We are now in the 12th weekend of the college season and the start of the amateur draft is now just five weeks away. The Pirates have the #9 and #14 picks in the upcoming June draft. Throughout the college/HS season, leading up to the draft, we will cover the interesting players that are being discussed in the Pirates draft range. There will also be daily notes on past picks by the Pirates who went unsigned. For a recap of the 11th week, check out our article posted here. Our preview of the draft can be read here. The draft takes place June 6-8.
Stanford VS Arizona State
Mark Appel will starts Friday night on the road against Arizona State. As of right now, Appel has been mentioned anywhere in the top four spots in the draft along with two HS hitters, Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier, and Oklahoma pitcher Jonathan Gray. He has struggled somewhat recently, but with his track record his stock likely won’t slip much at all, unless he keeps under-performing. Outfielder Austin Wilson had been out with a muscle strain below his elbow since leaving the first game. He finally returned after missing 22 games and was hitting well upon his return for the first three weeks, then had a poor weekend as Stanford got swept by Oregon this past week. On Tuesday, Wilson went 1-for-4, with two RBI’s and a stolen base against St Mary’s. Stanford plays three games against Arizona State, starting Friday, and they have a Tuesday game at home against San Francisco.
North Carolina is off
Third baseman Colin Moran and the 1st ranked Tar Heels(42-4) are off this weekend. Moran played yesterday against The Citadel and went 2-for-4 in the 13-0 win, with his 12th home run and four RBI’s. He is hitting .389 through 46 games, with 12 homers, 74 RBI’s, 40 walks and just 10 strikeouts. Baseball America had a recent article with draft expectations and they said the Pirates have been following Moran closely. North Carolina has home games on Tuesday and Wednesday against James Madison.
San Diego VS St Mary’s
Another third baseman to watch is Kris Bryant from San Diego. At 6’5″, 215 he is a little bigger than Moran, and Bryant is a right-handed hitter. He spends most of his time at third base, but he also plays the outfield and will likely end up as a corner outfielder in the pros. He is rated by some as the best college hitter available in this draft, and he has cemented that spot recently after struggling during the middle of April. Bryant has 22 home runs this season, one more than all of his teammates combined and three more than all of San Diego’s opponents have hit against them. He had a Tuesday home game against Cal St Northridge and went 0-for-4 in a 6-4 loss. This week he plays three games, starting Friday, on the road against St Mary’s. San Diego also has a Monday road game against UNLV.
Gonzaga VS Santa Clara
Marco Gonzales, the LHP from Gonzaga did well against Pepperdine two weeks ago, but needed a lot of pitches to get through seven innings of work. This past week he wasn’t sharp against BYU and over the last month, the Pepperdine game has been his only solid outing. Gonzaga will play on the road against Santa Clara starting Friday night. Gonzales needs to turn things around quickly to stay in the Pirates range, as many college pitchers have been mentioned in the mid-first round talks recently. He has a very strong bat(.338 in 133 AB’s) and can play 1B, so his bat may entice a team to pick him, who see that as a fallback option. His pitching is his strong point though, with a nice four pitch mix, plus changeup and a low 90’s fastball.
Florida VS LSU
Pitcher Jonathon Crawford will lead the Gators as they play three games this week on the road against highly ranked LSU, starting on Thursday. Crawford will pitch the Thursday game. He rolled his ankle last week, had his start pushed back a day, but was still able to throw 4.2 scoreless innings. Out of all the players rated highly this pre-season, Crawford has probably slipped the most. He was already questionable to some teams, who saw his delivery as a problem. He does not have a clean motion, but prior to this season, the results were better and his velocity is very good. He still has a few weeks to turn things around, but it’s beginning to look like he has a better shot at going to the Pirates in the second round, as opposed to one of their first round picks. Some scouts view him as a reliever, rather than starter, which would hurt his stock.
Ole Miss VS Auburn
Bobby Wahl, a RHP from Ole Miss, is scheduled to pitch Friday night on the road against Auburn. Last Thursday, he allowed one run over seven innings to Kentucky. In the previous week, he was named SEC Pitcher of the Week for his complete game shutout against Tennessee. In his two prior outings, Wahl pitched well against strong teams despite control problems, going up against Vanderbilt one week and Alabama the next. He is 8-0, 1.22 in 11 starts and his only problem seems to be wildness, which has plagued him in a few starts, limiting his innings in those games. Wahl has allowed just two homers and he has held batters to a .182 BAA in 73.2 innings, but has also walked 33 batters.
Indiana State VS Evansville
Sean Manaea, was rated early on by some as the top college pitcher, even ahead of Mark Appel. Recently he has fallen slightly behind both Appel and Jonathan Gray in the rankings. The left-hander has pitched under some adversity this year and he’s done well in spite of it. He had an entire week wiped out by weather, injured his ankle on a play at the plate and had a sore hip that pushed back his start. That hip injury sidelined him all of last week. This week Manaea is scheduled to go Saturday against Evansville. He is 5-3, 1.57 in 57.1 innings, with 72 strikeouts, one homer allowed, and a .195 BAA.
Arkansas VS Kentucky
Ryne Stanek and Arkansas will play three games on the road against Kentucky this weekend, starting on Friday. Arkansas is the #14 ranked team in the country, Kentucky is ranked #23, so this is a good test for the right-hander. Stanek went 6.1 innings against Georgia on Saturday, giving just one run, but he did allow 11 base runners in the game(seven hits, three walks, one HBP) and only struck out three, needing 112 pitches to get through his outing. He threw eight shutout innings three starts ago against Alabama, then followed it up with 6.2 scoreless innings against #2 ranked LSU. He extended that shutout streak to 18 innings before giving up a run is his next start. Prior to that stretch, Stanek had trouble going deep in games this year and the results were just average, but he has been solid recently. He is scheduled to start Saturday’s game. Baseball America has a story for subscribers about Stanek, while Jonathan Mayo from MLB.com also has an article on him.
Samford VS UNC at Greensboro
Phillip Ervin, an outfielder from Samford, will play three games at home against The University of North Carolina at Greensboro this weekend, starting on Friday night. Ervin is hitting .353 this year, with a 1.126 OPS. He is second on his team with ten homers and leads with 30 walks and 13 stolen bases(in 14 attempts). Ervin was playing center field at the beginning of the year, then moved to left field for two weeks, but he has moved back to center field last week. There seems to be a split among scouts whether he can play center field in the pros. Samford had a Tuesday road game against University of Alabama at Birmingham and Ervin went 2-for-5, with two runs, an RBI and a stolen base. Samford also has a Wednesday game against Auburn.
New Mexico VS Air Force
D.J. Peterson from New Mexico will play three games this weekend at home against Air Force starting Friday. He should have a strong weekend if he sees pitches to hit, playing against a weak team in a high offense park(see below). Peterson played Monday against Texas Tech and went 1-for-4, with a walk. He is hitting .403, with 13 homers, 20 doubles, 51 runs scored, 53 RBI’s and a 1.331 OPS , through 40 games. He has played both third base and first base this year, but profiles better at first base. He bats and throws right, which is not ideal for first base and could hold his draft position down. His stats are also inflated by playing his home games in a high offense ballpark that yields an average of 13.6 runs per game, though that is down from the park they played the first half of their season at, where an average of 17 runs per game were scored.
Fresno State VS UNLV
Aaron Judge, a 6’7″ outfielder from Fresno State, is rated among the top six college hitters in this draft by most. Fresno State has a three game series this weekend on the road against UNLV starting Friday. Judge had a game Tuesday against CSU Bakersfield and went 1-for-2, with a walk, stolen base, two runs and two RBI’s. He is hitting a team-leading .346 in 42 games, with seven homers, 11 doubles and a 1.002 OPS. His strikeout total, 38 in 159 AB’s, is a little alarming for a polished college hitter(though he didn’t strike out during his four games this week) and some scouts question whether he has the bat speed to cover his large strike zone, especially against pitchers that can work inside on him. Fresno State also plays a home game against Hawaii on Tuesday.
Oklahoma VS West Virginia
Jonathan Gray turned some heads just over a month ago when he hit 100 MPH during his start against UCLA. He threw seven shutout innings and sat high 90’s all night. Conor Glassey has a writeup on Gray and a few other prospects, where he mentions that Gray’s slider has a chance to be just as good as his fastball. In his next start, he pitched a complete game shutout, throwing 111 pitches, the last of which was clocked at 100 MPH. Then the next week, Gray reached 100 MPH for a third straight start, hitting 97 MPH still in the ninth inning when his pitch count reached 120 pitches. In his starts since, Gray has been in the 98-99 MPH top range. Kendall Rogers has an article on Gray that can be read here. This last week he no-hit Texas Tech for the first five innings. On the year, he is 8-1, 1.10 in 81.2 innings(11 starts), with 98 strikeouts and a .152 BAA. Oklahoma plays three games on the road against West Virginia beginning on Friday, when Gray should get his start.
LSU VS Florida
Ryan Eades, a 6’3″ RHP, leads #2 ranked LSU against Florida this weekend at home, playing a three game series that starts on Thursday. Eades is scheduled to go on Saturday. He pitched against #15 ranked South Carolina this past weekend and looked good through seven innings, allowing two runs. He really struggled in his previous two starts allowing five runs over four innings in each of those games. Eades was working his way into the middle of the first round, but those two weeks of poor showings likely hurt his chances. If he can put together a solid finish, building off his last start, he just may be a guy the Pirates look at with the #14 pick. Baseball America has an article on Eades and the trials he has endured to get where he is now.
Jacksonville VS Florida Gulf Coast
Chris Anderson has been rated as high as tenth in this draft class in mock drafts, though that has likely changed recently. Baseball America didn’t even have him in their pre-season top 100 draft-eligible college players list, so he really shot up the draft charts. At 6’4″ 225 lbs., he has the build of a workhorse pitcher, but he has struggled recently against some low quality opposition. He has beat up on some very low rated teams, while also getting hit hard against some of those same type of teams. This week his opponent is ranked #92 in the country, not high but better than some of the teams he has faced. He is now 6-4, 2.82 in 11 starts, with 86 strikeouts and 19 walks in 79.2 innings and a .227 BAA. Recent scouting reports of his outings were not good and overwork has been a suggested reason for the struggles. Jacksonville starts a three game series on the road against Florida Gulf Coast on Friday night.
Nevada VS San Diego State
Braden Shipley has also got some top ten mentions recently, and for good reason. The 6’3″ righty is 5-2, 2.59 in nine starts, with 75 strikeouts in 73 innings. Playing against a low-rated Air Force team on Friday, Shipley allowed three runs on six hits and a walk over seven innings, with just one strikeout. He went 7.1 innings two weeks ago against DJ Peterson and New Mexico, allowing four runs(two earned) on six hits and two walks, while picking up ten strikeouts. Last year in 15 starts, he posted a 9-4, 2.20 record. Shipley has been clocked this season at 99 MPH and his change-up is an above average pitch. Nevada will be at home against San Diego State this weekend, playing a three game series that starts on Friday. The match-up is the marquee pitching duel in college this weekend, as Shipley will face-off against Michael Cederoth, who could go first overall in the draft next year.
Vanderbilt VS South Carolina
Kevin Ziomek is a late addition to the watch list, recently getting mention in the mid-first round, though he hasn’t been as sharp recently as the overall numbers would suggest. Ziomek allowed one run over seven innings, with nine strikeouts against Mississippi State on Friday. He had good results last week, but in eight innings he had four walks and four strikeouts, both off his usual standards. He throws low-90′s with a nice slider and change-up. At the beginning of the year he was thought of as a late 1st/ early 2nd round pick, but he has moved up from that. Ziomek is 8-2, 2.12 in 11 starts, with 84 strikeouts and a .164 BAA in 80.2 innings. Vanderbilt plays on the road against highly ranked South Carolina this weekend, starting Friday. They also have Walker Buehler, who was drafted by the Pirates last year, on their pitching staff. He is 3-1, 2.54 in six starts and five relief appearances.
Jim Callis conducted a draft and prospect chat on Wednesday. He answered many questions about possibilities at the top of the draft, mentioning most of the players we follow here weekly.
Through The Fences posted their latest mock draft a few days ago. They have the Pirates taking Prep catcher Jon Denney with the #9 pick and Stanford’s Austin Wilson with the #14 pick. Players available of note after the #9 pick include Prep SS JP Crawford, Colin Moran, Prep pitcher Trey Ball and Prep catcher Reese McGuire.
Crawfish Boxes rated the top twenty HS catchers in this year’s draft class. The top three spots go to Reese McGuire, Jon Denney and Nick Ciuffo, who have been the top three for most of the season.
MLB Draft Insider has updated their top 50 rankings a few days ago. If the Pirates picked according to their rankings, they would take two HS players, JP Crawford and Jon Denney.