After taking prep shortstop Termarr Johnson in the first round, the Pittsburgh Pirates mostly stuck to the college ranks in the 2022 MLB draft. They had eight picks on day two, and seven of those went to college players.
A few of those picks look like they were made in order to save bonus pool space. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the Pirates targeting a prep player in the 11th round on day three — or even multiple prep players who they can sign with any savings.
The Pirates did get eight players on day two, with the hope that each one of those has a path to being a Major League Player. Lets take a look at who they added to the system.
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Another Two-Way Player
For the second year in a row, the Pirates drafted a two-way player in the third round.
Jack Brannigan, a right-handed pitcher and third baseman from Notre Dame, was announced by the Pirates at both positions. They were able to sign Bubba Chandler last year in part due to their willingness to allow him to play both sides of the ball. We can assume the Pirates will give Brannigan the same opportunity, since they recognized him as a two-way player.
A key difference between the two players is that Chandler is more of an athlete, getting his first full-time experience at baseball at any position. Brannigan has a bit more experience.
Still, it’s not that much experience. He had 23.1 innings total in college, with 14.2 of those coming this season. He struck out 38 overall, and 28 this year — almost two strikeouts per inning. He sits 95-97 MPH with his fastball, can touch 100, and has a slider that can be a plus pitch, generating swings and misses. Control is his issue.
On the other side of the ball, Brannigan obviously has an elite arm that can play at third. He’s a plus defender at third base, and has plus-plus speed. He also has above-average power, but a poor hit tool.
The hope with a two-way player is that you get a good option on both sides of the ball. Brannigan displays the more grounded reality for such a player. He’s got impressive abilities on both sides of the ball, but lacks control on either side.
It seems the Pirates will get two opportunities with him to develop plus tools into an MLB player.
The Lone Prep Pick
The Pirates took prep shortstop Termarr Johnson with the fourth overall pick on day one. All but one of their remaining picks in the top ten rounds went to select college players.
The exception was fourth rounder Michael Kennedy, a left-handed pitcher from Troy High School in New York. Kennedy is very young, not turning 18 until November. He’s a smaller framed pitcher at 5′ 11″, 208 pounds, so he doesn’t have much projection left.
That could be an issue, as he throws 88-92, touching 94. The fastball currently grades as fringe, and Kennedy gets by with finesse to make up for the lack of power. His slider generates swings and misses, grading as above-average. He’s got an average changeup and plus control.
If Kennedy can add velocity, he looks like a much better option. Even if he doesn’t add velocity, the Pirates can develop him as a finesse lefty, relying on the control and secondary stuff.
After Kennedy, the Pirates finished Day Two with six college picks, including two college seniors. The picks broke down as four pitchers (one lefty) and two outfielders.
At this point in the draft, you aren’t going to find players with easy paths to the majors. If you do, you’re not going to find players with a lot of upside and an easy path to the majors. What you want to find are players who have a development path toward the majors. These are also the rounds where area scouts make their living, finding out which player made a significant change that might make him a day two value.
The outfielders the Pirates drafted are fifth rounder Tres Gonzalez and tenth rounder Tanner Tredaway.
Gonzalez was drafted in 2019 by the Dodgers, then went to Georgia Tech. He can play center field, but profiles more as a left fielder due to a below-average arm. He stands out for his contact skills, leading to above-average hit grades. The biggest thing holding him back is the power, which grades as fringe-average, and would limit his upside if he moved to left field.
Tredaway is a college senior, taken in the tenth round out of Oklahoma. He will probably lead to bonus pool savings, but comes with strong contact skills, and a breakout as a fifth-year senior. Tredaway hit for a .370/.414/.549 line, increasing his power and stealing more bases. He will turn 23 next month, so there won’t be much time for development in the minors. The Pirates will hope the surge in offense this year wasn’t just Tredaway beating up on younger competition.
The Pirates drafted pitchers in rounds 6-9.
Derek Diamond, the sixth rounder out of Mississippi, struggled in 2022. Previously, he had a fastball that sat 92-97 with a plus slider. This year, he was 89-92, and the slider wasn’t as good. Diamond maintains above-average control, but that didn’t play out as well with reduced stuff. The 2021 version looked like a second or third rounder, while the 2022 version dropped a few rounds. Perhaps the Pirates feel they can get his stuff back on track?
J.P. Massey, a college senior out of Minnesota, was the seventh rounder. He will likely bring the Pirates some savings from his $242,800 bonus slot. He’s got four pitches, highlighted by a fastball that can hit mid-90s. His control has struggled, but he’s shown a good strikeout ability. Like Tredaway in the tenth round, the savings is the bigger factor, but the Pirates will try to catch lighting in a bottle once Massey is in the system.
Mike Walsh, taken in the ninth round out of Yale, struggled in his time in the Ivy league. He went to the Cape Cod league this summer and looked better as a reliever. His fastball sat 92-93 with high spin rates, and an above-average slider to pair with it. He has fringe control. I won’t say you can’t get a starting pitcher in the ninth round, because this is where Chad Kuhl was drafted in 2013. At this point, Walsh seems to be trending up more as a reliever.
The college lefty, Cy Nielson, was drafted in the eighth round out of BYU. Nielson has a low-90s fastball that has seen more velocity in the past. He also has a sweeping slider. His control improved in 2022, with a 45:7 K/BB ratio in 33.2 innings, after almost a walk an inning in 2021. There’s a chance here for a lefty reliever with two above-average pitches and good control. That would require Nielson’s velocity to return, while maintaining the same control.