The 2015 amateur draft begins one week from today and the Pittsburgh Pirates have the 19th and 32nd overall picks on day one. They will also make their second round pick(62nd) on that first day. Not too many sources go through to the second round and honestly, it’s too far from the top to make any guesses. The draft starts to get tough to call even late in the first round. So we concentrate on the first two picks from next Monday and here are the players that have been mentioned, either in mock drafts or prospect rankings, the most often for the Pirates’ top two picks.
No one lately has been mentioned more often than Mike Nikorak, a prep pitcher from Pennsylvania. He is 6’5″ and can hit 97 MPH, but he had some control issues this year. He saw limited action due to living in a cold weather state and a couple starts that were affected by Mother Nature. That actually isn’t a bad thing, since it means he has a fresh arm and probably more upside than normal left in that arm. Nikorak fits the Pirates’ mold of pitchers, a highly projectable, tall righty, so this pick makes sense. Some people think he won’t get past the Giants with the #18 pick.
Next up would be prep shortstop Cornelius Randolph, who will likely move to third base in the pros, where his arm will be plenty strong enough. He has one of the best bats in this high school class. He should hit for average and power. He doesn’t have much range or speed, so shortstop is highly unlikely in his future, but the bat plays well at a corner spot. He has been liked to the Pirates more often than any other position player.
Cody Ponce is a very interesting name to watch for because he has been mentioned for both the 19th pick and the 32nd pick, plus there is word that the Pirates really like him. The big righty from Cal Poly Pomona hits mid-90’s, but he’s a little raw, especially for a college pitcher. He has the workhorse frame to put in a lot of innings, but some believe he will end up as a reliever due to his secondary stuff. If the Pirates draft him this high, they would leave him at starter as long as they can.
Prep outfielder Nick Plummer has been mentioned often recently for the first pick of the Pirates. He’s a lefty bat with a solid approach at the plate, that should allow him to put up decent power and average numbers. Plummer is probably a corner outfielder and he has good speed, but probably won’t steal a lot of bases in the big leagues. He’s not the best prep outfielder that has been associated with the Pirates, but he’s a solid 19th overall pick.
UCLA starter James Kaprielian has been in this range almost all season. He’s gone to the Pirates in mock drafts and been rated #19 a couple times. He’s an interesting pitcher, because he’s a solid built righty, who has four pitches and his fastball is rated the worst, yet it’s still at least average. Kaprielian has good control, so he should move quickly through the system, as he doesn’t have much to work on. He’s probably a #2 starter at best, but #3-4 at worst, meaning he has a higher floor than most pitchers.
Phil Bickford didn’t sign after being selected tenth overall in the 2013 draft by the Blue Jays. He went to Cal St Fullerton and looked average, then played summer ball and looked much better, so he transferred to Southern Nevada, where he would be eligible for this year’s draft. Bickford looked great against the lesser competition and his coach never abused him in any game, keeping his pitch counts very low for a starter. He’s gone to the Pirates in a few mock drafts, but none recently. He’s been rated as low as #33 recently, but I can’t see him dropping that far. That means that he could be a possibility for either of the first two picks. Bickford has a plus fastball, an above-average slider and strong control.
Cincinnati outfielder Ian Happ has been mentioned for the Pirates recently, but it was as a second baseman. He played the position as a freshman and some say he could return there and at least be average defensively. His bat is what teams will draft him for though. He’s a Pittsburgh native, which would make it a good story, but the Pirates have said that won’t factor into any decisions. Happ should hit for average and get on base, plus add some homers(10-15 per year, maybe more at his peak). I’ve heard good reports about his speed, but didn’t see it the couple times I saw him play.
Injured pitchers Brady Aiken and Mike Matuella could be possibilities because no one knows just how far they will drop. Neither will be back until early/midseason next year due to Tommy John surgery and both have some question marks about future health that goes beyond the normal recovery time from TJS. They both have huge upside, so some team will gamble and it could be one with two early picks.
Prep outfielder Daz Cameron has gone to the Pirates in a recent mock draft, but that seems to be against popular opinion. He will likely go before the Pirates pick and possibly in the top ten. Cameron should be a 20/20 HR/SB center fielder, who gets on base at a good clip. I don’t see a player like that lasting long in this draft class, but he’s been mentioned for the Pirates in the last week, so I’m not totally ruling it out.
Other names to watch for one or either of the top two picks include: Virginia LHP Nate Kirby, Vanderbilt RHP Walker Buehler, prep RHP Donnie Everett, RHP Ashe Russell, RHP Beau Burrows, LHP Justin Hooper, LHP Kolby Allard, RHP Dakota Chalmers, OF Garrett Whitley and Virginia outfielder Joe McCarthy, who the Pirates are supposedly high on. He could be a possibility for their second pick.