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, Cal Mitchell, Connor Uselton, Dylan Busby, and Jason Delay‘s seasons.
When the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Jason Delay in the fourth round they had two things in mind. First, was to add a potential upside catcher to the system. The second reason was to save some money on their draft allotment by taking a player out of college. The Pittsburgh Pirates doubled up with their last two picks in the second round by taking two prep outfielders. In the fifth round, they also doubled down by taking another catcher.
College and Draft
With their fifth-round pick, the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted St. Joseph University catcher Deon Stafford. Like Delay, he is the prototypical size you look for in a catcher, standing at 6’0” and weighing 200 pounds. However, unlike Delay, he entered the draft known more for his upside bat than his defense. However, he is still expected to stick behind the plate.
The eastern Pennsylvania native was very good at St. Josephs. The catcher had a solid freshmen season when he batted .341 with 19 doubles, though he only hit two home runs. Stafford followed that up with an incredible sophomore season when he batted .395, with 10 doubles and 18 home runs. Injuries slowed him in his junior season. His batting average was .288 and he only had eight home runs. Because of this, Stafford went from a potential third-round type pick to closer to the fifth round. Baseball America had him ranked as the 131st best prospect in the draft, the Bucs got him at pick number 148.
Stafford put together one of the best opening seasons out of all the Pittsburgh Pirates draft picks. He was assigned to the Pittsburgh Pirates advanced Short-Season A-Ball team, the West Virginia Black Bears. Stafford played 45 games for the Black Bears, where he started 39 of them as the catcher. His slash line for the season was .280/.332/.418. He had four home runs, 11 doubles, and 28 RBIs, but one downside is that Stafford did strikeout over one time per game with 53. Behind the plate he caught 11 attempted base runners out of 46 total attempts.
With his offensive potential being higher than Delay, Stafford very well could see himself receive more of the playing time next year at Low-A, as I doubt either one will be moved up to High-A to start the season. At the same time, it is nice to have two catchers developing together in the minors. This will allow them to not be overworked for the future. Hopefully, Stafford can make strides on the defensive side of his game. If he can, he could become a legitimate starting catching option going forward.