Keith Law posted his second mock draft on Saturday (subscription required), and he has an unusual selection for the Pittsburgh Pirates with their 22nd overall pick. If you missed his last mock draft, he had the Pirates taking Virginia catcher Matt Thaiss. That changed this time because Thaiss is off his board two picks earlier to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Law mentioned in that first mock draft that the Pirates were higher than any other team on Louisville closer Zack Burdi, so with Thaiss off the board, it now looks like Burdi could be their selection according to Law. In the brief write-up, he notes that this strays from their recent draft strategy, but with the apparent interest there, Burdi is a player with a lot to like. His fastball regularly hits 100 MPH, while his slider hits low 90’s and gives him two plus pitches.
Here is the interesting part with Burdi. Some scouts see him as a potential starter, while others see him as a reliever who won’t need much time in the minors. The Pirates have passed on a lot of potential high-end relievers early in the draft, so I would think that if they draft him, he will at least be given a chance to start. He may not stick there, but I don’t think they will use their top draft pick for someone whose ceiling is a reliever, and who has some command issues according to some scouts. He can get away with most mistakes at that velocity, but he still has to throw strikes.
What these recent mock drafts have told us basically is that the Pirates are covering all of their bases with the first round pick, making sure they get the best player available. Law hears they have interest in Burdi, while Kendall Rogers hears they are interested in a high school bat. Jonathan Mayo heard yesterday that they were leaning towards selecting an arm.
So my advice is just pick a favorite and then be disappointed when they don’t pick them. My personal guess is that they look for an advanced bat at a premium position, but a player athletic enough to play a different spot if he needs to move due to a logjam at the position. They just started looking for players like this in the last three years. Versatility, on base skills and athleticism have become a focus of the system, so I think it’s too early to stray from that model. I’d expect a high school player as well, because it looks like a down year for talent in the GCL and Bristol this year, so a high school bat would help strengthen the bottom end of the system.
Since this article is about Burdi, here is a video. You can see the velocity, some plus pitches, but also some control issues.