Yesterday the Pirates took some high upside guys, drafting Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire in the first round, then taking Blake Taylor in the second. Today they continued going for upside, adding a lot of guys who will need some development, and maybe an adjustment or two, but have the tools, pitches, and skills to pay off if the Pirates’ development system can make the proper changes.
“Factoring in some things that matter to us, we ended up with the three college and the one high school arm in the tail end of the draft, and a good blend in the middle. A couple of shortstops. It was a situation where we looked at the players of similar values at the time of the selection and picked the one we felt best about in the room,” Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington said.
Below are the players the Pirates picked on day two, as well as some analysis on all of the individual players below.
The Draft Picks
Click on the name of the pick to go to his Pirates Prospects Player Page.
Round 3: JaCoby Jones, CF, LSU
Round 4: Cody Dickson, LHP, Sam Houston State
Round 5: Trae Arbet, SS, Prep
Round 6: Adam Frazier, SS, Mississippi State
Round 7: Buddy Borden, RHP, UNLV
Round 8: Neil Kozikowski, RHP, Prep
Round 9: Chad Kuhl, RHP, Delaware
Round 10: Shane Carle, RHP, Long Beach State
A Sleeper Left-Hander?
On day one of the draft the Pirates took Blake Taylor in the second round. Taylor is a 17-year-old left-hander who has hit 94 MPH in the past and has the potential to sit 92-94 MPH down the line. He also has a plus curveball, but lacks a good changeup and fastball command. As I wrote yesterday, he’s in a good situation since the Pirates have a lot of success in the lower levels developing the changeup and improving fastball command with their young pitchers. If he can fix those two issues, he could be a middle of the rotation starter.
Today the Pirates took Cody Dickson, a left-hander from Sam Houston State, in the fourth round. The profile for Dickson sounded similar. He throws his fastball in the low 90s and touches 95. He increased his strikeout rate this year, with 91 in 95 innings, after just 46 in 72 innings last year. He’s got a plus curveball, and a developing changeup that has the upside to be a plus pitch.
The Pirates had Dickson in their radar before the season, and saw him 2-4 times in a row while he was showing improvements this year. They continued to scout him, with the idea that he could get better.
“It just happened right in front of the whole industry, and especially us at the end,” Pirates Director of Amateur Scouting Joe DelliCarri said of the progression Dickson made. “On the radar early, got to him early, saw him in the middle, and some of the things that he progressed…he just progressed early right there in the season in front of us, even before we had a chance to have him.”
Dickson is in a similar situation as Taylor. He’s got a good fastball for a lefty, but lacks command. Dickson has a projectable frame and an easy throwing motion, which could allow him to maintain a harder velocity going forward. He also has promise with his changeup, but needs to improve the pitch to reach that potential. Once again, those are two things the Pirates are good at.
“I do think he has the chance at three quality major league pitches,” DelliCarri said.
Between Taylor and Dickson, the Pirates could find themselves with a sleeper left-hander in the middle of the draft.
Can I Get a Shortstop?
After every pick I usually hear “when are they going to draft a shortstop?” Those questions were answered back to back in the fifth and sixth rounds when the Pirates took Trae Arbet in the fifth round, and Adam Frazier in the sixth round. The question about all shortstops is whether they have the ability to stick at the position. Being a shortstop in high school or college doesn’t guarantee anything, since that’s where teams put their best athlete. As players move up, they either no longer become the best athlete on the team, or no longer have what it takes to play the position.
Between the two shortstops, Arbet, a prep player, has the better chance to stick.
“He is one that can play that position, and the tool set to play that position,” Pirates Assistant General Manager Greg Smith said. “So there’s chance of value to stay at shortstop and be that shortstop for us.”
Arbet has good tools, and is athletic, has good foot speed for the position, and the arm strength to stick on the left side of the infield. He started playing baseball older than most, taking it up at age 13-14, but has come along well.
Frazier looks more like a future utility player, although he is good enough to handle shortstop when needed.
“Maybe not quite the toolset of Arbet, but has the feel and the savvy and the timing to play the shortstop and get the ball across the diamond on time,” Smith said.
Frazier isn’t the same player as a Brock Holt or an Adalberto Santos, but he has some comparable features. For one, he has great plate discipline and is a good hitter with a line drive stroke to all fields. He also doesn’t hit for any power, much like those two. The lack of power, and the inability to provide value on defense at the shortstop position over the long-term will limit his upside to a utility player. If he can hit, and provide some gap power, he could still have some value, especially for a fifth rounder.
Arbet has the best shot at sticking at the position, and providing some value defensively. He’s got questions about his offensive potential, with a long swing at times, and the tendency to chase pitches out of the zone. Of course if he was a guarantee to stick at short, and didn’t have offensive questions, he would have gone higher than the fourth round. Going in the fourth round doesn’t mean he’s got no shot. It just means he has further to go than some of the earlier picks.
The Groundball System
I’ve been writing for the last few weeks (actually, years, but a lot in the last few weeks) about how the Pirates have a tendency to take groundball pitchers, while pairing them with strong infield defense. We saw that today in the ninth and tenth rounds with right-handers Chad Kuhl and Shane Carle.
Kuhl is 6’3″, 210 pounds and throws 90-93 MPH. There were mixed reports whether he throws a sinker or a four seam fastball, and whether he’d be a sinkerball pitcher for the Pirates. It could be a little bit of both.
“Jared Hughes signed as a four-seam/curveball guy, and he got in the big leagues based on the power sinker,” Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington said. “What they come in with, our development system is going to maximize what they come in with. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a guy is a four seam and two seam. Sometimes it’s hard to tell from behind home plate. We’ve had conversations, we’ve gotten up on [Kuhl]. The reality is we’ll take the weapons that he comes in with, sharpen them, and look to get him on the path to the big leagues. Sometimes it means wholesale changes, much like it was with Jared Hughes, or a dropped arm slot like Tony Watson to allow him to attack left-handers and his velocity spiked after we dropped his arm slot.”
One guy who definitely is a sinkerball pitcher is Carle, who is 6′ 4″, 185 pounds and throws 92-94 MPH. He doesn’t have much in the way of secondary pitches, but he has a projectable frame, and cut down on his control issues this year. If he can add some velocity, he could be useful as a late inning reliever, with a mid-90s sinker that has been very effective.
That has been the trend for the Pirates: go for tall, projectable pitchers with either a sinker, downward plane, or an off-speed pitch that produces easy ground ball outs.
“I don’t think we’re alone in baseball in our core philosophy on pitching,” Huntington said. “We like the frame, the angle, the height gives you the angle. We like stuff, whether it’s velocity or spin to a breaking ball, or deception to a changeup. We like guys who can get swing and miss. We like guys who can get ground balls. And we like guys who can pound the zone. There’s like three of those in the game who have all of those traits, so it’s a sliding scale from there on out how you evaluate players against each other.”
**Third round pick JaCoby Jones looks to be a high upside project. Keith Law noted that he’d be a good candidate for an overhaul in his swing. He’s got a lot of speed, and the skills to play center field. He also has a good frame at 6′ 3″, 200 pounds, and raw power. If he can make an adjustment with his hitting, he could be a good all-around center fielder. He could also play second or third base, as different outlets have him listed at different positions.
“We’ll develop the player and the person in combination to find the best fit for him on the field, because he has played multiple positions at school,” DelliCarri said. We’ll play him in multiple positions here as well, but most importantly develop the person and continue to develop the athlete.”
For what it’s worth, the Pirates listed him as a center fielder when they drafted him, although most outlets feel he’s best as a shortstop.
**Neil Kozikowski looks like a classic Pirates draft pick. He’s a prep pitcher at 6′ 4″, 180 pounds, and has a commitment to VCU, which might be tough to break. He throws 86-88 MPH, touching 92, but has a tall, projectable frame and clean arm action with the potential to add some velocity down the line.
“He’s a guy that fits a lot of the criteria that we like from a physical standpoint,” Huntington said. “Obviously a 6′ 4″ frame with room to add strength. The delivery, the arm action, the athleticism. We’ve seen pitches that we can project on as he grows and becomes more consistent in his ability to repeat his delivery. For us there was a quality upside here.”
Kozikowski throws a changeup with late sink and a solid slider. He could have the potential to turn the slider into a cutter. He’s kind of an off-the-radar guy, not showing up on the Baseball America top 500 rankings, and going to Avon Old Farms School in Connecticut. That said, he’s an athletic guy with some upside, and the Pirates have done well with those types. Previous projectable prep pitchers who have hit 94 MPH or better include Jason Creasy, Ryan Hafner, Nick Kingham, Tyler Glasnow, and Clay Holmes, with the last three hitting 96 MPH or better.
**Seventh round pick Buddy Borden is another sleeper pitcher in the middle rounds. He throws low-90s, and tops out at 96. He’s 6′ 3″, 210 pounds, and had a 2.59 ERA in 100.2 innings this year, with a 77:35 K/BB ratio. He really cut down on the walks this year, and split the Mountain West Pitcher of the Year award with first round pick Braden Shipley. The fastball is a great pitch, and if he can develop the curve and changeup he has the chance to be a starter. Otherwise he would need one pitch to become a solid relief pitching prospect.