Now that their first professional action is over, we started to take a look at how the Pittsburgh Pirates 2017 draft class fared. So far we have recapped Shane Baz, Steven Jennings and Cal Mitchell’s seasons.
In the last article, we took a look at how Cal Mitchell’s first professional season went. One point that was made was that Mitchell is very important to the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system. He is the highest ranked outfield prospect by MLB Pipeline and Rum Bunter in the organization other than Austin Meadows. The point of this was to show that the Pittsburgh Pirates have seen the outfield position really go from an area of prospect depth to relatively thin in the last few years. So in this past draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates not only drafted Cal Mitchell at number 50, but also Conner Uselton at pick number 72.
Uselton was higher rated by MLB Pipeline entering draft day than Mitchell was, as Uselton was rated their number 46 overall prospect. So right off the bat, it seemed like the Pittsburgh Pirates got significant value at pick number 72. Some thought with him him dropping in the draft by nearly 30 spots compared where he was ranked prior to the draft, Uselton would be a tough sign, but he ended up signing for $900,000 which was only about $95,000 over slot.
Uselton is everything a team dreams of in a prospect. He is big at 6’3” and only weighs about 190 pounds. This gives him plenty of room to add power to his frame, but also is your prototypical athletic build. He is a right-handed hitter with projectable power. Also, he projects as a plus defender with an above-average arm that will likely play in any of the outfield positions. Here is more about Uselton from MLB Pipeline:
"“Uselton’s bat speed, strength, and leverage give him some serious raw power… He was able to refine his mechanics during his senior season though, and was more consistent as a result, using the entire field and quieting concerns about his ability to hit enough to tap into that power. Uselton runs well, though he could lose a half-step as he fills out. A center fielder in high school, he played right in his one game in the field in the GCL, where his plus arm would play extremely well.”"
So as mentioned above, Uselton did not get to show off his potential this past year. He only played batted in two games for the Pittsburgh Pirates Gulf Coast affiliate. Uselton had seven at-bats and posted three hits, a double, one RBI, and struck out once. Like Gregory Polanco and Austin Meadows, Uselton suffered through a nagging hamstring issue that he could not work through. Instead of having him risk a more significant injury just to play for a month, the Pittsburgh Pirates decided to shut him down and do side work with him.
MLB Pipeline has Uselton ranked as the 14th best prospect, one spot behind Cal Mitchell. Here at Rum Bunter, we have him ranked as the Bucs 21st best prospect. The main reason is that he has not shown anything at the professional level. Everything known about him comes from scouting reports based on showcases and prep ball. Hopefully, Usleton will get a chance to show off his tools next season in a larger sample size.