The Major League Baseball draft is 18 days away and the Pittsburgh Pirates are picking at number twelve.
With the draft less than three weeks away, it is time to start looking at players who the Pirates may have interest in, and players that we at RumBunter like in general. The slot value for this pick is $4,032,000, so the team might look to go a college player early to save money in later rounds for prep players. The first three players taken a look at are all college players, consisting of a pitcher, middle infielder, and an outfielder, and will be posted over the next couple days.
The last pitcher the Pirates drafted and signed in the first round was in 2011, when they drafted Gerrit Cole with the first overall pick. Cole was a college pitcher, coming from UCLA. Griffin Canning happens to also be a right-handed pitcher from UCLA. Canning stands at 6’1″ and 170 pounds, far from the 6’4″ and 225 pounds that Gerrit Cole is. So the only comparison really is the school.
Canning does not provide the frame of the prototypical Pirates pitcher, the two starters, Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams, who have the smallest frame are both 6’3″ and 216 pounds and 230 pounds respectively. But the thing that should intrigue the Pirates is his strike-throwing ability. While at UCLA, Canning has walked only 55 batters in three years, and Baseball America described him as,
"“UCLA ace Griffin Canning has moved up boards steadily all spring, with four pitches that he throws for strikes.”"
Canning is also able to strike hitters out with that four-pitch mix. So far this season Canning has struck out 124 hitters in 102.1 innings, an increase of 29 strikeouts in seven fewer innings. He has improved his K/9 from 7.82 in 2016 to 10.91 in 2017. For his UCLA career, Canning has a 9.33 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9. Canning has control and can strike out hitters with four pitches, his best being the changeup.
MLB Pipeline describes Canning’s mix as:
"“Canning isn’t the biggest guy in the world, but he really knows how to pitch. His fastball will sit in the low 90s and can touch as high as 95 mph on occasion. His changeup is a plus pitch, one he sells well by maintaining his arm speed and slot, giving it a “pull the string” kind of feel.”"
Pitchers who have four pitches can always stick around and start, especially when you can control the pitches like Canning can.
Canning’s motion is not the standard motion of the Pirates either, the one all the pitchers through the system seem to possess, but he does repeat it well. In the windup, he starts angled, and he angles his body with his knee being more angled to the shortstop than the third base bag when he gets to the point where he separates his hands. He doesn’t fly open and maintains an athletic finish.
Griffin Canning turned 21 two weeks ago on May 21, and he should progress through the system quickly. He ranks 21st in Baseball America’s draft rankings and they have him projected to go 23rd to the Los Angeles Dodgers in their latest mock draft. MLB Pipeline has Canning ranked 17th overall and in Jonathon Mayo’s recent mock draft, he had him going 13th to the Miami Marlins.
Canning would allow the Pirates to add a solid pitching prospect to the system, one that features Mitch Keller, Nick Kingham, Steven Brault, and Gage Hinsz in their top 10 according to MLB Pipeline. Being a college arm, Canning can also save the Pirates money that they can reallocate to other rounds.
*Numbers from the baseball cube