The Major League Baseball draft is 17 days away, and the Pittsburgh Pirates are picking at number twelve. This allows the Pirates to add an upside player to the farm system.
Yesterday, I looked at pitcher Griffin Canning, a right-handed pitcher from the University of California Los Angeles. He has the potential to be a mid of the rotation arm and would put another arm into the system, one that can rise quickly. Nick looked at outfielder Adam Haseley from the University of Virginia. Haseley is a left-handed hitting outfielder with a smooth stroke and is athletic enough to play all three outfield positions. Haseley would also add an impact outfielder to the system, as Austin Meadows is currently the only outfielder in the Pirates top 20 prospects. A middle infielder will be the next look.
In 2014 the Pirates took high school shortstop Cole Tucker. Tucker struggled early on in his career and tore his labrum in 2015. Tucker looks to have figured some things out in 2017, posting a 131 wRC+, a .148 ISO in a league that suppresses power (Austin Meadows posted a .100 ISO in 2015 with Bradenton), and he has 26 stolen bases. He is 2.8 years younger than the weighted average of the league.
In 2015 the team took shortstop Kevin Newman from Arizona. Newman has great contact skills and does not strikeout, but he also has a lack of power. In his minor league career, Newman has just a 112 wRC+, including a wRC+ of 96 in Altoona. He’ll be 24 in August. He is ranked as the third prospect in the Pirates system by MLB Pipeline, but the lack of results and his age are a tad concerning.
Could this lead to the Pirates taking another middle infielder, as Jordy Mercer is a free agent after the 2018 season, and Josh Harrison is a free agent after 2018, but he has an option for 2019, and an option for 2020? If so, North Carolina has a college shortstop in which could fit for the Pirates.
The University of North Carolina currently ranks number two in the nation by Baseball America, and are 44-11 on the season. The Tar Heels are led by pitcher, and projected top ten pick, J.B. Bukauskas and middle infielder, and projected first round pick, Logan Warmoth. Warmoth stands at 6’0″ and 190 pounds according to the Tar Heels official site.
Despite that short frame, Warmoth is able to hit for power. In 2016, Wamoth hit .337/.402/.481 with a .144 ISO in 246 plate appearances, but the Tar Heels point out that Warmoth:
"“Had a big power surge late in the year, hitting all four of his home runs in the final 13 games, including a walk-off homer against Louisville on May 7 • Posted a scorching .466/.528/.724 slash line over the final 15 games on the season.”"
That power surge has continued, as Warmoth has hit .336/.410/.562 with a .226 ISO in 268 plate appearances. There is a tradeoff in hitting for power and strikeouts, and that can be seen in Warmoth. Here is a look at his last two years walk and strikeout rates:
Warmoth has increased his strikeout rate by 56.81 percent, but he has also increased his home run rate (1.63% in 2016 and 3.36% in 2017) by 107%. Warmoth made the trade-off, sacrificing strikeouts for more power. In the 2016 Cape Cod League, a wooden bat league, Warmoth also showed power, posting a .180 ISO, and he had a 13.51% K rate and 6.31% walk rate.
MLB Pipeline notes that,
"“He started to show some power toward the end of his sophomore season, and has enough to hit 12-15 homers per season in the big leagues.”More from Rum BunterPittsburgh Pirates Prospect Stockwatch: Outfielder Tres GonzalezPittsburgh Pirates Podcast: Rum Bunter Radio Talks Winter Meetings FalloutPittsburgh Pirates: Potential Leadoff Hitters in 2023Pittsburgh Pirates: The Rotation is not being ImprovedPittsburgh Pirates Make Vince Velasquez Signing Official"
When you watch him bat, he starts slightly open and does not have the biggest leg kick to generate power. However, he is not a “get the front foot down early” type of hitter either. He uses his stride to time the swing well, and he brings his hands through the zone quickly. The small leg kick allows him to generate momentum going forward which creates power. His setup allows him to handle all pitches, not just fastballs, as well as handling velocity.
But power is not his only game, as Warmoth has stolen 18 bags and only been caught three times this year. He also plays great defense at shortstop, and John Sickels says about Warmoth,
"“On defense, he features above-average range, hands, and instincts at shortstop and is far more reliable than most defenders his age.”"
Logan Warmoth has a high floor, given his defensive ability, ability to steal bags, and his hitting ability. He has increased his power, which has caused him to strike out more, but the rate is still not that high. He ranks 21st by MLB Pipeline and 25th by Baseball America. The rankings may seem like Warmoth is a reach at 12, but given he is a college player with a high floor, and he plays middle infield, it would allow the Pirates to save money for later rounds (pick 12 has a slot value of$4,032,000) to go along with an advanced bat at a premier position.
*Numbers from the baseball cube