MLB Pipeline has updated their top 100 draft prospects list this morning, complete with scouting reports for each player. While the order will change many times before day one of the draft on June 8th, the list will serve as a valuable resource as the draft gets closer.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have the 19th and 32nd picks in the first round. Pipeline ranks Illinois reliever Tyler Jay 19th overall. Jay has pitched great this season, doing so, many times in long relief. This isn’t a mock draft, so they aren’t predicting him to the Pirates, but the only way I could see the team taking him is if they think he profiles as a starter in the pros. A dominating lefty is a nice thing to have in the bullpen and someone like Jay could move quick, but I’m not sure it’s the upside you look for with your first overall pick.
Assuming for a second that this was a mock draft, Pipeline has lefty Brady Aiken and Duke righty Mike Matuella ranked 22nd and 23rd. Aiken was the first overall pick last year, while Matuella was mentioned early as a possible #1 overall pick. Both players are done for the next 10+ months due to Tommy John surgery. Would the Pirates be willing to gamble on their upside, or be scared away by the injury past for both players? The Astros lowered their offer to Aiken after seeing concerns in his post-draft physical. Matuella has had multiple injuries in the past, but both pitchers have huge upside. For Aiken to sign, he would be taking a huge hit from the $5M he turned down last year, as the 19th overall pick draft slot value is worth $2,273,800.
Pipeline has Florida shortstop Richie Martin ranked 32nd overall. If you haven’t heard his name before, welcome to our draft coverage for the first time. He was one of the few college players that has consistently been ranked somewhere around one of the Pirates’ first two picks, so we have talked about him often. Early in the year, Martin was getting a lot of mention in the #19 range. He has dropped recently, but still within range of the second pick. Martin is a strong defensive shortstop, who will stick there in the pros. He should hit for a decent average and steal a lot of bases. He isn’t going to hit for power, which is what seems to be holding him back. Scouts would also like to see him get on base a little more, but if he’s available at #32, that would be a tough pass. There aren’t too many players that scouts think will stick at shortstop and hit enough to be a solid regular, plus steal bases.
Since Pipeline goes top 100, that would also cover the Pirates’ second round pick at #62 and their third round pick, which is 96th overall. I’ll note that they have Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi ranked 63rd, which is well below what many others have him at recently. He has moved up the draft charts quickly due to his power/speed/hitting combo. I couldn’t see him dropping that far and like I said, while this isn’t a mock draft, it would be tough to see the Pirates passing on him with the 62nd pick.
What might be even more impressive about Benintendi ranking in at #63, is the group of players listed shortly after him. Houston pitcher Jake Lemoine, NC outfielder Skye Bolt, Tennessee outfielder Christin Stewart and Miami pitcher Andrew Suarez are all listed from #69-72. Each of them has at least received a passing mention as a possible late-first round pick, which speaks to the depth of this draft class. It’s actually a good year to be picking lower, since there are very few impact players and more solid 2nd-3rd round picks available than usual.
A note on a player that they really have skyrocketing up the charts. Pennsylvania’s own, Mike Nikorak is a prep arm with a lot of potential and they have him ranked 6th overall. He has been up to 97 MPH this season and he has the size/frame to be a possible workhorse starter. Nikorak started yesterday and I’m not sure that his start was considered when they ranked him, as it would be a late adjustment to a list so big. Nikorak threw five innings and struck out ten batters.
According to multiple sources there, he hit 95/96/97 MPH in the first inning depending on what gun you trust. By the third inning, he was low-90’s and by the fifth inning he was high 80’s, so the velocity didn’t hold long. There were mixed reports on his secondary stuff, with Nathan Rode saying that it was inconsistent, but had potential. I’m not sure he would go #6 overall, but it sounds like Nikorak won’t be available when the Pirates make their first selection.
A player that has really dropped is prep lefty Justin Hooper, who many had in the top ten early in the season. He is 6’7″, with a fastball that reaches high 90’s and secondary stuff that at least rates average. He is ranked #30, which means a player that many had in the 5-10 range, now could be available with the second pick for the Pirates. This isn’t just MLB Pipeline being down on Hooper, others have dropped him as well. That would be a lot of potential to pass up.
Some other names that have gone to the Pirates at #19 in early mock drafts/rankings and where they rank for Pipeline now:
Florida prep outfielder Kyle Tucker is #8
Southern Nevada pitcher Phil Bickford is #18
Virginia pitcher Nathan Kirby, who is out until after the draft due to a lat strain, is #20
Cal Poly Pomona righty Cody Ponce, Georgia prep righty Dakota Chalmers and UCLA righty James Kaprielian rank #26-28.