Draft Prospect Watch: Two New Players to Keep an Eye On

Today we look at two college players who we haven’t mentioned yet during draft coverage, while recapping the weekend for a few who we have followed since the start of the season. If you missed it from Saturday, we compared two recent mock drafts that had the Pirates going with high school players. The Pittsburgh Pirates own the 22nd and 41st picks this year. The draft begins on June 9th and lasts three days, with the first two rounds selected on day one. You can view our draft preview here, which covers many of the names who fall in the Pirates’ range. It also focuses in on players who fit the recent draft strategy of the Pirates.

We start with two new players of note. I probably should have mentioned Wake Forest’s Will Craig sooner because he has been mentioned in the Pirates’ range for awhile. Part of the reason I didn’t mention him is because he doesn’t fit the draft mold they have followed recently. He’s not athletic and he doesn’t project to play a premium position(first base), but he can flat out hit. There is also the fact that not many teams draft first basemen high because there is very little leeway with them. If the bat doesn’t reach it’s ceiling, then they have a hard time making it at that position. If they are playing first base in school, then you can pretty much bet that it is their best position. You wouldn’t put a future catcher, center fielder or middle infielder at first base.

Craig seems to be a special bat though and he might not be limited defensively. He hits for power and doesn’t strikeout much, which is a good indicator of future success. Check out this article and recent scouting report from Scout.com for more information. He’s been used as a relief pitcher this year and he has also started in the past. Due to that arm, he has played third base this year, but he profiles better as a first baseman. If teams think he could play third base in the pros, then the extra position with help his draft stock. I know the Pirates would love to have his bat in the system, but I’m not sure they would use a first round pick on him unless they consider him to have some flexibility in the field beyond first base. Craig is hitting .479/.589/.986 through 22 games, with ten doubles, nine homers and a 15:11 BB/SO ratio. His slugging percentage alone is higher than the OPS of anyone else on his team.

D1 Baseball has an in depth article(subscription required) on UConn lefty Anthony Kay from his Friday start. He has shot up draft charts recently due to an increase in velocity, which had him sitting 92-95 for five innings in his last start. There are stamina issues with Kay, who stands 6’0″, 187 pounds. He lost a little velocity in the last couple innings on Friday, but it wasn’t anything drastic. D1 Baseball described his change-up as “devastating” and a “full-fledged plus pitch”, giving him a strong two-pitch mix. His curve is clearly his third pitch and needs work, plus he didn’t go to it often. Right now he fits well between the Pirates’ first two picks, which means he could work his way up to that 22nd spot, or be a solid pick if he slides to them with the 41st pick.

The big news this weekend in college was Oklahoma righty Alec Hansen being removed from the rotation due to a string of very poor outings. Some people thought he had a chance to be the first overall pick, but his control has been so bad, that he may be dropping out of the first round altogether. If he isn’t able to get back to the rotation before the draft, then he becomes a very intriguing option for the Pirates’ 41st overall pick. He sits high 90’s with his fastball, and his slider is a plus-plus pitch when it is on, but his command has been below average his entire career, and well below average this year. Hansen is a big arm with a huge difference between his floor and his upside, so it’s high risk vs high reward for the team that takes him.

We have followed Georgia starter Robert Tyler since he was ranked 22nd overall in this draft class twice in one week. During the recent mock drafts, he still ranked well(#21 and #28), so he is still worth following closely. On Friday against Alabama, he came within one out of throwing a no-hitter, allowing a solo homer to a pinch-hitter with two outs in the ninth. He finished off the outing allowing one hit and two walks, while picking up nine strikeouts. In seven starts, Tyler has a 2.40 ERA in 41.1 innings, with 54 strikeouts and a .130 BAA.

We haven’t mentioned Ole Miss shortstop Errol Robinson in a couple weeks because his bat has disappeared this season. Through his first 26 games, he is hitting .196/.284/.265 in 102 at-bats. Robinson is still playing strong defense at shortstop, but his other plus tool(his speed) hasn’t been used enough because he is never on base. He’s 2-for-4 in stolen bases this year.

Texas A&M outfielder Nick Banks has also struggled offensively this season, plus he dealt with a back injury early in the season. Banks went 2-for-12 with a walk this weekend against Florida. Banks did go 3-for-4 with a double and homer on Wednesday, but those mid-week games don’t count as much in the scouts’ eyes because he’s facing the back-end of the rotation of a lesser team. Logan Shore pitched Friday’s game for Florida and threw 4.1 shutout innings, but struggled with command and left early due to a high pitch count. Both players are mentioned often around the Pirates’ first pick, though Banks could drop if he continues to struggle.

Vanderbilt’s Jordan Sheffield faced South Carolina this weekend. He went seven innings, allowing three runs(two earned) on five hits and three walks, with nine strikeouts. In seven starts, he has a 2.27 ERA in 43.2 innings, with a .202 BAA, 20 walks and 66 strikeouts. Bryan Reynolds was the featured player in last Monday’s article after he homered three times, but he went 1-for-10 with a double and two walks this weekend against South Carolina pitching. I have included a video of Sheffield’s performance this weekend courtesy of Adam McInturff.

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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Because the Pirates are so deep in their upper three levels of the minors, it would probably appeal to them to be more HS oriented in the Draft. BA likes the local kid, Alex KiriIloff, OF/1B at No. 22, but no video of him. Two others who have impressive video’s are Josh Lowe, LH hitting 3B with big power (No. 17), and Braxton Garrett a HS LHP (No. 25).

With the tremendous increase in the cost of pitching, the Pirates are one of those teams who will have to depend on good drafts and developmental skills. They already have an excellent start at re-stocking with kids like Gage Hinsz, Mitch Keller, Ike Schlabach, and Billy Roth – I would not be surprised to see them add 3 or 4 more high ceiling HS arms in this draft.


It’s probably a lazy comp, but aren’t those 1B caveats why AJ Reed dropped so far in the draft? Would be interesting to see if the Pirates broke from their mold and took the hitter over the athlete after missing out on Reed in favor of Joe. This will be an interesting one to track.


If the Pirates want to continue to draft contact hitters, then Will Craig is your guy!! He has done nothing but get better every year in college and if he can play 3rd and 1st, which is his natural position, you are getting a pure contact hitter with POWER!!!! That is what we need!! This dude is hard to strike out and he drives in runs!! Just went 5-6 against Notre Dame this past weekend!! I know teams don’t take 1st baseman in the 1st round and I do know we are an organization that thinks outside the box!! This could be our pick here because he is to good to be there at 41!! I would pull the trigger on him because all of his advance stats project future success!! You know he is going to put the ball in play!!

Michael Alexander

Another Vandy prospect in the first round discussion- they’re just a machine for 1st rounders. I think a lot of people might be disappointed if we went there because of Pedro, but that school has a pretty impressive track record.

Michael Alexander

Great point about the outfielders. I wonder if there’s any notion of game theory in the trading as well- other teams know you don’t have a spot for the outfielder in the majors, and that you’d like to trade them, so they aren’t a motivated to make their best offer. If multiple teams are in play ideally they’re bidding each other up, but I’d have to imagine it’s at least in the back of other GM’s minds.


I wonder who the fastest to the majors is under Neal. I guess it would be either Pedro (who he feels was a mistake rushing him) or Cole.

Ian Rothermund

Looks hard to argue with his fastball/change combo. Curve looks decent, but you can tell where he generally works up in the zone with a lot of things. I don’t necessarily think it’s intentional either. He practically sprints through his wind up too.

Luke S

Seems like a PGH type of arm in terms of stuff. Good FB/CH, find his ideal 3rd pitch along the way and hammer home mechanics early in his career.

Ian Rothermund

100% agree

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