Today, we take a look at draft links and notes from the first few days of this week, another starting pitcher goes down with an injury and an interesting match-up in Florida. The draft begins on June 8th and the Pittsburgh Pirates have the 19th and 32nd overall picks. The Pirates will have the 11th highest draft bonus pool.
The big news for the draft came out of Houston, where it was announced that starter Jake Lemoine would miss 1-3 weeks with a shoulder impingement. If you read the headlines here from Sunday, it was about the poor outing from Lemoine and an injury may have had something to do with his performance. He recorded just five outs before being removed and had trouble throwing strikes. Lemoine has a 4.50 ERA this season through five starts, which isn’t the type of ERA you’d expect from a likely first round pick. He is added to a list of pitchers missing starts this year that includes top names like Walker Buehler, Michael Matuella, Cody Ponce and Andrew Suarez.
Speaking of Andrew Suarez, he returned on Sunday for Miami and threw six shutout innings against NC State, picking up seven strikeouts. He allowed three hits and didn’t walk a batter. Suarez missed three starts with a strained oblique, yet was able to throw 70 pitches in his first game back. He was drafted 57th overall last year, but decided to return to school.
There was an interesting game on Tuesday, pitting Florida against Florida State. I was able to watch the game, getting a chance to see two top names in this draft, Florida shortstop Richie Martin, as well as FSU left fielder D.J. Stewart. One of the pitchers for FSU was also of interest, 6’5″ lefty Bryant Holtmann, who was drafted by the Pirates in the 37th round last year. Florida won 14-8 and Martin played a part in the offense, scoring three runs.
I was hoping to get a good look at Martin at the plate and he ended up batting six times. Recent reports about his hitting have been concerning and he seems to be dropping a little in the draft, though that still makes him a possibility for the Pirates second pick if he doesn’t pick things up. Martin looked good at the plate, showing patience and hitting the ball hard twice, once for an opposite field triple. He also drew a walk and was hit by a pitch, reaching base three times in the game. He has above average speed, as shown on the triple and he stole home plate on a trick play you can see here. Overall, acknowledging it is just one game, I liked what I saw from Martin.
Stewart has an odd crouch at the plate, which seems to make his susceptible to pitches high in the zone, which he went chasing a couple times on Tuesday. He is a big kid with a quick swing, showing power and plate patience, which should get him drafted fairly high. He walked twice on Tuesday and has drawn 27 walks, to go along with six homers in 22 games. Holtmann was throwing 90 MPH during his 2.1 innings and nibbling at the outside corner, reminding me of Kip Wells and his refusal to put guys away when he had them 0-2 in the count. Purely from the body standpoint, I could see wanting to get a 6’5″ lefty that has hit 94 MPH, but Holtmann’s lack of stuff and willingness to attack hitters wasn’t impressive. As I said before with Martin, it was one game.
The player that stood out the most in the game was Florida center fielder Harrison Bader, who hit the ball well and played solid defense. He is draft eligible this year and should be a name to remember on draft day, even though he didn’t get any top 50 mentions in the pre-season. He is hitting .419/.548/.903 in 19 games this year.
Links and Notes
**Keith Law has an interesting article for ESPN Insiders on the double play combo from Arizona, both of them are working their way up the draft charts. The more interesting player of the two is shortstop Kevin Newman, who won the Cape Cod league batting title each of the last two seasons. He is tearing up pitching this year, hitting .452/.500/.570 in 22 games. Newman does have some flaws, but he projects to remain at shortstop and he can flat out hit, plus steal some bases. In three years, with over 500 at-bats, he has not hit a single homer. He also doesn’t take many walks, though he also rarely strikes out either. He will be added to our weekly recap this weekend because Law believes he has a chance to go in the top 15 in the draft.
Newman isn’t the only draft-eligible player from Arizona moving up the charts. Second baseman Scott Kingery is hitting .449/.491/.622 in 22 games, with six strikeouts in 98 at-bats. He will be another one added to our list, as he is a possibility for the Pirates second pick. One thing to note from Law’s article, he is hearing that this draft looks weaker than it did to start the season and it wasn’t a strong draft to begin with. A lot of good things are being said about the 2016 draft class already.
**Kiley McDaniel is reporting that last year’s first overall pick will make his season debut today. Brady Aiken will start for IMG Academy and throw upwards of 50 pitches. Aiken decided to attend IMG in Bradenton, Florida so he would be eligible for the draft this year, after he couldn’t come to an agreement with the Astros last year. A physical prior to signing his contract showed left elbow concerns and the Astros dropped their initial offer amount.
**Baseball America has two links of note. First is their weekly recap for last week’s action. That includes all the stats for the top draft-eligible players, as well as some notes for the weekend. In the second article, they take a look at the start from Andrew Suarez. Also of note for those local to the Pittsburgh area, there is a write-up for freshman pitcher Brendan McKay, who some might remember as the kid who threw 72.1 scoreless innings in a row last year for Blackhawk HS in Beaver Falls. For Louisville this year, he has throw 19 shutout innings, striking out 30 batters. He has also played DH and he is hitting .362/.516/.404 in 47 at-bats.
**Perfect Game has a video and article for Phil Bickford, who is absolutely dominating at Southern Nevada. Definitely worth checking out.
**Nathan Rode covered the start for prep pitcher Triston McKenzie on Wednesday. We recapped his last start here, along with a video of the lanky right-hander. This week, McKenzie threw five shutout innings, striking out five batters. As you can see in the previous article, his velocity was down a little and his secondary stuff was inconsistent, but he has huge upside based on how much weight he could add to his frame.
McKenzie out w/ 2-0 lead. 5 IP. Finished w/ 5 Ks. 86-89 the whole game, a few 90s. Secondary inconsistent, but flashes potential. #mlbdraft
— Nathan Rode (@NathanRode) March 18, 2015
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.