Morning Report: The Prep Pitchers With the Best Tools in This Draft Class

On Friday, we posted three new mock drafts from three of the leading experts in the draft, Keith Law, Baseball America and Jim Callis. All three of those drafts had the same thing in common for the Pittsburgh Pirates, they all predicted that the Pirates would take a prep pitcher with their first pick. BA and Callis took it a step further by guessing that the Pirates will also go with a high school pitcher for their second pick.

After everything was up, Jim Callis posted an article describing the best tools for high school pitchers, which of course becomes very relevant to those following the draft. It obviously isn’t a foregone conclusion that the Pirates will take a pitcher with their first or second pick, but there seems to be pretty good word around the draft campfire that they are leaning heavily in that direction. There could be a hitter that surprisingly falls to them, which could make them change up their plans. We saw in 2012 that the Pirates were taking David Dahl until Mark Appel dropped to them, so something like that isn’t out of the ordinary.

Sticking with the rumors we are hearing though, the Callis article could be very helpful on Monday night. He breaks the rankings down into best fastball, curve, slider, change, control, highest ceiling and highest floor. The last category comes with the caveat that no high school pitcher is truly a great bet to make the big leagues.

The best fastball in the class comes from Justin Hooper, who is a 6’7″ lefty who hits 97 MPH. That is rare air for a lefty starter and he still has a lot of room to fill out and add strength. Callis also ranks righty Antonio Santillan with a similar 70 grade fastball on the scouting scale. He is a name to watch for the second round pick. Hooper has a huge match-up today, facing likely 2nd-3rd round pick RHP Joe Demers in a game this afternoon that will likely be heavily scouted and a good performance could give either of them a boost at the finish line.

Mike Nikorak has been mentioned more often for the Pirates’ first pick than anyone else this year. I’m not sure if they are just putting the pitching rumor together with the fact he is from Pennsylvania, but Callis rates him as a pitcher with future ace potential, so he should be high on your wantlist. He hits 97 with his fastball, his curve is rated as the best in the class(60) and he has the highest ceiling. His change-up is also rated a 55, which ties it for the highest, although Callis likes the one that Jackson Kowar throws better. A strong change is something you don’t find often in the prep ranks as most never need to throw one, so a 55 is a good rating.

The best control in the class goes to Kolby Allard, who has been out most of this year with a back injury. He sits low-90’s when healthy and has 60 control, which is a very good score for a high school kid. Callis also has him as a 60 curve, rated just below Nikorak. Allard has age on his side, as the Pirates noted that a kid young for his class could have extra room to grow, and they used that as a scouting tool when deciding between similar players. What Allard doesn’t have is the size that the Pirates like, as he is 6’0″, 170 pounds. Going by their past picks, there aren’t a lot of 6’0″ and under pitchers in the system, so you have to wonder if that will factor into their decision.

I sort of skipped over the Jackson Kowar mention, but that is because he is never really mentioned as a first round pick. Neither is the pitcher with the highest floor, Peter Lambert. Kowar doesn’t have strong control or the best curve, so despite an above average fastball/change combo, he is ranked further down for most people. He also has a commitment to Clemson, which could hurt him on draft day. If a player is considered a tough sign from a good school, it usually means he has to be picked early and in the past, that has left similar players among the best available players left when day three of the draft starts. Lambert will likely hear his name called on Monday during the second round and get a nice bonus because teams will see that he still has projection left, but already looks like a polished pitcher.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates defeated the Braves by a 10-8 score on Friday night. Jeff Locke takes the mound tonight against the team that drafted him. In his last start, Locke allowed six earned runs over four innings. The previous outing, he threw 5.2 shutout innings. Julio Teheran will be on the mound for the Braves, making his 12th start of the season. He has a 4.87 ERA in 61 innings this year.

In the minors, Luis Heredia will make his fifth start, still looking for his first outing that isn’t limited due to a high pitch count. He has yet to come out for the fifth inning, despite averaging 70 pitchers per outing over his last three games. In his debut, he didn’t make it out of the first inning. Colten Brewer will try to build off a career outing his last appearance, which saw him throw six shutout innings and strikeout a career-high 11 batters, nearly tripling his previous high of four. Zack Dodson is sixth in the Eastern League in ERA. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (30-24) @ Braves (26-28) 7:10 PM
Probable starter: Jeff Locke (5.34 ERA, 23:45 BB/SO, 55.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (32-23) @ Lehigh Valley (21-35) 6:35 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Chris Volstad (4.25 ERA, 20:32 BB/SO, 55.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (32-20) @ Erie (18-33) 7:05 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Zack Dodson (2.63 ERA, 9:24 BB/SO, 54.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (26-29) @ Ft Myers (25-30) 6:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Heredia (6.39 ERA, 9:7 BB/SO, 12.2 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (33-22) @Rome (26-29) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Colten Brewer (5.11 ERA, 4:20 BB/SO, 24.2 IP)

DSL: Pirates (2-4) vs Rangers2 (3-3) 10:30 AM (season preview)


On Thursday night, Cole Tucker hit his second home run of the season. Here is a rare treat, as the Power rarely play in Rome, where they are one of two SAL teams that provides video highlights

Recent Transactions

6/5: Justin Sellers assigned to Bradenton on rehab.

6/5: Charlie Leesman placed on Indianapolis disabled list.

6/5: Francisco Diaz activated from WV Power disabled list.

6/5: Kawika Emsley-Pai promoted to Bradenton roster. Jin-De Jhang assigned to Extended Spring Training.

6/3: Pirates outright Radhames Liz to Indianapolis.

5/29: Andy Vasquez added to Altoona roster.

5/29: Keon Broxton promoted to Indianapolis. Adam Miller placed on disabled list.

5/29: Jeff Roy activated from West Virginia disabled list. Andy Otamendi assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/28: Jose Osuna promoted to Altoona. Jordan Steranka added to Bradenton.

5/28: Andy Otamendi added to WV Power roster. Trace Tam Sing assigned to WV Black Bears.

5/27: Kelson Brown added to Indianapolis roster.

5/26: Harold Ramirez added to Bradenton roster. Jordan Steranka and Andy Otamendi assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/26: Josh Wall placed on disabled list. Collin Balester added to Indianapolis roster.

5/26: Dovydas Neverauskas placed on disabled list. Julio Vivas sent from Bradenton to West Virginia.

5/26: Deibinson Romero sold to Doosan Bears of the Korean Baseball Organization.

5/25: Charlie Morton activated from disabled list. Radhames Liz designated for assignment.

5/25: Stephen Tarpley added to WV Power roster.

5/25: Jerrick Suiter activated from WV Power disabled list. Miguel Rosario and Montana DuRapau promoted to Bradenton


This Date in Pirates History

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note and a huge game from the Pirates’ offense. The players born on this date are outfielder Doug Frobel(1982-85), lefty pitcher Jake Hewitt(1895) and second baseman Fresco Thompson, who was a September addition to the 1925 Pirates team that went on to win the franchise’s second World Series title. He hit .243 in 14 games and drove in eight runs.

On this date in 1949, the Pirates traded pitcher Kirby Higbe to the Giants for infielder Bobby Rhawn and pitcher Ray Poat. Rhawn lasted all of nine days with the Pirates before he was put on waivers and claimed by the White Sox. Poat lasted until the end of the year, but after two starts, he was a seldom used bullpen arm and had no success in Pittsburgh. The Pirates must have known Higbe was nearly done, because the pitcher, who was once a star for the Brooklyn Dodgers, was done in the Majors by the end of the season.

On this date in 1894, the Pirates defeated the Boston Beaneaters(current day Braves) by a 27-11 score in the highest offensive output in team history. The Pirates put up 12 runs in the third inning and another nine in the fourth inning. They were actually outscored 8-3 in the last five innings, but Boston never came close to getting back in the game. Jake Stenzel became the first Pirates’ player to hit two home runs in the same inning.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    June 7, 2015 10:36 am

    Hooper or Nikorak, if both are there at #19?

  • John…I think I told you that I once had Jake Stenzel in a Retro Strat league?

    • John Dreker
      June 6, 2015 10:36 am

      I thought you told me you met him once and he was a great guy, though the German accent made him hard to understand.

      Stenzel is an under-rated baseball great. Only player in MLB history to hit .350 with 100 runs, 80 RBIs and 50 steals in a season four times. Ty Cobb did it three times, Honus Wagner twice and they both played more than twice as long at Stenzel.

      • I thought you told me you met him once and he was a great guy, though the German accent made him hard to understand.

        I’m not THAT old!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂


        He hit very well for me. I’m glad I discovered him.

  • piraterican21
    June 6, 2015 10:04 am

    I’m not sure where to post this, but last night game calling was horrible, there were so many instances that I just shook my head and predicted what was going to happen. E.g. P. Ciriaco’s ab, two cutters for stike, foul off three straight curves, get s a hit on the fourth curve in a row, Watson pitching inside for what seems like the first time this year to an ump that was not calling anything off the corners ( but called many low balls strike,) I have 3 other examples, but I’ll stop here, the question is who calls the game, seem like Cervelli to me

  • McDaniel now reports that Aiken’s TJ surgery revealed no problems of great significance. In other words, he’s merely another recovering TJ victim, although one with a Cliff Lee ceiling. Let’s hope he’s still on the board when the Pirates make their first pick.

    • That would work for me. 🙂

    • John Dreker
      June 6, 2015 10:45 am

      If he has nothing else wrong, then I’m going to guess the Pirates won’t be able to fit him their budget. The 19th pick is worth $2,2273,800 and he turned down $5M last year, plus he is still just 18(turns 19 in August) so he shouldn’t be in panic mode to sign. Ten teams have higher bonus pools than the Pirates, one of them will probably take him(just not the Astros)

      • They were prepared to go all in for Appel, so…. Why not Aiken?

        Moreover, one wonders what Aiken’s camp made out of his injury and surgery. Pitchers are always just an inning away from the scrap heap (Wal-Mart, Costco’s, etc.). Would they rather have had a contract with the Astros than the uncertainty they now face?

        • Prepared to go all in for Appel….at a price that didnt lose them draft picks in the future. They were not prepared to go above slot price in a way that lost future draft picks. Assuming Aiken does want near the 5 million he turned down last year, no chance those sides come to a deal.

          Easy for you and i to act like “of course you would rather have a contract now that future uncertainty” but thats not always logical from the standpoint of the player. Kid isnt gonna settle for half his asking price.

          • Why would he refuse to settle for half of his 2014 bonus demands? This is 2015. Aiken is one year older and a surgery survivor. The world changed since last year. Perhaps the Aiken camp noticed that and will trade dollars for risk reduction. Time will tell.

            • Because one year ago his talent was top 5 pick money worth. He didnt get that money purely due to injury, so now as a healthy person why would he readily settle for half his money? Sure, a year older but that is really worth 2.5 million?

              He can absolutely put pressure on a team to give him fair value for his ability and most teams dont want to forfeit a draft pick. He has decent leverage.

              • Injury was not the problem last year. A congenital abnormality was. Injury is this year’s problem.

                • If Brady Aiken was fully healthy last year, he would have been signed and made 5 million. Only thing that stopped him from getting his slot money was the sudden issue of his medicals. His talent was never an issue, so apart from being a year older (yet still very young) his talent isnt any different than last year.

                  Meaning he went from top 5 to top 20 without any issues about his top 5 talent.

                  • Aiken was healthy. The Astros had a problem with Aiken’s elbow abnormality. The abnormality did not mean a lack of health. It meant risk of future injury. The Astros balked. Aiken refused five million dollars last year. This year he is recovering from TJ surgery. Until his recovery is complete, his health remains questionable.

                    • So to avoid a long convo about that situation, there is no reason you have stated that makes sense for that young man to cut his price tag in half. Talent is there, and he has confirmation that his talent is worth near 5 million. He had TJ, and its a surgery that the majority of patients come back from. You dont take a 50% pay cut on an injury that has a bigger than 50% success rate, particularly since your age still makes you very much a hot commodity.

                      Him losing 1-2 years doesnt make him an old option, right now that arm is worth 5 million when healthy. If teams take him late in the 1st and offer slot, he (and i would do the same) can sit and go “I’m not taking half or less than half of what i feel im worth, i can go play JV and next year and prove im healthy and make 5 million”. A team has absolutely no guarantee than 2 million signs him, and Aiken knows a team wont want to not get a draft pick from any draft.

                    • He’ll take less than what he believes he is worth if he wants to start his career and to eliminate the risk he faces by remaining unsigned, as well as if he happens to be a pick of a team willing to build its draft around him. Who knows, he may go 1-1 in the 2017 draft. He may get the payday he believes is his due then.

                    • You risk some by remaining unsigned, you risk nothing by taking half your value. You know you settled and cost yourself 2.5 million. A healthy him is worth more than 2.5 million.

                    • Aiken would lose nothing by signing $2.5 M. He signs for the best offer he gets from the team that drafted him or he does not sign. He then faces the risks which follow from remaining unsigned, risks that now include his elbow injury and surgery.

                      Assuming he reaches his ceiling or a point close to it, he will then lose three free agent years simply because his career began later (he refused the Astros’ final offer) and he then blew out his elbow. The only money he might lose now will be the amount the Indians offer him. There is no future offer besides the one the Indians will give him. And that offer likely

        • John Dreker
          June 6, 2015 1:19 pm

          The Appel pick turned into a disaster for the 2012 draft. Sure they got Meadows the next year, but if they don’t sign Aiken, they have the 20th pick next year, not the 9th pick in a strong year. If you take Aiken, you have to go light with other picks, or you could skip him and not throw away any picks. Is Aiken worth more than Nikorak(for example) and better picks in following rounds? I don’t think so

          • You raise a different problem, the opportunity cost of drafting Aiken and the opportunity cost of signing him. We do not know what those costs are since we do not know Aiken’s signing price. Scouts are given the chore of finding out Aiken’s signing price. But if it’s in line with his current risk profile, then his final price will be far below $6M.

            • John Dreker
              June 6, 2015 3:58 pm

              He turned down $5M, so I doubt he will just take $2.5M to sign this time because there shouldn’t be any rush for him to sign due to his age and options. If he believes he was worth more than $5M before an injury with a high success rate, then I don’t think he has lowered his price that much in one year. Obviously I could be wrong, but he isn’t a college junior and he isn’t 21, he could go the JUCO route and enter the draft 4 more times if he really wants

              • True. He can go into next year’s draft. I forget his name, but one HS pitcher turned down three million dollar deals before signing for less and then washing

  • Watch Jeff Locke throw a gem tonight. I just got a feeling.