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.”
Primed and ready to go.
— MLB (@MLB) July 18, 2022
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.