The 2017 MLB Draft is into its second day. The Pittsburgh Pirates have made two picks so far today. With that, they have made their fifth round selection.
The Pittsburgh Pirates and Neal Huntington have drafted a second catching prospect with their fifth round pick. They now have drafted two catchers, the other being Jason Delay in the fourth round. The Bucs had the 148th overall pick. With the number 148th pick, the Bucs selected Deon Stafford. Stafford is a college catcher from St. Joseph’s University who just finished his junior year. The college catcher is expected to stay behind the plate. He is listed as 6’0” and 200 pounds, about the same size as Delay. Stafford has never been drafted before. He is a Pennsylvania native. He went to Lower Dauphin High School.
The catcher had a solid freshmen season when he batted .341 with 19 doubles, but only 2 home runs. Stafford followed that up with an incredible Sophomore season when he batted .395, with 10 doubles, and 18 home runs. What was the key difference for the jump in home runs? The big thing is that his doubles went down from 2015 to 2016. This suggests that he got bigger and stronger over the offseason from 15′ to 16′ and those doubles turned into home runs. Unfortunately for Stafford, his most disappointing season was this past one. He only hit for a batting average of .288 and only had 8 home runs and 8 doubles. A big drop off from the prior season. One positive is that his strikeouts went from 45 in 2016 to 28 in 2017. He also increased his walks from 36 to 44, in 8 fewer games from 15′ to 16′.
MLB Pipeline does not have the St. Joseph product rated in their top 200. On the other hand, Baseball America does. Baseball America has him as the 131st rated prospect in the draft. Here is Baseball America’s scouting report on Stafford:
"“Stafford entered 2017 as the No. 1 prospect in the Atlantic 10 conference, thanks to a juggernaut sophomore season … en route to becoming the conference player of the year. He followed that up with a strong showing in the Cape Cod League, where he hit .283/.377/.509 with six home runs and ranked as the No. 11 prospect. This year as a junior, Stafford hasn’t had quite that kind of production and scouts have seen him look overmatched with good velocity and pitches in on his hands.”“Behind the plate, he’s athletic, but his arm is fringe-average at best and there’s uncertainty about whether or not he can stick behind the dish. Given this year’s draft class, Stafford is still one of the more exciting catchers simply because of his raw power and impressive season as a sophomore, but he didn’t do much to solidify himself this season, only raising questions about his hit tool.”"
Stafford could be an interesting player to watch. Personally, he does not seem like a slam dunk to sign even know his ranking suggests he was drafted higher than he should have been. If he would have put up numbers like he did his Sophomore this past year than he likely would have gone on day one of the draft. So, he may feel that returning for his senior year could increase his draft stock. The pick slot value is 336,500 dollars, a number that he will likely receive if not more. If the Bucs can sign him they once again have added a potential upside prospect to a position of weakness in their system.