Two weeks ago we began our 2018 amateur draft coverage with our preview article. That was followed by a look at two of the top names in this draft class last Saturday. We continue this week with two more players of interest. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the tenth overall pick in the 2018 draft, which is now 93 days away. That’s their highest pick since taking Austin Meadows with the ninth overall pick in 2013.
Every Saturday leading up to the draft, we will have an article looking at the players who are possibilities for that tenth overall pick. We will also have separate articles as we get closer to the draft whenever some of the top draft sources have updated rankings or post mock drafts.
We start this week’s article with left-handed starting pitcher Ryan Rolison from Ole Miss. The draft-eligible sophomore stands 6’2″, 195 pounds and was previously drafted in the 37th round in 2016 by the San Diego Padres. He was rated much higher going into the draft, but his commitment to college caused him to drop. He is ranked seventh overall by Baseball America in their March 1st updated top 300 list, and MLB Pipeline has him ranked ninth. Keith Law ranked him tenth overall in his preseason top 30 draft prospects.
Rolison was considered a polished high school pitcher in 2016 and he has improved across the board since then. Pipeline gives him average grades with his slider, changeup and control, while the fastball is above average (touches 95 MPH) and his curve is one of the best in the draft. They also give him high marks for his athleticism, clean delivery and conditioning. He should have no trouble remaining in the starting rotation as a pro with his ability to control four average or better pitches.
In his first two starts combined, Rolison allowed one run on four hits and four walks in ten innings, while striking out 21 batters. He was supposed face Long Beach State last night, but that game was postponed due to rain. He’s scheduled to pitch tonight.
Here is a video from 2080 Baseball, showing Rolison in the Cape Cod League over the summer. It includes a couple of different angles and some slow motion of his delivery.
On the position player side, we have to go with outfielder Travis Swaggerty from South Alabama. The reason we have to go with him is because he is ranked tenth overall in the updated Baseball America rankings, lining up with the first pick of the Pirates.
Swaggerty went undrafted out of high school because he didn’t have the profile of a future MLB player. Since then, he has really taken his game to the top level. A 5’11”, 180 pound center fielder, he has above average speed, which helps him on the bases and in the outfield, where he covers a lot of ground. He also has a strong arm, giving him three above average tools. Pipeline rates him as a 55 for hitting and 45 power. Their report says he has some swing-and-miss to his game, although he has strong plate patience. Other reports credit him with a quick bat and the ability to make contact. A change in his approach last year now has him using the entire field, instead of getting too pull happy at times.
Swaggerty isn’t going to be a big home run guy, likely topping out at 10-15 per season, but it appears that he projects to do everything else above average. He has the ability to get on base and his speed will help him get into scoring position. He projects to remain in center field and play above average defense. Going into last night’s game, he was hitting .367/.587/.767 in 30 at-bats, with 14 walks and three homers in nine games.
Baseball America has a video from over the summer, showing Swaggerty’s swing, with a couple of game highlights at the end.
I also added a video from 2080 Baseball with some more game action and a couple of swings in slow motion.
** Our coverage last week included Jackson Kowar from Florida. The 6’5″, right-handed pitcher had a start against Miami last weekend in which he allowed two runs on five hits over six innings. He was a bit wild in the game with three walks and two hit batters. He had just three strikeouts, but was showing strong velocity, getting his fastball up to either 96 or 97, depending on the source. Kowar pitches tonight against Stony Brook.
** Baseball America has a report for subscribers on left-handed prep pitcher Matthew Liberatore, who MLB Pipeline ranked as the #3 prospect in this draft. According to the report, nearly 150 scouts and front office personnel were in attendance for his game. He had 14 strikeouts over seven innings and his fastball reached 95 MPH late in the game. If you have that BA subscription, you can also check out their reports on the top five college third basemen.
** One of my player choices for this week was going to be Oregon State second baseman Nick Madrigal. Those plans changed when he fractured his hand. He is expected to miss at least three weeks and may not be back for another six weeks. Madigal was ranked 11th overall by MLB Pipeline and 18th by Keith Law.+ posts
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.