There are about seven weeks left before the first day of the 2022 MLB draft, meaning that we still have plenty of time to look at top draft options for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who select fourth overall. A lot could change between now and then, so the plan is to look at all of the players who rank around where the Pirates select.
In April, we started our Draft Prospect Watch articles, where we look at a new player each Sunday. Our first choice was Druw Jones. The next Sunday we looked at Elijah Green. That was followed by Jackson Holliday, after he moved up some draft charts. In the fourth installment, we went with Termarr Johnson, who has been on the radar all season for the fourth overall pick. The next week was a name that has been linked to the Pirates recently, Cam Collier, who is the son of a former Pirates player. Last week we looked at Brooks Lee, who has been tied to the Pirates numerous times this year, including the most recent mock drafts.
There are six articles and none of them are looking at a pitcher. This draft class is strong at the top, but it is still lacking strong pitching. The only one connected to the Pirates at any point was a prep pitcher out of Georgia named Dylan Lesko, who had his season cut short due to needing Tommy John surgery. Could the Pirates take him despite the double risk of surgery and being a prep pitcher? Sure, he could be a savings pick, who was originally a fourth overall possibility anyway. That would allow them to get a top talent and spend elsewhere. I’m going to skip him for now and go with the highest ranked pitcher in the recent MLB Pipeline updated rankings. He has not been connected to the Pirates, but if they want to go pitching in this class, he’s a strong possibility.
Brock Porter came in at the #10 spot in the updated Pipeline rankings. He’s an 18-year-old from Michigan, who will be 19 before draft day. He’s a 6’4″, 205 pound right-hander with a commitment to Clemson. In the latest Baseball America update, they dropped him from #12 to #14, though the video you see at the bottom of this article came after that ranking, so I wouldn’t exactly say he is trending down. Here’s a look at the Pipeline report on his stuff, followed by the BA report for comparison.
Pipeline grades him as having a 70 grade fastball and a 60 grade changeup, which is definitely a rare grade for a high school pitcher on that second pitch (not that a 70 grade fastball is common). His breaking pitches are rated as a 50 for his curve and a 55 for his slider. His control is average at a 50 grade. Pipeline calls the fastball perhaps the best among all prep pitchers this year. It sits 94-97 MPH and he can hit 100. He also gets good arm-side run. The description of the changeup sounds like a 60 grade might be light, as they say it will get 10+ MPH separate from the fastball, with good horizontal movement and deceptive arm speed. The slider has improved this year and he throws it about 8-10 MPH harder than his curve. They like his low effort delivery and the fact that his large frame still has some projection remaining. In their words, besides refining his spin rate, he just needs experience and continued good health.
For comparison, here is the BA report. They have his velocity a tick slower, which appears be based on the timing of the reports because older reports I looked at from other sources have him even lower. BA is just as high on the changeup, noting the separation, fading action and his feel for the pitch. They also note that it has equally effective against lefty/righty hitters, and some of the best prep hitter have had trouble with the pitch. Their report doesn’t have any specifics for the breaking balls. They note that right now he is more of a control pitcher than a command pitcher, so he’s around the strike zone, but not always hitting his spots.
Some of the older reports that had him ranked lower seem to have issues that he has addressed, such as adding velocity or improving his slider, so we could possibly see him move up the rankings for other people as well. For now, Pipeline’s #10 ranking is his high point, though they are also the last source to update rankings.
Here are some videos, starting with this game action from late August 2021. There are two videos here from different times. While he was still a first round type talent in this top video, the second video should show you the improvements that have led his stock to rise this year.
Here’s a more recent video from MaxPreps of a 12 strikeout game:
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.