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, Jason Delay, and Deon Stafford‘s seasons.
The Pittsburgh Pirates had a good mix with their top five rounds of draft picks. They drafted two upside prep arms, two prep outfielders, a prep infielder, and two prep catchers. They subsequently covered all areas on the baseball field. So with their sixth-round pick, they once again decided to shoot for a high upside prep arm.
Cody Bolton was the Pittsburgh Pirates sixth-round pick and the 178th overall pick in the draft. The California prep pitcher was considered to be one of the tougher signs in the draft class. He had a strong commitment to the University of Michigan. However, the Pittsburgh Pirates were able to save enough of their draft bonus budget to sway Bolton from his commitment and sign with the Bucs instead. Literally a day after drafting Bolton, it was reported that he planned on signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates. This immediately started speculation that the Bucs had a foundation of a deal already worked out with him. Bolton ended up signing for $300K, which was just about $45K over his projected slot bonus. However, he also went a little higher than expected, so the money/draft position was probably in the range of where he wanted to go if he were to commit to professional ball.
After signing, the Pittsburgh Pirates assigned Bolton to their Gulf Coast League affiliate. He would join top picks Shane Baz and Steven Jennings. The 6’3” and 185-pound right hander made nine starts in his Pittsburgh Pirates organization début. On the year, he accumulated 25.2 innings in nine starts, where he posted a 3.16 ERA. His FIP was 3.15 and his xFIP was 3.31, which is very encouraging. Furthermore, he had a solid strikeout to walk ratio by striking out 22 batters and only walking eight. He had a really impressive WHIP of 1.21 and batters only hit .240 off of him. He did give up a good amount of fly balls, however. His ground ball to fly ball ratio was well under one at 0.77, meaning he induced more fly outs than ground outs. In general, his ground ball rate was 39 percent, which is considered very poor.
Of the three top prep pitchers, Bolton is the rawest. His fastball sits 88-91, but he has a lot of room to improve that given his projectability. However, the Bucs liked him enough to sign him over slot and draft him relatively high. He will likely join Short-Season A Bristol next season. Look for him to make about 10 starts next year.