Before the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Milwaukee Brewers 2-0 on Wednesday night, the MLB Draft was finishing up its final day of action. The third and final day of the draft was comprised of rounds 11 through 40 and began at 12 PM EST on Wednesday afternoon. It was available to be streamed live from MLB.com. The trend for the Pirates up to this point of the 2015 draft had been to select college players, as 10 of the first 11 picks for the Pirates had been college players. In fact, the Pirates didn’t draft a high school pitcher until the 19th round of the draft. Let’s take a look at some of the Pirates’ selections on day three that stood out (for a full list of the Pirates’ draft picks, check out the 2015 MLB Draft Tracker from MLB.com).
Round 11, pick 337 – C Christian Kelley, Cal Poly Palmona
Round 11 saw the Pirates pick their first catcher of the draft, six-foot sophomore Christian Kelley from Cal Poly Palmona. After batting .200 in his freshman season, Kelley saw his average jump to .341 in his sophomore year. He only made two errors his freshman year, but made six his sophomore year. However, Kelley is known for his “uncanny ability behind the plate defensively” and broke out his sophomore year. The Pirates were barren at catcher in their system until they drafted Reese McGuire, and they value defense above all else at the catcher position, so this selection makes sense.
Round 13, pick 397 – SS Logan Ratledge, North Carolina State University
The Pirates made a good value pick in round 13, drafting shortstop Logan Ratledge out of North Carolina State, Baseball America’s number 157-ranked draft prospect. The 5’11”, 190-pound senior led his team in batting with a .329 average and added power from the shortstop position with ten home runs. He struck out 34 times but walked 32 times, which is a good ratio at the plate. Considering the Pirates had been drafting many players that were un-ranked bu Baseball America, it’s interesting to see them back on the board in the 13th round as they continue to stockpile shortstops for their system.
Round 14, pick 427 – RHP Chris Plitt, South Mountain Community College
Round 15, pick 457 – Scooter Hightower, Columbia State Community College
Rounds 14 and 15 saw the Pirates draft two right-handed pitchers out of community colleges (aka junior colleges). Usually for community college players, something really has to stand out about them in order to get noticed, whether that be their high school performance or very good stats. Chris Plitt held a 1.87 ERA with 54 strikeouts over 77.0 innings at SMCC while Scooter Hightower held a 2.42 ERA with 86 strikeouts over 104.1 innings in 2015. Junior college players are always interesting to watch (such as Bryce Harper) as they advance through the system.
Round 16, pick 487 – RHP Nick Hibbing, University of Iowa
What immediately jumps out about Hibbing is his frame: he’s 6’6″ and 210 pounds. With that height, a pitcher can seem to have more velocity off the mound. This will be an intriguing player to watch if only for his size.
Round 19, pick 577 – LHP Ike Schlabach, Timber Creek High School (TX)
The Pirates finally drafted their first prep pitcher in the 19th round of the draft with LHP Ike Schlabach. This is a curious change of pace for the Pirates from years past when they put a heavy focus on projectible, high school arms.
Round 21, pick 637 – RHP Nicholas Economos, Mercer County Community College (NJ)
The Pirates took another big-framed pitcher in the 21st round in Nicholas Economos, who stands at 6’6″, 215 pounds. The Pirates generally like to stock up on large, projectable pitchers, so this pick makes sense for them.
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The trend for the Pittsburgh Pirates on day three was to draft junior college players and big-framed pitchers. Many pitchers they drafted with over 6’4″, as taller, heavier pitchers often have higher velocities than shorter, smaller pitchers. And tall, but lanky pitchers can add weight to their frames if they need to. On day three, the Pirates also took a LHP out of Harvard (Tanner Anderson), a Pennsylvania pitcher from Scranton High School (Jacob McCarthy), a high value pick in the 24th round (catcher John Bormann out of the University of Texas – San Antonio, rated the 433rd draft prospect by Baseball America) a first baseman baseman in the 28th round (Albert Baur out of Newberry College in South Carolina), a high value pick in the 32nd round (LHP Cole Irvin, rated the 337th draft prospect by Baseball America), and a third baseman in the 34th round (Brendan Spillane out of Wheeling High School in Illinois).
Now that the draft has concluded, many fans will turn their attention back to the current team as they face off against the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday. We can’t truly evaluate the draft for another few years when we get to see some of these players reach the major leagues. But it’s intriguing to see a potential change in philosophy for the Pittsburgh Pirates in their drafting strategy this year. There’s no reason to doubt Neal Huntington and the management team as they hope to strengthen an already great farm system.