The 2015 MLB Draft starts on Monday at 7 PM, with the first two rounds of the draft taking place that evening. The Pittsburgh Pirates pick 19th, 32nd, and 62nd that day. Rounds 3-10 follow on Tuesday at 1 PM, and rounds 11-40 are on Wednesday at 1 PM.
For the last three years, we have released tiered rankings for the top 100 prospects. We start with an average of all of the major draft rankings, then arrange players into tiers, which are customized based on where the Pirates pick. Each tier is shown below, with a summary of the most notable guys in each group.
Check back on the site during the draft to read about who the Pirates picked. We will have player pages for every player who is drafted, along with instant analysis on each pick, and our updated Draft Pick Signing Tracker.
Otherwise known as the “They Definitely Won’t Fall to the Pirates” Tier
Alex Bregman, Brendan Rodgers, Dansby Swanson, Dillon Tate
There haven’t been any rumors that these players will fall anywhere near the Pirates, so there isn’t much to say about this group that is relevant to the team. They may not be picks 1-4, but they should all be gone before the top ten is done.
Otherwise known as the “There is a Chance They Could Fall, and the Pirates Should Take Them if They Do” Tier
Andrew Benintendi, Daz Cameron, Trenton Clark, Carson Fulmer, Tyler Jay, Kyle Tucker, Garrett Whitley
It is unlikely the Pirates will have a chance to decide between two of these players, but there is always a chance one could fall. Some teams look for a specific type of player, so you never know who could get pushed back. Cameron and Tucker should both go in the top ten, but they have been rated lower. You have five outfielders here, four of them high school players, so that could always lead to one dropping. Tyler Jay, a long reliever at Illinois, has been rated all over the place, with some saying he could even go first, or still be around when the Pirates pick. You shouldn’t get your hopes up for any of them, but don’t be surprised if one of them is available for the Pirates.
Otherwise known as the “These Are the Guys Who Are Good Fits For the 19th Overall Pick” Tier
Kolby Allard, Chris Betts, Walker Buehler, Ian Happ, Jon Harris, James Kaprielian, Mike Nikorak, Nick Plummer, Cornelius Randolph, Tyler Stephenson
Some of these guys will be gone before the Pirates pick, but I could see them all being gone before the Pirates make their second pick. They are all consistently rated in the Pirates’ range in rankings and mock drafts. The player to focus on is prep righty Mike Nikorak, who has been mentioned more often for the Pirates than anyone else. He throws 97 MPH, has an above average curve, a great frame and a fresh arm coming from Pennsylvania, where his season is very short. The Pirates love tall projectable right-handed prep pitchers and he fits that mold better than anyone in this draft. The issue is that the Giants have also been linked to him and they have the 18th overall pick.
Kolby Allard is lefty that sits low-90’s, with a plus curve and above average control. A back injury cost him most of the season and dropped him down in the rankings, so he could almost be considered a steal at this spot. He is also young for the draft class, which is something the Pirates have focused on recently.
As for the others, Cornelius Randolph has been mentioned for the Pirates often, but not recently. That is because the experts are hearing that the Pirates are targeting prep pitchers with their first two picks. If they want a third baseman that will hit, Randolph is their man. There is word that the Braves might take him and that wouldn’t be a surprise, since he is from Georgia and they love drafting out of their own backyard.
Ian Happ, James Kaprielian and Walker Buehler have all been mentioned for the Pirates in the past and they are polished college players that should move quick. I’m guessing two of them will be gone before the Pirates pick, which could help one of those high school outfielders in Tier 2 drop down.
Otherwise known as the “Questionable For the 19th Pick, Great For the 32nd Pick” Tier
Brady Aiken, Phil Bickford, Donny Everett, Kyle Funkhouser, Nathan Kirby, Michael Matuella, Kevin Newman, Ashe Russell
Some of these players could be gone before the Pirates make their first pick, especially the two injured starters, Brady Aiken and Mike Matuella. They have both been all over the map, going from 15-35. Both will be out until at least July/August next year recovering and rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Both were likely top ten picks before that. Matuella has less leverage, since he will be a senior next year and won’t even pitch during the regular season. He could red shirt next year, but then be two years older before he signs. That likely means he will sign, but Aiken is still 18 and has a ton of options for next year, so he won’t just sign for slot if he gets taken low. He turned down $5M last year, so don’t expect him to cut that in half this year.
Newman is the only one that has never been connected to the Pirates. If you believe the rumors, then Everett and Russell are the most likely picks, with Russell even a possibility for the 19th pick. That could depend on what the teams in front of the Pirates do with their picks.
Bickford falls somewhere between a college pitcher and a prep, since he is two years removed from being the tenth overall pick out of high school by the Blue Jays. He had a great season for Southern Nevada(JUCO) and showed great velocity and command, but he has slid down the rankings a little recently without pitching the last month. I think he would be a tough player to pass over if he’s available when the Pirates make their second pick, though late word just today says that he failed his pre-draft drug test for marijuana, so it will be interesting to see what that does(if anything) to his stock.
Otherwise known as the “These Are the Guys Who Are Good Fits For the 32nd Overall Pick” Tier
Beau Burrows, Dakota Chalmers, Donnie Dewees, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Juan Hillman, Justin Hooper, Scott Kingery, Richie Martin, Joe McCarthy, Triston McKenzie, Jacob Nix, Cody Ponce, Austin Smith, D.J. Stewart, Nolan Watson
Almost every player here has been mentioned for the Pirates and there is word that they like Virginia outfielder Joe McCarthy, though he obviously isn’t a prep pitcher. McCarthy missed most of the year due to off-season back surgery, and he hasn’t looked good since returning, so the Pirates have probably been focused in one him since last season.
Ponce has been the most popular choice for the Pirates during the course of the season. He’s a huge righty that can get it up to mid-90’s, though he lacks polish on his secondary pitches, so some believe he will end up as a reliever. Whoever drafts him with keep him as a starter for as long as possible.
Justin Hooper is very intriguing because he’s a 6’7″ lefty with the best fastball in this prep class, though there could be a roadblock now. He said yesterday on Twitter that he is 100% committed to attending UCLA. If he is serious, then you better trust your local scout when he mentions his price tag and signability.
Triston McKenzie has huge upside, assuming you can pack some weight on his 6’5″, 160 pound frame. He throws low 90’s, but doesn’t hold that velocity late.
Stewart and Martin have been in this range all season, but scouts are split on their upside on offense. Martin has strong defense at shortstop and above average speed, so he seems like a safe bet to make the big leagues, just you might not be getting more than a replacement level player that you don’t mind putting out there on defense. Stewart has huge power, but there are some questions with his swing and making contact, especially on good fastballs up in the zone.
Hayes is a lot like his dad, Charlie Hayes, who played for the 1996 Pirates. A good glove third baseman, who will provide some offense. If they don’t take Randolph with the first pick, this could be a great fallback option for a bat.
Again I’ll point out that everyone seems to think the Pirates will go pitching here, so if these players are all available when the Pirates pick, then I think they go with Beau Burrows. He’s a 6’1″ righty with an above average fastball/curve combo, complemented by a good change and nice control already.
Otherwise known as the “These Are the Guys Who Are Good Fits For the Second Round Pick” Tier
Luken Baker, Tristan Beck, Skye Bolt, Kep Brown, Ryan Burr, Trey Cabbage, Kyle Cody, Chandler Day, Jeff Degano, Joe DeMers, Bryce Denton, Riley Ferrell, Drew Finley, Mitchell Hansen, Lucas Herbert, David Hill, Kyle Holder, Eric Jenkins, Alonzo Jones, Jahmai Jones, Peter Lambert, Jalen Miller, Kyle Molnar, Josh Naylor, Nick Neidert, Tyler Nevin, Demi Orimoloye, Wesley Rodriguez, Cole Sands, Antonio Santillian, Chris Shaw, Brady Singer, Mike Soroka, Josh Staumont, Christin Stewart, Andrew Suarez, Jacob Taylor, Blake Trahan, Taylor Ward, Mikey White, Jake Woodford, Alex Young
The only players from this group I’ve heard as possibilities for the #32 pick are Alex Young, Chandler Day and Kyle Cody and for the last two, it wasn’t recently. Young was right there not long ago, but he faltered badly during the Regionals last week against one of the weaker teams. He also missed some time early due to a minor injury, which you worry about with a pitcher that was a reliever before this year. Luken Baker has said he intends to go to college and sent letters to all the teams not to draft him, so you could almost ignore him. Since he didn’t withdraw from the draft entirely, that probably means he has to be taken higher than #62 to sign.
There are some very intriguing names in this group. Wesley Rodriguez hit 100 MPH during the spring and shot up draft rankings. Santillian has the best fastball among right-handed prep pitchers in this draft. Staumont has the best fastball velocity in this draft period, but he sometimes has no idea where it is going. Skye Bolt has huge upside, but can look very average at times, making him sort of like current Bradenton shortstop JaCoby Jones, who was a possible first round pick since the start of his junior year in high school, but the consistency was never there. Josh Naylor has jumped up a lot recently due to his power display as the draft nears. Orimoloye was ranked much higher early on, and his upside is high. Some of these guys could be a better third round pick.
Otherwise known as the “Everyone Else in the Top 100, Although Keep in Mind the Third Round Pick is 96th Overall” Tier
Harrison Bader, Gio Brusa, Tristin English, Thomas Eshelman, Blake Hickman, Bryan Hudson, Casey Hughston, Jonathan India, Jackson Kowar, Justin Maese, Mac Marshall, Parker McFadden, Cole McKay, Tanner Rainey, Austin Rei, Alex Robinson, Chad Smith, Thomas Szapucki, Rhett Wiseman
Last year the last tier in our rankings produced the first five picks for the Pirates. Early on, those rankings look spot on, as no one from the group has stood out. I’ve never heard first round pick for any of these players, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good. I got the chance to see Bader play a few times and he looks like a future big leaguer, he does a lot right on the field. Eschelman can pitch, he just doesn’t have good velocity. Brusa had one big summer that pushed him into the first round prior to the season, but he has been disappointing. A team that thinks they could get him to reach his potential, could take him much earlier. Kowar has an above average change/fastball combo, but lacks control and a consistent curve. He’s a high school pitcher, so a team that sees two plus pitches already, could jump on him earlier. At least one source is very high on Justin Maese, a 6’3″ prep righty that has a good frame and athleticism, but lacks stamina at this point. I’d call him the sleeper pick of this group.
I wouldn’t expect to hear any of these names on day one for the Pirates, at least not with the first two picks.