Yesterday, we had part one of our draft preview, highlighting some of the best college hitters in the 2014 amateur draft. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the 25th pick overall in the draft, which looks to be top-heavy with college pitching. Out of Baseball America’s top 15 draft eligible college players, ten of them are pitchers, plus third baseman Matt Chapman from Cal State Fullerton has potential on the mound if the batting career doesn’t work out. That means there will likely be more than a few college pitchers off the board before the Pirates pick. As we saw in last year’s draft class, which was also filled with top college pitchers, that could allow a good arm to fall down in the draft.
Right now, there is no real idea of who the Pirates could take in the draft, but you can get a general idea of what kind of talent they are looking at. I’ll briefly mention some of the guys that look like top draft picks, focusing more on pitchers rated in the mid-to-late first round range.
Carlos Rodon from North Carolina State is the best player in this draft and many claim he would’ve had went first overall last year if he was eligible. I think you can safely say that the Pirates won’t have a chance to pick him. Rated right after Rodon is Jeff Hoffman from East Carolina. The two couldn’t be more different, with Rodon having a big frame, throwing from the left side and racking up strikeouts. Hoffman is a skinny righty, that gets results without huge strikeout totals. Unless Hoffman struggles, you won’t read too much about either of these two here this year.
Tyler Beede from Vanderbilt and Aaron Nola from LSU are two other long-shots to drop to the Pirates. Both look like potential top ten picks and at one point early last year, Kylie McDaniel had Beede ahead of Rodon. Last year, we talked about Ryan Eades a lot here because he was getting mentions in the Pirates range often early on. Eades ended up going 43rd overall, but his teammate Aaron Nola stole the spotlight. Nola had a 1.57 ERA, .188 BAA and struck out 122 batters in 126 innings. If he puts up similar numbers, he will be off the board well before the Pirates pick.
Tyler Beede has a similar story to Nola. Last year, Kevin Ziomek got some mid-first round mentions around late April, so we followed his starts for just over half the season. Beede didn’t outshine him, but he did match Ziomek’s numbers, going 14-1, 2.32 in 101 innings, with a .187 BAA and 103 strikeouts. His control wasn’t the best, actually awful at times, ending up with 63 walks, 14 wild pitches and ten hit batters. He pitched with success all season though, and he has a great pitching frame at 6’4″, 215 pounds. Concerns with his control could allow him to drop, but for now, he still gets top ten mentions, so he will likely be gone well before the Pirates make their selection.
Getting into the more realistic options at this point, Luke Weaver is a right-hander from Florida State. He isn’t the biggest guy at 6’2″, 170 pounds, but he could fill out some more before the draft. He throws low-90s, with a nice slider and change-up and a curve that needs work. Weaver is a polished pitcher in that he pounds the strike zone and likes to throw inside. In 98.1 innings last year, he had 119 strikeouts and issued just 19 walks. So while he doesn’t have the high end velocity or a big frame, he is a strike-throwing machine and he had a very successful sophomore year. He’s the type of starter that could probably move through the system quick due to his fastball command and good change-up, two things the Pirates stress with their young pitchers.
A personal favorite from this draft class and one that has been mentioned in the Pirates range, is righty Michael Cederoth from San Diego State. During the 2013 season, there was talk that he could be one of the top prospects in the 2014 draft and he was pitching in the same conference as a few of the better picks from last year, so he is one of the few players I followed last year that wasn’t draft eligible. He has great size at 6’6″, 210 pounds and he put up big strikeout numbers, setting down 109 batters in 95.1 innings. His problem was control, with 48 walks and a team high 12 wild pitches. He has a fastball that sits mid-90’s and he can touch 100 MPH, so there is potential that he could move well up the charts with improved control.
Brandon Finnegan from TCU went 23rd overall in one early mock draft, one spot ahead of Cederoth. At 5’11” and a medium frame, he is small for a starting pitcher, but he a lefty that throws mid-90’s with success and changes speeds well. You never draft for need, but that being said, the Pirates system could use more lefties and PNC Park obviously favors them.
Speaking of lefties, Hartford has a big one in Sean Newcomb, who looks to be a mid-to-late first round pick. He is listed at 6’5″, 245 pounds and can hit mid-90’s with his fastball. He has a workhorse type body and picks up a lot of strikeouts, plus at his age/size, he could possibly add some ticks to his fastball and hold his velocity late in a game.
Baseball America has Nick Burdi ranked 13th among all college players. The hard-throwing righty from Louisville is the team closer. I find it highly unlikely that the Pirates would use their only first round pick on a reliever. They don’t pick again until 65th, though that could change depending on some remaining free agents. Burdi put up huge numbers last year, giving up three earned runs in 35.2 innings while striking out 62 and holding batters to a .192 BAA. So he could be someone that moves through the system quick. He is intense on the mound and really airs it out, hitting triple digits numerous times throughout the season. Since he is strictly a reliever, not all draft experts are so high on him, but he could be the first 2014 draft pick to make the majors, so some team will likely take him around the end of the first round.
Finally, we have Erick Fedde from UNLV. One early mock draft had him as the Pirates pick. Baseball America has him ranked 17th among college players, so he falls in the late first round range for them as well. Fedde is a 6’4″ righty, who made 15 starts last year and showed good control and a nice strikeout rate. He is someone the Pirates probably saw a lot of this past year, as fellow UNLV starter Buddy Borden was drafted in the seventh round by Pittsburgh. If you have seven minutes to kill, you can watch his outing from late June in the Cape Cod League. Tomorrow, we will take a look at the best high school hitters.