Heading into day three, we wrote about how teams usually pick better players on day three than on day two, and how day three is what really defines a draft. Of course, day three doesn’t immediately define the draft.
The big thing fans are looking for on day three are prep players. They might not be as highly rated right now as the college guys, but prep players have a chance to grow over the next few years. There are so many stories — including the story of Pirates’ first round pick Travis Swaggerty — of players who went undrafted out of high school, only to go in the first round three years later. Get enough prep players in your system and you might have a guy who develops enough in your system that he would have been a first rounder.
The Pirates took eight prep players on day three of the draft. Putting that in perspective, they took nine total in the entire 2017 draft (with 5 in the first ten rounds). They took six in 2016 (3 after the 10th round), five in 2015 (4), 10 in 2014 (5), and 10 in 2013 (5). This was the most prep-heavy day three that the Pirates have had under the current draft system. The only thing that beats this group is the 2012 draft, where they took 19 prep players, including 16 after the top ten rounds. That was probably due to a combination of adjusting to the new draft system, and uncertainty over whether Mark Appel would sign.
I’d be shocked if they sign all of the prep players this year. I don’t have any insight on which guys they will sign, although I have a feeling that 11th round pitcher Michael Burrows will be signed, just because of the draft position, and the fact that the Pirates had time to prepare for taking him.
From there, we’re going to have to wait and see which other guys sign before getting a feel for this draft. We’ve already heard that Gunnar Hoglund and Braxton Ashcraft — taken with the 36th and 51st picks — are set to sign quickly. So it’s not like you can call any of these prep players on day three a backup plan for the early guys, like what was probably going on with Appel.
Burrows is interesting because he’s your classic projectable pitcher, and has already seen his velocity hit 93 at a young age, with the feel for three other pitches. The two prep picks who really stood out are Jason Brandow and Tyler Miller, taken in the 22nd and 23rd rounds, respectively.
Brandow is an outfielder who is athletic and has a lot of power. He has also played third base and caught, so it will be interesting to see where the Pirates use him if he signs. Miller is a big shortstop with power, and watching him develop and grow into his frame in this system would be a good thing for the Pirates if they get him signed.
The guys in the later rounds might be difficult to sign. Giovanni DiGiacomo might be the fastest guy taken by the Pirates, and has the capability for plus defense in center field, but his bat lags behind and he could improve his draft stock by going to LSU.
Davis Sharpe was highly rated as a pitcher, then his stock fell and the Pirates drafted him as a third baseman. He’s got the chance to be a two-way player at Clemson, where he could rebuild his pitching stock, or build up the hitting stock.
Lavoisier Fisher didn’t have much information available, and most of his focus was on football, so that could say how difficult he will be to sign. Jack Herman agreed to a commitment to Maryland before he played a high school game, so you could view that as strong. And Emanuel Andrews is raw and young, which means he could improve his draft stock a lot by going to college.
As far as backup plans, I could see the later round guys being backup plans to guys like Brandow and Miller. If the Pirates get Burrows, Brandow, and Miller signed, then any one of these guys in the late rounds would be a nice bonus.
It’s not all about high school players though. The Pirates drafted some interesting college guys, many of them in the Baseball America top 500.
The college guys provided a nice mixture of player profiles. Zac Susi (12th round, BA #326) is a catcher with good defense and on-base skills who could reach the majors as a backup with that profile. Zack Kone (13th, #228) is a big shortstop who will be a project at the plate, but should be able to stick on the left side of the infield. Daniel Amaral (14th, #329) is a speedy center fielder who does everything well except hitting for power.
Then there’s Jonah Davis (15th, #200), who was the highest ranked player taken on day three by BA’s standards. He’s got a smaller frame, at 5′ 10″, 181 pounds, but has plus raw power. That comes with strikeout issues and no defensive value, meaning that he’s going to need to clean up his swing in pro ball. If he can do that, then playing a corner outfield spot won’t be an issue, and he could turn into a steal in the 15th round.
The last ranked college guy is Ethan Paul (26th, #326), who is a small second baseman with defense, speed, and some power. He does strike out a lot, and none of his tools are plus, but he could be a steady player across the board.
Day three of the draft will probably be valued by the prep players and how many of those guys the Pirates sign. But they also have an interesting group of college players who can provide some additional value, with the hopes that one of them can reach the majors. Now we just have to see which guys from day three end up signing.