Yesterday we received reports that the 2020 MLB draft will be held on June 10-11, and it will consist of five rounds. Teams will also be able to sign non-drafted players for a maximum $20,000 bonus.
The Pittsburgh Pirates own the seventh overall pick in this draft, as well as the 31st and 44th overall picks. Their draft bonus pool for five rounds was announced last month (that link has been updated since the Red Sox lost their second round draft pick). Each Saturday, we will take an in depth look at draft prospect who could be a good fit for that seventh overall pick, as well as players who fits better with those two lower picks. In case you missed it, here’s our draft preview article.
We have posted 14 Draft Prospect Watch articles so far, which are all linked here:
Today we look at something recent from MLB Pipeline, after they posted their guesses for the entire first round in a mock draft. We already covered their pick for the Pirates (Zac Veen) twice now, so we look at two players close to the 7th overall pick, who haven’t been covered here yet in the links above. We start with Nick Bitsko, a right-handed pitcher from Central Bucks East HS in Pennsylvania.
Bitsko was originally part of the 2021 draft class, before reclassifying to a senior this year so he could graduate a year earlier. He won’t turn 18 years old until the middle of next month. He’s already a large presence on the mound, standing 6’4″, 220 pounds. MLB Pipeline has him ranked 14th in this class and that’s without anyone seeing him pitch this season. They also noted that he’s a potential top ten pick, so it’s possible that he interests the Pirates at seventh overall. You’re talking about a very raw high school pitcher, who basically won’t be pitching his junior/senior years because of the reclassification and the shutdown. Bitsko has a commitment to Virginia.
Besides the projectable frame, youth and inexperience, he already has current stuff that plays well. His mid-90s fastball has touched 98 MPH, and he holds his velocity well. His breaking ball (curve) has plus shape according to Pipeline, while Baseball America, who ranks him 19th overall currently, says that it’s a potential plus pitch, with depth, power and spin. His changeup is a seldom used third pitch because he didn’t need it to retire high school hitters, but he does have a feel for the pitch. Bitsko has a clean delivery, with control over all three pitches and potential for plus command according to Pipeline.
Here’s video from Perfect Game Baseball
Here’s a second video, also from Perfect Game Baseball
Our second player is shortstop Ed Howard from Mount Carmel HS in Illinois. He ranks one spot behind Bitsko for both Pipeline (14/15) and Baseball America (19/20). Fangraphs likes both of them more than either source, and they have Howard as the ninth best player.
Howard is a right-handed hitter with good size, standing 6’2″, 184 pounds, with room to fill out more. He has solid tools, with Pipeline ranking him as a 50 hitter/power, 55 runner/arm and 60 glove. All three sources agree that there is no doubt that he will stick at shortstop in the pros. He’s a smooth defender, with excellent footwork, great hands, steady glovework, and it’s topped off with a strong arm. He gets the “high baseball IQ” tag from Pipeline, saying he has the ability to slow the game down.
The power really isn’t there yet in his game, but the big frame and the ability to make consistent hard contact leaves room for future added power. He has good bat speed, makes a lot of contact and uses the entire field. Despite the 55 grade for speed, he’s not a huge stolen base threat, and he could be an average runner by the time he’s done filling out.
Without adding over-the-fence power, you have a doubles hitting, solid OBP shortstop with above average defense. Teams banking on the power to continue to develop will rate him higher, as there is a big potential payoff.
Here’s video from Prospects Live
Here’s a second video from 2080 Baseball