Today we take a first look at four college players who were recently rated high by D1 Baseball in their mid-season update. 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.
We mentioned on Saturday that D1 Baseball had a new top 100 college prospects ranking up on their site. Since it’s only college players, it’s tough to match up a particular player to the Pirates. I figured with that in mind, I’d take a look at four players we haven’t mentioned yet here, who were ranked in the 10-20 area on D1’s new list.
The first player is ranked #11 and he now goes to a very small school. Lucas Erceg plays third base and occasionally pitches for Menlo College in California. He transferred from California to Menlo after becoming academically ineligible. Erceg’s future is as a position player due to his powerful bat from the left side, but he’s also able to get it up to 97 MPH on the mound. That strong arm helps him over at third base. Erceg is hitting .309/.352/.624 in 44 games this year, with 15 homers and just 13 strikeouts. The home run total might seem a little misleading because his team has hit 68 homers this year, which is high for any college. The Menlo pitchers have held the opposition to just 19 homers, so Erceg has almost homered as much as the opposition. He is 6’3″, 205 pounds, with average speed and the ability to play third base in the pros.
Auburn outfielder Anfernee Grier is 13th on the D1 list. He is a 6’1″, 180 pounds, with a lot of speed and the ability to get on base. Grier is hitting .403/.494/.633 this year in 32 games, with seven homers and 14 stolen bases. You have to like the tools he has in his speed, power and range, plus the ability to get on base, but there are a couple of issues. He’s had just one outfield assist in three seasons. I’ve included a Youtube highlight video of Grier from Jake Mastroianni, located at the bottom of this article. In that video, you can see there isn’t much on the throws. Grier also has some strikeout issues, going down 61 times last year, and he isn’t far off that pace this season. So you have the tools to be a solid four-tool player, but the strikeouts might be concerning to some teams, especially since you wouldn’t call him a power hitter, rather he’s a hitter with some power.
CJ Chatham, a shortstop for Florida Atlantic, is ranked 16th on the D1 list. He’s tall for a shortstop at 6’4″, 185 pounds. Chatham is a high on base guy, hitting .387 so far this season, with a .455 OBP and only 14 strikeouts. He isn’t quick, going 4-for-9 in stolen bases so far in his three seasons of college. Even average runners can still usually steal 8-10 bases, especially when they are on base as much as Chatham. Despite the lack of speed on the bases, Chatham is a rangy defender, with good hands and a strong arm. He has been called a plus-plus defender, who is very athletic. He fits the Pirates’ mold with their recent draft picks, playing solid defense at a premium position, showing athleticism and an ability to get on base, while making consistent contact.
Lefty Eric Lauer from Kent State ranked 20th on the new list, meaning right now he would probably be a better choice for the Pirates’ pick in the 41st spot, but he’s close enough with almost two months left to still move into consideration for that earlier pick. He’s intriguing because he would probably move quickly through the system. Lauer throws four pitches for strikes, and they all grade at least average. He fastball touches 94 MPH with very little effort, and he mixes it well with his three off-speed pitches. He’s been great this season, posting an 0.99 ERA in eight starts, with a .163 BAA and 67 strikeouts in 54.1 innings. Lauer dominated Toledo this weekend, throwing a two-hit shutout, with no walks and ten strikeouts. This last start was made after the D1 Baseball list was updated.