It’s officially that time of year when all the draft experts start putting together all their notes and coming up with updated draft prospect rankings and mock drafts. Today we have new draft rankings from three of the top sources we use, Baseball America, D1 Baseball and ESPN Insider, led by Keith Law. The draft is less than four weeks away and the Pittsburgh Pirates will make three selections on the first day, picking 22nd, 41st and 68th. Once you get out of the first round, then the other picks are tougher to call, so it’s more about giving you a sense of the type of talent you can expect. For that reason, we will stick to the #22 pick here, but the links are there for you to check out the rest.
We will start with Baseball America because the other two require subscriptions to read everything. BA extended their list from the top 100 to the top 200 this week. Eventually, the list will have 500 names, some will have videos for the players, while almost all will have some type of scouting report. There are also some updates on the list, with Louisville reliever Zack Burdi now ranked 22nd overall.
This isn’t a mock draft and I don’t believe the Pirates have any interest in a reliever with this pick, but Burdi is an intriguing arm. He was hitting 97-98 regularly early in the season, then stepped it up to triple digits recently, which has him climbing up prospect rankings. He also has what some consider a plus change-up and the makings of a plus slider, giving him a rare three-pitch mix you don’t often see out of the bullpen. Some scouts believe he can start, or should at least be given a shot to in the pros, but others think his control isn’t good enough for that role.
We have heard that the Pirates have an interest in two Pennsylvania HS players, OF/1B Alex Kirilloff and shortstop Nolan Jones. BA has Kirilloff ranked 15th and Jones 18th. We have also heard the name T.J. Zeuch attached to the Pirates recently and he’s now ranked 21st, steadily climbing the draft charts. He’s a 6’7″ right-handed pitcher, who attends Pitt. All of those in state players have been covered here, but I’d like to point out one name that hasn’t been mentioned because it seems like he only recently became an option.
Early in the year, I never mentioned Florida outfielder Buddy Reed because he was always ranked too high. I noticed last week that he dropped down some rankings and now BA has him 31st on their list. It’s not just them though, D1 Baseball has him 27th and Keith Law has him all the way down at 65th place. Reed is a raw player, who played three sports in high school and isn’t developing at a quick enough pace, making him more of a question mark going into the draft. There is no doubt that the tools are there though.
Reed has terrific speed, allowing him to cover a lot of ground in the outfield and add value on the bases. He also has a strong arm, making him one of the top defensive outfielders in the draft. There is also raw power in his game, giving him three plus tools and a fourth one with potential to be average or better. The problem is that he tends to swing and miss too much, leading to a team high 45 strikeouts in 47 games. That number is high for pro ball, but for college, it is very high. His .278 average ranks him seventh on the team, and his .433 slugging percentage ranks him sixth for the Gators. All that means is that he will likely move slower than your normal college outfielder selected high in the draft, but the payoff for patience can be huge.
Next up we go to the rankings from Keith Law and he has the aforementioned Alex Kirilloff ranked 22nd overall. That would probably make Pirates fans happy, as he is a potential power bat at either first base or a corner outfield spot. Since he is a high school player, you know he will need time, so you don’t worry about what the Pirates currently have at those spots. The fact that he goes to Plum HS in Pittsburgh means that you’ve probably read about him other places than here over the last few weeks. D1 Baseball said that the Pirates have a lot of interest in him and would love to get him, but there is a chance that he doesn’t make it to them.
The latest rankings list from D1 Baseball has Vanderbilt pitcher Jordan Sheffield ranked 22nd. That’s a popular spot for him and he is someone the Pirates could be looking at with their first pick. BA has him ranked 24th and Law is in the middle, placing him 23rd on his list. We have seen Sheffield higher and his pure numbers suggests he should be ranked higher, but he does have two question marks. He throws high 90’s as a starter, touching 99 at times. The downside is that his command isn’t the best, and some scouts question whether he can be a starter in the majors. If the Pirates see him as a potential starter, then he is hard to pass up at 22nd overall. That also goes for teams picking ahead of the Pirates.
Just for reference, the D1 list has Kirilloff ranked 16th, Nolan Jones 19th, and Zeuch rated 20th, so everyone is high on the three in state players. Law actually has Jones rated 11th on his list, which is the highest rating I can recall for him. You can read more about each of these players at the following links:
News and Notes
I had some other links to share before all these new rankings came out and took over this week’s news. Two of them are still worth noting.
**Alec Hansen from Oklahoma was supposed to be a sure top ten pick this year, with some saying he had first overall potential. At 6’7″, with a plus fastball and a “swing and miss” slider, that’s the makings of a top of the rotation pitcher. He started the year off having a tough time throwing strikes, which has been a problem in the past. So it was something people knew about, the assumption was that he showing improvements and would continue to improve in the pros. It got so bad that Hansen was dropped from the rotation and still doing poorly in the limited relief role. Things may have changed this weekend, when he threw six shutout innings against Kansas, allowing two hits (one was a bunt), one walk and he struck out nine batters. If you have a poor overall season going into the draft, it’s always better for your stock to finish strong, as opposed to a strong start, slow finish. So Hansen may be a name to watch after the first pick for the Pirates.
** Ian Anderson, a prep right-handed pitcher from New York, had a great outing earlier this week, hitting 96 MPH in his complete game win. He allowed one hit, which was a solo homer and it came off a change-up. Anderson showed an impressive breaking ball in the game, which was his first start of the season. Scouts have seen very little from him due to a minor injury, sickness and weather-related postponements. He has thrown a total of eight innings, though he’s thrown three times for scouts in scrimmages. Coming from a cold-weather state, Anderson already has a nice mix of pitches, but limited mound time means there is also a lot of room for projection. Most people have him ranked in the 10-15 range now. We have seen pitchers very similar to him fall in the draft due to limited looks, with Mike Nikorak (Pennsylvania, 2015) and Scott Blewett (New York, 2014) being the two most recent examples.
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.
What time of day does the draft start and is the whole first day broadcast?
When do the tiered rankings come out featuring the “hope he falls to them” catagory?
A day or two before the draft starts
Really hope they take Ian Anderson just so we can hear Jethro Tull as his entrance music.