Rounds 21-25: Pirates Break the College Trend; Take Three Interesting Prep Players

After going heavy with college players on day two, and the first ten picks on day three, the Pirates started taking prep players in rounds 21-25. They took three guys from the prep ranks in these rounds, although it might be hard to sign all three of them at this point in the draft. Eric Thomas Jr. is a highly rated draft prospect with a commitment to Sam Houston State. He seems like a project with raw hitting and fielding skills, but his speed makes him a very interesting project.

There wasn’t much available on 23rd rounder Zach Warren, although he’s considered projectable. Nathan Rode had him in the upper 80s last year, which is a good starting point for a lefty.

Denis Karas is an interesting guy who has the arm and ability to stick at third base, and has some power potential. He seems to be ticketed as a possible two-way player with Cal, and despite not being a top 500 prospect in Baseball America’s rankings, he could be a tough guy to sign.

After seeing three guys drafted with the name Eric/Erik in these rounds, and five guys in total on day three, it looks like Eric/Erik/Erich is the new Pirates’ version of Zack/Zach/Zac. – Tim Williams

21st Round, 641st Overall: Eric Thomas Jr., CF, Langham Creek (TX)

Thomas is a small center fielder, drafted by the Pirates in the 21st round of the 2014 draft. He is on the old side for a high school, turning 19 back in March. He was rated 283rd overall in this draft class by Baseball America and attracted a lot of attention due to a down year for baseball talent in Texas. He is one of the fastest players in this draft class, with some scouts giving him the top grade of 80 in speed. Thomas is a very athletic player, who also took his turn on the mound and put up a 1.08 ERA in 51.2 innings. As for his baseball skills, the offense is considered weak and his defensive skill is as well, with his speed making up for mistakes. At this point, he seems like a project. Thomas supposedly makes decent contact at the plate, but he led his HS team in strikeouts. Power is not part of his game. He will have to rely on his plus speed to make it anywhere in the pros, as it sounds like that is his only plus tool at this time. He has a commitment to Sam Houston State. – John Dreker

22nd Round, 671st Overall: Eric Karch, RHP, Pepperdine

Karch was drafted as a senior out of Pepperdine on day three of the 2014 draft. The Pirates seemed to be stocking up on seniors and right-handed pitchers, so he fit perfectly. He is a reliever, who was put into the closer role as a senior and had his best season, posting a low ERA and was tough to hit. One report had him throwing his fastball low-90′s with a good change-up. As a senior, he should sign quick, though his team was still competing in the Super Regionals of the College World Series at the time of his selection. – John Dreker

23rd Round, 701st Overall: Zach Warren, LHP, St. Augustine Prep (NJ)

Warren went to the same school as the much more heralded Joe Gatto.  He throws in the mid- to upper-80s, along with a breaking ball that registers in the 70s.  He may have at least some control issues, as he walked nine in a late-season game.  Given his height, lean frame and good athleticism, the Pirates undoubtedly consider him projectable.  With a Tulane commitment, he’ll require more than slot money to sign. – Wilbur Miller

24th Round, 731st Overall: Denis Karas, 3B, Campolindo HS (CA)

Karas has a commitment to play baseball at Cal. He hit .380 with four homers and seven stolen bases in his sophomore year in high school, then followed that up with a .340 average, two homers, and ten stolen bases as a junior. I couldn’t find his stats as a senior. Cal’s recruiting coordinator Mike Neu said he has the power and offensive ability to eventually hit in the middle of the order for Cal, while playing third base. His arm is strong enough that Cal is considering him for opportunities on the mound as a solid pitcher with a power arm. He’ll probably be a tough guy to sign at this point in the draft. – Tim Williams

25th Round, 761st Overall: Erik Forgione, SS, Washington

Forgione was drafted by the Pirates in the 25th round and doesn’t seem to offer much besides a glove at shortstop. He is one of the better defensive shortstops in college and could remain at the position, although that alone likely won’t get him far. He has strong range, footwork and a plus arm. Forgione supposedly had strong speed out of high school, but the stolen bases numbers in college suggest otherwise. He doesn’t hit for average, get on base or have any power, so the glove alone must be what sold the Pirates on him. As a junior, he could return to college. – John Dreker

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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