Draft Prospect Watch: College Shortstop Has Become a Position of Strength in the Draft

Today we take a look at the depth at shortstop in this draft, along with a game report for two of the top college bats. 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.

It seems like there are college shortstops coming out of the woodwork recently. We started the year with three names to watch, LSU’s Alex Bregman, Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson and Florida’s Richie Martin. A couple weeks ago, I added Texas shortstop CJ Hinojosa to the watch, after he was ranked 18th overall among all college players. Then last week, Arizona’s Kevin Newman became the new shortstop to watch, after he and his double play partner(Scott Kingery) got off to terrific starts this season. This week, we add a new name to the list.

A couple days ago, John Manuel tweeted that Kyle Holder from San Diego was getting 70 grades for his defense, with Manuel pointing out how rare that is for a college shortstop. Holder is a lefty bat with decent size for a shortstop at 6’1″, 185 pounds. He hit .298/.358/.403 in 52 games last year. Holder didn’t walk much, but he also didn’t strike out much either. He was 7-for-9 in stolen bases and hit three homers. This season, he is hitting .353/.409/.412 through 22 games and he’s made just one error. The ability to hit for average, make solid and consistent contact, while playing above average defense at shortstop, will likely get him selected on day one of the draft. It will be interesting to see where he ranks when new mock drafts start coming out.

Speaking of Richie Martin, he is in danger of losing ground to some of these other shortstops, because the bat hasn’t been there so far this season. He had a strong game against Stetson on Tuesday this week, going 3-for-4, with three runs scored, a walk, HBP and two stolen bases. His teammate Harrison Bader rebounded from a slow weekend, going 2-for-4 with a walk. Bader had a 1.451 OPS going into last week’s action. Martin is hitting .292/.412/.406 through 26 games. While the on base % is nice, his average is last among regulars on Florida and his slugging ranks him sixth among regulars.

There was a big mid-week game in Knoxville, with Cincinnati’s Ian Happ going up against Tennessee’s Christin Stewart on Wednesday night. I was able to watch this game to get a good look at the players I’ve been writing about. Happ grounded out weakly on the first pitch he saw against a lefty pitcher of note for Pirates fans, Zach Warren. He was the Pirates 23rd round draft pick last year(more on him below). In his second at-bat, Happ grounded the second pitch between third and shortstop and it actually hit off both player’s mitts for a generous hit. Happ was thrown out trying to steal second and it wasn’t even close. In his third time up(this time batting lefty), he swung at a 3-2 pitch in the dirt and struck out. Happ flew out to center field in his fourth at-bat, ending his day 1-for-4 with that infield single.

He didn’t look good in this game at the plate, but he has been one of the better hitters during this college season, so you can chalk it up to a bad game. The throw he made from right-center(mentioned below) was strong and he is an athletic looking player.

The lefty hitting Stewart flew out to right-center in his first at-bat. Ian Happ in center field caught the ball and made a strong throw that would have got a runner tagging up at second base, but the third baseman missed the catch. In Stewart’s second at-bat, he hit the first pitch hard to right field for an out. He grounded out slowly to the second baseman in his third at-bat, reaching on a fielder’s choice. In the seventh inning, Stewart popped out to third base in an at-bat in which he saw four breaking balls and a fastball out of the zone. He went 0-for-4 on the day and scored a run. Stewart looked bad against a couple breaking balls, then that was almost all he saw afterwards. He looked good at the plate in a couple of the at-bats, which also included some well-hit foul balls.

Warren looked real good during his five shutout innings, especially for a freshman. He threw 68 pitches and did well keeping the ball down in the zone and throwing quality strikes. His scouting report out of college said he threw high-80’s and he was sitting 87-89 on Wednesday, touching 90 MPH. He didn’t throw many breaking balls and didn’t need to against Cincinnati, a team that has 22 freshmen.

Links and Notes

**Joe Demers was listed among our “others to watch” in the prep pitchers season preview and he began his year with a perfect game. He pitched his team to a 3-1 victory on Wednesday in the NHSI and threw a complete game in the process. Nathan Rode had him sitting 90-92, hitting 93 MPH early on, and touching 89 MPH late. MLB Pipeline has notes from the NHSI, including a report on Demers.

**Perfect Game has an article on Josh Staumont from Azusa Pacific and the easy heat he throws. Staumont was mentioned here early in the year after he hit 100 MPH in his first start. Early in the year, he was ranked as a likely 2nd/3rd round pick.

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.

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