2019 Draft Day Two Recap: Pirates Once Again Go Heavy on College Players

This year I stopped calling the current draft rules the “new draft rules”. That’s because they’ve been in place for eight years now, and by this point everyone should know how it works. Day one proceeds as normal, but then the Pirates end up drafting some of their best guys on day three, while spending day two creating slot room for the day three guys.

It can be confusing if you don’t follow the draft as close as we do. Even if you do follow the draft, it can be frustrating. You’re basically spending a day watching the team prepare for something, and then you have to wait until day three is over to see what they’re preparing for. But then you have to wait longer to see how much money they can create from the day two picks, and which day three guys they can get to sign with that money.

Wilbur is going to talk more about the strategy tomorrow morning in the Morning Report, so I’ll leave the rest to him. For now I’ll just say that it looks like the Pirates saved some bonus pool money today, and I look forward to seeing how they might spend it on day three.

As for the guys they took today, Pirates’ scouting director Joe DelliCarri shared what the Pirates liked about their picks, in between Neal Huntington doing his annual “answer tons of questions about the new draft rules at the end of day two” routine. I’m assuming if you’re on this site, you don’t need that explanation. If you do, check out Wilbur’s article in the morning.

Did Hamate Surgery Help the Pirates?

The Pirates took center fielders with three of their first five picks, finishing off that stretch by drafting center fielder Matt Fraizer to start day two. Fraizer is coming off hamate surgery, and that might have prevented him from rising beyond the third round, allowing the Pirates to take him.

Prior to the season, Fraizer overhauled his swing, and the results in his limited time were strong. He had a .412/.452/.565 line, which was significantly higher than his previous numbers. You’d have to think that he would have gone higher if he continued that over a full season, rather than getting hurt.

The Pirates liked what they saw before he got hurt, and feel he can continue that. Scouting director Joe DelliCarri praised his hand-eye coordination, along with some other tools.

“We think the combination of the contact with the size, and getting to some things with a little bit of impact, this is a terrific young man, pointing arrow up,” DelliCarri said. “There’s some really good things to work with here with Matt.”

Two-Way Players

The Pirates took two guys today who were two-way players in college, but announced them at single positions. Fourth round pick J.C. Flowers was announced as a pitcher, despite also playing center field in college. The Pirates clarified that he would be used as a starter. Sixth round pick Will Matthiessen was drafted as a right fielder, despite pitching in college.

Both guys are relatively new to their announced positions, but it sounds like the positions they will be playing are preferred by the players.

“J.C. wants to pitch, and Will definitely wants to hit, and that’s the way we took them and intend to give them every opportunity to grow them and exceed them at those entry starting points,” DelliCarri said.

The Pirates have yet to have a two-way player under Neal Huntington. They’ve converted players from pitcher to hitter, and vice-versa, but that move typically comes when the player is reaching the end of the road for his career at the old position.

Both of these players will start out at their announced positions, and I’d be surprised if they made a switch to being two-way players.

Hard Throwing Pitchers

The Pirates took four pitchers on day two, including Flowers. All four project more as relievers in the long run, although that can certainly change, especially with a case like Flowers, where he hasn’t been used much as a pitcher.

DelliCarri said that they liked the power from these pitchers, whether that power came from their fastball velocity, or a strong breaking pitch.

“Grant Ford has a little power to both,” DelliCarri said of Ford’s fastball and secondary stuff. “J.C. has a little power to his secondary. We have a slider in Austin Roberts. We definitely like power to their pitches, and the combination of being able to pitch.”

Ford throws 94-97 with an upper 80s slider, and saw much improved results this year in the Nevada bullpen. Flowers has a low-90s fastball that can hit mid-90s, but a cutter/slider that grades as his best pitch when it’s on, and a feel for a changeup. Roberts can get into the mid-90s with his fastball, and has a plus slider, as DelliCarri alluded to.

Tenth rounder Cam Junker throws 90-95, topping out at 96, and DelliCarri praised that pitch as well.

“Cam Junker has some power to his fastball. Hitters have not shown the ability to get some impact against him.”

It’s pretty common for pitchers taken in these rounds to have a standout pitch, and a need to develop the other offerings. That will be the challenge for the Pirates with these four, hoping to develop one into a Major League arm.