With the draft now six days away, we have a bit of news from Monday, plus new rankings from Keith Law and Baseball America. Law gives his last top 100, while BA expands their list to 500. Yesterday, we went over the names that have been mentioned most often for the Pirates’ top two picks.
In Keith Law’s top 100 rankings, he has two interesting pitchers in the Pirates’ spots. For his 19th best player, he ranks Mike Matuella from Duke. He is a huge upside pitcher with a lot of injuries in his recent past, including back issues, a forearm strain, and he is currently out until at least next June due to Tommy John surgery. Matuella is risky, with huge reward if he’s able to stay healthy. Early in the year, some sources had him as the best player in this draft class, while many others had him top five.
Law has Jacob Nix in the 32nd spot. Nix was drafted by the Astros last year, but couldn’t sign once they didn’t have cap room from Brady Aiken failing to sign. He has really improved his draft stock this year pitching at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. He’s a 6’4″ righty in the Pirates’ backyard, so they probably saw a lot of him. Nix throws low-to-mid 90’s, with a curve and change-up that both showed improvements over last year.
Baseball America posted their top 500 prospects for the draft on Tuesday and they have UCLA starter James Kaprielian in the 19th spot. We covered him in yesterday’s article, but just a quick reminder. He’s got a solid frame that will keep him in the rotation in the future. Kaprielian has a nice four-pitch mix, with his fastball being rated at a 50, which is actually his lowest rated pitch. He has excellent control and should move through the minors quick.
In the 32nd spot, BA has Alex Young from TCU. The lefty moved to the rotation this season and looked real good with the increased workload, though his coach kept his pitch counts reasonable all season. Young sits 89-92 MPH and has a plus curve, and a change-up that has some considerable improvement this year. He has terrific command as well. Young is a lot like Kaprielian, showing control with multiple pitches, but a fastball that isn’t a power pitch. Both are projected to stay starters in the pros.
BA has Mike Matuella ranked 23rd and Jacob Nix 37th, so they are basically on the same page as Law.
College Regional Action From Monday
There were some games of note in college on Monday and more coming up this Friday, as teams near the College World Series.
Vanderbilt’s Walker Buehler threw five shutout innings in a 21-0 trouncing of Radford. He allowed two hits, one walk and struck out seven, needing on 60 pitches to get through his outing, which was cut short due to the one-sided score.
Florida State outfielder D.J. Stewart went 2-for-5 with a double in an 8-1 win over Charleston. On the downside, he did strikeout three times and some scouts recently questioned his ability to hit good fastballs. He’s an outside possibility for the Pirates’ second pick.
Illinois reliever Tyler Jay threw four shutout innings against Wright State, giving him an 0.56 ERA this season. He allowed one hit, one walk and struck out five batters. Jay will likely be a top ten pick and most believe he can be a starter in the pros.
Speaking of Alex Young, he had a rough start on Monday, allowing four runs over four innings against NC State. His teammate Riley Ferrell is considered one of the best college relievers and he too had a bad game, allowing four runs(three earned), while recording just one out. Despite the pitching from their two stars, TCU still won thanks to shutout ball over 5.2 innings from three other relievers.
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.
I think the Pirates can afford to take a chance at Brady Aiken if he falls to 19. With the team having the 32nd pick, they will still add a quality guy and possibly be adding another top of the rotation type if Aiken can prove to get healthy.