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 latest mock draft from Baseball America.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have the tenth overall pick in the 2018 draft, which is now just 23 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

Joey Bart and Kumar Rocker

Brice Turang (BA mock draft)

Matthew Liberatore and Shane McClanahan

We start this week with Grayson Rodriguez, a right-handed prep pitcher from Texas who Baseball America chose as their pick for the Pirates in the latest mock draft from earlier this week. BA even gave him a Shane Baz comp, as a hard-throwing righty from Texas with a four-pitch mix.

I’ll admit that I had no plans to include him in our final few previews, but that all changed when BA gave him the Baz comp and made him the tenth overall pick in their mock draft. He has never been mentioned this high, though there is reason to keep an eye on him now.

Rodriguez is 18 years old and has a big 6’5″, 230 pound frame. His fastball graded out as a 65 pitch early this year and that may have even improved recently when he began hitting 97-98 MPH in starts. It’s interesting to note that he was on the draft prospect maps as a sophomore when he was sitting 92-94 MPH in front of some scouts, but many reports as a junior has him topping out at 92 MPH. What you’re seeing now from him is what people thought we could eventually see when he was a low-90s pitcher at 16 years old. Part of his jump is attributed to better conditioning this year.

Rodriguez isn’t just a fastball pitcher, as he throws two breaking balls that are at least average. It appears that scouts prefer the slider, but the curve still has potential and he has flashed a nice changeup in the past. All four of his pitches are graded 50 or better.

Rodriguez is the type of prep pitcher who teams can dream on with that big frame, excellent velocity and the ability to throw four pitches for strikes. Late bloomers also seem to draw a lot of attention as the draft nears. He went from someone who not long ago was considered to be a first round possibility, to someone who is now considered one of the top prep pitchers in the country.

Here’s a recent video of Rodriguez from Perfect Game.

Next up is Cole Winn, another right-handed prep pitcher. He went to the Baltimore Orioles with the 11th overall pick in the latest BA mock draft. Unlike Rodriguez, he was on my short list of players to mention over the last few weekends before the draft.

The 18-year-old, 6’2″, 195 pound Winn doesn’t have the size of Rodriguez, but he has been rated highly for the better part of this spring after pitching great in his early March starts. Coming into the year he looked like a late first round possibility, though that quickly changed.

According to MLB Pipeline, he has a 60 grade fastball that sits in the low-90s, a 55 slider that has improved a lot this year and a seldom-used 50 grade changeup, giving him a nice three-pitch mix with control. They also note that each of his pitches look like plus offerings at times. Scouts like the clean mechanics and easy delivery, which should lead to better command as he continues to get more mound experience in the pros.

Winn gets excellent marks for his athleticism, work ethic and baseball IQ. He has been dominating at times this season facing strong high school competition in California. He has averaged almost two strikeouts per inning and his WHIP is in the 0.60 range, with an ERA nearly the same. He’s a Mississippi State recruit, but that won’t come into play if he’s taken tenth overall.

Winn has the right combination of tools you look for in a pitcher, with control, clean mechanics, a three-pitch mix and a solid frame, plus room for more upside. He might not be the big flamethrower type who scouts dream about, but he’s got a much higher floor than some of those players, and still has enough potential to be a front of the rotation pitcher.

Here’s a recent video of Winn from Perfect Game.

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  1. The Winn floor frightens me as it is the type of player the Pirates hunger for. Look at the past two picks in Craig and Newman. Both similar graded players. Only problem with that approach is that you are looking for someone that has a good chance to make the majors but do nothing much once they arrive. I would not take Winn with his current rating. At this juncture the Pirates have to look for high upside and the potential to become a superstar, even if it means you miss on the pick. Hell they missed on every number one pick they had except for Barry Bonds. So what is the difference then, get a player that will not produce but possibly make it to the majors or get someone who can become a hall of famer. I go for the hall of famer potential pick but the Pirates will take another Winn type player because they think that approach is prudent.

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