The Pirates weren’t planning on a conference call for day two of the draft, instead planning on a day three call with the media to recap the entire draft. But day two has always been the biggest day on this site in the now seven years that we’ve covered the draft. A big reason for that is because this is the first time that we get insight on these players, and the process behind the Pirates selecting those players. I feel like that’s why you subscribe, so I e-mailed and texted, and followed up, and tried to get a few minutes to discuss the day two picks.
The result was that I was able to talk with Neal Huntington when he had a break from the day three prep work. Huntington insisted that I pass along his apology that it was him, instead of Scouting Director Joe DelliCarri, who was working on starting the signing process for the new picks, and also prepping for tomorrow’s remaining picks.
“These are his picks,” Huntington said, noting that DelliCarri is the guy responsible for making the selections. “I’m kind of his spokesman.”
With that said, here is a recap of the day two picks, which was a day where the Pirates didn’t select any high school players. I’ll explore that topic tonight in First Pitch, while keeping this focused on the individual picks.
Loading Up on Pitchers
It’s not uncommon for the Pirates to load up on pitchers, and that’s the approach they took on day two of the draft. After going with hitters with their first four picks, they drafted their first pitcher in the fourth round. From there, they only took one position player. All six pitchers that were drafted were from college, with fourth rounder Jacob Taylor being the exception from the JuCo ranks. Most of those guys will go to Morgantown to make up the rotation, or pitch in long-relief roles. Some might go to Bristol, only if there is a shortage of innings, but you can pretty much expect Morgantown to be the destination.
Most of the pitchers drafted fit the usual mold — tall, projectable frames with good fastballs and work needed on their control and secondary stuff.
“When guys have frames, athleticism, arm actions that work, stuff — they tend to go in the top five picks in the country,” Huntington said. “There are some core traits that we work as a foundation. But each player really has his own metric that we put together to try to recognize where he is, and more importantly, where we believe we can help him get to.”
The trends really stood out when I asked about tenth rounder Logan Sendelbach, who is a guy we couldn’t find much information on.
“You could probably take my quotes on every pitcher that we drafted in the top ten rounds in the past,” Huntington joked. “It’s a large frame with some athleticism. The delivery and arm action work well. We’ve seen an average to solid or better fastball. We like the breaking ball. We like the changeup. He’s more of a Division II guy, but he does things that we like, and has attributes that we like and feel could develop into a Major League starting pitcher, and if not, still has an opportunity to be a good Major League pitcher in our minds.”
Huntington said that Sendelbach fits the traditional profile of what they look for in a pitcher. You can add sixth round pick Jonathan Brubaker, ninth round pick Bret Helton, and fourth rounder Jacob Taylor to that list, since all are tall, projectable guys with good fastballs and good arm actions.
One guy who really stood out was eighth rounder Seth McGarry, who is 6′ 0″, 180 pounds, and profiles best as a reliever.
“He’s a little bit of a different pick for us,” Huntington said. “He’s not the [6’2″ – 6’4″] guy. But we really liked the athlete, and in some cases the athlete can overcome an inch or two lack of height.”
Huntington noted that they like the delivery and the arm for McGarry, who sits consistently in the mid-90s and tops out at 97 with a lot of good movement. He was seen as a guy who could move quickly through the system and make the majors as a reliever, much like his former Florida Atlantic teammate R.J. Alvarez did when he reached the majors in two years.
McGarry hasn’t had many innings in college, so it seems unlikely that he could handle a starter’s workload at this point. The Pirates also typically use their best arms in the rotation, and McGarry’s fastball would qualify him as one of the best arms. Huntington said that they’re not sure about whether he will be in the rotation or bullpen if he signs.
“We’re working through exactly how we send him out, assuming again we get him under contract,” Huntington said. “We really like the athlete. We like the way the arm works. We like the stuff. We’ve seen him in multiple innings. We’ve seen him hold stuff for multiple innings. So we don’t have a definitive answer at this point in time whether he’ll go out as a reliever or as a starter. We would expect that, even if he were to go out as a reliever, we’d look to get him multiple inning outings to help develop the delivery, to help develop the secondary stuff.”
Based on the amount of pitching depth they have, I can’t see McGarry being in a rotation beyond this season. He will need to develop a good out pitch, since he currently lacks one. If he gets that, he seems like he could move quick, and the Pirates have enough starting options that they could afford to speed him up to the majors.
Most of the pitchers drafted today were right-handers, but there was one left-hander. Brandon Waddell was taken in the fifth round, and fits a different profile. He’s not a hard thrower, relying on location and deception to get by, with a few average or better pitches. While the Pirates have a trend for tall, projectable right-handers, they also have a trend for soft tossing lefties with great command. That’s an approach that has worked out in the lower levels, but hasn’t led to much success in Altoona or higher.
Taylor Stands Out
The one pitcher who really stood out from the group was fourth rounder Jacob Taylor. He’s younger than everyone else, coming from the JuCo ranks, and has an impressive fastball, sitting 93-94 MPH and topping out at 97. He’s also 6′ 3″, 205 pounds and turns 20 next month.
“We do like the fastball,” Huntington said. “We think there’s quality velocity with potentially more to come. We see the makings of off-speed pitches that we believe he has the frame and delivery and arm action that we can help build to and help him continue to grow and develop as an athlete and as a pitcher.”
Huntington noted that Taylor hasn’t been pitching much. He was previously more of a position player who only really became a full-time pitcher in the last year or two. In an era where pitchers are dropping left and right with Tommy John surgery, possibly to overuse at a young age, it’s rare to get such a great raw arm with such little usage.
“That’s also intriguing for us, is that he continues to focus and dedicate to being a pitcher only,” Huntington said on his lack of pitching experience. “We think that leads to more upside than say the typical Junior College pitcher that’s been pitching since he was six.”
He’s not a high school guy, but Taylor fills that requirement for a tall, projectable right-hander who is young enough that he could really see some rapid improvements over the next few years, while seeing his already intriguing fastball improve even further. That makes him one of the most interesting picks in the draft, and maybe the most interesting guy on day two.
Young Position Players
The Pirates only took two position players on day two, after taking three guys on day one with their first three picks. Seventh rounder Mitchell Tolman is a third baseman who fits a similar profile as the guys on day one — he hits well, but doesn’t hit for much power outside of gap power, but has shown a good ability to control the strike zone. There are also questions about whether he can stick at third, but the Pirates will certainly give him every opportunity to stick at the valuable position.
The guy who stood out was third round pick Casey Hughston. He’s a left fielder who can play center, and has plus raw power, but also has strikeout issues. He can get a bit pull happy, which throws off his swing, but when he’s on, he’s a guy who can drive the ball to all fields.
“We feel like he’s athletic enough that we can help him make some adjustments with his approach and his swing,” Huntington said. “Obviously an advanced college player, but only two years of college play. There are some things that we believe we can help him with. We like the athlete. We like the swing. We like the ability to get the barrel on the ball. We like the impact. And we do recognize that he comes with some room for improvement. If he didn’t, we wouldn’t have gotten him in the third round.”
All of the other position players that have been drafted so far haven’t had much power, but make up for that with good contact skills and low strikeout totals. Hughston is almost the opposite, with strikeout issues, but a ton of power potential.
“He has hitter traits for us. He does show, or has shown the ability to command the strike zone,” Huntington said. “He’s shown the ability to get barrel to ball. But we also recognize that there are some strikeouts in his history, and it comes back to the athlete. We believe the swing we can help, and we believe that he’s intelligent hard-working young man that we’re going to be able to make some adjustments with as he transitions into pro ball.”
One interesting thing about the hitters is that they both just turned 21. Hughston celebrated his 21st birthday today, while Tolman turned 21 yesterday. That made them two of the youngest college position players in the draft. According to Baseball America, Hughston ranked 16th and Tolman 17th among college position players. That continues a trend of taking players who are slightly younger than the rest of their class, which is another subject I’ll discuss tonight in First Pitch.
A Draft About Nothing
I finished the interview by thanking Huntington and company for drafting guys on day one with the last names Newman and Kramer, which provided plenty of Seinfeld jokes. Huntington said that he didn’t make the connection until later in the draft, when he got a text after round two asking if they were going to pick Seinfeld and Elaine next.
“I was so locked in that it went right over my head, and then all of a sudden I realized that we’re going to wear that one for some years.”