2019 Draft Day Three Recap: The Pirates Took Some Interesting Prep Players, Can They Sign Them?

Day three of the draft is crazy to cover. The picks come in rapid-fire style, and by the time you’re done researching one pick, the next one has already been made. That’s why we divide things up here, with each of us taking 10 picks this year, going every third round.

The original plan for the day three recap was for each of us to highlight a few players that we wrote up, with the combined summary giving you the most interesting players on day three. However, I somehow ended up with five of the six prep players, while Wilbur ended up with five of the ten college seniors.

So we decided to mix it up a bit, still talking about the guys we covered and researched, but with more of a theme to our sections, rather than just listing individual players. Here are our day three reactions.

Tim Williams

Because of the way the current draft rules are set up — and because of how the Pirates operate under those rules — the day three focus on prep players is the key focal point. It seems that the Pirates created some slot room in the top ten rounds to go over-slot on later round picks.

Even without creating room, they have almost $500,000 extra to spend on over-slot picks before losing a draft pick. And that’s considering that they can spend up to $125,000 without it counting toward their bonus pool. The question now is how many of these guys can they sign?

As with all prep players, you’re taken in by the raw tools and the dreams of unknown upside as they grow during those key development years of 18-22. You’d rather see the rapid development happen in the system, rather than in college. It’s the difference between having Mitch Keller as a breakout top prospect and watching Nick Lodolo go seventh overall three years after you took him out of high school. And the more guys you sign, the better chance you have of one of them breaking out.

The guys taken today definitely have stuff that gets your attention. The Pirates continued their trend this year of loading up on outfielders, taking three prep center fielders on day three, starting with 11th round pick Jase Bowen.

Bowen is a multi-sport athlete who has a commitment to Michigan State to play football and baseball. However, he sounds like he wants to play pro ball, based on articles he has written. He played some shortstop in high school, and while the Pirates announced him in center field, it will be interesting to see if they try him at short, especially with all of the outfielders they have.

Bowen is a fast runner with a strong arm, giving him the tools to stick in center field. He hit .527 this year with eight homers, six triples, and 11 doubles this past year, while also stealing 29 bases in 31 attempts.

The next center fielder they took was Jasiah Dixon, who was rated 177th overall by Baseball America. They grade him with plus-plus speed, a plus arm, and the capability to be a plus defender in center field. He’s a project at the plate, needing work on his swing mechanics, but he’s got plus bat speed and some raw power.

It’s a similar story with 35th rounder Deion Walker. He runs good routes in the outfield, and has a strong arm. He’s got potential for power, with solid contact, good bat speed, and an ability to hit to all fields. He does have a long swing, and can be a little raw overall, so he’s definitely a project, but one with some interesting tools.

The Pirates also took a pair of prep pitchers on day three. They started that off with 17th round pick Ryan Harbin, who has a tall, projectable frame along with easy arm action. He currently sits upper 80s with his fastball, but has gotten into the low 90s, with a report from his coach that he hit 94. He also throws a curveball and a changeup, and made some great strides with his control this year.

The final prep pick of the day was left-hander Christian Gordon, who had some interesting information, starting off with the fact that his coach is former Pirates pitcher Randy Tomlin. Gordon also played outfield, but the Pirates announced him as a pitcher, which makes sense based on his results. In the span of two months this year he threw a perfect game, a no-hitter, a one-hitter, and a two-hitter. He’s also been a strikeout machine due to a new curveball, while improving his stamina this year, and his approach attacking hitters.

Of this group, I’d guess that Bowen and Harbin will be easiest to sign. Walker has a commitment to a JuCo school, so that could help the Pirates. Dixon might be the hardest to sign, due to his commitment to USC.

I’ll let John talk about the final prep player taken today, but first some quick notes on some of the college guys I wrote up:

**14th round college shortstop Aaron Shackelford showed a big increase in power this year, with 36 homers in 188 at-bats. Baseball America doesn’t project him to stick at short, instead having him as a second baseman, but saying that he should hit enough for the position, with more doubles in pro ball than homers. He looks like he could have the upside of a future bench player.

**20th round center fielder Jake Snider is still playing with Louisville in the upcoming super regionals. He has the nickname “Postseason Jake” due to his postseason heroics, which included a big home run a few days ago. If he signs, it won’t be until Louisville is done with their season.

**I thought it was interesting how often 32nd round outfielder Jake Wright moved around. He was hurt most of his senior year in high school, and was an injured redshirt his freshman year with South Carolina (the injury was a pitching injury, and he’s since gone full-time outfield). He then transferred to Seminole State College, followed by a transfer to Coastal Carolina — where he was teammates with Pirates’ 19th rounder Cory Wood. Wright had some good offensive numbers this year, but you wonder how much teams were able to scout him over the years with the injury, moving around so much, and a recent focus on offense only. It’s possible this allowed him to slip a bit further than he should have.

John Dreker

As Tim said, I got the other prep player, but he was a really interesting pick. You don’t often see high school first basemen taken in the draft. High school teams in particular put their best players at the more valuable positions. You don’t see any second basemen taken, but you see a ton of shortstops who will need to move to second base. So it was a bit surprising to see the Pirates take Will Simpson with their 18th round pick. Once I read the scouting report from Prep Baseball Report, it was easy to see why they selected him.

Simpson is 6’4″, 215 pounds with room to fill out. He has quick hands and makes consistent contact, using the middle of the field, with gap power. What is most important is that he has an excellent track record against premium pitchers, coming from Washington. The last prep hitter with premium power selected by the Pirates out of Washington is having a pretty good season as the first baseman for Greensboro this year (assuming everyone here knows of Mason Martin?). The other part to like about Simpson is that he is young for the draft class, turning 18 at the end of August. While I only glanced at the players mentioned by Tim, outside of Jace Bowen, Simpson seems like he should be a prime target after getting that 11th round pick signed.

My first pick to cover was a catcher. We even mentioned earlier today twice that the Pirates would be targeting catchers and they took five of them on day three, with a sixth player who has catching experience, but was announced as an outfielder. The 12th round seemed like the logical starting point and they took Kyle Wilkie, a two-year starter out of Clemson.

Wilkie is what you would expect from a catcher outside of the top 3-4 rounds. You’re not going to find one who can hit and play above average defense later in the draft because that’s a valuable player. His strength is a solid approach at the plate, showing improved contact skills this year. He has a strong arm, but the rest of the defense is lacking. You would assume that he’s going to see the majority of time at Morgantown this year, so we should get a good look at his defense. That seems to be an area that is hard for scouts to qualify. We have seen catchers look much better and much worse than their reports once we get a chance to watch them full-time.

The second pick I had to write up was Garrett Leonard, a starting pitcher out of Rollins College. This pick right away stood out because the Pirates took a starting pitcher from Rollins last year in the 17th round. Brad Case actually tried out with the Pirates and make quite an impression at Pirate City, which led to him being picked. He just got promoted to Bradenton after one full year in the system, so the Pirates went back to the well for another starter.

Leonard gets huge marks for his work ethic, with one source saying he makes everyone around him better by example. He also had an impressive footnote last year, ending a no-hitter with a 95 MPH fastball for the strikeout. That’s some big velocity, especially for the final pitch of a game.

Next was the Simpson pick, followed by a slow period for me. I would never say that picks are bad this late because really anything after the 15th round is a total crap shoot. The problem with these players is that we couldn’t find any reports since they played in high school. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good, just that there isn’t anything to go on outside of stats, which makes it tough to get excited about the picks. From our perspective though, it just means they we have to do the work to get the information.

So my run of four straight pitchers from rounds 21-30 will remain mysteries for a short time. We will either get to see them, talk to them, or talk to someone who has seen them.

In the 33rd round, the Pirates took shortstop Ernny Ordonez out of Central Arizona College. He was announced as a third baseman. The Pirates only took one other third baseman in the draft, third round pick Jared Triolo. While Ordonez has a commitment to Kansas that would begin next year, he wouldn’t have much competition for third base at Bristol if he signed, plus he could likely handle middle infield to get him more time. Ordonez put up strong stats for two seasons, with two caveats. His offense slipped this year and he played in a high offense league. I’d probably give him 50/50 odds of signing.

The 36th round pick is a real project, but he comes with huge upside. The Pirates took lefty pitcher Jake Sweeney out of Pensacola College. I’ll start with the bad, and that’s more than one walk per inning. The good far outweigh the bad (in number), which leads to the intrigue. He threw low-90s in high school. He’s still 18 years old until next weekend, making him younger than some high school players chosen this year. He averaged more than a strikeout per inning. The biggest thing about him is the size, standing in at 6’7″, 240 pounds. The potential to add velocity to someone who already throws low-90s is there due to that size and age. Be patient here, the payoff could be big.

Finally, there’s the best story of my draft class, mostly because he had the most written about him, but it was also interesting. Daniel Ross is a 23-year-old pitcher with five years of college, sort of. He’s a 6’5″ right-hander, whose story began in Japan. I’m only summarizing the article, so you might want to check this link out.

His dad was in the U.S. Navy, stationed in Japan. His mother is Japanese. They lived in Japan well into his time in school. When he came to the U.S., he spoke only a few English words, so to try to fit in, he played baseball and football. The baseball led him to three years at Fresno City College, where he was mostly injured. A move to Pennsylvania proved to be the best thing up to that point for his baseball career. He played in a summer men’s league as was clocked at 93 MPH. That led to Millersville School, which is out in Amish country near Lancaster. Two years later, he’s a draft pick of the Pirates. For a 39th round pick, there is some real size and intrigue here.

Wilbur Miller

In every draft there are going to be players selected who just don’t excite the fans much.  It’s kinda funny to see this, because the simple fact is that there aren’t remotely near enough legitimate prospects out there in any pool for every team, or any team for that matter, to draft 40 real prospects.  But the Pirates have seven US affiliates that have to field teams and the draft is the largest contributor, so they have to pick up some organizational-type players every year, usually college seniors and a few juniors.  And for some highly suspicious reason, I ended up writing up most of these guys.

There were a few interesting players on my end, though.  The most interesting was the 16th round pick, catcher Eli Wilson out of Minnesota.  Wilson’s father, Dan, spent well over a decade catching in the majors, yet the son was a shortstop in high school.  Not only that, but a cross-country runner.  That’s an odd background for a catcher, but it speaks to his athleticism.  His defense still needs work, but he hit well in college and has some projection left if he gets stronger.  So there may be more upside with him than the usual, later-round, glove-only catcher.

Of the other players I wrote up, the 13th rounder, outfielder Chase Murray of Georgia Tech, probably got the most attention from scouts.  He had a rough junior season due to an oblique injury, after a strong sophomore season, so it’s possible he’s a second-day talent who slipped through.  His ceiling is probably fourth outfielder due to a lack of power, but he has good hitting ability and speed, and that would be a good outcome for a day three pick.

The only other player who stuck out much was the Pirates’ last pick, 40th rounder Elijah Dunham from Indiana.  He comes from the same college . . . well, the same outfield . . . as the Pirates’ second round pick, Matt Gorski.  I can’t find much information on Dunham.  He didn’t play much as a freshman or early in his sophomore year, but seems to have hit his way into the lineup.  In fact, he hit a little better than Gorski.  It’s possible he’s a guy who flew under the radar.  He may be tough to sign, though, as the Pirates selected him as a sophomore eligible, so he has two years left.

And about those organizational players . . . .

The Pirates selected ten college seniors on day three: five pitchers, two catchers and three infielders.  The pitchers probably project as relievers, except maybe 28th rounder Bear Bellomy.  To some extent, that may reflect the fact that the Pirates are getting more pitching help (at least at the lower levels) from their international program, which in turn will make it easier to fill out the West Virginia and Bristol rotations.

The catchers will help with the lower level shortage that John has mentioned, although both of them put up decent hitting numbers this year.  Actually, 25th rounder Ethan Goforth put up huge numbers, but it’s hard to know what to make of stats from Carson-Newman College.

Infielders are always a need; when outfielders get hurt, they can be replaced by infielders, but the reverse doesn’t work so well. The Pirates added two college senior infielders, taking Andres Alvarez in the 22nd round, and Josh Bissonette in the 31st round.