Draft Prospect Watch: A Look at Two Prep Pitchers Moving Up the Rankings

Six weeks ago, we began our 2018 amateur draft coverage with our preview article. Since then we have looked at a pair of potential draft pick for the Pirates each week. We continue with two more players today who were mentioned in Baseball America’s latest mock draft as possibilities for the Pirates. They are Mason Denaburg and Carter Stewart, who have both seen their draft stock go up early in the season.

Last week, MLB announced the draft slots and bonus pools for each team. Now we know that the Pirates will have over $10M to spend on their draft picks, although the final number will be closer to $12M (assuming they sign all of their top ten round picks) once you add in the bonuses after the tenth round.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have the tenth overall pick in the 2018 draft, which is now 58 days away. That’s their highest pick since taking Austin Meadows with the ninth overall pick in 2013. They also have the 36th and 51st overall picks. 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.

Here is a summary of the previous articles:

Jackson Kowar and Jarred Kelenic

Ryan Rolison and Travis Swaggerty

Casey Mize and Jeremy Eierman

Nolan Gorman and Nander De Sades

Logan Gilbert and Ryan Weathers

Alec Bohm and Griffin Conine

We start this week with Mason Denaburg, who is an 18-year-old, 6’3″, 190 pound right-handed pitcher. He has played an interesting combo of positions in high school, pitching and catching. Plus he also plays football. Coming into the year, there were questions as to how easy he would be to sign away from his commitment to Florida, considering he might want to be a two-way, two-sport player in college. My guess now is that his draft stock as a pitcher has taken off enough that it’s unlikely he passes on the bonus he would be looking at in the top half of the first round.

Despite the fact that he hasn’t concentrated just on pitching yet, Denaburg already has present stuff that has scouts dreaming about what could be in his future. His fastball has touched 97 MPH and it sat mid-90s early in starts this season, dropping a few MPH as outings go along. That’s common for high school pitchers, who haven’t built up that stamina yet that comes along with age and filling out. He also throws a strong breaking ball, which was a slider last year, but a new grip has some calling it a curve. Regardless of what you call it, it’s a swing-and-miss pitch that he can throw for strikes. His changeup is a seldom-used pitch that needs some work, which is again typical of a prep pitcher, who doesn’t need a third pitch to get outs.

There is a lot to like here already with Denaburg. He’s got a solid 6’3″ frame and can fill out some more. He is slightly inexperienced on the mound, yet already has the potential for two plus pitches and he throws strikes. He’s a great athlete. Denaburg is a little more raw than you would like to see from your top pick this high in the draft, but when you look at what he can already do, it’s difficult to not get excited thinking about where he could end up once he begins to pitch full-time.

Here’s a video where he hits 97 MPH. He allows a home run, though you can forgive him because it was hit by Nolan Gorman, who ranks as one of the top position players in this draft


Next up is Carter Stewart, an 18-year-old right-handed pitcher from Florida with a commitment to Mississippi State. He has a large 6’6″ frame, with room to fill out still.

Stewart gets a lot of the same grades on his tools/pitches as Denaburg. Both of them have fastballs that rate slightly above average now, with room for improvements. Stewart is more due to his size and the strength he can add as he gets older and fills out. Once that happens, he should be able to hold his velocity longer. He has already seen a spike in his fastball, touching 98 MPH this year. Last year, he would usually top out at 93 MPH and get down into the high-80s late in starts.

Stewart has a curveball that gets a 60 grade now, and according to some scouts, it has the potential to be a plus-plus pitch. Just like Denaburg, the changeup is clearly a third pitch and will need work in the pros. He has a clean delivery and already throws a decent amount of strikes, which could mean solid command of his pitches in the future.

This is another pick where there is a lot to like already and more to dream on once he’s in the pros. He has the huge frame and a solid two-pitch mix, with a lot of upside and the present ability to throw strikes. If his fastball velocity becomes more consistent, we could see him leap over the Pirates and go sooner in the draft.

Here’s a video of Stewart from the same event as the Denaburg video above.


** From Mike Rosenbaum at MLB.com, here are the top ten prospects who participated in last weeks National High School Invitational. It includes some names at the bottom of the list who the Pirates might be considering with those 36th and 51st picks.

** For ESPN Insiders, Keith Law also had his list of the top players at the NHSI. He also throws in some college notes, including a look at Alec Bohm, who went to the Pirates in that mock draft linked above.

** Baseball America has a feature on prep shortstop Brice Turang, who we should probably feature here soon, but will likely be off the board before the Pirates get to make their first selection. BA also has an article on the top seven college left-handed pitchers.

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.

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