Draft Prospect Watch: Kaprielian Flashes No-Hit Stuff Against a Strong Lineup

We have some news from the weekend so far, plus a mock draft that has a new name for the Pirates. You can find the draft slot values for each pick here, 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.

The big news from the weekend probably put one player out of the Pirates’ reach. Pitcher James Kaprielian from UCLA has gone to the Pirates in a couple recent mock drafts and he has been in their range most of the season, but within the last couple weeks, people have been moving him up a little. His performance on Friday likely guarantees he won’t be around when the Pirates pick. He threw nine no-hit innings in an extra-inning win over Arizona. He walked four and had 11 strikeouts. What makes a no-hit performance even more impressive(if that’s possible), is that Arizona has Scott Kingery and Kevin Newman, two of the better hitters in the country and both are possible first round picks. They each went 0-for-4 in the game.

Cody Ponce, the big righty from Cal Poly Pomona, has been mentioned around the Pirates’ first pick all year. He started against Dixie State on Friday and lost 2-1, though both runs were unearned. In the eight inning complete game performance, he allowed six hits and walked five batters. Ponce had six strikeouts and threw 122 pitches.

Louisville’s Kyle Funkhouser isn’t finishing up strong this season. Last week, he surrendered six runs over five innings and needed 105 pitches to get through his abbreviated outing. On Thursday against NC State, he gave up just two runs over six innings, but he allowed 11 base runners and needed 122 pitches to get through his outing. That is a high pitch count, especially for the amount of innings. When you factor in last week, he’s at 227 pitches for 11 innings. I still think he will be off the board before the Pirates pick, but it might be closer than most thought just two weeks ago when some had him as a top five pick.

Vanderbilt’s Walker Buehler pitched a strong game on Saturday against Alabama, but there were multiple reports of his velocity being down. Keith Law said early that he was 89-93 MPH, while others had him hitting 87 MPH later in the outing. Buehler is usually in the 93-95 range, touching 96 MPH. Some people have him as a top ten pick, while others note that he has a small frame and has pitched mostly on Sunday or during the week, instead of the spotlight games where he is facing the other team’s 1-2 pitchers. The games during the week are usually against lesser competition as well. He has recently gone in the 10-17 range in mock drafts. There is a possibility he could be available when the Pirates pick, especially if a team is scared off by the velocity drop. He will still make another start before the draft, so there could be a lot of attention on the game.

**On Friday, Baseball America posted their second mock draft and it had the Pirates taking Cincinnati outfielder Ian Happ and moving him back to second base, where he played as a freshman two years ago. Happ homered on Thursday against East Carolina, then had a single and walk on Friday. We have another mock draft to add to the one from BA. This one from Matt Garrioch from Minor League Baseball, who has been covering the draft for years. He goes through the second round with his picks, and offers some good insight on players you’ll be hearing about on day one of the draft. Garrioch has the Pirates taking Phil Bickford with the 19th overall pick and Tristan Beck with the 32nd pick.

Beck hasn’t been talked about here, but he is a right-handed prep pitcher with high upside. Keith Law had him rated #35 in his top 100 and Baseball America was a little down on him, placing him 64th recently. MLB Pipeline had him #86, so there is definitely a varied opinion of his potential. He is a 6’4″ righty, which if you’ve followed the draft, has because a signature pick of the Pirates over the years. They have taken a lot of projectable RHP in the 6’3″-6’5″ range. Beck has four nice pitches, including a fastball that reaches mid-90’s, although he lacks stamina to hold it late. He is a Stanford commit, so he won’t be a cheap sign, meaning he needs to be taken fairly high in the draft. We have included a video of Beck courtesy of Big League Futures.

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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