Draft Prospect Watch: Injury Updates and New Rankings

There were a couple injuries recently with updates that don’t look good for the players. The most notable is Virginia lefty Nathan Kirby, who left his last start early due to a lat strain. It’s now looking doubtful that he will pitch again before the draft. He had an MRI earlier this week and found out that he will miss the next 6-8 weeks. The draft starts in 45 days, so even his most optimistic return date will have him back right around then. He could pitch in the College World Series, which starts on June 13th, but that won’t help him on draft day.

It will be interesting to see what this does to Kirby on draft day. Early in the year, it seemed like he could possibly drop to the Pirates with their first pick at #19 overall, but everyone had him ranked higher. As the season went along, he started to drop and before the injury, some rated him as a possibility for their second pick, 13 spots later. Teams have got a good look at him over the years, so there is enough in the past to go on, but the recent drop, followed by an injury, could scare some teams off. Reports have him now as a limited upside pitcher that can move quick through the system, but he won’t be an ace. With the 32nd overall pick, a possible #3 starter that looks like a #5 starter at worst, might be a good pick.

We mentioned Gio Brusa recently, a player that started off this season slow for Pacific and really hasn’t picked it up like you would expect from a top draft prospect. He is also out with an elbow strain that will cost him at least two weeks, but could put him out for the season. Brusa had a strong summer, which put him on a lot of radars as a possible late first round pick. He has upside, but has never put it together(except during the summer). He has hit .291 with four homers this year, but has struck out 31 times in 110 at-bats. For college baseball, that is a really high total/rate and it’s something he has had trouble with in the past. Brusa could be a JaCoby Jones type, where you get him lower than he was ranked, and hope he reaches his potential.

New Rankings, Same Story

Chris Crawford ranked the top 75 draft prospects for Baseball Prospectus(subscription required). In the #19 spot, he has prep outfielder Garrett Whitley out of New York. We covered Whitley in our draft preview and the scouting reports have remained the same. He has plus speed and strong tools across the board, plus he has an advanced approach at the plate, which is something you don’t always see with players from cold weather states.

After Whitley is a name we have now heard countless times, Cal Poly Pomona starter Cody Ponce. Right after Ponce is Nathan Kirby, but with the recent news that came out after these rankings, he is sure to drop. Ponce had his best start last weekend and it sounds like everyone expects him to go in the Pirates’ range. He is a huge, hard-throwing right-hander, who has top of the rotation upside, but unlike Kirby, he’s a risk to end up as a bullpen arm and will take longer to get to the Majors. If you had a choice between the two pitchers, it would definitely be a risk/reward decision, raw/upside vs safe pick.

When you go down to the 32nd spot, Crawford has prep righty Drew Finley. Right before Finley is Phil Bickford, another often-mentioned player in the Pirates’ range. Only Ponce has been mentioned more often recently. Finley didn’t make our early season preview because no one we used for the rankings had him in their top 50. I’ve included a video below for Finley, though he has obviously seen an uptick in his value since this video was put together over last summer. You can see the velocity is 89-90 and the breaking balls have movement, but very little control. Finley just recently put together a masterful game that got him a lot of recognition. Last week he struck out 20 batters in a seven inning game. He has added some polish to his curve ball and his fastball now sits low 90’s.

  • Thinking back to when the Pirates went through a looooong stretch with very little high end talent made me prefer the higher upside roll of the dice.