We start this weekend’s coverage by taking a look at some of the top college pitchers in this draft class. The Pittsburgh Pirates own the 22nd and 41st picks this year. The draft begins on June 9th and lasts three days, with the first two rounds selected on day one. 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.

Kyle Funkhouser from Louisville got off to a poor start this season, with back-to-back subpar outings. On Friday, he had a strong showing against Princeton, with the biggest key being his improved command. Funkhouser allowed two runs over seven innings, issuing one walk, while picking up 12 strikeouts. He was the 35th overall pick last year, but he decided to return for his senior season.

I didn’t expect to talk about Cole Irvin from Oregon that often this season, mostly because he lasted until the 32nd round last year. He was a pick of the Pirates, who they tried to sign, so he was going to get some mentions during the season. That planned minimal coverage was before he started with 21 strikeouts and two runs allowed over his first 14 innings this season. Irvin is better than your normal 32nd round pick, but an injury and struggles last year, dropped him in the rankings. He continued to look good this Friday versus UC Santa Barbara, with no earned runs over eight innings. He allowed five hits, one walk, and struck out six batters. The lefty Irvin has been hitting 92 mph this year with excellent command.

I mentioned last week that Jordan Sheffield was someone who a lot of people are split on He ranks very high for some, while others think he will end up as a reliever, which would make him a lower pick. The Vanderbilt starter threw seven shutout innings last week, after allowing one run over five innings in his debut. He couldn’t follow up strong this week, giving up three runs(two earned) on nine hits in five innings against Stanford on Thursday. He lost to Tristan Beck, who was covered here last year while he was in high school. Baseball America listed Beck as the second best freshman this year. Since he isn’t draft-eligible, don’t expect to hear much about him until the 2018 draft.

Logan Shore from Florida is ranked a little lower by some, but his early season performance will get him some notice. He followed up nine shutout innings last week, with one hit and no walks over seven shutout innings this week against Dartmouth. He picked up eight strikeouts, which ties his career best.

Kentucky’s Zack Brown is another pitcher who has experts split, with some ranking him right in the Pirates’ range, while others felt he was more of a second round pick. For the first two weeks this year, he was pitching more like a late round pick. Brown turned things around this week with one unearned run over seven innings. The control could use a little work with four walks, but the results were there against Buffalo. He will need more starts like this one to remain as a possible pick for the Pirates at the top. He could be someone who looks better with that 41st overall pick.

Everyone was out to see 6’5″ right-hander Dakota Hudson from Mississippi State on Friday night take on UCLA. In his first two starts this year, he allowed two runs over 11 innings, with 17 strikeouts, though he walked seven batters. I’m sure we will get some reports from this start, as every draft source seems to be covering it live. Hudson’s fastball was hitting 96 mph with some command issues early, so he was relying on his cutter for results. He went seven innings, allowing two runs(one earned) on five hits and three walks, with six strikeouts. Hudson ranks somewhere between the Pirates’ top two picks due to four pitches that rate at least average(FB/cutter rank as plus pitches), with decent command when he is on his game.

Links and Notes

** D1 Baseball has a preview of this week(subscription required), outlining some of the top match-ups to follow over the weekend. One of the ones they mentions is the Oregon series, featuring Cole Irvin and Matt Krook, who will start on Saturday. Krook is a likely first round pick. We will have a recap of his start on Monday. If you have a subscription, also check out their prospect recap from last week.

** We mentioned Nick Banks from Texas A&M last week in our hitter recap. He missed the weekend with a back injury, after hitting .200 the first week of the season. Banks returned to the lineup on Friday, so it’s unlikely the missed time will have any effect on his draft spot. We will recap his entire weekend on Monday.

**The 3rd Man In has an interesting article on Pacific outfielder Gio Brusa. You might remember him from our coverage early last year. Brusa was highly rated by some, while others had him lower due to a high strikeout rate. He ended up starting slow last year, then got injured, then didn’t get drafted until 23rd round. He shunned the Cardinals’ offer so he could return to school for his senior year, where he will try to build back up to his draft status going into last season.

**We usually don’t have any high school news early, unless it’s bad news. That’s because most prep players aren’t playing yet, with a few still more than a month away from their first game. The bad news is that lefty Jesus Luzardo has a UCL injury and an appointment with Dr. Andrews for a second opinion on March 21st. Baseball America rated him as the 13th best high school prospect. so he was definitely someone we would have followed this year. Luzardo has topped out at 97 mph in the past.

**Another big injury of note is Vanderbilt’s Kyle Serrano, who is likely looking at Tommy John surgery. He may be able to avoid the surgery, but he is still out for the year. The right-hander was a high profile player out of high school in 2013, though he dropped in the draft due to the Vanderbilt commit. His ties to the school are strong, since his dad is the head baseball coach there. Serrano came into the year looking like a late second round pick. Now he will most certainly return to school next year.

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  1. The stats of these pitchers are intriguing, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. GERRIT Cole’s stats at UCLA weren’t overwhelming. But the Pirates, and really the consensus, saw raw talent that better coaching could unlock. Which of these guys are physically dominating?

    Any “project able frames” like Glasnow out there?

      • Thanks Art! Interesting! How do these kids stay in school though if they really spend a month on the road?

        • The class load is lighter in the Spring. Pretty sure online stuff has helped.

          Winter time is hard, because if they aren’t in class they are in the gym.

    • The draft is always filled with projectable frames, just most don’t reach their ceiling. Check the draft preview for one HS kid I really liked, Ian Anderson.

      I have been ignoring the best players so far, because they really have no chance to fall to the Pirates at this point, so you won’t hear about a Gerrit Cole type when they have the 22nd overall pick. The top pitchers in this class have terrific stuff, but unless they start to drop, it’s not even worth getting fans’ hopes up for them.

      From a personal standpoint, I go to a lot of Lakewood BlueClaws games and the Phillies rush prospects, so there’s a good chance they could select one of the top 1-2 HS pitchers with the first overall pick and put him there all next season. I’d be sure to catch them multiple times

      • John, your comment about the unavailability of a “Gerrit Cole type” at the 22nd pick is so true. That highlights the virtual necessity of trading Gerrit Cole for a top 10 pick or two when he still has a year or two of control left. If the Pirates sustain their success and are always picking no higher than 22 they will have no other access to elite American talent. It varies year to year of course but the top 10 picks of round 1 usually are at another level than the next or bottom 10. The Pirates will never be able to sign elite free agent talent. Their best approach is to trade Cole to say the Phillies for some of those high draft picks at the end of 2017.

        • Please tell me how we are going to win the world series in 18 or 19 if we trade our ace just as he is reaching his full potential for draft picks, which if we are lucky, may someday have one of them as good as Cole or at worst, be complete washouts.

          • Glasnow or Taillon may be exceeding Cole’s performance by 2018. One of them will be the ace. Don’t get me wrong, I like Cole, and would prefer him being on the 2018 and 2019 teams. But there is zero chance that we will keep him beyond that. So, the question is, do you keep Cole for two years and then let him go for nothing? Or do you exchange two years of him at his peak for 4.5 years of two other pitchers say who a few years later will be as good as Cole? Not necessarily draft picks, but former top ten #1s with a year or two of minor league development so that they are only a year or two away. Two years of “acehood” for nine, just displaced in time. Or if they keep Cole for 2018, then maybe they only get one top 10 #1 back so the swap is one year of “acehood” for 4.5 years a few years later. That is how the Pirates must access elite talent, unless you want to see them descend into mediocrity so they “earn” their top ten draft status? You have to give something to get something in the world of trades.

            • Keep in mind that these days you don’t lose a player for “nothing” anymore. You get a #1 pick. You have a better chance of winning a championship with 3 topline pitchers instead of 2…….The Pirates owe this city a championship…..if we are good for the next 5 years or so and then go back to mediocre after that……..its already 27 years since a championship. If we win one, we get to restart that clock, we get those memories forever, those players live on forever….. noone is going to care about the team that had 3 straight wildcard runs, or 5 straight winning seasons, or 7- if we don’t get the trophy. This is not a “neverending window” no matter how much we churn our top talent, so lets win it all, lets win it all back to back years and then……if we have to rebuild, who cares…..we will have those two championships. I can handle 4 or 5 shitty years in a row after that honestly.

              • Who knows what the QO will be priced at in 2020. It may not be affordable. But it might be a good deal for Cole’s services. But the certainty of trading for future aces may be preferable to waiting for a QO (for which the 1st round pick is not in the top 10).

                • Boras would never let Cole accept ANY QO, thus it will be offered. You make a good point that the trade gets you more back than a QO, but you don’t get “nothing”. You get the pick, and more importantly, the use of the services of the pitcher, the merchandise he sells, the tickets he sells, and the games he wins. Think about how much more money we would have if we WON the world series……. look at how much more the royals had to spend this year if you need an example. Trying to win the world series and succeeding for a year or two could propel us to more spending vs. selling our talent like circa 1995

            • For Glasnowor Taillon to be exceeding Cole’s performance in 2018 would be nothing short of miraculous considering they’d both only be in their 2nd full year in the starting rotation while Cole will literally be at the absolute pinnacle of his career. You want to consider that a little deeper…? It’s just as likely that Stetson Allie will be our first baseman that year and hit 30 homers

              • You are also assuming Cole will remain uninjured and won’t regress. That could be true, but isn’t assured. Your Allie analogy is way off base.

                • I know the Allie analogy is off base, I did it for humor only. I knew you’d comment back on it 🙂 – you are assuming the same non-injury factor for Taillon and Glasnow, so that injury point is moot. You don’t really see pitchers of Cole’s caliber regress very often without injury, and they all have the same chance of injury

              • Glasnow’s minor league performance has exceeded Cole’s. It isn’t a stretch to anticipate his Major League performance to be better as well. Taillon ‘s delivery has been reworked since his injury. That may help him keep the ball down. We will see where that takes him.

                • we all know that minor league performance has nothing to do with major league performance. I’m just saying the chances of ANY pitcher being better than a bonified Ace (whom would be in their 5/6 year) in their second year when they have yet to throw a major league pitch, is truly fantasy

                  • We’ll agree to disagree on that. But let’s check back in 2018 to see how the three pitchers are doing with respect to each other.

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