The 2017 MLB Draft starts tonight at 7 PM, with the first two rounds of the draft taking place today. The Pittsburgh Pirates pick 12th, 42nd, 50th and 72nd. Rounds 3-10 follow on Tuesday at 1 PM, and rounds 11-40 are on Wednesday at noon.
For the last four years, we have released tiered rankings for the top 100 prospects. We start with an average of all of the major draft rankings, then arrange players into tiers, which are customized based on where the Pirates pick. Each tier is shown below, with a summary of the most notable guys in each group.
Check back on the site during the draft to read about who the Pirates picked. We will have player pages for every player who is drafted, along with instant analysis on each pick, and our updated Draft Pick Signing Tracker.
Otherwise known as the “They Definitely Won’t Fall to the Pirates” Tier
Austin Beck, MacKenzie Gore, Hunter Greene, Royce Lewis, Brendan McKay, Kyle Wright
There haven’t been any rumors that these players will fall anywhere near the Pirates, so there isn’t much to say about this group that is relevant to the team. They may not be picks 1-6, but they should all be gone before the top ten picks are done. Beck was ranked lower until recently, although all of the latest indications say he will be gone by the sixth pick.
Otherwise known as the “There is a Chance They Could Fall, and the Pirates Should Take Them if They Do” Tier
Jordon Adell, J.B. Bukauskas, Adam Haseley, Pavin Smith
You shouldn’t get your hopes up for any of them, but don’t be surprised if one of them is available for the Pirates. The Pirates have supposedly scouted Adam Haseley and Pavin Smith heavily while looking for a strong college bat. J.B. Bukauskas has been a top ten pick all year, then his last start was his worst of the season. After that happened, the questions about his small frame and high effort delivery became bigger questions marks, as to whether he can handle the workload of a starter. I almost put Jo Adell in the first tier, but there are some questions about his ability to hit for average. He has three plus tools in his defense in center field, his arm (he hits 97 MPH on the mound) and his speed. He also has above average power, with a solid frame and some room to add muscle, so he’s close to four plus tools. He’s the biggest upside of this group, but Smith and Haseley offer bats that are much safer and high quality.
Otherwise known as the “These Are the Guys Who Are Good Fits For the 12th Overall Pick” Tier
Shane Baz, Jake Burger, Griffin Canning, Sam Carlson, Alex Faedo, DL Hall, Keston Hiura, Jeren Kendall, David Peterson, Nick Pratto, Trevor Rogers, Logan Warmoth, Evan White
Some of these guys could be gone before the Pirates get to make their first pick, and they should all be gone before they make their second pick. They are all consistently rated in the Pirates’ range in rankings and mock drafts. None of them would be a reach at this pick and some of them would be a great selection because they were rated higher at times during the season.
Shane Baz has been a constant link to the Pirates this year. The 6’3″ right-hander from Texas offers a fastball that has touched 100 MPH, a plus slider, an above average cutter and his curve/changeup also rate as at least average. He also has control over all five pitches, which makes it hard to believe he isn’t ranked higher. He would be a great pick here for the Pirates with one caveat. He has a strong commitment to TCU, so they only take him if they are sure he signs and it may take over-slot money to get him. Lefty Trevor Rogers isn’t far behind Baz in talent and his 6’6″ frame offers plenty of projection. The downside with him is that he’s a high school pitcher who turns 20 later this year, making him two years older than many players in his same class.
Jake Burger and Keston Hiura are two college bats we have heard a lot for the Pirates. Burger is the best power bat in the draft, while Hiura is an above average hitter with a little power. Both should be available with the 12th overall pick. Burger will be there because his power is his one carrying tool, while Hiura has an elbow injury that will likely require surgery after the draft. Both should be valuable bats in the majors, they just don’t offer position value with the pick.
First basemen Evan White and Nick Pratto have been connected to the Pirates recently. White is a solid college bat with some power, who uses the whole field. He’s also a tremendous defensive first baseman, but he’s athletic enough to play the outfield. Pratto is perhaps the best high school bat in the draft, plus he also plays strong defense at first base. You usually don’t see this many first basemen rated high in a draft class (Pavin Smith also plays 1B), but at least with these two, you could see outfield being a second option for some added position versatility.
I have not heard pitchers Canning, Carlson or Peterson connected to the Pirates, but they have consistently rated in the top 20. I have heard D.L. Hall connected to the Pirates a couple times, though it seems hard to believe that the Pirates would draft a 6’0″ high school pitcher with their 12th overall pick. That’s the same size as Bukauskas, but he has the best slider in the draft class and has touched 100 MPH, so there is a clear difference between him and Hall. Alex Faedo also seems unlikely for the Pirates, though I’ve seen him go anywhere from top ten numerous times to late first round recently.
I’ve only heard UNC’s Logan Warmoth connected to the Pirates once as a player they might reach for with this pick. He technically belongs in the next tier, though he seems like a great fit for the Pirates and their draft style. He’s an athletic shortstop with the hit tool. He can run, play defense, hit for a little power, basically a solid all-around player. The fact that he’s an athletic shortstop gives him some position versatility to plug him in wherever he fits best.
Finally, if all of these guys are available, I’d go for Jeren Kendall. He does have plenty of detractors due to swing and miss tendencies, but I’d be looking at the floor here, while also hoping for the high ceiling. He has the ability to at least be a Gold Glove center fielder, who can steal bases and occasionally run into some homers. The power is there, so when he hits it, the ball will go. He may not get on base enough to steal 30+ bases, but the speed is there for those numbers. The upside would be that you can change his two-strike approach, maybe cut down on the strikeouts and have yourself an All-Star center fielder with five-tools. The downside is a Gold Glove center fielder who doesn’t get on base enough to hit at the top or middle of the order, but still has 15 HR/20 SB potential.
Otherwise known as the “Questionable For the 12th Pick, Great For the 42nd Pick” Tier
Nick Allen, Hans Crouse, Hagen Danner, Blayne Enlow, Quentin Holmes, Tanner Houck, Alex Lange, Brendon Little, Tristen Lutz, Brian Miller, Nate Pearson, Heliot Ramos, Seth Romero, Matt Sauer, Chris Seise, Bubba Thompson, Drew Waters
This group includes players who would be a big reach at 12th overall, but will probably be off the board before the Pirates make their second selection. I won’t go over all of the names from here on out, but I’ll give some thoughts on players that stand out for each group. I’ll start by saying that Seth Romero had to go somewhere on this list, but he’s been in a lot of trouble during his time in school, so I don’t see the Pirates selecting him. His talent would have him in the 2nd or 3rd tier, but he’s a big risk.
If the Pirates had a pick between 12 and 42 I could see them being really interested in Brendon Little, who plays his college games in Bradenton and his pitching coach is former Pirate Don Robinson. Little is a lefty pitcher with good size, a plus fastball, an above average curve and an improved changeup thanks to Robinson. If he was a bit more of a strike-thrower, he wouldn’t be such a reach for the 12th overall pick, but as a college player, that knocks him down to this level. I think the Pirates would jump on him at this pick, as he has improved this year and it’s very likely they saw a lot of him being so close to Pirate City.
I got to see Hans Crouse pitch this year. He has an electric arm and he’s a bit quirky on the mound, with some flare and showmanship. I think he will be gone in the late 20’s, early 30’s, but his high effort delivery and antics on the mound could scare some teams off. That’s the only way he falls to the Pirates.
Quentin Holmes is a darkhorse for the 42nd overall pick. He’s the definition of a raw player, coming from the prep ranks in New York, where the competition isn’t as good and the seasons are shorter. Put quite simply, Holmes can run. He’s rated an 80, which makes him the best in this class. He’s a player a team will need to be patient with, but you could have yourself a lead-off hitter who will be a threat to steal every time he is on, and someone who can cover a lot of ground in the outfield. He also has a nice frame, with room to fill out and add some power.
Nate Pearson recently hit 100 MPH in a bullpen for scouts. He’s also 6’6″, 240 pounds, so he has the build of a workhorse starter. The reason he is in this group instead of higher is that he has a bit of injury history in his past (not recent) and he doesn’t have a quality third pitch or the control of a starter at this point. If he goes in the first round, it will be because a team thinks he can start, but they will take the power reliever fallback option.
Tristen Lutz is a name that has just popped up connected to the Pirates. He’s not a strong enough player to be the 12th overall pick, but he’s too good to last until the 42nd pick. He’s projected to be a strong-arm right fielder, with average speed, who uses the entire field when he hits and has some power due to a 6’3″, 210 frame that could still fill out more. He currently plays center field for his Texas high school, so I’m guessing that if the Pirates take him 12th overall, they see that as a position he can stick at, even if he moves off it later due to someone better in center field
Otherwise known as the “These Are the Guys Who Are Good Fits For the 42nd or 50th Overall Picks” Tier
Tristan Beck, Cole Brannen, Tanner Burns, Wil Crowe, Jeter Downs, Stuart Fairchild, Mason House, Steven Jennings, Corbin Martin, Brady McConnell, M.J. Melendez, Garrett Mitchell, Brent Rooker, Clarke Schmidt, Conner Uselton, Mark Vientos, Ryan Vilade
With two picks so close together, we included them both in the same group. So some of these guys might be better picks at 50th overall and considered a stretch at 42nd. At this point you’re talking about the players who get the tag that they might slip into the back-end of the first round, but fit better as second round players. I’ll point out that the 42nd pick is a comp pick for not signing Nick Lodolo last year. You only get one extra shot at that, so there is no 43rd overall pick as a fallback this year. That means the Pirates might go with someone who is a safer bet to sign.
I’ll start with Brady McConnell because he was one of the players I was following at the start of the season due to his profile. You could say he’s a poor man’s Logan Warmoth. The prep shortstop never really got going at the plate this season except for a few games in the middle of the year. He’s an athletic shortstop with a frame to add muscle. He projects to stick at shortstop and has plus speed. Just like Warmoth, he probably fits better a tier below where I have him, but I could see him being a good fit for the Pirates at this spot. If they take him here, you hope it’s with the 50th pick and they go for more upside and/or certainty with the 42nd pick.
Tristan Beck was covered here two years ago out of high school and back then he fell in the sixth tier, so he’s improved his stock at Stanford. That improvement was actually bigger than one tier before a back injury cost him his sophomore season, so a team taking him would be going off what they saw last year. He has above average control, along with one of the best changeups in the draft class and a low-90s fastball, with a 6’4″ frame that has room to fill out.
Brent Rooker is a power bat at first base. Here’s someone who could be a fallback for the college bat the Pirates were looking for early if they decide to go elsewhere. Stuart Fairchild was seen often by the Pirates last year as a teammate of Will Craig. He’s a center fielder with speed to steal bases, the ability to hit 10-15 homers a year and he does a decent job of getting on base.
Clarke Schmidt had Tommy John surgery in April, but before that he was a possible first round pick as a college pitcher with four average or better pitches, along with solid control. You take him here and you’re getting a pitcher who won’t take the mound in a game until next June, but has the upside of a mid-rotation starter.
Mason House is a lefty bat with good size, who will end up as a strong corner outfielder with a plus arm. He’s been getting some better scouting reports recently, otherwise he would be a tier lower. Just like McConnell, he fits better with the 50th pick. Conner Uselton is a 19-year-old prep outfielder with a quick bat and tons of tools. He would be an intriguing add with either of these picks. MJ Melendez is an 18-year-old catcher who is already strong defensively behind the plate and guaranteed to stick there. The bat might not be enough to make him a starter in the majors, but he at least would be someone who gets there due to his glove. While you never draft for need, the Pirates could use some lower level catching.
Otherwise known as the “These Are the Guys Who Are Good Fits For the 72nd Overall Pick” Tier
Riley Adams, Luis Campusano, Greg Deichmann, Drew Ellis, Jacob Heatherly, Kyle Hurt, Blaine Knight, Caden Lemons, James Marinan, Michael Mercado, Kevin Merrell, Calvin Mitchell, Jacob Pearson, Alex Scherff, Gavin Sheets, Evan Skoug, Matt Tabor, Jake Thompson
The Pirates have the 72nd overall pick on the first day and the 88th overall pick early on the second day. So these players would fit both groups, but they would be considered great picks if the Pirates could get them with the 88th pick.
Luis Campusano is a solid defensive prep catcher, who should remain at the position. His bat is better than the aforementioned MJ Melendez, but he isn’t as athletic behind the plate and doesn’t run well. His dad was a minor league catcher for the Pirates. Evan Skoug is a college catcher who may not end up behind the plate. He doesn’t run well either, but the bat has more certainty than Campusano provides, even if the defense isn’t up to par. Some rate Skoug higher, so he may be gone well before the 72nd pick, but I don’t see the appeal of him earlier in the draft.
Greg Deichmann offers plus power from a college bat. He’s a right fielder with a strong arm. Gavin Sheets is another Wake Forest bat who will be off the board in the first three rounds. He’s a big 6’5″, 235 pound first baseman with power. He’s limited to first base, so this might not be the best pick for the Pirates, though they could sure use a lefty power bat. Riley Adams is a 6’5″ college catcher with power potential, who should stick behind the plate.
Kevin Merrell is an athletic college shortstop with tremendous speed. He’s a split to stick at shortstop, but he should have no problem finding a spot on the field and he will get on base. The speed will be an asset wherever he plays in the field and on the bases.
I saw Jacob Heatherly pitch when he wasn’t at his best and still liked what I saw. He a HS lefty, who sits low-90s with two versions of a curveball. Very athletic kid, with a solid frame. Cade Lemons is a lanky 6’6″ righty with a plus fastball and an average slider/changeup combo to go along with it. He screams Pirates if he’s around for the 72nd pick. The Pirates like 6’4″ right-handed pitchers and Michael Mercado is a projectable prep pitcher who fits the description. His selling point is above average control and a strong showing this spring. He’s committed to Stanford, so he won’t be a cheap signing.
Otherwise known as the “Everyone Else in the Top 100, Although Keep in Mind the Third Round Pick is 88th Overall” Tier
Mike Baumann, Bryce Bonnin, Daniel Cabrera, Morgan Cooper, Seth Corry, Shane Drohan, Jake Eder, Michael Gigliotti, Luis Gonzalez, Devin Hairston, K.J. Harrison, Spencer Howard, Blake Hunt, Tyler Johnson, Greg Jones, Landon Leach, J.J. Matijevic, Joe Perez, Drew Rasmussen, Kevin Smith, Daniel Tillo, Daulton Varsho, Matt Whatley
These picks are considered third round talent. If the Pirates get them at 88th overall, or even with the 118th overall pick in the fourth round, they are getting good value for the pick.
Shane Drohan is prep lefty with some projection, who currently has solid control of three average pitches. The danger here is that he stays a soft-tossing lefty in the 88-92 range, although that’s still enough to get him to the majors. Daniel Tillo would likely be a better route as a college lefty, who has a bigger frame and currently throws harder, with a fastball that rates as a 60 on the 20-80 scale.
Morgan Cooper is a college pitcher with some upside, offering four pitches that are all at least average, plus decent control. He already had Tommy John surgery and is a little older for his draft class, turning 23 later this year. The upside is there for a solid big league starter, and he should move quickly through the system.
JJ Matijevic and KJ Harrison are two college first basemen with decent bats, who some people rank higher than this area. Both have some questions as to whether their bats will be enough to get them to the majors as regulars.
This draft is full of strong defensive catchers who may not hit enough. That describes Blake Hunt, a prep backstop who will stick at the position, but the bat will likely limit him to a backup. Catchers do develop slower than other positions, so a patient team might get more out of the bat.
Joe Perez just found out he needs Tommy John surgery. He might be a risky take here, but he’s young for his class (turns 18 in December) and had a plus fastball, to go along with an average slider. The missed time will hurt the development of his control and a third pitch, but he had high upside potential before the injury.