Yesterday, we started off the 2015 amateur draft coverage with a look at the top prep hitters in this year’s class. Today we look at the top draft-eligible prep pitchers. On Wednesday we will cover college hitters, followed by college pitchers on Thursday. The 2015 class is loaded with college pitchers, making all three other groups seem weak in comparison. With that being said, the Pittsburgh Pirates pick 19th and 32nd in the draft, and a lot of these prep pitchers listed below could be possibilities for their first two picks. The draft begins on June 8th this year.
The prep pitching class is loaded with right-handed pitchers, but the two pitchers rated at the top by most sources, are both southpaws. Kolby Allard is consistently ranked in the top ten in this draft class, so he might not be an option for the Pirates unless his stock drops. He isn’t big, listed at 6’0″, 170 pounds, but he has two plus pitches and excellent control. He is also very young for the draft class, turning 18 this upcoming August, so he has time and room to grow. Allard has a low-90’s fastball and a strong curve. I’ve included a video of him below courtesy of Big League Futures.
The second best left-hander is Justin Hooper, who is a giant on the mound, standing 6’7″, 230 pounds. He has a better fastball than Allard, but not quite as good command or secondary stuff. According to MLB.com, scouts are split on whether he has a future as a starter or a bullpen arm. Any team drafting him early in the first round will likely keep him in the starting role as long as possible. Hooper hits 97 MPH as a starter, so you could imagine how effective that fastball could be as a reliever. Both Hooper and Allard have commitments to UCLA, though it’s unlikely either makes it there unless they fall in the draft.
Right-hander Ashe Russell is ranked in the 10-20 area by all the sources I checked for this article. His appearance has the look of a Pirates draft pick, standing 6’4″, with a projectable frame. He throws hard, with some effort to his delivery. Russell has an above average fastball/slider combo, but hasn’t used his change-up often. MLB.com says that scouts see him ending up in the bullpen due to his two-pitch mix and high effort delivery, so that could keep him from getting picked before the Pirates get a shot at him.
Beau Burrows has something in common with Russell besides being another top ranked right-handed pitcher. Both of them have commitments to Texas A&M. Burrows has the best fastball among all prep righties in this draft. The early rankings had him anywhere from 12th to 30th best in this draft class and that could be due to his lack of projection. He is 6’1″, 200 pounds and not much room to fill out, plus he turned 18 back in September, so he is old for the draft class. Burrows has good control and two strong secondary pitches, so he is one of the better current pitchers in the draft, but there isn’t a big difference between his current status and his ceiling. We saw last year that the same thing was being said about Kodi Medeiros, who ended up going early to the Brewers, surprising some people who had him at the back-end of the first round. Burrows would seem like one of the safer picks among prep pitchers.
Donny Everett has a workhorse frame at 6’2″, 220 pounds and he turns 18 in April, so there is still time to fill out. The right-hander throws hard and has a slider with a chance to be a plus pitch, but he also has a high-effort delivery, which leads to some command issues at times, so that could scare some teams off. He has good stamina already, so a team that thinks about drafting will have to weigh the good and bad between a possible 200+ inning pitcher, versus the potential risk with his delivery.
Mike Nikorak is a 6’5″ righty out of Stroudsburg, Pa. He can hit 97 MPH with good movement on his fastball. Both his curve and change have been referred to as solid average pitches that flash plus potential. He already has solid control and an easy motion with lots of room for projection in his frame. He will be one to watch, as he is consistently ranked in the Pirates range and depending on his progress, he could be an option for either one of their first two picks.
If I had to pick a high school pitcher the Pirates could take a long look at, it would be right-hander Austin Smith. He is 6’4″ and throws easy heat. Watching a video of him, it almost looks like he’s still early in his warm-ups when he’s throwing his low-90’s fastball. His secondary stuff needs work and he turns 19 in July, so there is some flaws, but with a nice easy motion, he should have no trouble throwing strikes and adding velocity in the future. He’s ranked early second round now, so he seems more like a possibility for the second Pirates pick.
Kyle Molnar is the third player with a UCLA commitment in this group. He is a lot like Austin Smith, hitting low-90’s with an easy, repeatable delivery. Unlike Smith however, the 6’3″ righty has a plus change-up, so his secondary stuff won’t need as much work. Molnar seems like the more polished pitcher now between he and Smith, plus he’s four months younger, so you would think he would be rated higher. All the sources I checked have them fairly close in the rankings to each other, never more than three spots apart.
Other names to watch are: LHP Juan Hillman, RHP Cole McKay, RHP Chandler Day, RHP Joe DeMers, RHP Triston McKenzie
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
theres a few top prospect that catch my eye off the bat.. (pun intended)
1.Justin Hoooper- Huge upside in this kid, love his game
2.Chris Betts- Great bat, solid contact/power, could move to first
3.Kyle Tucker- athletic, great hitter
4. Mike Nikorak- he’s a pirates pitcher through and through
5. Cornelius Randolph- could slide over to 3rd and provide the premier prospect at the position
My page is jumping up and down!
Beau Burrows looks like a pitcher that might be there when the Pirates pick. He can reach 96, mid 80’s change, upper 70’s curve and his fastball has 2600 spin rate something that is outstanding. He is not big so durability comes into play, might be a top back-end of the pen guy if he does not work out as a starter.
Nikorak sounds nice. I like that he’s got the plus curve/change combo with control. He hits 97 with movement, that makes him even more dangerous. Buccos always try to teach change and control. This kid already has them. Didn’t see one thing in the write up about him that was not to like.
Hopefully, we continue to NOT take safe picks and go for the higher ceiling pitchers.
I agree. Especially the later into the 1st round we find ourselves picking. If there isn’t that high upside prep guy on the board for us, I certainly would not object to the approach of taking a flier on an upper class college arm.Ala’ Mike Leake, Michael Wacha, not nearly as projectable as a G.Cole… But seasoned enough from the gate to be a 4 or 5 starter within 12 months at the big league level.