Baseball America has released their first top 50 list for the 2014 draft class. This comes with the usual disclaimer that so much can change between now and the actual draft next June. That’s even true when it comes to the pre-season rankings. As an example, the pre-season 2013 rankings had Kris Bryant 12th (he went 2nd overall), Jonathan Gray unranked in the top 50 (he went 3rd overall), and Kohl Stewart ranked 18th (he went 4th). At the same time, some rankings were accurate. Reese McGuire was ranked 14th, and went 14th. There were other guys who stayed in the same range, such as Dominic Smith, D.J. Peterson, and Trey Ball.
This year the Pirates pick 27th overall. They also pick 64th with their compensation pick. The only way they would receive more than one pick in the top 50 of the 2014 draft is if they made A.J. Burnett a qualifying offer, he declined, and signed with another team. That pick would be somewhere in the mid-30s. Even with the 27th pick, it’s impossible to say right now who would be an option for the Pirates. There could be guys who aren’t on the list right now who could propel themselves to a late first round pick. There could be other guys at the top of the list who could see their stock fall.
The key thing to look at is the strength of the class. BA says that college and high school pitching looks to be the strength this year. The Pirates certainly don’t have a shortage of pitching prospects, although you can never have too many options. BA also notes that this is one of the deepest high school pitching classes in years, with a lot of big velocity arms that could go in the first 50 picks. The Pirates have gone heavy on prep pitchers in the past, and if I was going to make a “way too early” guess, I’d say that a prep pitcher would be the favorite for their first pick in 2014.
To give an idea of the quality of the pitching class, here are some of the prospects ranked in the Pirates’ range:
Kyle Freeland, LHP – Prep pitcher who throws 93-95 MPH.
Michael Cederoth, RHP – 6′ 6″, 210 pound college pitcher who throws 94-98 MPH.
Cobi Johnson, RHP – Prep pitcher who touches 93 and has the potential for a plus curveball.
Brandon Finnegan, LHP – College pitcher who holds upper 90s velocity deep into games, and has a plus slider.
Grant Holmes, RHP – He’s a small prep pitcher at six feet, but hits 96 MPH and has a power curveball.
Erick Fedde, RHP – College pitcher who throws in the low 90s with good command, and has a projectable 6′ 4″ frame.
Nick Burdi, RHP – College pitcher who BA calls “the biggest pure arm in the draft class”. Throws 100 and a low 90s slider, but is strictly a reliever.
Kodi Medeiros, LHP – Prep pitcher who can hit 95 and has a power slider. Also throws from a low arm slot, which is unconventional, but which might add movement and generate ground balls, as lower arm slots usually do.
Sean Reid-Foley, RHP – Prep pitcher who hits 95 and has an above-average slider, an average changeup, and good control.
Luke Weaver, RHP – College pitcher who throws 96 MPH and draws Tim Hudson comparisons.
Dylan Cease, RHP – Prep pitcher who hits 97 MPH with ease, but has an inconsistent breaking ball and inconsistent command. Also provides the potential for great “Cease and Desist” article titles about opposing hitters.
Those are all of the pitchers who are ranked in the 20-35 range, leaving out a few two-way players who might not get drafted as pitchers. I don’t know if there’s an ace in the group, or even a number two starter. However, there are a lot of live arms, and it’s easy to envision the Pirates landing at least a potential number three starter if they went the pitching route. A lot can change before the draft, but if these are the arms who are projected in the Pirates range now, then they should have plenty of talented options available next June.
One thing that stood out with the rankings was the number four prospect, Trea Turner. Turner is a shortstop at NC State, and he stands out because he was taken by the Pirates in the 20th round of the 2011 draft. BA notes that he offers bat speed, athleticism, and top-of-the-scale speed when healthy. He was hampered by an ankle injury in 2013. Turner was the only former Pirates draft pick to make the top 50, although the Pirates signed a lot of talented prep players in 2011 (Josh Bell, Tyler Glasnow, Clay Holmes), so it’s not like they left a lot on the table.