The 2014 MLB Draft starts on Thursday at 7 PM, with the first two rounds of the draft taking place that evening. The Pittsburgh Pirates pick 24th, 39th, 64th, and 73rd that day. Rounds 3-10 follow on Friday at 1 PM, and rounds 11-40 are on Saturday at 1 PM.
For the last two years, we have released tiered rankings for the top 100 prospects. We start with an average of all of the major draft rankings, then John Dreker and I arrange players into tiers, which are customized based on where the Pirates pick. There is a summary of each group below, which is followed by our individual thoughts and preferences with each tier.
Check back on the site during the draft to read about who the Pirates picked. We will have player pages for every player who is drafted, along with instant analysis on each pick, and our updated Draft Pick Signing Tracker.
Otherwise known as the “They Probably Won’t Fall to the Pirates” Tier
Brady Aiken, Michael Conforto, Nick Gordon, Jeff Hoffman, Grant Holmes, Alex Jackson, Tyler Kolek, Aaron Nola, Sean Newcomb, Max Pentecost, Carlos Rodon, Touki Toussaint
In previous years, this tier was limited to less than five players. With the Pirates picking so low in the first round, they will have a lot more guys outside of their range. Obviously, if one of these guys happens to drop to the Pirates, they would be a must-draft. However, that might also create a Mark Appel situation, where the Pirates would have to create bonus pool space by drafting organizational guys in the 6-10 rounds, at the risk of a weak draft if their first round guy didn’t sign.
Otherwise known as the “They Could Fall, and the Pirates Should Take Them if They Do” Tier
Kyle Freeland, Derek Hill, Trea Turner, Bradley Zimmer
This group is small, and represents the half-way point between guys who don’t seem likely to fall to number 24, and guys who would be normal value for the number 24 pick. These four guys are listed here mostly because they’ve fallen to the Pirates in mock drafts, despite being ranked much higher in the average rankings. If the Pirates could get one of these guys, it would be a strong pick. Also, the Pirates probably wouldn’t have to restructure their draft in order to sign these guys, unlike group one.
John Dreker: I’ve heard at some point that all of these players could fall into the 20′s and both Freeland and Zimmer have gone to the Pirates in mock drafts, so I’m expecting one of them to be available. If I could pick which one, it would be Trea Turner, who I think is the least likely to fall to the Pirates. I like the possible upside of Hill, but Zimmer already offers the same package, just as a polished college player that could move quicker through the system and be a safer pick. There were questions about Freeland’s ability to stay at starter in the pros despite some strong numbers this season and a few huge strikeout totals. Due to that question mark, I’d probably rate him the lowest of this group and take a handful of players from the next tier over him. That leaves Turner, who should be a solid shortstop that can move through the system quick, hit for average with a little pop and use his plus speed to steal some bases. He would give the Pirates a future lead-off hitter at a position that’s getting harder for teams to fill.
Tim Williams: The Pirates drafted Turner out of high school in 2011, and offered him more than half a million to sign as a 21st round pick. He turned that down, and now he finds himself as a guy who is guaranteed to go in the first round. If he somehow drops to the Pirates, they should take him again. He’s got the defensive skills to stick at shortstop, and has a lot of speed. The Pirates have a speedy shortstop with the defensive skills to stick at the position and the potential to be a leadoff guy in Alen Hanson. Drafting Turner would provide insurance in the event that Hanson can’t stick at the position, and could also create a situation where Turner moves Hanson over to second, creating a dynamic middle infield of the future. From a value standpoint, Zimmer would be a great pick here. The Pirates don’t need an outfielder, so he would likely end up as a big trade chip in the future if he was drafted.
Otherwise known as the “These Are the Guys Who Are Good Fits For the 24th Overall Pick” Tier
Spencer Adams, Tyler Beede, Alex Blandino, Jacob Bukauskas, Nick Burdi, Michael Chavis, Braxton Davidson, Erick Fedde, Brandon Finnegan, Derek Fisher, Ti’quan Forbes, Jacob Gatewood, Michael Gettys, Casey Gillaspie, Foster Griffin, Monte Harrison, Nick Howard, Kodi Medeiros, Luis Ortiz, A.J. Reed, Sean Reid-Foley, Kyle Schwarber, Marcus Wilson
The 2014 draft is deep with talent, and it shows in this group. A lot of the guys who project to be available with the 24th pick this year would have probably been taken around pick 15 in the 2013 draft. Last year the Pirates were linked to guys like D.J. Peterson and Hunter Renfroe, before seeing Reese McGuire fall to them at 14th overall. A lot of the guys in this tier have similar talent and upside to guys like Peterson and Renfroe. If you’re looking for a potential first baseman of the future, this group has that with guys like Casey Gillaspie and Kyle Schwarber. If you want a pitcher who isn’t going to be just a back of the rotation guy, then Tyler Beede and Erick Fedde are two options. Fedde would have been ranked higher, but saw his value drop due to Tommy John surgery. There are also high upside prep pitchers like Luis Ortiz or Sean Reid-Foley. Or there are high upside position players, like Jacob Gatewood or Monte Harrison. There are a lot of different ways the Pirates could go in this group, and all of them would result in getting a talented player.
John Dreker: This group shows just how hard it is to predict the 24th overall pick, because at some time or another, they were all players we looked closely at in our draft coverage. I’ll start by eliminating Bukauskas just because he declared he was going to college and asked not to be drafted. I’ll also eliminate Burdi and Howard because they are relievers. That still leaves a huge group and my favorite would probably be Kyle Schwarber. I could see him moving to first base and providing huge value to the Pirates with his bat within a couple years. I have Gillaspie right behind him, almost as good of a hitter, but he’s also a switch-hitter that has played first base, so it’s close. Gatewood offers huge upside, but also a low floor and Monte Harrison could end up being one of the best players in this draft, but just like Gatewood, he isn’t a sure thing. Beede and Fedde are two pitchers the Pirates could take a chance on, with huge potential payoffs. You almost can’t go wrong with this pick and there’s a good chance that a few I didn’t mention will be available with that #39 pick, so I’d expect a solid player there as well.
Tim Williams: It would be hard to pass on Schwarber. He’s a catcher, but doesn’t project to stick at the position over the long run. The Pirates don’t need him at that position, and could speed up his path to the majors with a move to first base. I know that a lot of people will want a hitter here, but the best pick might be Erick Fedde. He would have been a top 15 pick if it wasn’t for his injury. He still could go high, but if he falls to the Pirates, they’d have to consider taking him. He’s not going to pitch this year, and might not be back until mid-season next year. However, Tommy John surgery is pretty systematic at this point, with most pitchers returning to where they were prior to the injury. Fedde was a guy who throws 90-93, touching as high as 97, with a plus slider and an average changeup. He also has a projectable frame, which could use some more weight to increase durability. The Pirates do a good job improving the changeup, and have had success adding strength to skinny, projectable pitchers. Fedde would be a great high upside pick, and would probably be the best bet of this group to land a top of the rotation arm.
Otherwise known as the “The Pirates Now Have the 39th Overall Pick, Too” Tier
Scott Blewett, Jack Flaherty, Matthew Imhof, Michael Kopech, Mac Marshall, Mike Papi, Justus Sheffield, Chase Vallot, Cameron Varga, Forrest Wall, Luke Weaver
There will probably be a few guys left over from the previous group at pick number 39. Obviously, they would make better choices than the guys in this tier. There are a few options here if you’re looking for a potential first baseman of the future. Mike Papi and Chase Vallot would lead that group. There are also some high upside starters, such as Scott Blewett and Matt Imhof.
John Dreker: Just looking at this group, I’d go Scott Blewett, followed by Imhof. If he was healthy all season, I have no doubt that Blewett would have been in the third tier and one of my favorites from that group. He offers huge upside on the mound, with a big frame that has room to fill out. Pitching in upstate New York, he has a shorter season than most, so there is the “results despite being raw” factor to add in with him. I think once you get someone like him in your farm system and he fills out, you have a top of the rotation workhorse. Flaherty offers an intriguing two-way player, who is strong on the mound and at third base, so he gives you multiple options, but I like the upside of Blewett the best.
Tim Williams: My favorite from this group would be Chase Vallot. He’s another catcher who profiles best in the long-term as a first baseman. He has a lot of work to do with his game behind the plate, although the Pirates wouldn’t need to worry about that. They could move him to first base and have him concentrate only on his hitting. Baseball America gave him a Mike Napoli comparison, although that was more for his ability as an offensive minded catcher who could eventually move to first. Like most of the guys in this group, Vallot would be a good pick at number 39, but a great pick if he somehow drops to the Pirates in the second round.
Otherwise known as the “There Really Wasn’t a Difference Between Tier 5 and 6, So We Made One Huge Tier” Tier
Brian Anderson, Bobby Bradley, Dylan Cease, Michael Cederoth, Matthew Chapman, Dylan Davis, J.D. Davis, Austin DeCarr, Christopher Ellis, Garrett Fulencheck, Aramis Garcia, Joseph Gatto, Austin Gomber, Daniel Gossett, Brett Graves, Grayson Greiner, Grant Hockin, Connor Joe, Cobi Johnson, Mitch Keller, Jeren Kendall, Zech Lemond, Jacob Lindgren, Trace Loehr, Jordan Luplow, Keaton McKinney, Bryce Montes de Oca, Gareth Morgan, Josh Morgan, James Norwood, Chris Oliver, David Peterson, Matthew Railey, Milton Ramos, Cody Reed, Jakson Reetz, Carson Sands, J.J. Schwarz, Eric Skoglund, Evan Skoug, Chad Sobotka, Taylor Sparks, Jake Stinnett, Andrew Suarez, Trey Supak, Samuel Travis, Cole Tucker, Spencer Turnbull, Alex Verdugo, Keith Weisenberg
We debated on whether to split this group up, or make one massive tier to round out the top 100. The decision was to include everyone in the same group, since there wasn’t a big difference between the number 5 and 6 tiers. The only reason there would have been two groups would be to create a split after the second round picks for the Pirates. The Pirates went with a high upside approach last year, making a lot of really strong picks in rounds 2-10. This group would allow them to take that same approach this year, going for upside and hoping to hit it big on a few picks.
John Dreker: This group is huge, so I’ll focus in on the names I know the most about. Michael Cederoth has a power-pitcher arm, but lacks control. One of the best arms in this entire draft class, so if he’s available in the second round, I’d spend the #64 or #73 pick on him and hope that he can improve his control enough because the upside is huge. At one time last year, he was being mentioned as a possible top five pick for this season. Eric Skoglund is a former Pirates pick that went to college for three years, but still offers upside because he has room to add weight to a 6’7″, 200 pound frame. He’s a big, projectable lefty that has shown solid improvements this year. Joey Gatto is an arm I really like among the prep pitchers. Good fastball that gets a lot of ground balls, plus a chance to have two solid off-speed pitches. Matt Chapman is a plus defender at third base, who should be an average hitter in the pros, making him a solid major leaguer. As for prep hitters, the best seems to be Josh Morgan, who I got a chance to watch during the National HS Invitational playing against Touki Toussaint. He looks like a future shortstop, with a solid approach at the plate, allowing him to get on base and use his plus speed.
Tim Williams: There are several former Pirates picks here. Eric Skoglund was taken by the Pirates in the 16th round in 2011, and wanted about half a million to sign, coming off an injury. He still remains an interesting pitching prospect, and still has room for upside with his frame. Zech Lemond was a 50th round pick in 2011. He profiles best as a future reliever, and comes with some red flags due to a sore arm and some abuse at Rice University. Jake Stinnett was a 29th round pick by the Pirates last year, but returned for his senior year and looks like a top three round talent after taking a huge jump in value this year. A guy just outside of this group, Aaron Brown, was a high upside prep player in 2011, who the Pirates tried hard to sign as a 17th rounder. He dealt with injuries early in his time at college, but did well this season, and has good upside as a left-handed pitcher or outfielder.