoping for a huge junior season from him because he’s flashed the potential for sure. He also should be one of the youngest, if not the youngest college player in the draft. He did have a great summer in the Cape so maybe he will put it all together this spring. Here’s a cool article on him: http://www.gatorcountry.com/florida-gators-baseball/new-approach-richie-martin-ready-go/


Nice, thanks for the link! Sounds like that tennis book is exactly what he needs. Can we get a copy for Alen Hanson? πŸ˜‰


My thought is simply this: The Pirates do not follow the beaten path when it comes to drafting.

R Edwards

based on the write-ups above and the likelihood that they will be available when the Pirates pick at #19 , I would rank my top two off this list as 1 – Happ and 2 – Martin/Shaw. Shaw sounds like a Matt Adams type – a guy who could be a first baseman with a lot of power.


Is Matt Adams really the kind of guy you hope to take with a First Round pick?

R Edwards

I would take him – he’s good enough to play first base for the Cardinals.

Now the Shaw kid, could be that and even better. Adams is a good hitter, but has not yet started hitting a lot of HRs – maybe Shaw will be better in that category?

Last year, with a first round comp pick, we took a corner outfielder/catcher (Connor Joe) with very limited power and without a real position. I’d trade Joe for Matt Adams in a heartbeat.

Patrick Kelly

A 1.6-2 WAR player that hits .280 with an OPS that hovers around .800 who won’t kill you on defense while hitting 15-20 HR’s and is getting better each year at pick 19, sign me up. You can do much worse than a Matt Adams type mid-late first round.

mike perry

U mean like Benson bullington van benschoten hermensen lincoln moskos etc


Sorry, clearly didn’t reply to the correct response.


Except for that part where the Cardinals signed their version of Corey Hart because it’s becoming more apparent that Matt Adams is a platoon bat.

I think Matt Adams is a fine player *to end up with* as a mid-first round pick, but not anywhere close to the type of upside you should be shooting for.

The Connor Joe comparison is a bit funny to me because he is a player with *multiple* positions, not strictly stuck on first base, and can absolutely have the upside of having as much bat as Matt Adams.


Swanson could fall to the Pirates, he does remind me of Cole Tucker, just older and closer to the majors. When it comes to players the Pirates could land, I also like Chris Betts, Kyle Tucker and Luken Baker if Swanson would not fall to them, but with so many pitchers available, you have to believe the Pirates will grab one of them, there will be a good pitcher available with there first pick for sure, but if Swanson falls to them they have to take him.

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