Baseball America has updated their top 50 draft prospect rankings, so today we will look to see how these rankings look for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Although the draft is getting closer, we still have 50 days until the Pirates make their first selections, picking 19th and 32nd overall. As I’ve said before with other early mock drafts and rankings, there isn’t a clear picture of who the Pirates might pick, but you get a good sense of the talent that will be available when they do pick.
Baseball America has UCLA right-handed starter James Kaprielian ranked 19th overall. He made his start on Thursday this week, so that was taken into consideration for the rankings. Kaprielian went six innings against California, allowing two runs(one earned) on six hits and two walks, with 11 strikeouts. On the season, he has a 2.12 ERA and a .229 BAA in 63.2 innings, picking up 81 strikeouts, with 19 walks. Kaprielian is a pitcher that could move quick through the system, though his upside isn’t huge. He has a nice four-pitch mix, with solid command and he should be able to put up 180-200 innings a year.
The interesting thing with the BA rankings is that they have prep catcher Chris Betts ranked 18th and Southern Nevada’s Phil Bickford ranked 20th. Those are two players that have gone to the Pirates in mock drafts and they have constantly been ranked in this same area, so they could be possibilities for the first pick.
For the 32nd spot, BA lists prep righty Dakota Chalmers. You can read all about Chalmers here in an article from March 29th when his name first really started getting first round mention. There is a video included. Chalmers threw 4.1 innings in his last start on Wednesday, striking out ten batters.
Shortly after Chalmers, BA has Cal Poly Pomona righty Cody Ponce, another player that has been mentioned for the Pirates before, but he has been considered for the top pick in the past, so this is a drop. Then a couple spots later, they have prep righty Chandler Day, who we featured with a video yesterday.
One name we haven’t mentioned is who they have ranked 33rd and that’s high school OF/3B Bryce Denton out of Tennessee. He was ranked 49th in the preseason poll by BA, then just eight days ago, they dropped him out of their top 50, so now he has moved up at least 18 spots in a short time. Other sources have him moving up as well and that could be a good thing because he has a commitment to Vanderbilt, which is usually a tough school to get players away from. With the new bonus rules, he we probably need to go early to sign.
Other interesting rankings are #17, Ian Happ, the Cincinnati outfielder. Others had him in the top ten recently, which had me considering him out of the Pirates’ range, but there obviously isn’t a consensus with him.
Duke’s Michael Matuella is down to #26 after Tommy John surgery ended his season. That might be an arm the Pirates have trouble passing up at #19, though he does have a list of injuries in his past that could scare teams off.
Arizona shortstop Kevin Newman is #28. Keith Law would strongly disagree with this ranking, especially after putting Newman #2 on his last list.
They have Virginia pitcher Nathan Kirby ranked #7, but that will likely change after being pulled after three innings from his Friday night start with a lat strain.
Pennsylvania prep righty Mike Nikorak is up to #11 after looking good early in his high school season. He has gone to the Pirates in a recent mock draft and is a real intriguing arm, standing 6’5″, with ability to hit 98 MPH.
Brady Aiken has dropped to #14 after he underwent Tommy John surgery. It will be interesting to see if he and Matuella each drop that much on draft day.
Prep lefty Justin Hooper is all the way down to #24 after starting in the top ten for almost everyone. He’s a 6’7″ lefty with mid-90’s heat. I can’t imagine he goes this far down in the draft because there is a lot of potential in him. Another player that would be tough to pass up at #19.