Draft Prospect Watch: A Draft Pick Who Got Away Is Off to a Strong Start

We begin our draft coverage by taking a look at a few of the better Friday night starters. We have also included some links from earlier in the week. On Monday morning, we will recap the weekend for some of the top college hitters in the draft. The Pittsburgh Pirates currently own the 23rd and 41st picks this year. The draft begins on June 9th and lasts three days. You can view our draft preview here, which covers many of the names who fall in the Pirates’ range. It also focuses in on players who fit the recent draft strategy of the Pirates.

You may notice that the draft spot is one higher than it is listed in the preview. That was from the Baltimore Orioles signing Yovani Gallardo. They gave up their first round pick, while the Texas Rangers picked up a compensation pick after the first round, so the first pick moved up one spot, but the second pick of the Pirates didn’t move up. Dexter Fowler re-signed with the Cubs, so that didn’t affect the draft at all. Ian Desmond is the last remaining free agent who received a qualifying offer. Once he signs somewhere, the draft order will be set.

On to the pitchers who went Friday night. Kentucky’s Zack Brown went 4.1 innings against UC Santa Barbara, giving up six runs (four earned) on five hits and three walks, with four strikeouts. He struggled in his debut against Wofford last week, allowing four runs on nine hits in 3.2 innings. Brown came into the season ranked as high as 25th overall, though some had him as a second round pick. With two poor starts to begin the year, he could quickly drop down the charts.

We mentioned during our preview that Kyle Funkhouser had a poor first outing for Louisville. He was selected 35th overall last year, but decided to return for his senior year. Very early on, he might be starting to regret that decision. On Friday against Ole Miss, he allowed six earned runs over 3.2 innings, issuing seven walks. Funkhouser allowed just three hits and struck out six, but the reports from this game matched the performance. He fell in the rankings late last year after he was called a possible top ten pick by multiple sources. Funkhouser lost some velocity at the end of 2015, and that was an issue his first start. On Friday, he was sitting low-90’s for most of the game.

Not all the top pitchers did bad on Friday. Florida’s Logan Shore pitched a masterpiece against a strong Miami team. He threw a complete game shutout, allowing four hits, no walks, and he struck out eight batters. Shore allowed one run over five innings in his debut last Friday against Florida Atlantic. He sits low-90’s with his fastball and flashes a plus change-up, with good sink. He also throws a lot of strikes, so he could move quickly through a minor league system. His problem is that his third pitch (slider) is average at best at this point, which keeps him from being ranked higher.

Vanderbilt’s Jordan Sheffield is a pitcher there seems to be a split on, so for now, he’s interesting to watch. He could easily end up going in the first ten picks if everything clicks, but it’s too soon to cross him off as a possible pick. On Friday, he threw seven shutout innings, striking out 11 batters against UIC. In his opener last week, Sheffield allowed one earned run over five innings, striking out seven hitters. He has a fastball that touches 98 MPH, with a strong slider and change-up, giving him a nice three-pitch mix.

The questions with Sheffield are due to his size and command. He is 6’0″, 185 pounds, so he has durability concerns, plus his control is below average at times. Sheffield has a chance to be a strong power reliever if he doesn’t start, but a team like the Pirates wouldn’t draft him high if they think he will end up as a reliever. He looked good on Friday through 100 pitches, so he may be answering some of those questions.

One last pitcher, and that is Cole Irvin from Oregon. The name might be familiar, because the Pirates drafted him in the 32nd round last year. The Pirates tried to sign him, though he was set on returning to school from the start. He is a much better prospect than that draft spot, but he had Tommy John surgery in 2014 and struggled during his return last year. Irvin will go much higher this season if he stays healthy. In his debut against San Diego State last week, he threw seven shutout innings, allowing six hits and no walks, with nine strikeouts. This week versus Illinois State, Irvin allowed two runs over seven innings, while striking out 12 batters. He surrendered just two hits and one walk.

Despite the Friday night starter status, Irvin is actually ranked second on his team’s pitching staff behind Matt Krook, who is their Saturday night starter. He is rated as a first round pick by most sources. You can read more on him in the preview up top. We will recap his first two starts on Monday.

News and Notes

* Baseball America posted a list of the top 50 draft picks by class. The juniors are of course the main focus, but there are some strong seniors who didn’t sign last year, as well as some draft-eligible sophomores.

* Ryan Boldt was one of the players we took a look at in our draft preview. You can read up about him in this article from The 3rd Man In. We will recap he early season performance on Monday.

* D1 Baseball took a look at the action from the first weekend (subscription required) last week. On Monday, we will cover the first two weeks when we take a look at the top college hitters.

* Keith Law takes a look at two players who could be first round picks this year (subscription required), Georgia RHP Robert Tyler and Mercer CF Kyle Lewis.

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.

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Yup, Florida’s #1 ranking no joke. Freaking stacked.

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