Draft Prospect Watch: New Mock Draft Gives Us Two Players from Georgia to Watch

We began our 2018 amateur draft coverage in mid-February 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 could be intriguing early in the first round. They come from the mock draft put out by Fangraphs last week. If you missed it yesterday, we posted a new mock draft from Baseball America.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have the tenth overall pick in the 2018 draft, which is now just 37 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. Last month, MLB announced the draft slots and bonus pools for each team. 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.

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 list of the player featured in 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

Mason Denaburg and Carter Stewart

Ethan Hankins and Tristan Beck

Mike Vasil and Jonathan India

We start this week with Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart, who others besides Fangraphs have also said that the Pirates are considering. Fangraphs goes as far as to say that Bart will definitely be taken in the top ten picks. The Pirates could obviously use a top catching prospect in their system. Bart was moved up to ninth in this draft class in the updated rankings by MLB Pipeline on Thursday.

Bart was mentioned here briefly back when he was in high school and most of the reports back then said that he likely won’t stick as a catcher, but the bat was worth a high pick. He’s a big strong right-handed hitter, standing 6’3″, 225 pounds. The bat is still worth a high pick and with his college record there is more certainty behind that statement. His defense has improved greatly though and now the consensus is that he will stick behind the plate. In fact, Pipeline rated him as an above average defensive catcher with a 60 grade arm.

The only below average part to his game is his speed, which is painfully slow, but he still has quick reactions and movements behind the plate. That one below average tool won’t matter because you’re talking about a power hitting catcher, who does a solid job of getting on base and plays above average defense. Going into this weekend, Bart was hitting .356/.470/.626 in 41 games.

Here’s a video from Baseball America:

Next up we stay in Georgia for prep pitcher Kumar Rocker. The 18-year-old right-hander is 6’5″, 250 pounds. I’ll start by saying that Fangraphs has Rocker going to the Braves with the eighth overall pick and that seems like they are playing the percentages. The Braves don’t like prep players in their own backyard being taken by other teams, so there is a chance that they will take him. MLB Pipeline sees him as more of a middle of the first round pick, so maybe the Pirates will actually have the option to take him or not.

Rocker is obviously a big kid, who also has a big fastball. He usually sits in the 92-96 MPH range, and can hit 98 MPH. In one of his last starts, his last pitch was 93 MPH and he was topping out at 96 MPH. He has solid control of his fastball and gets a nice downhill plane on his pitch. His breaking ball is a hard slider with a sharp tight break when he’s on his game. MLB Pipeline rates his changeup as a 50 grade, but like most high school players, it’s a pitch that can be inconsistent due to a lack of usage.

You have a young kid, with a huge frame, who already throws hard and keeps that velocity late in games. He’s considered to be an athletic player who is still learning to repeat his delivery better. His breaking ball has the potential to be a plus pitch that he uses for strikeouts, and his changeup has potential. A workhorse starter with a three-pitch mix that includes two plus pitches would be a nice piece to add to the system.

Here’s a recent video from Perfect Game: