The big news regarding the draft since our article on Thursday, was the Tommy John surgery performed on last year’s first overall pick. We take a look at that below, along with some weekend starts from the best draft-eligible college pitchers around the country. A couple games featured a top pitcher going up against a top hitter. You can read more about the top college pitchers covered below in our draft preview. The draft begins on June 8th and the Pittsburgh Pirates have the 19th and 32nd overall picks. The Pirates will have the 11th highest draft bonus pool.
We start with the news on Brady Aiken and it wasn’t good. On Thursday, he announced that he underwent Tommy John surgery and that will put him out of action for the next 12 months. What that will do to his draft stock is unknown. Aiken turned down $5M last year from the Astros after their physical revealed a problem and they dropped their initial offer, which was over $6M. Aiken decided to return to the draft and attended the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. He lasted all of 13 pitches in his first start before leaving due to tightness and that injury led to Thursday’s surgery.
If some team is willing to take a huge gamble on him, he could still go early in the draft and this could just be considered a minor setback. You also have to take into consideration the bonus he turned down and what he will be willing to accept to sign this year. Only so many teams will be able to work him into his budget if he wants anywhere close to $5M, so there is a chance he could return to the draft next year.
The big game on Friday was Tennessee going up against Vanderbilt. It matched up one of the best pitchers, Vandy’s Carson Fulmer, versus outfielder Christin Stewart, who we had a report for on Thursday. Also featured in the game was Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson, who could be the top college bat selected this year.
This game was all Vanderbilt, with Fulmer pitching a gem. He went eight shutout innings, striking out 12 batters. Fulmer threw 114 pitches, 65 for strikes. He gave up five hits and walked three batters. Stewart faced Fulmer four times, striking out twice, flying out to right field and grounding out to first base. Swanson had a surprisingly bad game considering his team put up nine runs. He went 0-for-5 and struck out three times.
Louisville’s Kyle Funkhouser went seven strong innings against Georgia Tech, picking up the win. He allowed one run on four hits and two walks, with seven strikeouts. His pitch count could be a little concerning, throwing 121 pitches. Funkhouser has a 2.40 ERA in 45 innings, with 49 strikeouts and a .205 BAA.
UC Santa Barbara’s Dillon Tate had a nice bounce back after a rough start last week. Tate took the loss against Long Beach State, but he pitched a great game. He gave up two runs(both unearned) over nine innings, allowing three hits and a walk, while picking up ten strikeouts. I mentioned last week that his poor outing could be an indicator that he was slowing down in the starting role after working as a reliever prior to this season, so this was an important start for Tate.
James Kaprielian from UCLA went eight innings against Washington State in a 4-3 win. He gave up three runs on four hits and a walk. Kaprielian threw 105 pitches, getting nine strikeouts and 11 ground ball outs. He has a 2.35 ERA, with 55 strikeouts and a .217 BAA in 46 innings.
Duke’s Michael Matuella had a tough game due to control issues. He went 4.2 innings against Boston College, allowing six runs(two earned) on five hits, five walks and a hit batter. He threw 93 pitches, 53 for strikes and struck out six batters. Matuella has a 1.08 ERA in 25 innings this year. BC right fielder Chris Shaw went 2-for-3 with a walk, run scored and RBI. He was rated fairly high early in the year, but his performance, except for hitting six homers, has just been average.
Pepperdine’s Jackson McClelland pitched a strong game on Friday afternoon against Portland, going the distance in a 5-1 win. The run he allowed was unearned, as he struck out eight batters and got eight ground ball outs. McClelland threw 117 pitches, 75 for strikes. In 51 innings this year, he has a 1.41 ERA and a .215 BAA.
We talked briefly about Josh Staumont from Azusa Pacific on Thursday. He made some noise in his first game when he was hitting triple digits with his fastball. On Friday, he was again hitting 100 early and still throwing hard when he left after seven innings. Staumont picked up the win against Hawaii Pacific and struck out six batters.
Two prep pitchers of note from this week. The first one is lefty Juan Hillman, who was among our “others to watch” in the prep pitcher draft preview. Prep Baseball Report posted that he went five innings on Thursday and he allowed one run on three hits. Hillman had eight strikeouts and touched 93 MPH with his fastball, showing good command.
A couple weeks ago, we mentioned Nolan Kingham, the younger brother of the Pirates own Nick Kingham. This link has a video and a nice article about the younger Kingham that is worth checking out. The Las Vegas Review Journal has a new article on Nolan, along with a recap of his last game, in which he hit 95 MPH. He has a commitment to Texas and according to the article, he will weigh his options on draft day once he sees where he is selected.
Prep catcher Chris Betts went to the Pirates(when their first selection was 20th overall) in a very early mock draft this year. He was featured in our prep hitters draft preview. Betts has hit well this year, batting .452/.605/1.064 in his first 12 games. While the Pirates have a lot of strong catchers in the lower levels, Betts is a strong lefty bat that could be moved to another position due to defense that is average at best.
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.
John: Guess I am not sure how good Nolan Kingham is now or can be in the future. His brother Nick has certainly paved the way exhibiting a strong work ethic, and doing all of the right things to put him in position for a promotion into the Pirate Rotation in 2015. How soon that happens will be impacted by the results and ability of the Rotation to be successful and stay healthy. Do we need to use the #32 to get him away from his commitment to Texas?
Did Aiken experience a ligament tear that necessitated TJ surgery, or was it the “birth defect” story I have read about of simply having an elbow ligament that was significantly smaller than normal? If he was throwing high 90’s with what Houston felt was an “inferior” ligament, where is his upside going to be after the replacement surgery? I doubt he will be available at #19 , but it means the Pirates will have a strong chance to get some high upside arms to stockpile.
RHSP’s Mitch Keller, 6’3″ 200, Trey Supak, 6’5″ 210, and Gage Hinsz, 6’4″ 210 all turn 19 within the next few months; Tyler Eppler, 6’6″ 220 could be at Hi A at age 22, and Clay Holmes is back from TJ at age 22 and should also start at Hi A Bradenton. The two LHSP’s from the Snider trade can help, but the Pirates may try to find a strong LHSP at #19 or #32
There were no numbers given on Kingham, but I would say that he is thought of as a 4-5th round pick, so he shouldn’t expect a huge total. He is a raw pitcher, but has huge potential. I would say if the Pirates were thinking of getting him, they probably shouldn’t wait longer than the 3rd round. Seems like that would be when they need to take him as 2nd round seems too high.
Aiken tore the ligament
I wouldn’t mind having two Kinghams in our system.