The Pirates Landed the Draft’s Best Pure Hitter and Two Starting Pitching Candidates

The Pirates added another boost to a growing group of lower level talent.

On Sunday night, they drafted prep shortstop Termarr Johnson out of Georgia. Johnson was regarded as one of the best pure hitters in this draft, with a chance to hit for plus power.

What really stood out on Sunday night was his confidence.

Johnson was asked what Pirates fans are getting. His response?

“The best player in the draft.”

Pirates General Manager Ben Cherington said that Johnson was the best available on their board. You’d expect to hear that, but the fact that the Pirates went for college pitchers with the next two picks shows that they’re probably not saving much slot money here.

It can’t be understated how hyped up Johnson’s hit tool has been. Baseball America said that he’s one of the most advanced pure hitters out of high school since Joe Mauer. MLB Pipeline quoted a scout as saying he’s a combination of Wade Boggs’ plate discipline and Vladimir Guerrero Sr.’s bat-to-ball skills.

These are lofty comparisons for someone out of high school, even if he is seemingly confident enough to back it up.

Most evaluators project Johnson to eventually move to second base. The Pirates are keeping him at shortstop for now, to give him a chance at the premier position. They’ve been playing all of their players at multiple positions, so I would expect him to get work on both sides of the bag.

If the bat is as good as projected, then a move to second base would make sense sooner, in order to get Johnson to the majors quicker. He seems like a guy who could move quickly through the system for a prep player.

Cam Murphy Strikes Again

Pittsburgh Pirates area scout Cam Murphy was the scout for Termarr Johnson.

Murphy joined the Pirates in 2019, and already has a few big prospects to his scouting resume. The biggest, prior to this, was Bubba Chandler. Murphy also scouted Carmen Mlodzinski and 2022 surprise hitter Andres Alvarez.

Just in case you wanted an additional reason to feel good about the outlook for Johnson.

Higher Floor College Pitchers

It doesn’t seem like the Pirates are going for a repeat of last year, where they saved money from the first round to stock up on prep players in the middle rounds.

In fact, this year is almost an inverse of last year.

Johnson probably won’t go much under slot, if he’s under slot at all. The slot savings is more likely to come from the next two picks. There might not even be much from them.

The Pirates drafted two college pitchers with their 36th and 44th overall picks. They took right-handed pitcher Thomas Harrington out of Campbell University with the 36th, and left-handed pitcher Hunter Barco out of Florida with the 44th pick.

Harrington has a four pitch mix, with three average or better offerings. What stands out is his control, which grades as plus. He also features a changeup that flashes plus and can be a swing and miss offering.

There’s not a lot of high-end upside here, but there’s a high floor to make up for it. Harrington’s control and pitch mix make him a safer option to reach the majors, with the chance to develop into a starter or a multi-inning reliever.

The selection of Barco was interesting. He’s recovering from Tommy John in May, which will put him on the mend for the start of his career. Barco was the best lefty prep pitcher in the 2019 draft class, and a first round talent, but went undrafted due to a strong commitment to Florida. He probably would have gone higher without the injury.

Barco had a 2.50 ERA in 50.1 innings prior to the injury. He works in the low-90s, touching 94-95, working with three average-to-above average pitches and plus control. Prior to the injury, he looked like a guy who could be a starter in the big leagues. The Pirates are gambling that he will return with the same upside on the other side of the recovery. Barco was a first round talent in 2019, and seemingly only stopped being a first round talent due to that injury.

The Pirates need pitching closer to the majors, and the additions of Harrington and Barco boost their system depth with a few 50-grade upside guys.

It’s difficult to imagine the Pirates saving much money from these picks. Harrington feels similar to Carmen Mlodzinski, where the team is paying a high price for the floor. Barco seems like his discount is the Tommy John gamble.

It’s hard to argue with the strategy. The Pirates need high-end starters, but they also just need starters. They drafted two guys who seemingly have a better chance than most at their level of reaching the big leagues.

Day Two Preview and Links

John Dreker will have a day two preview in the morning, looking at the best remaining players available in the third round.

It’s possible that the Pirates have created some bonus space with these picks, and can put that toward a prep player who fell to them. They could also try to stock up on higher floor college players to patch up the depth in the middle of the system. I’ll have more on that depth in First Pitch tomorrow.

We will have updates on every pick tomorrow as they are made. Here are the links to the day one picks, and their player pages.

Pirates Select Termarr Johnson with the Fourth Overall Pick | Player Page

Pirates Select Thomas Harrington with the 36th Overall Pick | Player Page

Pirates Select Hunter Barco with the 44th Overall Pick | Player Page

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after wanting the pirates to draft barco in 2019, they finally get him in this draft. huzzah!


Liking barco the more i read about him, seems like he was a high end prospect that fell of a bit then had TJ so the ceiling is definitely there

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

Other thing I’m coming back to is I think it gets a bad rep just cause he isn’t tagged with “ace potential”. I’ve seen #3 -4 SP ceiling, which itself is still good, and for 2nd rounder. FWIW, places had Leiter last year as a #2 ceiling.

I feel like for SP’s in this day and age, it’s more about if they can even stick in the rotation. Much like when we talk about SS’s, and analysis #1 is always whether they can stick at SS.


With Barca’s somewhat funky delivery and that he was seen as a first-round talent coming out of HS, it makes me think that we drafted the parallel-universe version of Solometo who went on to college only to have TJS and see his draft stock fall due to that.


The next Joe Morgan…maybe…the other 2 oh well TWT…


Sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Termarr should advance quickly thriugh the system, but then the Harrington and Barco selections leave me thinking that some overslot players will be selected on D2. My favorite is HS RHP and SS Nazier Mule’. Lost track – did Brock Porter get selected?


He’s going to college


Although Johnson may prove to be the exception, there is a reason why second basemen do not get drafted very often in the top 5-10 picks of the draft. He seems like a great kid and everyone raves about his bat….and that he does have some power potential as well. I hope he proves to be a great major leaguer.

Now, for the flip side….the Pirates passed on the one player who likely had the highest ceiling of anyone in the draft….Green, to take a second baseman. Given the Pirates draft history, this is not a shocking development. The Nationals must be very appreciative. They didn’t make the same mistake. Will this be another Swaggerty/Nolan Gorman or Gonzalez/Veen, Hassell, Walker scenario? Time will tell….but to pass on a player who really could be a cornerstone player to build around. for a second baseman, is curious at best.

This doesn’t speak well for Gonzalez’s long term outlook for the Pirates, as he really cannot play any other position other than second base.

As for two pitchers they took, I would have preferred Fabian over Harrington. But, Harrington put up great numbers at Campbell. I am not sure about the level of competition he faced there, but he appears to be a decent pick at #36 . As for Barco, looks to be a reach….disappointing pick in my opinion. Injury concerns obviously. Neither pitcher looks like they will be anything more than middle of the rotation types, but if Harrington proves to be another Brubaker type, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Until the Pirates reverse their recent draft history, their selections will always be questioned and deservedly so….they don’t have a track record of success to get the benefit of the doubt. In my opinion, Green was the obvious choice to make and they were fortunate that he fell to them…but they blinked and went the “safer’ route obviously…..

Last edited 2 months ago by redwards60

It’s very clear that you’re seduced by Green’s ceiling and you think it’s inevitable that he’ll reach that ceiling. The top end of the draft is littered with big loud tools guys who bust too. Donovan Tate and Bubba Starling are two big examples, and Jo Adell and Royce Lewis are trending that way.

You’re also selling Termarr’s ceiling short yourself


“Given the Pirates draft history……..Until the Pirates reverse their recent draft history…..”

This is BC’s third draft. There is very little history to consider.


Checks notes 70 grade hit tool. Some scouts see him as 80. I don’t care if he ends up at 2nd base or LF, this type of hit grade is rare. If you get a chance, you draft it. Throw in 20-25 HR potential and this looks to be a tremendous pick.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

Nolan Gorman is *checks notes* playing 2B


Some are making too much of the SS/2B position listing. Most drafted SS’s move to 2B anyway as there are only 30 starting SS spots fill. Even Newman, a good SS, is now playing 2B as are several former SSs in the Pirates system.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

I just look at the Rays MLB roster, their Top prospect lists, then the fact they AGAIN already drafted two SS’s, and laugh


Gorman doesn’t have a 70 hit tool. He barely can hit against lefties. You’re underselling the upside. Gorman has a 45-50 hit tool max if everything works well for him.


I understand your point but it’s not like Johnson doesn’t have crazy upside also. Just because he is safer, every part of his hitting is way more advanced than Green at this moment, doesn’t mean it’s the wrong choice. Green does have crazy upside but he struggles with strikeouts and plate vision at the moment and will probably solve that. Johnson doesn’t struggle in the same areas as Green at this moment, and still has crazy upside. I don’t think u could go wrong with either pick. Both would have been good, but I would have leaned Johnson


I’m 100% in agreement with all of this. Draft was unique in the fact that there were a handful of high upside high school bats all bunched together. Give me the kid that has upside that hasn’t already struggled with high velocities.


Gotta say, didn’t have Kumar Rocker going third on my draft bingo card.


I am thankful he was gone before the Pirates picked at #4 – selecting Rocker would have been a Pirates like kind of decision


I am interested in Charles shores. 6 ft 8 18 year old developmental pitcher in next rounds

I feel like if you give him a million dollars he is an interesting gamble if you believe in your pitching development

Last edited 2 months ago by tmcgowan
Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

I’d like Bryson Worrell at some point for a senior sign out of ECU


It, seemingly, was a nice D1 of the draft for our beloved buccos…Can dream abt Johnson, had my eye on Harrington after reading an Athletic article a few weeks back on him, and the lefty from FL is well, a lefty SP, with upside/hope(needs to drive more with his big bodied legs, says know nothing tedwins)…who knows, wake me up in 2025🤣👍

Last edited 2 months ago by tedwins

i hope they take a good player with the next pick. #analysis


overall i enjoy the mix so far of taking the most electric HS hitter and then combining that with some Detmers-y college pitching

NorCal Buc

As a potential model for Mr Johnson, I keep thinking of 2B Joe Morgan, who led the Big Red Machine in the 1970s. Now wouldn’t that be sweet!


I like Johnson’s skill set of putting the bat on ball and having the ability to distinguish a strike from a ball a lot. This alone should help push him through the ranks quickly.

But I love his attitude most of all. It’s a fine line between success and failure, and self-belief can be a key indicator of which end of the spectrum a player finds himself.

Big fan of Barco selection, too. I don’t see TJ surgery as a red flag nowadays. Really hoping they struck gold with this selection.

So far so good Ben. Keep going for upside whenever possible these next couple days, please.


Just look at Cederlind to see if there’s a red flag. And Jamo’s first TJS did not go well. It took a second surgery IIRC.


So what? You want a guarantee that after an injury they’re exactly the same? There are red flags to TJ surgery but they’re so common now it’s hard to avoid.


Your comment must be for ScottK?……I’m the last person expecting a guarantee after TJS. That was the point of my post. There’s still a lot of risk to it. Nick Burdi comes to mind as another that took two TJS and may never pitch again.

Forgot to mention in case you are not aware, Cederlind’s been shut down again, so his TJS has a big red flag.

Last edited 2 months ago by 1979andCounting

No the comment is for you. TJ is the cost of doing business for a lot of these pitchers. I’m not saying it’s a guaranteed return to form, but there are a slew of success stories among pitchers with TJ too.

Would you stop driving cars because you heard some people got into accidents?

Last edited 2 months ago by ArkyWags

I was selfishly hoping Bucs would reach for UConn’s Reggie Crawford at 44, given Crawford’s huge upside despite TJ surgery and being ranked anywhere from 60-90. But then the Giants took him in first round as a 2-way prospect. Probably most surprising pick in draft so far.

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