Draft Prospect Watch: Multiple Players Moving Up the Draft Boards Lately

Today we look at some players on the move in the draft, with one that might be rebounding from an early season drop. On Thursday, we posted the draft slot values for each pick, covering all 11 picks the Pirates have in the first ten rounds. After the tenth round, teams have $100,000 to spend on each player and anything over that counts against their bonus pool. 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.

On Saturday we mentioned that outfielder Chris Shaw from Boston College had a hand injury. On Sunday he found out he has a broken hamate bone. This obviously comes at a bad time for his draft status, but it’s an injury that is well-known for baseball players and how they recover from it. Broken hamate bones take about a year to fully heal from, although players can begin to play again within a short time(4-6 weeks usually, though Shaw said he wants to return sooner). It will sap his power, which is a big part of his game, so a team scouting him will have to take that into consideration. Shaw hit three homers last Sunday and it looked like he was just starting to heat up at the plate.

Florida shortstop Richie Martin hit a three-run homer on Saturday, as part of a big game against South Carolina. He drove in six runs total in the 12-5 victory, also connecting on his seventh double of the season. The homer was the third for Martin, who hit just one in his first two years combined. On Sunday, he went 2-for-3, with a sacrifice fly and his 12th stolen base. Martin was rated 41st best in this draft class recently by Keith Law. The lower ranking shows that a player who was once thought to be a possibility for the Pirates’ top pick, is now a player they may not consider with their second pick unless they really like what he brings to the game. Martin will stick at shortstop and should hit for a decent average, while providing 25-30 stolen bases a season. If his bat continues to step up as the season draws to an end, I could see him start to climb back up the charts.

Cincinnati outfielder Ian Happ has played his way out of being a possible draft pick for the Pirates. Even before this weekend, Happ had moved into the top ten for many people, getting rated as high as seventh by one source. On Sunday against Xavier, he had five hits and a walk in six plate appearances. Happ hit two homers, giving him nine on the season. In 33 games, he is now hitting .397/.510/.698, with 30 walks and 17 extra-base hits.

Illinois lefty Kevin Duchene has been pitching well all season and he is pushing his draft stock up into the first round. Earlier in the season, most had him as a back-end of the second round pick, rating him just outside the top 50 in many cases. In fact, his teammate Tyler Jay, who has been used almost exclusively in relief, was actually ranked higher. They have both pitched lights out this year, with Jay posting an 0.79 ERA in 34 innings. He has a 3:39 BB/SO ratio and a .161 BAA. Duchene has an 0.75 ERA in 48 innings, with a 4:53 BB/SO ratio and a .220 BAA. He has allowed just four earned runs in seven starts. It now looks like Illinois could have two first round picks on their pitching staff.

A few weeks into the season, we started mentioning Arizona shortstop Kevin Newman and his teammate second baseman Scott Kingery. Neither of them were in the early top 50 lists we used for our college hitter draft preview, but they have both shot up the draft charts since then. While no one else is as high on Newman as Keith Law, who recently ranked him as the second best player in the draft, there is little doubt that he will go in the first round this year, and possibly very early. Newman might be the best pure hitter in the draft, though he lacks over-the-wall power. He is batting .391/.439/.500 in 33 games, hitting 12 doubles and stealing 12 bases.. Newman puts the ball in play when he bats, as evident by his 11 walks and eight strikeouts. Kingery is hitting even better, with a .458/.490/.697 slash line. He too puts the ball in play often, with eight walks and ten strikeouts. While second baseman usually don’t go high in the draft as a rule, Kingery should be one of the few that sneaks into the first round.

Southern Nevada’s Phil Bickford faced Utah State Eastern on Saturday and threw four no-hit innings, allowing just a walk, though he faced the minimum. Bickford struck out nine batters, giving him 105 strikeouts in 56 innings. He has been on a limited pitch count this season to keep his work down. Bickford has been mentioned multiple times in the Pirates’ range recently. He was taken tenth overall in the 2013 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays and transferred this off-season to Southern Nevada so he would be eligible for this year’s draft. It’s unlikely he will go in the top ten, but he shouldn’t last much longer.

A little former Pirates draft pick news and it is two players that should really move up the draft charts this June. Pepperdine’s Jackson McClelland gave up two runs over seven innings on Friday, in a 3-2 win against Santa Clara. He has a 1.83 ERA in 64 innings over nine starts. McClelland has held hitters to a .212 BAA, while posting a 26:45 BB/SO ratio. The walks are a little high, but he issued just one free pass on Friday and needed just 90 pitches to get through his outing. He was a 35th round pick by the Pirates in 2012 and he is sure to move up into the top ten rounds, getting mentioned as high as the 4th-5th round range early in the year, before he started posting strong stats each week.

Also doing well is Paul DeJong, a second baseman from Illinois State that the Pirates took in the 38th round last year. He is batting .392/.484/.723 in 32 games, with ten doubles and 11 homers. The Pirates made a late run to sign him last year after he had a strong summer league, but they weren’t able to due to the draft bonus pool, which they maxed out when they signed 11th round pick Gage Hinsz.

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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