There’s not much to get excited about in this group of players, at least in terms of MLB upside. The odds of a player making the majors after the 25th round are very low when you’re talking about college players, which is what the Pirates drafted with every pick in rounds 26-30. Three of those guys were college seniors, who have no negotiating leverage, which reduces their odds of success, since teams didn’t see enough upside in them to take them earlier in the draft. But these guys can play some roles.
The obvious role is that they will fill out the lower level rosters. Some of them might put up good performances in those lower levels, which won’t be repeated at a higher level. If you’re following prospects with the sole purpose of seeing who will make the majors, then this doesn’t have a lot of appeal. You don’t care about the lower level teams winning or losing. But the players do, and if a young pitching prospect can perform knowing he has solid bullpen options backing him up, or plenty of run support, then it might impact his performance a small percentage.
The more important role here is that guys after the 25th round could teach the guys who could reach the majors. Kevin Decker, a 39th round pick in 2010, didn’t make it past West Virginia, but had a great changeup, and helped pitchers at the level by sharing how he threw his pitch. Jon Schwind, who was a 41st round pick in 2011, has been a mentor to Josh Bell every step of the way up until this year, when Schwind stayed behind in Altoona. Then there’s that role where some of these guys could emerge as upper level depth. Matt Benedict stepped in many times to start for Indianapolis. Kirk Singer was always there when the team needed a filler, up until this year when he became a player coach, now helping guys who are just entering the system.
There probably won’t be a big league player from this group, or any other college picks taken from here on out. But these guys can help in other ways, leading in small ways to the development of the prospects who will arrive in the majors. – Tim Williams
26th Round, 795th Overall: Robbie Coursel, RHP, Florida Atlantic University
Coursel was a reliever for Florida Atlantic, posting a 2.73 ERA and a 30:10 K/BB ratio in 33 innings during his senior year. He only pitched for Florida Atlantic for two years, after transferring from St. Pete College. His junior year didn’t go well, with a 6.00 ERA in 27 innings, and a 24:12 K/BB ratio. He’s a college senior, so he should sign quickly and fill out one of the short-season bullpens. – Tim Williams
27th Round, 825th Overall: Tyler Leffler, SS, Bradley University
Leffler is a plus defender at shortstop, who hit over .300 in three of his four seasons as a starter for Bradley. In his junior season, he hit .196/.305/.255 in 57 games, which was 158 points below his sophomore average. Last summer, Leffler went to the Northwoods League, a summer collegiate league, and hit well, so his junior season stats are a bit of a mystery. Leffler rebounded to hit .313/.402/.474 his senior season and he started all 50 games. That ran his streak of consecutive starts to 204 games, so he’s a durable player. He isn’t fast, and his on base percentage is helped by a lot of hit-by-pitches. The Pirates have taken three defensive-minded college shortstops in the draft and they all look like they should sign, so they will have to be creative to find them time. – John Dreker
28th Round, 855th Overall: Michael Danielak, RHP, Dartmouth College
Danielak pitched for two years at Dartmouth, then missed the entire 2015 season with an injury. He came back as a junior and had easily his best season, although in somewhat limited action. He posted a 2.95 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 39.2 IP. He had 43 strikeouts and issued nine walks in three starts and six relief appearances. – Wilbur Miller
29th Round, 885th Overall: Geoff Hartlieb, RHP, Lindenwood University
Hartlieb was drafted by the Mets in 2015 in the 37th round, but didn’t sign, and returned to Lindenwood. He’s a college senior this year, so he should be an easy sign. The stats haven’t been good, with a 7.62 ERA and a 49:34 K/BB ratio in 65 innings this year. His other seasons weren’t better, with a high ERA and a lot of walks. The appeal here is the stuff. Hartlieb can sit 91-93 MPH and touch as high as 95 as a starter. He’s also a former basketball player, who has only been playing baseball for three years. He’s an older player, turning 23 in the off-season, but has a live arm that might play up in the bullpen, and his lack of experience could allow him to improve going forward. Odds are that he will end up lower level relief pitching depth, but the velocity is interesting enough to keep an eye on. – Tim Williams
30th Round, 915th Overall: Chris Cook, SS, East Tennessee State U
Cook is the second players taken in this draft by the Pirates from East Tennessee State, following 14th round pick Hagen Owenby. He’s also the fourth college shortstop taken. Cook lettered in both football and baseball in high school, then followed in his father’s footsteps to ETSU. His dad was elected to the ETSU Hall of Fame as a baseball player, while also playing four years of football, so Cook comes from a strong, athletic bloodline. He was a starter each of his first two seasons, then only played nine games in 2016 due to a torn labrum, which required season-ending surgery in March. D1 Baseball had him as the 44th best college shortstop coming into this season. – John Dreker