Every Sunday, we are going to take a look at two top draft prospects in this upcoming June amateur draft. The Pittsburgh Pirates make their first selection with the 18th overall pick. They also have the 37th overall pick. Our players featured each week will be those who are ranked on prospect lists in the general area of the 18th pick, while also showing some players who could be available when the Pirates make their second pick. The first day of the draft is June 3rd. You can check out our draft preview here.
Here are links to the previous Draft Prospect Watch articles:
Baseball America posted an update to their top draft prospects, expanding it to 400 players and making some changes. Earlier in the week, we took a look at Clemson shortstop Logan Davidson (see link above with previous Draft Watch articles). He was rated as the 18th best prospect, lining up with the first round pick of the Pirates. Now we look at the players who were rated 15th and 17th on that list. They’re the closest to that 18th pick among players we haven’t covered already.
We start with right-handed pitcher Jackson Rutledge, who moved up five spots in BA’s latest update to the 15th spot. He’s a 20-year-old junior college player at San Jacinto in Texas. Rutledge is a mountain of a human, standing 6’8″, 260 pounds. He began his college career at Arkansas, then transferred to San Jacinto this year. He wasn’t drafted out of high school, but that seems to be more due to his asking price/college commitment. BA had him ranked 183rd back then (2017) and he’s obviously taken a step forward.
Rutledge is dominating the JUCO ranks this year. Through 11 starts, he has a 1.02 ERA in 70.2 innings, with 34 hits allowed and a 114:26 SO/BB ratio. He does it with a mid-90s fastball that has a downward plane and late life. He also has a slider that BA says could be a put away pitch. Other sources call it a plus pitch already. Scouts like his clean mechanics and low-effort delivery.
Rutledge has a little bit of leverage here because he has a commitment to Kentucky for the 2020 season. He’s probably going to be selected in the first round though, so it will be tough to pass on the bonus that goes along with that pick. You’re looking at a workhorse starter here with the chance for two plus pitches, solid control and an easy delivery.
Here are some videos, starting with an early March start presented by 2080 Baseball
Here he is last year at Arkansas, courtesy of the Prospect Pipeline.
Our second player this week is Baylor catcher Shea Langeliers, who was rated as a top five pick early in the year by MLB Pipeline. He’s 21 years old and stands 6’0″, 190 pounds. Langeliers was drafted out of high school in the 34th round by the Toronto Blue Jays.
The 2019 draft class is weak in the catching ranks, especially after Langeliers and Adley Rutschman, who could go first overall. Langeliers has seen his stock drop because there are questions about his bat. He had a rough sophomore season after hitting .313/.388/.540 as a freshman. His OPS dropped 81 points the next season. It hasn’t recovered yet this year either, partially due to him recovering from hamate surgery earlier in the season. He’s getting on base more often, but there is a dip in the power, though the raw power is evident during batting practice. His slugging has gone from .540 in 2017, to .496 last year, to .445 in 2019. He has a solid approach at the plate and there isn’t swing-and-miss to his game, so his bat shouldn’t hold him back from the majors. It may relegate him to a backup role though.
The real intrigue here is the defense. Langeliers has a cannon behind the plate. He threw out 70% of base runners attempting to steal last year. He moves well, he’s a strong receiver, who can run the game. It’s Gold Glove quality defense with a plus-plus arm, that comes with both accuracy on his throws and a very quick release.
Here are two videos, starting with all batting cage work from Baseball America
This one from Perfect Game Baseball has cage work and game action
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.