Latest Mock Drafts From Keith Law and Baseball America Have Pirates Going Prep Pitching

The 2015 amateur draft is just four days away, with the Pittsburgh Pirates making their first three picks on Monday night. Below are the two latest mock drafts and they have something in common for the Pirates, prep pitching. As you will see, not only are the picks high school pitchers, but the backup options seem to be as well.

Keith Law posted his fourth mock draft on Thursday and he has the most familiar name in the draft going to the Pirates, prep righty Mike Nikorak. The 6’5″ star pitcher from Stroudsburg Pa., has been the pick for the Pirates more often than any other player in the draft. Nikorak didn’t have the best season, but some of that was weather related. Coming from Pennsylvania, he has less experience than most of the top high school pitchers, but that also means a fresher arm to teams and the possibility for more upside. He can hit 97 MPH and has a strong frame to hold his velocity late and remain a starter in the pros.

Law says that he hears the Pirates are interested in picking up prep arms, and gives Ashe Russell and Kolby Allard as possible backup plans. One of the three(including Nikorak) should be available when the Pirates make their first pick. He also brings up a name that we haven’t mentioned here, Jacob Woodford and says the Pirates have interest. He seems more suited for the second round, but maybe the Pirates take him with their #32 overall pick.

He’s a 6’4″, projectable RHP from Florida, who throws a low-90’s sinker and has a great frame, which should fill out well as he gets older. He doesn’t have the best secondary stuff and he’s old for his draft class, turning 19 later this month. When you compare that to Nikorak, who turns 19 in September and he comes from a cold weather state, you can see where the difference comes from in their rankings. The Pirates likely saw a lot of Woodford because he is teammates of Kyle Tucker, who will be taken early in the first round. Word is that Woodford has a strong commitment to the University of Florida, so he probably won’t be an option after the second round.

Baseball America posted their latest mock draft on Friday morning and they have the Pirates taking lefty Kolby Allard. He was one of the top ranked high school pitchers in this class until a back injury shut him down. Allard hasn’t pitched since the injury, but he is building his way back up, throwing from 120 feet recently, so barring any late setbacks, you should still be getting one of the best pitchers. BA has the Giants taking Mike Nikorak with the 18th pick, which I could see happen. The Pirates pick could very well come down to which prep pitcher the Giants decide to take right before them.

BA has the Pirates taking Triston McKenzie, a prep RHP out of Florida, with the 32nd overall pick. McKenzie is tall and rail thin at 6’5″, 160 pounds, but he’s already hitting 93 MPH and has a good feel for his secondary pitches. He’s a Vanderbilt commit, so if the Pirates are interested, they will probably have to take him with this pick. He has huge upside and is a great athlete, just needs to add some weight/muscle and build up stamina.

  • Christopher B
    June 5, 2015 2:39 pm

    Lots of good options, it seems, and guys who fit the Pirates’ drafting profile. Nikorak seems like the guy to take if he falls to us, though. The velocity, the size, and the lack of wear are all great.

  • Randolph is my pick at 19, quick bat and great arm sounds like the pirates 3b of the future.

    • John Dreker
      June 5, 2015 2:28 pm

      I like him too, but I think it could work out fine if they go with a pitcher first, then take Ke’Bryan Hayes with the #32 pick. You still get your top end third baseman, who sounds a lot like his dad. Plus you get a top-end arm. It really works either way, but I see a bigger difference(not by much) between the pitchers going in the 15-20 range and the 30’s than I see between Randolph/Hayes.

      • Does that type of strategy play in or do they strictly go by the board and if the top 5 picks are all hitters or the top 5 picks are all pitchers so be it. I would think they would want some sort of mix with the first few picks since it seems the value seems to be negligible.

        • John Dreker
          June 5, 2015 3:05 pm

          The Pirates have said, whether you choose to believe it or not, that they go with the best player available with their picks, so if it ends up they take a ton of right-handed pitchers, it’s only a coincidence. You get to a point now with the bonus pool in place, that you have to consider what you have left before you make some picks, so no team could actually take BPA every time.

          • In 2014 they really didn’t have to play around much with their budget did they? In other words they didn’t draft many under slot guys after taking Keller and Supak? I forget what their slots were. I also get the impression they were lucky to get Hinsz with what they’d already spent or what they had left to give him without giving up draft picks.

            • John Dreker
              June 5, 2015 3:31 pm

              Hinsz was very lucky to work out how it did. They were going to take him in the second round, but the money he wanted was too high, so they took him in the 11th round and still got him. Their picks after the second round all signed for close to slot. Two signed for slot, six were under slot, but the combined savings was less than $150,000, so they didn’t really reach for anyone.

              • I hate the new slotting system very much but it makes it interesting like you said. You can’t just grab the best guy available with every pick………..and how stupid is that? is this all really necessary because of Josh Bell?!

                • John Dreker
                  June 5, 2015 8:36 pm

                  Don’t think it was all about Bell as I believe the Pirates knew something was going to happen and spent appropriately that last year

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    June 5, 2015 1:36 pm

    I would prefer HS bats with high upside in this year’s draft, but I would be thrilled with Nikorak at #19. He looks like he could be a #1 starter if he stays healthy and develops – he has the size, frame, velocity, etc.

    Randolph looks like an intriguing HS bat, as does Whitley, Tucker, Clark, and Plummer. I don’t expect Tucker to be there at #19 however.

    • John Dreker
      June 5, 2015 2:24 pm

      All of those bats have been mentioned higher than #19, but it always works out that 1-2 ends up falling. Tucker seems least likely and Clark probably won’t either, but we will soon find out

  • John I’m going to ask you an impossible question – whoever they draft at #19 (unless somehow, someone from the top 5 plummets to 19) – none of the guys picked could be higher on the Prospect List than 8 right? Ahead of Tucker maybe at best?

    • John Dreker
      June 5, 2015 12:29 pm

      Yes, the top 7 is pretty set, maybe not the order, but the players

      • I figured as much. Looking forward to when the 2014 pitchers – Keller, Hinsz, Supak and Eppler get out of extended spring training so I can see their outings on the prospect watch.

        • John Dreker
          June 5, 2015 12:39 pm

          We discussed it the other day as the prospect rankings will be updated after the draft. The #8 spot is wide open right now with a few options, plus the draft pick depending on where they go

          • Exciting. Also a far cry from when the first pick was pretty much a lock for a top 3 spot.

            • John Dreker
              June 5, 2015 12:49 pm

              I think part of that is the draft spot and this particular class. They could end up with Aiken, who has huge upside, but the question marks with keep him ranked low for now. Anyone else out of the top few just aren’t good enough at this point to crack the top 7 and unless Hanson or Taillon lose their prospect qualifications by spending too much time with the Pirates(which might not happen for either) then the top draft pick can’t be higher than eight even by the end of the season.

              The Pirates will put a HS kid in the GCL and limit him and they will put a college kid in the NYPL, so both are situations where the player can’t improve his stock by looking good. It’s either too limited or too advanced for the level

              • I heard someone say, Keith Law maybe, that this was the worst draft class they’ve seen in a LONG time. Do you guys see it that way? Is it just weak top heavy?

                • BuccosFanStuckinMD
                  June 5, 2015 1:41 pm

                  Looks to be weaker than some of the other recent years – especially with position players. I don’t see a Harper, Machado, Bryant, Buxton, Springer, or even a Meadows in this draft.

                  • I went back and took a look at the 2011 draft. Thank God we didn’t take Hultzen. Also that class was loaded. Sounds like there’s not a huge difference between 6 and 19 or 32 this year so I guess it’s good the Pirates were awful in all the right years so to speak.

                • John Dreker
                  June 5, 2015 2:10 pm

                  I think it’s weak with top end talent, but I really like some of the players in the 40-60 range which should bode well for the Pirates second round pick. It’s got depth, but could lack impact. Good year for HS pitching and shortstops