Part four of the Pittsburgh Pirates draft preview is the high school pitchers. The links for the first three parts of the preview are below. There seems to be a lot of pitchers with first round potential this year, both college and prep, but right now there only seems to be one high school pitcher who looks like a sure thing to be off the board before the Pirates pick. That gives Pirates fans a nice group of young arms to watch this Spring, leading up to the amateur draft. There is also a large group of high school pitchers that project as second or third round picks right now, so this group could be much bigger if enough kids take steps forward. For now, we are just giving you a general sense of what is currently out there in the Pirates range so you get an idea of what they could get with the 25th overall pick.
It’s probably wrong of me to start off a Pittsburgh Pirates draft preview with a player they have no chance of getting. Especially when he is a 6’5″, 250 pound righty that hits 97 MPH. Tyler Kolek from Texas has a workhorse type body, throws hard, has good secondary stuff and is still projectable. He could be the first high school player off the board. Many rate him as the best high school player overall and he could possibly go top three in the draft.
Going with the more realistic options, we start with Brady Aiken, who is a 6’3″, 210 pound lefty from California. There is a split on him, as some have him as a top ten pick, while Kiley McDaniel rated him 35th among high school players. The split might be due to his velocity, which sits high 80’s, but at his age and build, he should be able to add velocity as he gets bigger and older. Aiken changes speed well, throwing a nice three pitch mix, adding in a change and a curve that could be plus pitches in the future. He has good control and he’s already has an advanced feel for pitching.
Touki Toussaint has fallen back in the rankings for most people due to inconsistent velocity. As a junior, he was topping out at 97 MPH and some scouts had him as one of the best high school players a year before he was eligible. By late in the year, his velocity was down and his stock dropped. If you follow Kiley McDaniel for draft rankings, you would have seen Toussaint go from first overall for prep pitchers, down to third, down to 12th and in his last ranking in November, he was down to 24th place. Baseball America still has him fifth overall among high school players. Toussaint has decent size from the right side, displaying an above average curve ball and a solid change-up. There are some command issues with him and he has a high-effort delivery, but he is an athletic pitcher with room to fill out and two potential plus offerings.
Grant Holmes is a high rated righty now, that could possibly drop in the rankings. He offers a fastball that sits low 90s and hits 96 MPH. He also has a power curve, giving him two plus pitches. The questions with him seem to stem from his build, which unlike most high school players, he has already filled out. He has minor issues with his command and while pitching in front of multiple scouts this Summer, he didn’t use his change-up once. A two-pitch pitcher with some command issues will drop in the draft, so he has something to prove this Spring. He still has a big arm though, so if he’s still available when the Pirates select, he could be a name to watch. His two biggest problems(command and change-up) are two things the Pirates stress with their young pitchers, so they might not see it as a big problem, especially considering they don’t rush high school pitchers through the system.
Dylan Cease out of Georgia is a right-hander to keep an eye on. His stock has dropped recently due to poor late-season performances, but he has shown potential in the past to be a high first round pick. He hits mid-90’s with his fastball and has a curve that shows plus potential, while also throwing an average change-up. Cease had some stamina issues, but that isn’t rare for high school pitchers and once he fills out, that shouldn’t be an issue. He has a lot of late movement on his fastball, which runs in on right-handed batters. Cease’s delivery looks clean and easily repeatable, though Kiley McDaniel noted early last year that he has some head violence at the end that sometimes affects his command, but it was something he was working on.
Luis Ortiz is a righty out of California that is listed at 6’3″, 220 pounds. He lights up the radar gun, hitting 97 MPH and he has a plus slider. Add in the workhorse build, which is something he worked hard improving on in the last year. Ortiz also has a change-up that has plus potential and he’s not afraid to use it in any situation. In a very early mock draft, he went 19th overall and that might be low if he continues to improve. Ortiz is one of the older top prep players in the draft, so that might be an issue for some teams when evaluating him.
Kodi Medeiros is a lefty from Hawaii, who Baseball America ranks as the seventh best high school player and one mock draft had him going one spot after the Pirates picked. He could shoot up the draft board though because he offers a three-pitch mix that includes a fastball that touches 94 MPH and his secondary stuff may be the best of any high school pitcher. Medeiros isn’t huge at 6’1″, 190 pounds, but he is solidly built. A lefty with his arsenal shouldn’t last long in the draft, but if he’s available at the 25th spot, he will be hard to pass on.
Cobi Johnson is a typical top of the line high school pitcher. A 6’4″ righty, he throws a low 90’s fastball, a nice curve and he throws strikes. Like most high school kids, he has stamina issues, especially holding his velocity. He also needs to fill out more and his change-up needs work. Right now, he falls into the Pirates range for most people, but he has potential to jump up the charts with some added strength. If he doesn’t show that in high school, he might be someone that makes huge strides after you get him in your farm system.
Sean Reid-Foley doesn’t throw as hard as most others on the list, but he has a good size and arm speed, so he should be able to add velocity. The righty now has a late first or second round projection, but that could improve if he adds some velocity or shows better secondary stuff, including a change-up that needs work. He actually moved up the charts a little with some good showings after his high school season was done, which included a slight jump in his velocity during shorter outings. If he shows that same range during this season, he should have no trouble going somewhere in the first round.
Scott Blewett is another interesting player for Pirates fans to watch. He is rated as a second round pick right now. You have to like the size he has already and like most high school players, he has room to fill out. Blewett stands 6’6″, 220 pounds and throws from the right side. His fastball sits low-90’s, touching 96 MPH and he has a big curve that can be seen in the video below. Scouts like his delivery, but for now he is held back by his inability to hold his velocity late. He should be able to improve on that as he fills out. If he shows some improvements, he could sneak into the first round and possibly still be around when the Pirates pick.