The MLB Draft has concluded for 2017. Although it is hard to judge right now, the Pittsburgh Pirates seemed to have drafted some high-end potential.
The Pittsburgh Pirates started off the this year’s draft by drafting the highest they have since 2013. The Bucs had the number 12 overall pick. They took advantage of drafting this high by picking a big time upside prep arm in Shane Baz. Baz was a consensus top 12 pick in the draft, with some experts having him go as high as pick 7. The Bucs quickly drafted Baz when he was still available to them at number 12.
Originally, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports thought the Bucs would go with outfielder/first baseman Evan White. Instead, the Bucs took Baz. Baz supposedly had a hard commitment to TCU, but as we wrote on draft night, it seemed odd the Bucs would take a risky pick that early. Recently, Neal Huntington has drafted conservative early and more aggressive later. We, like others, felt that the Bucs and Baz may have had pre-draft talks about a potential deal. This was reinforced when it was reported less than 48 hours later that Baz agreed to a deal.
Run on Prep Players
Baz kicked off the Pittsburgh Pirates run on drafting prep players. They followed up the Baz pick with taking another high school right-handed pitcher in Steven Jennings. Jennings came in ranked as MLB Pipeline’s number 47 overall prospect, and the Bucs grabbed him at number 42. Jennings is committed to play at Ole Miss, but reports indicate that he will be passing on that commitment. The Bucs next pick was number 50 overall. Being the first two picks were highly rated prep talents it seemed logical for them to go to the college ranks for a safer pick in terms of signing.
However, the Bucs kept up the trend by taking another prep player. This time they selected a prep outfielder Calvin Mitchell. Mitchell was ranked number 79 on MLB Pipeline. If he would have been draft eligible after his junior year of high school he likely would have been a top 50 ranking. He had a down senior year, but still has a lot of tools teams look for in a prep outfielder. The last pick of the first day was at number 72, and the Bucs decided to go to the outfield prep ranks once more. They selected Connor Uselton. Uselton may haven been the best pick in terms of his pre-draft rankings to where he was selected. MLB Pipeline actually had Uselton (number 46) ranked one spot higher than Jennings (number 47). Uselton has a commitment to Oklahoma State.
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On day two the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted more college players. This seemed like an obvious scenario as the Bucs needed to save some money against their bonus pool to have a chance to sign the top four picks. However, they once again went to the prep ranks in round six when they took Cody Bolton, a California prep pitcher. Bolton was considered a tough sign as he had a hard commitment to Michigan. As we wrote, the Bucs reached on Bolton in terms of rankings, and it likely indicated that they felt strongly about their chances to sign him. Well, not long after the report about Baz signing, it was also reported that Bolton would be signing. So essentially, the Bucs were able to come to terms with two prep players who were considered to be some of the harder signs.
Jim Callis notes that the Pittsburgh Pirates aggressiveness with drafting prep players in his post draft article. Callis, a columnist for mlb.com, ranked his top five for best 2017 drafts. Leading the pack was the Twins and the Reds, who had the top two picks in each round. However, Callis gave the Bucs the third spot, which says a lot considering they drafted more in the middle of most rounds. Here is what Callis had to say about the Pittsburgh Pirates top four picks:
"“Pittsburgh went big on the first day, taking four high schoolers in Texas right-hander Shane Baz (first round), Tennessee righty Steve Jennings (second), California outfielder Cal Mitchell (second) and Oklahoma outfielder Conner Uselton (supplemental second).”"
Callis also gives a quick description of the top 4 prep picks in the article. He mainly notes the top attributes for the picks. Callis writes:
"“Baz has a fastball that hits 98 mph, and a cutter that can be unhittable. The athletic Jennings also could have two plus pitches as well in his heater and slider. Mitchell’s power potential could have landed him in the first round before a rough spring, while Uselton has considerable pop as well.”"
All in all, Callis seems to believe that the first round picks have MLB potential. This obviously is what you want to see when it comes to drafting. Instead of the Bucs being somewhat conservative, they were the opposite and took risky, but high-end, prep talent. One of those even came in the sixth round in Bolton. Callis notes how Bolton represents a type of prep arm the Bucs have had success at developing, for instance Nick Kingham and Tyler Glasnow. Obviously, these are 17 and 18-year old kids, but it seems like the future should be bright for all five of them. Also, let’s be honest, we’d rather have an expert applauding the Pittsburgh Pirates draft rather than not.