Draft Day Two: Pirates Take a Prep Pitcher and Some Lottery Ticket College Players

The Pirates had a good assortment of players on day two of the draft. They continued their early round trend, taking another prep pitcher in the fourth round. They went with a few college position players, along with a few college pitchers. The only thing this draft lacks so far is a prep hitter. However, it’s possible they could go that route on day three.

That’s not a guarantee though, as the Pirates will have to create some cap room for their early round prep pitchers. They’ve been able to go over-slot on top ten round guys in the past and still get an over-slot guy after the tenth round. Some of the bigger bonus guys have been Gage Hinsz and Erich Weiss, who were both taken in the 11th round of their respective drafts (2014 and 2013).

John Dreker had some notes and rumors tonight, noting that most of the guys who have been picked have already decided they are signing. So it sounds like the Pirates will have a good idea of their spending power tomorrow, although left-hander Nick Lodolo could be a difficult guy to sign based on the comments linked in that article.

The day two picks definitely left some potential for extra bonus pool room for over-slot picks. The Pirates also managed to get some interesting guys in the process. Here is the breakdown of rounds 3-10.

Another Prep Pitcher in Round Four

The Pirates took two prep pitchers on day one, drafting left-hander Nick Lodolo and right-hander Travis MacGregor. They added a third guy in the fourth round today, drafting left-handed pitcher Braeden Ogle out of Jensen Beach high school in Florida. Ogle actually was rated higher than the other two prep pitchers in all of the big rankings. Baseball America had him rated 69th, while MLB.com had him 86th and Keith Law had him 72nd. Lodolo ranked 78/85/80, coming in close on average to Ogle, while MacGregory only ranked in BA’s list, coming in at 186.

Ogle has a lot of velocity for his young age, sitting 91-93 MPH and touching 96. He also has a hard curveball and the ability to throw a changeup. He does lack command, and as seen in the video below, he can be flat and up in the zone often. He also lacks consistency with the curve. But all of this just makes Ogle a project, and that’s the reason he fell to the fourth round.

“Given the quality of the stuff, the velocity, the athlete, the upside that we see in the pitcher, if there’s not something that holds people back, he goes a heck of a lot earlier than the fourth round,” Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington said. “As we look at this young man, and as we’ve gotten to know this young man, it’s someone we feel we can make adjustments with, that can adapt to professional baseball. Sometimes young pitchers get caught in pitching to the gun, and get outside themselves and lose the repeatability of the delivery. We feel that there’s a good amount of upside with this young man.”

Between Ogle, Lodolo, and MacGregor, the Pirates might need a lot of bonus pool room, which explains some of their other picks on the day.

Strong Defense/No Offense

The first pick of the day was Stephen Alemais, who entered the draft season as a possible first rounder, but dropped due to concerns with his bat. He’s a shortstop, and is regarded as one of the best college defensive shortstops in this draft, with the ability to stick at shortstop over the long-term.

“We think he’s a pretty good shortstop to start,” Pirates Director of Amateur Scouting Joe DelliCarri said. “The defensive skills, the athleticism, the quickness, the glove, the arm. His greatest strengths are his hands in the field and at the plate. He’s got strong hands. He’s got a chance to do some things offensively as well. So we like the package there with Stephen, that he got there to the third round.”

The big question is whether he can hit. He’s got some good contact skills, a line drive approach, and good plate patience. But he lacks power and is mostly a singles hitter, with questions of how much he can hit in pro ball.

“I think he can move the baseball. A good line drive hitter through the gaps,” DelliCarri said, noting that he will use his hands, quickness and strength to be a good hitter who can use the whole field. “He has shown us in his stretches that he has plate patience and discipline and moved the ball the other way.”

The Pirates took another strong defender in the seventh round when they drafted JuCo catcher Brent Gibbs out of Central Arizona College. Gibbs is a very strong defensive catcher, with a plus-plus arm, good receiving skills, and good blocking abilities. He’s also got a good build behind the plate, at 6′ 1″, 215 pounds.

Just like Alemais, there are questions about the bat with Gibbs. He hit for a .396/.497/.590 line this year, although that came against younger competition in a small conference. He does have good plate patience, and the Pirates are hoping that the bat develops well in pro ball, matching the defense.

“It’s clearly up front, the defensive traits,” DelliCarri said. “He has athleticism. He’s a good sized kid. Does a real nice job behind the plate. There’s no question about that. He did some things at the junior college level with the wood bat. We’ve seen some things to work with. We do think there’s some things we can do with him, and work with the offensive side as well. But clearly his defensive traits stand out.”

In each of these cases, there’s a reason you’re getting them in the middle rounds. You’re not going to get a strong defensive shortstop or a strong defensive catcher with the ability to hit and no questions about their bat. Those types of players would be gone before the Pirates even picked at 22nd overall. So you draft them, hope that the defense is enough to get them to the majors as a backup, and hope that the offense might develop to either cement that upside, or to expand it further.

Of the two, I’d say Alemais has the better chance of reaching the majors on his defense alone, just because he can play shortstop and is athletic enough to move around the field, giving him the chance to arrive as a utility player. Gibbs looks more like a lottery ticket, but should get plenty of time at the lower levels, playing for either Morgantown or Bristol.

College Picks Showing Improvements

Most of the rest of the picks on day two were guys who showed improvements this year, but weren’t rated as high coming into the draft, and weren’t rated high in previous years. Huntington talked a lot about guys who show sudden improvements at this age, while also pointing out the difference between the public rankings and what teams look at.

“It’s interesting to note that if you look at the college players that went in this year’s draft, I would say almost without exception, they were not rated very highly out of high school,” Huntington said. “It’s just funny how the game tends to progress, and yet we tend to say that guys are taken at higher slots than they’re supposed to be taken, because of the analysts.”

Huntington did go on to say that the analysts have a difficult job in covering these prospects.

“We have a ton of respect for what they do. They’ve got a really tough job to do to put a board together of 100, or 300, or 500 players. They might have the opportunity to see 40, or 50, or 60 of those players one time, unless they double dip in the SEC tournament late in the season. They’ve got a really hard job. We have a ton of respect for how hard their job is, and how hard these guys work. Some of them aggregate information from other scouts. We’re also good as an industry at disinformation at times.”

The Pirates took right-handed pitcher Blake Cederlind in the fifth round. He didn’t make Baseball America’s top 500 prospects, but was ranked 71st in their list of top prospects in California. He has really improved his velocity the last two years, going from around 90 MPH to now sitting 92-95 MPH and touching 97. He’s got a curveball that is a work in progress, and a feel for a changeup.

The velocity is nice here, but he does have some poor control problems, with a 63:34 K/BB ratio in 57.2 innings. He seems like he could be an under-slot pick to save money, while getting a live arm who is a lottery ticket in the process.

The Pirates went the opposite direction in the sixth round. They took Cam Vieaux, who instead of a power right-hander is a finesse lefty. He sits 87-91 MPH, although a few reports had him getting his fastball up to 93. He doesn’t have a standout secondary pitch, throwing a changeup, slider, and curve, using the slider as his primary breaking pitch.

He wasn’t bad at Michigan State his first two years, but really improved this year, with a 2.28 ERA and a 77:19 K/BB ratio in 87 innings.

“We like Cam in terms of the pitcher, how he goes about his business as a competitor,” DelliCarri said. “I think he’s had a good year. We’ve seen him quite a bit. I think he has matured. He’s gotten a lot of people out at a pretty high rate. He’s athletic. I think you’re seeing the athleticism and the competitor really playing through, and just another year of maturation. He’s better. He’s just better in all forms of getting them out. I think you’re starting to see the traits of who he is with that athleticism and natural progression.”

I haven’t seen him yet, obviously, but he sounds similar to how Brandon Waddell sounded this time last year — a college lefty who doesn’t have great stuff, but doesn’t have bad stuff either, and gets by with control and a good mix of pitches. I’m looking forward to seeing how close that comparison is when I get a chance to Vieaux him in Morgantown this summer.

The next pitcher taken was Dylan Prohoroff, a right-handed closer out of Cal State Fullerton. He usually sits in the low 90s with his fastball, but can get it up to 97 MPH. He had an 0.68 ERA in 26.1 innings this year, with a 30:5 K/BB ratio. Along with his fastball, he has a good slider, but also has control problems.

One question is whether the Pirates will use him as a starter or a reliever. He’s been a reliever in college, but he’s one of the better arms for the short-season teams, and the Pirates usually have those guys start early in their careers.

“It’s a good question,” Huntington said. “There are traits there that we like. We’ll get a chance to get to know him, get a chance to see how his body responds, how resiliant he is, how durable he is. What his focus and what his motivation and where his comfort is. Some guys like to relieve. Some guys really want to relieve. Other guys that have relieved before like to start. And some guys that are starting like to relieve. That’s an important part of our process, and we see him being able to do some good things on the mound.”

It should be noted that the Pirates drafted Seth McGarry last year, who was a college reliever with a good arm. They made him a starter, but quickly moved him to the bullpen this year, where he was more comfortable. So if Prohoroff doesn’t make that move right away, it could be possible down the line.

The last two guys drafted are guys who could be under-slot picks. Center fielder Clark Eagan was taken in the ninth round, and appears to already be set to be the right fielder in Morgantown this year. He hits for average and gets on base, while avoiding strikeouts. He also has some speed, but lacks home run power and is more of a gap-to-gap hitter. That’s a typical Pirates middle round pick. He’s also played first and third, and it will be interesting to see if the Pirates move him around to try and get more value.

Tenth round pick Matt Anderson is a right-handed pitcher from Morehead State who is a college senior. That gives him no leverage for his negotiations, since he can’t go back to college, meaning he’s a guarantee to sign for under-slot. He struggled his first three years, with an ERA over 6.00, but improved greatly this year, posting a 2.95 ERA, along with good strikeout numbers and a high walk rate. He throws 88-92, touching 94, throwing an overhand curveball, a slider, and a changeup. He’s also got some deception to his delivery, showing the ball early, then hiding it behind his body, which leads to his better results.

The Pirates will probably save some money on all of these guys, which will allow them to sign those prep pitchers early, and possibly even get a few more over-slot picks on day three.

  • It’s sad, we just don’t see any hitting/pitching prodigy’s like Herman Munster anymore. America needs to produce great ball players again.

    • The Dodgers lock those guys up every year.

    • I hear you James, but what about Trout, Kershaw, deGrom, etc., etc. They are there. You have to have good scouts and coaches to bring it out.

  • Seriously- how many singles hitting shortstops do we need? This is becoming ridiculous, have they not just figured out how to clone people yet, so much simpler.

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