In part three of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 draft preview, we take a look at the college hitters, or lack thereof this year. Using four different draft prospect rankings to put together these previews, only 11 college hitters got mentioned in the top 50 and five of them were back-end of the top 50 players that didn’t make every list.
The 2015 amateur draft is loaded with college pitchers, so that will be the main focus this year, but there are still some hitters in the college ranks to keep an eye on. Early on in the year, the players below will be the ones we concentrate on and if anyone else jumps up the ranks, they will be added to our coverage. The draft begins on June 8th and the Pirates have the 19th and 32nd overall picks. You can read the prep hitter coverage here, and yesterday we covered the top high school pitchers. Tomorrow we will tackle the huge class of college pitchers that are getting mentions among the top 50 prospects in this draft.
Starting with Vanderbilt middle infielder Dansby Swanson, who has been mentioned numerous times as a top ten pick. He is going to play shortstop this year and there are some questions as to whether he can handle the position full-time, so his draft spot will probably rely on how well he handles shortstop. He has a good glove and arm, so if he proves he is more than just a second baseman, then it’s unlikely the Pirates will have a shot at him. He is a solid line drive hitter, with below average power and above average speed.
LSU’s Alex Bregman was mentioned early last year as a possible first overall pick this year. That was after being named Freshman of the Year, but he followed it up with a disappointing season and has fallen back to the 10-15 range now. He plays shortstop now, but most believe he will move to second base due to his range. Bregman should hit for average in the pros and show a little pop. He stole 12 bases in 18 attempts, flashing average speed. He also had 27 walks and 21 strikeouts, while posting a team-best .397 OBP. You can view a recent article by Baseball America on Bregman here.
Outfielder Ian Happ from Cincinnati has been named by Jim Callis as the best hitting prospect in the Cape Cod League each of the last two years. He’s a switch-hitter, who has a 79:67 BB/SO ratio during his two seasons in college. He runs well and has a decent arm. Happ hasn’t hit for much power in college, but he should be a consistent double-digit home run hitter in the pros. He has played second base in the past, but multiple reports say he is better suited for the corner outfield. He is an interesting player to watch for two reasons. The first is that most sources rank him right around the Pirates first pick and he is from Pittsburgh, a graduate of Mt Lebanon HS.
Florida infielder Richie Martin falls right between the Pirates first two picks for many people, which makes him someone we will follow closely this year. He’s interesting because he is an above average shortstop defensively and there aren’t too many guarantees at the position in the draft. Martin has good speed, but his bat is the question mark that holds him back. He doesn’t hit for power, but he’s has a good eye at the plate and should hit for a decent average in the pros. His ceiling is a .280 hitter that gets on base, with 30 steals and Gold Glove defense.
Florida State outfielder D.J. Stewart is a solid-built athletic player that stands in at 6’0″, 230 pounds. He’s a solid lefty bat with a quick swing that should produce a strong average and a little bit of pop, possibly more. MLB.com’s scouting report says that Stewart’s batting stance limits his power and a change could make him a 20+ homer guy each season. So you can see what they are talking about, I’ve provided a video below courtesy of Baseball America. The rest of his tools are average at best, so the bat will have to carry him. He’s listed anywhere from 15 to 28 in the draft rankings.
Pacific outfielder Gio Brusa is a switch-hitter with power, who has average or better tools across the board. He profiles as a right fielder. Brusa moved up rankings with a strong showing in the Cape Cod League. He was considered a top prospect in high school, but hasn’t performed in college. He will have to prove the Cod League stats were legit if he’s going to stay in the first round. He has the tools and frame to be a solid all-around player, though his plate patience and strike zone judgement needs some work.
Boston College outfielder Chris Shaw is a huge lefty bat, listed at 6’3″, 248 pounds. It’s no surprise at that size that MLB.com called him the best power hitter in this college class. He plays right field, but he is painfully slow, so chances are his future is at first base. He has enough bat to make that move and be considered a productive first baseman. Rankings now have him in the 30-40 range, so right now he is someone to watch for that second pick.
On last player of note is Joe McCarthy from Virginia. The 6’3″ outfielder was ranked mid-second round by most sources, but that was before he hurt his back and now likely won’t return until late April. He’s a strong hitter from the left side, with a little power and above average speed, so he has probably dropped from a possible late first round pick, to someone that could be a steal when the Pirates pick in the second round.
Other college hitters of note are: Steven Duggar, OF/Clemson, Kevin Newman, SS/Arizona, Christin Stewart, OF/Tennessee