MLB Pipeline posted their list of the top 50 prospects in the 2019 amateur draft. While the draft itself is far away, this gives you an early look at the strength of the draft in a year that the Pittsburgh Pirates have five of the top 100 picks.
The strength of this class is position players, with no pitchers among the top six players. The top pitcher is seventh ranked Carter Stewart, who is someone who we covered earlier this year. After being selected eighth overall, he passed on signing with the Atlanta Braves due to an injury concern that kept the two sides far apart when discussing a bonus amount. Stewart went the Junior College route so he would be eligible this year. He’s the only JuCo player in the top 50.
The weakness in this class is college pitching, especially near the top. Only four of the top 34 prospects are college pitchers (Stewart is considered Junior College) and all of them are lefties. Nick Lodolo, who was taken by the Pirates in the 2016 draft with the 41st overall pick, is ranked 16th in this draft class.
As for specific positions, just 18 pitchers total are in the top 50. Shortstops and outfielders are equally represented with ten each, while there are only two catchers and one second baseman. Except for pitching, and it’s really just a lack of the usual top right-handed pitchers, those other positions are about what you see in a normal year. What you usually don’t see is nine corner infielders in the top 50.
Right now, this appears to be a good year for teams picking lower in the first round and the Pirates won’t get their first pick until 18th overall, with no chance of that pick moving up like in years past due to new rules in the draft. Teams can no longer lose their top pick when they sign free agents and no team ahead of the Pirates has two picks. The 37th overall pick is also set for the Pirates. They received that as compensation for not signing Gunnar Hoglund. So since those two spots won’t change, we can take a look at the talent that currently fills those spots on the top 50 to see what type of player could be available.
The 18th ranked prospect on the list is high school outfielder Jerrion Ealy, an 18-year-old, 5’10”, 192 pound plus-runner, with a commitment to Mississippi. Ealy has game changing speed on the bases, above average defense and on the 20-80 scouting scale, he gets a 50 for both hitting and power. He’s also an accomplished football player, though Pipeline points out that unlike most two-sport stars in high school, he isn’t a raw baseball player.
At the 37th spot is another high school player. Lefty Hunter Barco has a 6’4″ frame and his fastball and slider both rank slightly above average. He has a feel for a changeup, though like most high school pitchers, it needs work. Barco also has solid control. He has been inconsistent at times, but with high school pitchers, you’re looking more at projection and he has plenty of that. He will have to show more as a senior to really be considered a solid pick at 37th overall. For reference, Barco is rated two spots ahead of a college starter, who projects to be a #3 starter in the majors.
A lot will change between now and early June, but this just gives you a look at the depth and strength of the draft. According to scout comments in the MLB article, this could be a good year to stock up on hitters early, though that also means that if you want a top pitcher, you can’t wait long.
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.