The 2019 draft class for the Pittsburgh Pirates will be unique for its own reason, as it was the last under Neal Huntington before being replaced by Ben Cherington.
It was also the last draft to feature 40 rounds, as it has since been shortened to 20 after being just five in 2020 due to the pandemic.
So, anyone drafted in rounds 21-40 that year can say they were the ‘last player selected there by the Pirates’.
Also due to the pandemic, what was supposed to be the first full season in the pros for the 2019 draft class, the 2020 season, was wiped out. Players were forced to train at home, missing out on an entire year of competition key to their development. Some took advantage of it, others would eventually fall behind.
With over 40 total picks in that draft, there is plenty of variety when it comes to the players taken — from age, to skill, and even how quick they have developed. There are still some who are struggling in the lower levels, while a couple were knocking on the major league door by the end of the season.
Here’s a look at how the 2019 draft class fared in 2022.
Top Pick – Quinn Priester
The right hander from Illinois was named Pitcher of the Year in the Pirates system, not only by the team themselves but from the website here. He finished the season with a 5-5 record, posting a 3.29 ERA (3.59 FIP), as well as striking out 89 batters in 90.1 innings pitched. All that despite a late start to the season, as he didn’t make his first start until June 3.
— Anthony Murphy (@__Murphy88) September 22, 2022
In his first outing, a rehab start in Bradenton, Priester pitched the first three innings of a no-hitter. He spent the majority of the season with the Altoona Curve, making the final two starts of the season in Triple-A with Indianapolis. Priester made up for lost innings in the Arizona Fall League.
Compensation Pick – Sammy Siani
Priester was one of the highest rated prep pitchers in the class, but the Pirates were able to sign him for about $400,000 less than the slot value that comes with the 19th overall pick. Some of that went into their next pick, Sammy Siani, a prep outfielder from Eastern Pennsylvania.
Siani had a confusing season in Bradenton in 2021. He was a walk machine (20.2 BB%) and had a wRC+ of 116, but batted .215, and didn’t hit for much power. He also only stole nine bases while in Bradenton, despite being widely regarded as a prospect with at least above-average speed.
He moved up to Greensboro in 2022, and struggled really badly with the Grasshoppers. He was eventually reassigned to the Florida Complex League, but didn’t play in any games, instead working in the back fields trying to get his bat straight.
Siani finished the season with a strikeout rate of 36.2%, although he was able to steal 25 bases despite struggling to make contact and get on base.
College Heavy Rounds 2-10
After taking a pair of prep players, the Pirates loaded up on college players the rest of the way when it came to the rest of the first half of the draft.
Matt Gorski (57th overall) was one of the surprise players in the system, destroying High-A pitching to a tune of 17 home runs in just 37 games before getting promoted to Altoona. An injury cost him a couple of months in Double-A, he returned and played in one game with Indianapolis before reinjuring himself. He was set to play in the Arizona Fall League, but wasn’t healthy in time.
— Anthony Murphy (@__Murphy88) June 15, 2022
Jared Triolo (72nd) has been one of the more consistent hitters in the system — only Endy Rodriguez has more hits over the last two years. That’s not even Triolo’s best tool. He is one of the best defensive players in all of the minors. After struggling offensively to start the year, he finished strong.
Another breakout star this season was Blake Sabol (214th), who jumped at an opportunity for more playing time, hitting 19 home runs across Double and Triple-A while playing catcher mostly throughout the year.
Last year’s 2021 breakout star, Matt Fraizer (95th), struggled to repeat his success at Altoona, posting a wRC+ of just 69 in 2022. JC Flowers (124th) emerged as one of the better relievers in the system, posting a 2.88 ERA with Altoona.
Cameron Junker (304th) earned 12 saves in Greensboro before moving up to Altoona and getting four more games played there. Austin Roberts (244th) struggled to repeat his 2021 performance, where he struck out over 100 batters coming out of the bullpen. Grant Ford (154th) and Will Matthiessen (184th) missed the majority of the season due to injuries and Ethan Paul (274th) was released before the season started.
Notable Late Round Picks
When talking about value, it cost a collective $30,000 to sign both Andres Alvarez (664th) and Aaron Shackelford (424th), but the two combined for 46 home runs this past season. Alvarez put together the first 20/20 season in Altoona’s history.
The second most home runs in Curve single season history: Aaron Shackelford!
He hits an absolute bomb for his 26th of the season! pic.twitter.com/Rx389V4fTP
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) September 10, 2022
Dylan Shockley (1024th) is a depth player who missed the last part of the season to an injury, but is widely considered as one of the top defensive catchers in the system.
Another catcher, Eli Wilson — son of former big leaguer Dan — was the fourth catcher on Greensboro’s Opening Day roster. As Henry Davis and Endy Rodriguez got promoted, Wilson got to play a little more behind the plate, where he is a solid defender.
Bear Bellomy (874th) couldn’t build off his 2021 season (3.36 FIP) and appearance in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 7.20 ERA in Altoona.
Late Round Over Slot Deals
Once we get past the first 10 rounds, teams can sign any player up to $125,000 without it going towards your draft bonus pool. This is a good opportunity to take one last stab at a player that maybe didn’t seem like he’d be available or had signability concerns.
The Pirates signed four players from rounds 11 to more than $125,000, counting towards their overall pool money.
Jase Bowen (334th) began the year back at Bradenton after spending all of 2021 there. He ended up having one of the best offensive seasons in the Florida State League, putting up a 130 wRC+, along with 14 home runs and 20 stolen bases. He became the team’s super utility player, recording games at every position except catcher and shortstop.
Bowen struggled initially after getting promoted to Greensboro, but started to figure things out over the last two weeks.
Jasiah Dixon (694th) and Deion Walker (1054th) were two toolsy, athletic outfielders but both have combined for just 76 games in Bradenton since being drafted (Dixon has 72 of them).
— Anthony Murphy (@__Murphy88) July 27, 2022
Ryan Harbin is the lone pitcher, taken out of high school with the 514th pick. He has just 40.1 innings pitched since being drafted, the last two of which came in Bradenton to close out the season. In his 16.1 innings in 2022, Harbin posted a 4.44 ERA (5.13 FIP) while walking 13.9% of the batters he faced.
As far as minor league success, you can’t really ask much more from a draft class after having the system’s Pitcher of the Year and two of their bigger breakout prospects. No one from the class has reached the majors yet, but there are several knocking on the door.
This class shows how unpredictable and nonlinear development can be for players. Priester and Siani were the top two picks in the draft and both prep players. One is pitching in the Arizona Fall League and finished the regular season in Triple-A, the other is likely going to start in A-Ball for the third straight season come 2023.
Huntington may not be with the team anymore, but his impact will be felt for years to come from this draft class.
Check out our recaps of the 2021 and 2020 draft classes in the links below.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.