The Pittsburgh Pirates have the tenth overall draft pick in the 2018 amateur draft. It’s their highest draft pick since they took Austin Meadows with the ninth overall pick in 2013. Back in November, the Pirates received the highest Competitive Balance pick in the draft. While every draft is important, the placement of these picks makes it a significant year to follow the coverage. This is considered by many to be a strong draft class at the top with a lot of depth.
Over the years, we have switched up our draft coverage and last year’s model seemed to work the best. Instead of giving a lot of game recaps like we did in the past, we concentrated on players who were mentioned around the 12th overall spot last year. Since Shane Baz was consistently in that area, anyone who followed our draft coverage throughout the spring knew a lot about him already when his name was called on draft day.
We also mentioned Will Craig often leading up to the 2016 draft and had plenty of info on both Kevin Newman and Ke’Bryan Hayes in 2015 before they were drafted. We whiffed on Cole Tucker in 2014, but with the tenth overall pick this year, I wouldn’t expect any huge surprises out of nowhere.
The tenth overall pick is going to be where most of our time is focused, as once you get later in the draft, it’s tougher to pick where a player might land. That Competitive Balance spot actually isn’t set at this time. There are four more free agents who could affect where the spot ends up. The Pirates started with the 31st overall pick, but it has since dropped to the 34th spot, as some teams have picked up compensation picks at the end of the first round for losing free agents.
You can keep track of the draft order here. If you check further down the list, you’ll see that the Pirates also have the 50th and 85th picks this year, giving them four picks out of the top 100. Last year we covered Calvin Mitchell early in the season and the Pirates ended up taking him with the 50th overall pick. So by covering a lot of players as their names come up, we might get lucky and have information on a later pick as well.
The draft articles will now be posted every Saturday morning until the draft begins on June 4th and we will concentrate on 2-3 players in every article. I’ll usually include notes from the week and check out any mock drafts that may come up. As we get closer to the draft, the mock drafts from bigger sources like Baseball America and MLB Pipeline will get their own articles separate from the Saturday draft article.
Below you find some early draft notes to check out. The players who are consistently mentioned around tenth overall will see the bulk of our coverage later in the year, but I’ll try to mention anyone in the general vicinity early, especially if someone seems like a good fit. The Pirates haven’t made it easy to guess their target this year by taking two college hitters, two college pitchers, two prep pitchers and two prep position players with their first pick in the last eight drafts.
** MLB Pipeline’s list of the top 50 draft prospects. Florida starter Jackson Kowar is rated tenth overall. A 6’5″ right-handed pitcher who will be a player to watch early. He was mentioned twice during our 2015 coverage out of high school due to his upside, but was never considered a potential pick for the Pirates in the first round. He needed to work on his breaking ball and control in high school and he did both of those things in college, moving him up the draft ladder. Here are some highlights from day one of the college season.
** Two notes from Saturday. Pipeline’s #2 prospect Ethan Hawkins and #50 prospect Steven Gingery both left their games with injuries. That’s something to watch, especially with Hawkins, who has a huge upside and potential to go #1 in this draft.
** From December, MLB Pipeline did their latest mock draft. Obviously not much has changed since December with the college baseball season starting this week and high schools starting later, so this is still relevant now. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo each did their own top ten. Callis picked Ryan Rolison, who is a draft-eligible left-handed starter from Mississippi. Just like Kowar, Rolison was mentioned in our previous coverage. He was considered a late first round/early second round pick in 2016. Mayo went with a high school outfielder from Wisconsin named Jarred Kelenic. Mayo considered him the best pure bat among prep players this year, plus he’s got above average speed and a strong arm.
** Keith Law gave his top 30 draft prospects for ESPN Insiders. He has Rolison in the tenth spot, Kowar in 11th and Jake McCarthy ninth. McCarthy was drafted in the 23rd round by the Pirates in 2015, but they couldn’t convince to give up his commitment to Virginia. It didn’t help that the draft bonus pool limited what the Pirates could offer him, but without that limit, he wouldn’t have been available in the 23rd round because he was rated much higher. Speaking of the bonus pool, that won’t be finalized until the free agent situation is resolved and the final draft order is set.
** Fangraphs has Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen on the draft beat, giving them a nice 1-2 punch for their coverage. They recently posted their early rankings for this class and they have the aforementioned Jarred Kelenic in the tenth spot, so expect to hear about him often early on.
** Finally, we have the Baseball America top 200 prospects and they have Kelenic ranked tenth, so you can basically pencil him in as the pick for the Pirates at this point. This link is great for the chart at the top, which breaks down the strength of the class by each position. No spot seems to be very light, other than high school first basemen and that’s always a light spot. College third base isn’t stacked either, but some college middle infielders will likely end up over there, so it’s not a big deal. High school right-handed pitching seems to be the most loaded spot near the top of the class. BA also added this great article for subscribers, which explains what each of the top 30 players needs to do to improve this draft season.