Rounds 11-15: Pirates Drafting the Late Bloomers

The Pirates didn’t take any prep guys at the start of day three, but they did show a trend in rounds 11-15, drafting guys who had a breakout year in 2015. Christian Kelley, taken in the 11th round, hasn’t played much in his college career, but had a big season in 2015 at the plate. Logan Ratledge (13th round) wasn’t drafted at all his first three years in college, then emerged as a top prospect in the entire draft with a big breakout in his senior year. Ty Moore (12th round) showed a lot of improvements in his junior year. Then there was 15th rounder Scooter Hightower, who put up some dominant numbers as a red shirt freshman in the JuCo ranks, and was noted as a breakout guy to follow this year. – Tim Williams

11th Round, 337th Overall: Christian Kelley, C, Cal Poly

Kelley is only a sophomore, but is on the old side, turning 22 in September. He graduated high school in 2012, then went to UC Santa Barbara, where he red shirted for a year. He didn’t start with Cal Poly until the 2014 season, and didn’t get much time, with just 65 at-bats. He hit for a .200/.215/.268 line in that time. He threw out 26% of base runners in that limited time. Kelley got more playing time in 2015, and had a much better season. He hit for a .341/.417/.408 line, and saw some defensive improvements, throwing out 33% of base runners. He’s regarded well for his defense behind the plate, and his favorite athlete is Yadier Molina, so that’s perhaps who he models his game after. Considering that the Pirates prioritize defense behind the plate, those reports are probably accurate. Kelley probably won’t be difficult to sign, and is a somewhat interesting prospect, despite the age. He hasn’t had much experience in college ball, and the one year where he received significant playing time he performed very well. It remains to be seen whether he can do the same in pro ball, but a good defensive catcher who can hit and get on base definitely has some potential. – Tim Williams

12th Round, 367th Overall: Ty Moore, RF, UCLA

The Pirates selected 2B/SS Kevin Kramer in the second round and took his teammate Ty Moore ten rounds later. Moore led UCLA in hitting in 2015, batting .342 in 61 games. His .907 OPS was also the best on the team and he showed great contact skills and plate patience with a 30:19 BB/SO ratio. Moore showed improvements across the board as a junior, which followed an All-Star season in the Cape Cod League last summer. He was announced as a right fielder, but spent more time in left field. He is described as a solid outfielder, though his arm and speed leave something to be desired. Moore was a 25th round draft pick of the New York Yankees in 2012. – John Dreker

13th Round, 397th Overall: Logan Ratledge, SS, NC State

Despite being a college senior, Ratledge has never been drafted. Part of that is probably due to the fact that he has struggled at the plate during his first three years of college ball. Prior to this year, his best season came in 2014, and he only hit for a .742 OPS. That all changed in 2015, when he broke out for a .329/.431/.558 line in 231 at-bats. He played with current Pirates prospect Chris Diaz in 2012, before Diaz went to the Pirates in the 11th round later that year. During his time in college, he has split time between second base and the outfield, before playing a lot of shortstop this year. The Pirates drafted him as a shortstop. The big season this year was enough to put him on the map as a prospect, putting him at number 157 in Baseball America’s top 500. Part of the breakout was due to adding 15 pounds of muscle, which helped lead to the stronger offense. He’s seen as more of a second baseman than a shortstop, due to a fringy arm. BA said that he would benefit offensively learning how to drive the ball to the opposite field, which is something the Pirates stress to all of their minor league hitters. This is the second pick on day three where the Pirates have drafted an older college guy at a premium position who is coming off a big breakout year at the plate. – Tim Williams

14th Round, 427th Overall: Chris Plitt, RHP, South Mountain CC

Plitt is a typical pick we see for the Pirates, a 6’4″ right-handed pitcher. He is listed at 160 pounds on his school’s website(MLB has him at 170), so he obviously has some room to fill out. He was undrafted out of High School and stayed local, spending two seasons at South Mountain CC. Reports from 2013 had him throwing his fastball in the low-80’s. In 2014, he had a 1.87 ERA over 77 innings. His ERA went up to 3.42 in 2015, as he had a 24:56 BB/SO ratio in 81.2 innings. – John Dreker

15th Round, 457th Overall: Scooter Hightower, RHP, Columbia State CC

Hightower fits the Pirates mold of tall, big framed right-handers, and he had a big breakout season this year, posting a 1.79 ERA and a 113:11 K/BB ratio in 80.1 innings. Baseball America rated him as the 19th best player in a five-star draft class in Tennessee this year, although he missed their top 500. He also got recognition from Kiley McDaniel in April as a JuCo pop up guy, along with fellow Pirates draft pick Jacob Taylor. He’s a bit on the older side for JuCo, turning 22 over the off-season, so he could go to Morgantown, although the Pirates could send him to Bristol if there aren’t enough innings at the higher short-season level. – Tim Williams

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    June 10, 2015 2:42 pm

    Lets face it, our farm system got strong primarily because of where we used to draft – usually within the top 15 picks. When you are bad for a long time, you are going to accumulate young talent – like the Astros and Cubs now.

    Now, that we’re drafting in the lower half of each round, you need to take risks and go after a couple of high upside HS players who may need to have a lot of money thrown at them to sign.Instead, we take college juniors and seniors – one after another – many of whom didn’t even perform well in college.

    • It got strong largely due to guys who weren’t 1st rounders at all: Polanco, Hanson, Glasnow, Kingham, Sampson, Bell, Diaz, Ramirez, etc. – plus Tucker who was a late 1st rounder. Please give it a rest.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    June 10, 2015 2:19 pm

    So, if the idea wasn’t to eventually take a chance on a high profile HS kid, what was the point of going with so many college kids this year? Is it to save from spending the draft pool money?

    Not impressed with this team’s drafts the past 2 years….time will tell how it all works out. The Pirates used to be the team that was aggressive and went after HS kids with signability risks – now we steer away.

    • More worrisome would be if this management team, after seven years of experience and a major change in draft rules, still did business the same as when they started.

      This is called maturation.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        June 10, 2015 2:47 pm

        Drafting is a high risk/high reward business – drafting college seniors is conceding to a draft of players, most of whom will be out of the organization within 2 years because they are not prospects to begin with.

        If this team was aggressive in the International market, to offset this kind of conservative drafting, it would be more defendable. But, we don’t do much there either, other than going after the leftovers after the top 50 are all signed by other teams. I get it, once in a while you may find a Polanco, but the odds are not good and I would not consider that a good long term strategy.

        • Seriously, man, turn off the computer and go outside for a bit. Really don’t even know what you’re talking about at this point.

          • BuccosFanStuckinMD
            June 10, 2015 3:14 pm

            That’s your opinion dude….if you don’t want to read my comments, don’t. But don’t be a pompous and arrogant jerk.

            When was the last time the Pirates signed an International player who was ranked in the top 20-30? Heredia???

          • Agree 100%. The loudest complainers usually know the least.

            • Guys who haven’t followed the draft for very long get hard ons for young kids with “upside”. I just can’t get worked up about failing to take a bunch of kids with less than a 1% chance of actually putting it all together. There should be a balance, sure, and you could very well argue that this draft in particular lacked those kind of guys; but turning that around and deeming the entire process a failure is just silly.

  • I have to say I am totally disappointed with this entire draft, but I guess that they should know more then I, and hope it works out.

  • I miss the days when the Pirates could select high upside high school players, especially pitchers. Between their lower drafting position and the slot restrictions, the draft last year and this year really feel differently. I hope this model works for them.

    Tim, do you know if more high school players are going to college under the current draft system compared to the years before the draft spending restrictions? It would seem likely.

  • Schlabach is the 19th? LHP with a good frame…and a high schooler. Sounds like something with potential.

  • I’m surprised that we didn’t go after any of the big names that were left.

    Oh well.

    • I agree…but, in all fairness, looks like everyone is treating them as if they have The Plague.

      I’m guessing they’ll all be plucked in rounds 20-25.

    • Its 100% sign ability, most of them have commitments. I am sure they would’ve been picked up by now if they weren’t committed to colleges.

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