WTM: The Pirates’ Quirky 2019 Draft

Neal Huntington had a mixed record in the draft.

Getting Gerrit Cole, Josh Bell, Tyler Glasnow and Clay Holmes all in one draft is quite an outcome, even if you frittered away most of the potential benefits later.

On the other hand, getting Cole Tucker, Kevin Newman and Will Craig with consecutive first-round picks is less than exciting.

With Huntington’s last draft, in 2019, the jury is still out.  A little of that results from taking a prep pitcher in round one.  Quinn Priester was never likely to reach the majors by now, especially with the pandemic, but he remains one of the team’s top prospects.

The “quirky” part, though, is the large number of draftees, most of them college picks, who haven’t stormed up the prospect lists, but still have a shot to do something.

The Pirates made 42 picks and signed 38.  Naturally, when you sign so many picks from rounds 20-40, quite a few figure to spend a couple years as minor league roster filler and then move on.  But after three and a half years, a lot of the Pirates’ picks have done enough that they still could succeed to one degree or another.  Certainly quite a few qualify as “interesting,” regardless of their future chances.

Here’s a look at the guys who are still around, outside of the obvious one in Quinn Priester (draft round in parentheses):

The Early Picks

Sammy Siani, OF (Supp. 1):  Siani seemed to be going nowhere after a rough 2022 at Greensboro, but a big winter campaign Down Under maybe got him back on the map.

Matt Gorski, OF (2):  A very toolsy college pick, Gorski also seemed to be going nowhere, but a big power surge in 2022 may have changed that.

Jared Triolo, 3B/UT (Supp. 2):  Triolo is less up-in-the-air than these other guys.  He’s on the roster and, at worst, profiles as a major league utility player.  In some other organization he’d have a shot at the third base job.

Matt Fraizer, OF (3):  A huge breakout in 2021 followed by a dismal 2022.  Tough to say where this is going.

J.C. Flowers, RHP (4):  Flowers was fairly raw for a college draftee, but he had a good 2022 in the Altoona bullpen and should have a chance to establish himself as an option at some point in 2023.

Blake Sabol (7), C/OF:  Sabol’s established himself as a solid prospect.  He’ll get a chance to become a major leaguer as a Rule 5 pick with the Giants. He could return to the Pirates if he doesn’t stick in the majors all year.

Jase Bowen (11), UT:  An above-slot signing, Bowen had a good year in 2022 at Bradenton, which he was repeating.  He didn’t do well in a late-season stint at Greensboro, but he had a good winter campaign in Australia.  It’d be good if the bat steps up, because he plays all over and does a solid-to-good job, and he adds value on the bases.  He could be kind of a Triolo Lite.

The Really Quirky Guys

Will Matthiessen (6), 1B/OF:  The 6’7″ Matthiessen has alternated between striking out nearly all the time and going on power splurges.  His quirkiness was epitomized by a game where he came in to pitch in extra innings, allowed six runs, then picked up a win when he hit a walkoff grand slam.  It would have been nice to see what he could do at Altoona in 2022, but he missed nearly the whole year with a shoulder injury.

Aaron Shackelford (14), 1B/2B:  Shackelford has consistently hit for power, including 26 longballs in 2022 at Altoona.  He even improved a bit over 2021 despite moving from the teeny weeny park in Greensboro to Altoona, where the park strongly suppresses dingers, although not as strongly with LH hitters like Shackelford as RH hitters.  It’s not clear that he’ll do enough else with the bat, but . . . power is good.

Andres Alvarez (22), UT:  Drafted as a college senior, Alvarez was overmatched against the younger pitching in the GCL in 2019.  Then something happened during the pandemic year and he started hitting for power.  That included 20 HRs for Altoona in 2022.  Maybe he spent the whole off-year studying film or something.  Anyway, there’s one big red flag:  His hitting tailed off sharply throughout 2022 and his final numbers were just so-so.  Maybe he’ll make some adjustments, but the numbers game could force him back to Altoona this year.

Trey McGough (24), LHP:  McGough originally looked like minor league bullpen filler, but in 2021 he made the jump from short season ball to AA, with just a few games for Greensboro.  Not only that, he moved to the rotation and did very well.  He doesn’t throw hard, but features excellent control.  Tommy John surgery cost him most of 2022 and now he’s with Baltimore, thanks to the Pirates’ blundering in the minor league Rule 5.

Others Who Are Still “Alive”

Grant Ford (5), RHP:  Ford has good stuff and has put up some excellent K rates, but he had a very rough 2021 season at Altoona and then missed most of 2022 with an unknown injury.

Cameron Junker (10), RHP:  Junker has put up some really high K rates as a short reliever.  He had some trouble in the first half of 2022 with Greensboro, but had a very strong second half, including four late games for Altoona.

Eli Wilson (16), C:  Wilson looked pretty good his first couple years, but in 2022 he got caught in the flood of new catching prospects and didn’t play much behind the plate.  He may run into the same problem in 2023, with Henry Davis and Abrahan Gutierrez likely to be at Altoona, and Wyatt Hendrie at Greensboro.

Ryan Harbin (17), RHP:  An over-slot prep pitcher, Harbin has generally had a rough time and hasn’t been on the mound much, throwing only 40 innings as a pro.  He at least made it to Bradenton in 2022.

Jasiah Dixon (23), OF:  An over-slot signing with 80 speed, Dixon just hasn’t hit.  He also hasn’t made it past Bradenton.  He’s going to face a squeeze in an overloaded outfield situation in class A.

Bear Bellomy (28), RHP:  Bellomy pitched decently at lower levels, then got torched (7.04 ERA) in 2022 with Altoona.

Josh Bissonette (31), UT:  He doesn’t hit much, but Bissonette has settled in as an upper level utility infielder.

Ernny Ordonez (33), 1B:  He’s shown some power, but Ordonez had a .250 OBP and 13:106 BB:K at Greensboro in 2022.

Dylan Shockley (34), C:  Shockley seems to have a spot as a glove-only organizational catcher who can fill in at any level.  He’s outlasted a bunch of catchers who were drafted 20-30 rounds earlier, which says something both about Shockley and about Huntington’s aptitude for drafting catchers.

Deion Walker (35), OF:  Another above-slot prep outfielder, Walker hasn’t seen the field much.  Between the pandemic and injuries, he’s accumulated only 235 plate appearances in four years, just 14 of them above rookie ball.

Jake Sweeney (36), LHP:  A 6’7″ finesse lefty drafted out of junior college, Sweeney spent two seasons in rookie ball trying to find the strike zone.  He got on a good run at Bradenton in 2022, but then got hurt and missed a month and a half.  It’d be nice to see what he could do in a healthy season at Greensboro.

This draft is far from a slam dunk.  It’s quite possible the only frontline player to come out of it will be Priester and maybe Triolo, but considering that it’s three and a half years in, there’s an unusual number who could still reach the majors and a handful for whom it’s not a huge stretch to imagine a major league career.


Tim Williams breaks down the plans for Producing and Editing this site in 2023.

First Pitch: Producing and Editing Pirates Prospects

Ethan Hullihen is working on a new feature to create a Glossary of transaction details on the site. His first installment is a look at how Optional and Outright Assignments work.

Pirates Business: How Do Optional and Outright Assignments Work?

Wilbur Miller looked at the Pirates’ 2019 draft, which is led by Quinn Priester, but has a lot of other interesting prospects still around.

WTM: The Pirates’ Quirky 2019 Draft

Bubba Chandler was a highlight of the 2021 draft, and Anthony Murphy looked at the progress and potential he showed during his debut season.

Bubba Chandler Showed Progress and Potential In His Debut Season

Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.

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Great article. As with most drafts, I think the value of this one hinges 60% on the outcome with the first round and Priester. Still, I can see any or all of Gorski, Triolo, and Sabol having legitimate careers greater than a cup of coffee. If one of them becomes a regular starter (*please Gorski, please*) and either or both of the others become regular bench players, that’s a solid outcome to pair with hopefully mid-rotation or better results from Priester. Add in somebody from the pitching group finding an ML role as a middle reliever somewhere, and that’s more than you get from a lot of drafts. Plus any trade value that can be squeezed out of the rest…


OT but I can’t say I like reading mentions of trying Cruz at leadoff a few different places. I hope they’re not actually thinking of doing that with his projected OBP (bad) and Slugging (good).


BAE- ALL DAY, ALL NIGHT but when unavailable


Triolo- led off for Altoona, OBP-.376, 24 SB

SWAGS led off Indy, OBP-.350, 20 SB, hit into 1 DP in 57 chances
career- hit into 3 DP in 146 chances

Marcano- OBP-.388 CAREER- 186W / 177K must show up in BIGS

Last edited 1 month ago by john.benedict

Yeah Hayes is a pretty crappy leadoff hitter. I think Cutch for now, too.


J.B. Bukauskas was once again DFAd and I’m going to once again suggest that—particularly with him having an additional option remaining—he’s got more upside than Underwood or De Jong particularly to a roster as likely to be as in flux as ours.


Forever in my mind as one of the “untouchables” in the Gerrit Cole trade saga. FFS.


Definitely a possibility – he had solid numbers in the Astro’s org before hitting the wall in AA, and then did very well at Reno, the D’Backs AAA team in 2022. Was he injured late in the season?


Quirky, but loaded with talent. I think we will see at least 4 make it to MLB as early as 2023 – Quinn Priester as a SP and JC Flowers as a RP. Jared Triolo put up excellent defensive numbers and just as excellent offensive numbers in AA last year. And, last of those I think who could see MLB in 2023 is Matt Gorski.


24 years old (Feb birthday) in AA, sub .800 OPS, 35 total XBH……I want to believe….


Triolo is just a “dirtbag” – “just put me in the lineup anywhere and I’ll make it work with the bat and the glove”! The poster child for the Pirates moving forward regarding willingness to play multiple positions on defense, and making pitchers work and putting the ball in play on offense.

Great reference to Zobrist and the guy who got his money yesterday, Jeff McNeil of the Mets.


75% of Ben Zobrist is a really good bench piece. Probably better defensively, but not as good with the bat. But we can dream that last year was a springboard for future offensive success.


Yikes Zobrist was probably the second best guy on a really good team and likely better than Reynolds


FWIW Zobrist didn’t get regular MLB time until his age 28 season


Super cool article topic, Wilbur.

Makes me think back to the cursed 2012 draft.

Barret Barnes, Wyatt Mathesen, Brandon Barnes, Adrian Sampson, Eric Wood, Jake Stallings, Max Moroff before even mentioning unsigned Walker Buehler and Taylor Hearn.

Sneaky good draft that was thiiiiiis close to being a banger.


max moroff was my dude. such a shame he didn’t quite work out


Hell yeah, like half of these dudes were my favorite sleeper prospect at one point or another!


ahh the memories


Barrett Barnes! That’s a name I hadn’t heard in awhile…dang it.


Getting one to two players in ANY draft is about average.

And, every time I see Sammy Sinai’s, I think that we could’ve had Gunnar Henderson. Caveat: The ONLY reason I wanted ‘the Gunnar’ is kinda obvious, coz I knew nothing about him at the time, lol.


Also worth mentioning is that Deion Walker is super prospect Jordan Walker’s brother.


True but not the Jordan Walker who is a top prospect with the Cards 🙂


Wow, two completely different genetic body types!


So they are not twins that could change teams without anyone knowing, darn it.


If only he PLAYED like Jordan. Sigh.

b mcferren

Cameron Junker is related to Guy?


Love the show!


Wondered the same thing. Was trying to find it. I can’t say I watched him pitch but I hope he throws a lot of junk. Also hope he doesn’t drive his last name sake in a vehicle.

Last edited 1 month ago by bianco599

So I am probably going to be crucified on the site for saying this, but depending on how Hayes performs with the bat this year, I realize he was not at 100% last year…….would the Pirates consider trading Hayes, and plugging in Triolo?
It seems that his glove is just as good as Hayes, but his bat is just as good if not much better?

b mcferren


I support this

Tim Williams

They can move Triolo to a different position. They’re not in a situation where they’d have to choose between the two.

My thought is that you are assuming Hayes is done developing with the bat, while giving Triolo the benefit of the doubt because he’s still a prospect. I see Hayes with more upside than Triolo, and more upside than we’ve seen thus far.

If you’re saying that Triolo might be better than the Hayes we’ve seen, that’s not reason to trade Hayes. I believe Hayes will be better than the Hayes we’ve seen. That will set a new bar.


You of course know the prospects better than I do, however think giving Hayes the year to see how he does with the bat, and if he can stay healthy and on the field, will determine if we extended his contract to quickly and for too much money.
He showed what he is capable of when he was first called up, and has really not dome much since.


And Hayes is almost exactly only 1 year older than Triolo


I believe that should be in the back of their mind & should be a year long quit competition

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