We start the draft coverage with the preview of the top draft-eligible prep hitters this year. This is part one of four, with prep pitchers tomorrow, followed by college hitters on Wednesday and wrapping up with college pitchers on Thursday. The Pittsburgh Pirates currently have the #19 and #32 picks in the 2015 amateur draft, which begins on June 8th this year. The draft order changed on Monday when the Padres signed James Shields. They gave up their first round pick(16th overall) and the Pirates saw each of their spots in the draft order move up one. That also means their draft bonus pool got bigger, as the higher the pick, the higher the assigned value of that pick.

As we saw last year covering the draft when the Pirates picked #24 and #39, it’s very difficult to predict which player a team will draft the further you go down in the draft order. The Pirates surprised many people by taking Cole Tucker with their first pick and Connor Joe with the following pick, because neither player got mentioned at any point during the year by any reliable source as a possible first round pick. They also threw a curve by saying they drafted Tucker because he was young for his draft class, but then took Joe, who was old for his draft class, making it even harder to guess what they could do this year.

Our draft coverage will continue to run the same as it has the last few years, highlighting any player that gets mentioned in the Pirates range(which would be approximately 11-40), while also giving you some names of interest from now until draft day.

Starting with the prep hitters and the first name is one you won’t hear much of this year from us. I’ve read numerous times that there isn’t a consensus first overall pick in this draft, but when I went through all the top draft rankings I could find, they all picked shortstop Brendan Rodgers going first overall. The reason you won’t hear much about him is that he is highly unlikely to fall to the Pirates, so no reason to get any hopes up. You can read a recent article from Jonathan Mayo on Rodgers here.

After Rodgers, everyone else is a possibility now and the group is loaded at the top with outfielders. We start with outfielder Daz Cameron, who has at least average tools across the board, getting higher marks for his hitting and fielding.  He is the son of Mike Cameron, who spent 17 seasons in the Majors. The younger Cameron has good size at 6’1″, 190 pounds and he bats/throws righty. He profiles as a center fielder, who is currently a line drive hitter, but should add power. I’ve included a video at the bottom, courtesy of Big League Futures.

Outfielder Trenton Clark isn’t far behind Cameron and they are very similar players, with one big difference, Clark is a lefty/lefty center fielder. MLB.com ranks him just below Cameron’s arm and glove, with the same grades in hitting, power and speed. He has moved up a lot in the rankings since last year, so he could keep climbing as he gets older and more experienced. Not everyone is sold on him sticking in center field.

Another high-ranked outfielder is Nick Plummer, who has a solid approach at the plate, which should allow him to hit for average and power. He also has above average speed, though it doesn’t translate well to his defense. He plays center field, but his overall defense is average at best, so he will probably move to a corner spot. Among the players profiled in this article, he has the worst arm. Plummer has the bat to play a corner spot, so his defense shouldn’t hold him back in the draft. He is on the small side at 5’11”, 180 pounds and old for the draft class, turning 18 back in July. The latest mock draft had Plummer going to the Pirates.

Garrett Whitley is a step behind the previous three outfielders, but one source had him ranked 14th overall, so he is certainly a possibility for a mid-first round pick. He has the ability to stick in center field and his tools rank average or better across the board, with speed being his best asset. He’s from upstate New York, which tends not to have many well-rounded players due to the cold weather, but Whitley already has an advanced approach at the plate and good baseball instincts.

Switching it up a little from the outfielders, we have catcher Chris Betts, who actually went to the Pirates in one of the early mock drafts. There is no guarantee that he will stick behind the plate. He has the arm for it, but his overall defense lacks polish. A patient team might be able to turn him into a catcher, but his bat is advanced already, so keeping him behind the plate could hold him back. Betts is a power lefty bat, who might be a good fit at first base instead. He is extremely slow, so outfield likely isn’t an option. Teams are excited about the potential from his bat and that should keep him in the first round, even without defense or speed.

One name that might remind you a little of Cole Tucker, is shortstop Cornelius Randolph. He wasn’t universally high rated, making the top 40 for two of the four sources I used. He is the youngest player among the group I’m profiling here, turning 18 days before the draft begins. Randolph probably won’t stick at shortstop due to his range, but he has the bat and arm to stick at third base. He’s a left-handed batter, who should hit for both average and power.

Infielder Kyler Murray is an interesting name because he is also a star football player, who comes from good baseball bloodlines. Murray ranks fairly high for most people without concentrating on baseball, so the feeling is that once he plays just one sport, he could really take off. He’s played some shortstop, but might be better suited for second base. Murray is one of the fastest high school players in the draft and has solid tools across the board. What might hold him back is his size at 5’11”, 180 pounds, and the fact he turns 19 less than a month after the draft.

Two other outfielders have been ranked near the end of the first round, making them a possibility for either Pirates pick. Rail-thin Kyle Tucker is a 6’4″ lefty bat, who could hit for plus power and average once he fills out more. He profiles as a corner outfielder. Demi Orimoloye is also 6’4″, but he has 50 pounds on Tucker. He’s also a corner outfielder, but considered very raw and he lives in Canada, so he isn’t getting a lot of time on the field due to weather. Orimoloye projects to have plus power, to go along with above average speed and arm strength.

Other names to watch are: Shortstop Ryan Mountcastle, first baseman Devin Davis, IF/OF Alonzo Jones, infielder Jonathan India, first baseman Luken Baker, OF/3B Bryce Denton and outfielder Mitchell Hanson.

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21 COMMENTS

  1. Randolph looks interesting, but the Pirates really need LHP prospects. Looking forward to seeing who you profile there John.

  2. Be interested to know if there are any college lefty starting pitchers out there worth a first round choice.

  3. The 16 to 25th picks have produced some good players between 2009 and 2013. Here is a list of the best players and their WAR (according to Baseball Reference):
    .
    A.J. Pollock CF 7.3 WAR 17th pick 2009 ARZ
    Shelby Miller RHP 6.0 WAR 19th pick 2009 STL
    Chad Jenkins RHP 1.4 WAR 20th pick 2009 TOR
    Kyle Gibson RHP 1.2 WAR 22nd pick 2009 MIN
    Mike Trout CF 28.2 WAR 25th pick 2009 ANA
    .
    Christian Yelich CF 4.9 WAR 22nd pick 2010 MIA
    .
    Sonny Gray RHP 4.5 WAR 18th pick 2011 OAK
    Kolton Wong 2B 1.7 WAR 22nd pick 2011 STL
    .
    Lucas Giolito RHP 16th pick 2012 WAS
    Corey Seager SS 18th pick 2012 LAD
    Michael Wacha RHP 2.7 WAR 19th pick 2012 STL
    Marcus Stroman RHP 1.9 WAR 22nd pick 2012 TOR
    .
    Marco Gonzales LHP 0.3 WAR 19th pick 2013 STL
    Hunter Harvey RHP 22nd pick 2013 BAL
    .
    I also listed a few highly ranked prospects in 2012 and 2013, but it is too early to tell on the 2014 draft. 14 or 15 MLB capable players out of 50 picks is a 33% success rate so hopefully the Pirates can be a part of that 33%.

  4. This has nothing to do with high school talent, but I would love if the Bucks could walk away from the draft with one of Vandy’s first rounders: Dansby Swanson, Carson Fulmer, or Walker Buehler. Buehler isn’t going to happen and Swanson would have to struggle this year, but boy would it be incredible to walk away with one of these elite college talents. I am of course biased toward my Alma mater

  5. In 2015, it would be good for the Pirates to draft a viable third base and first base MLB prospects – even if they are HS kids. Since it seems we went heavy with college field position players last year, I’d like to see the team to look for younger players with high upsides.

    Another SS prospect – who can actually stay at the position – would be nice. Another catcher would be great. Pitching is always a need – you can never have enough pitching.

    • Pure 1B prospects are pretty rare and even rarer still are they ever drafted in the first round. 2nd through 10th round is generally where you’re going to find first base prospects. 1st round, you’re more likely going to find a power hitting outfielder and move him to first base if he doesn’t have a lot of speed or is poor defensively.
      .
      I’d like to see a Collage pitcher be drafted, might be able to net a Andrew Cashner, Michael Wacha or Marcus Stroman type pitcher to go along with Cole/Taillon/Glasnow/Kingham in 2 or 3 years.

  6. Although we cannot really judge last year’s draft for another 3-5 years, I still think it was a missed opportunity for the Pirates. Tucker looks like he may be a good fielding SS with good arm and range. The question is will he hit enough? Connor Joe? He hasn’t played yet (for the Pirates system), so I will give him the benefit of the doubt until he does. I just don’t know where he will play, as there seem to be a lot of better outfielders and 2-3 catchers ahead of him in the system. The Keller and Supak picks show promise, and may end up being the best prospects in this Pirates draft. Not much else to really get excited about.

    I just hope that I am proven wrong.

    • I know what you mean, but I think it’ll always be inherently difficult to “get excited” about a draft this young when the team doesn’t have top picks. Not really enough time for any of the kids to break out, such as the three prep arms or Tucker, and not high enough in the order to draft high upside college players.

  7. IMO, the Pirates should go for needs at this stage of their building process, I like Betts, power is precious and 3rd base or 1st base would be needs for the Pirates, I don’t see this guy as a catcher. I also think Kyle Tucker would be a great get.

    • I’m sure not every team uses the best player available method, but it’s usually due to cost associated with players. If you were going to pick a position of need over best player available, you’d probably do it with college players, since they are closer to the majors. The best HS players not named Bryce Harper, usually take 3-4 years to make the majors. and a lot can change during that time.

      • Or if a high school player gets drafted by Baltimore they might get to the majors by age 19 like Bundy or Machado. Funny how Bundy and Machado both came up at the same time as Harper, I wonder if Baltimore was trying to one up Washington? Nah.. that’s crazy.

        • No idea what they were thinking with Bundy, but it sure worked out well! Machado was really rushed too, but he seemed ready and at least they waited until he was a month past his 20th birthday. You have to wonder why some teams are willing to promote guys that quick when you figure cost into their initial production. I’d rather have a more well-rounded player come up and get more of his peak performance. Both of them had no AAA time at all and less than a full season of AA.

    • He was the second highest rated for all HS hitters, but not far from the Pirates pick. If he falls just a little, he’s right there for the 19th pick. If he looks good, he could go a lot higher, but it’s early

  8. Tim, I think it is fairly safe to say that the Pirates will take the best player on their board as long as that player plays C, SS, CF, or is a hard throwing starting pitcher. Outside of Pedro, whom I believe they somewhat regret taking, those are the players that this front office has targeted in drafts. That being said, if a player profiles as limited to a corner position, I do not believe that the front office rates them very highly. Look at the Tucker pick last year, most everyone thought the Pirates would take Monte Harrison, but Harrison profiles more as a corner outfielder, so on the Pirates board, was likely behind Tucker. This is just an observation, and I really haven’t done any research to support this assumption, but it at least seems plausible.

    • According to the Pirates the only reason they took Tucker when they did was because 4 other teams were in the mix to take him before the Pirates second pick (39), the spot they wanted to take him at.

      • They picked Connor Joe at #39 with Harrison still on the board. I don’t think they valued Harrison that high. And since he went 50th overall, it seems other teams didn’t value him that high either.

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