First Pitch: A Mock Draft and New Top Draft Prospect Rankings

Yesterday we found out that the Pittsburgh Pirates received the 32nd overall pick in the Competitive Balance lottery. That draft pick could go up or down a few spots, but it won’t change much, if at all. The Pirates already had the seventh overall pick in the 2020 draft due to their finish in the 2019 season. MLB Pipeline had two interesting articles to go along with the news.

In a second attempt at a 2020 mock draft, they tried to predict the first ten picks for next June. This is obviously in the category of being too early to be a great prediction, but it gives you a look at the current talent available for this draft class.

With the seventh pick, Pipeline has the Pirates selecting right-handed prep pitcher Jared Kelley out of Texas. The instant comparisons to Jameson Taillon are made, with both being hard-throwing Texans, but Kelley is considered the best prep pitcher out of the state since Taillon. It’s easy to forget with all of the setbacks from Taillon that he was considered to be a top three pick in the 2010 draft by nearly everyone. Kelley throws 93-98 with two solid secondary pitches, which makes him an intriguing arm to watch.

The second article from Pipeline is the top 100 draft prospects. As the article notes, college pitching is very strong this year. There could be 15 college pitchers taken in the first round.

The list has Kelley ranked seventh overall, so at least for him, the mock draft lines up with his ranking.

The player we will be following closer than anyone else during our draft coverage is Austin Hendrick. When the prep version of Pittsburgh Baseball Network launches, he will get full coverage. He’s playing at West Allegheny HS, a short drive from PNC Park. He’s ranked tenth overall, which puts him as a major player of interest for the Pirates right now, even without considering the local ties.

As you go down the list, the players start to bunch up, so there really isn’t a big difference between #30 and #50 on the list. That’s true with almost every year, as the top talent separates from the pack and a bunch of players get labeled as “late first round/second round talent”. It’s still interesting to look at the #32 ranked player, who lines up with the new draft pick the Pirates received yesterday.

Pipeline has Gage Workman, a switch-hitting third baseman from Arizona State, ranked #32 in their updated list. He has solid average tools across the board in all five categories, with a slight bump in his arm and power. He’s 6’4″, 200 pounds and extremely athletic for a corner player.

** If you somehow missed it from yesterday, you can get your 2020 Pirates Prospect guide, which is on sale now. It includes full reports on the top 50 prospects in the system, along with some extras. You will get any future updates to the book, including the final one when we include every player in the system.


I was in Biloxi over the weekend and heard the song Boys of Summer playing on the bar sound system right before the band came out and played the same song. Did they not have speakers in the back room? Anyway, I just found out that it’s not about baseball, which is a bit disappointing


This is a fun quiz, but make sure you have time for it because it’s a lot of answers


By John Dreker

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, including a 30-game winner. We also have a trade of note from 1978.

Pink Hawley, pitcher for the 1895-97 Pirates. He played on some bad teams before joining the Pirates, going 30-58 with St Louis. He immediately turned things around with the Pirates, winning 31 games, while leading the league in innings, games pitched and shutouts. Hawley went 22-21 in 1896, pitching alongside 30-game winner Frank Killen. He went 18-18 in 1897 before being traded to Cincinnati, where he posted a 27-11 record in his first season. Hawley won 167 big league games

Frank Bowerman, catcher for the Pirates in 1898-99. The Pirates bought him from the Baltimore Orioles for $2,500 in June of 1898. He played 48 games over four seasons with the Orioles prior to the purchase. While with the Pirates he hit .274 in 69 games in 1898. In 1899 he hit .260 with 53 RBIs in 110 games. He caught 80 games that year and led all NL catchers in errors with 23. His 111 hits that year were a career high and the only time in his 15 year career he reached the 100 hit mark. Just prior to the 1900 season, Bowerman was assigned to the New York Giants, where he stayed for the next eight seasons. He hit .250 over 1,048 career games.

Snake Wiltse, pitcher for the 1901 Pirates. He made five starts and two relief appearances for the Pirates, going 1-4 4.26 in 44.1 innings before being release due to weakness in his pitching arm. He signed a month later with the Philadelphia Athletics and went 13-5 in 19 starts. The 1901 Pirates pitching staff was so deep with Jack Chesbro, Jesse Tannehill, Sam Leever and Deacon Phillippe, that they were able to give up on a quality pitcher like Wiltse. He was called Snake because of his odd delivery that reminded people of a snake unwinding. He had a brother named Hooks Wiltse, who pitched 12 seasons in the majors. His nickname came from his fielding prowess.

Bill Rodgers, outfielder for the 1944-45 Pirates. He played three major league games, two late season appearances in 1944 and a pinch-hitting appearance the following April. He got his only big league start in the final game of the 1944 season, playing right field and batting second. Rodgers went 2-for-5 at the plate. He spent three seasons in the minors for the Pirates, hitting at least .310 each year, before he went to serve his country in WWII. After returning to baseball in 1946, he played one year in the minors for Pittsburgh and his final five years in the Yankees organization before retiring.

Sam Khalifa, shortstop for the 1985-87 Pirates. He was the Pirates first round draft pick in 1982, the seventh overall pick in the draft. He played 95 games his rookie season hitting .238 with 34 walks and 31 RBIs. Khalifa spent part of the 1986 season in the minors, and finished the year hitting .185 over 64 games with the Pirates. He returned to Triple-A for 1987, playing just five July games in the majors, his last time in the big leagues. He played two more years in the minors before retiring as a player. He was a career .219 hitter in 164 games.

On this date in 1978 the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Seattle Mariners made a six-player trade with three players involved from each team. Pitchers Enrique Romo and Rick Jones, along with shortstop Tom McMillan, went to the Pirates in the deal. Seattle got pitchers Rafael Vasquez and Odell Jones, and shortstop Mario Mendoza. Romo was the only player who made a significant contribution with his new team. He pitched four years out of the Pirates bullpen, getting into 236 games. During the 1979 season when the Pirates won the World Series, Romo pitched 84 games, posting a 2.99 ERA with ten wins and five saves. With the Pirates Romo had a 3.56 ERA with 25 wins and 26 saves.