Spring training is a few weeks in, and we have started to rank the Top 20 prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates system. Here is number 14 overall.
Over the last few years, the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system has been considered one of the best in baseball. However, after enjoying a period of playoff baseball, and in turn picking lower in the draft, they have seen their system fall toward the middle of the pack. Still, rankings by scouting websites are not everything. They have plenty of intriguing prospects who could break out just as much as a team with a top farm system.
With that being said, we have come up with our top 20 prospects for the 2018 season. The articles will look at each player, starting at 20 and working toward one. So far we have looked at pitchers Clay Holmes at number 20, Gage Hinsz at number 19, Travis MacGregor at 18, and left-handed starter Braeden Ogle at 17. The first hitter to show up on our count down was Calvin Mitchell at number 16 and Oneil Cruz at number 15. Here is our Number 14 prospect.
Number 14 Overall
The number 14 overall prospect on our list is Steven Jennings. Jennings is a right-handed pitcher who is new to the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system. Jennings was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in last year’s draft, taken with the 42nd overall pick, which was a compensation pick for Pirates’ failure to sign Nick Lodolo the year before. Jennings is listed at 6’2” and 190 pounds and is currently 19 years of age.
At one point, Jennings was thought to be a backend of the first round potential pick. However, the prep pitcher from California tore his ACL in the fall playing football. The injury hurt his draft stock, as he pitched with a knee brace his senior baseball season. This of course had an effect on his performance, and allowed him to slide down the board. Entering the draft, he was ranked as the number 47 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline. Meanwhile, Baseball America had him ranked at number 49. So the Pittsburgh Pirates got him about where he was projected.
Jennings is noted for more for his maturity on the mound rather than pure stuff. His fastball does not project to be an overwhelming one, sitting in the low 90s, and there is not a whole lot of room to fill in physically. Still, Jennings has good command of the pitch. He also possesses a plus slider and a changeup, which he shows good command of, especially given his age. Normally with young prep pitchers they show good, projectable stuff, but no control. The other main issue with prep pitchers and commanding their pitches is their mechanics. Jennings doesn’t have that problem, as he does a good job of repeating his mechanics.
Jennings signed relatively quickly with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He signed for an above slot deal at $1.9 million, with the slot value being $1.6 million, and he forewent his commitment to the University of Missouri. Last year, Jennings got his first taste of professional action with the Pittsburgh Pirates Gulf Coast League Affiliate. He threw 26.1 innings in total while making 10 starts, and he compiled a 4.10 ERA. His overall numbers were not overly impressive. He struck out 13 hitters and walked 10. Also, he allowed hitters to bat .282 off of him, which led to a 1.56 WHIP. One positive is that he did a good job of producing ground balls at 56 percent.
So why is Jennings ranked so high? As it is with many prospects, it is all about projectability. At the end of the day, Jennings is a an above average athlete who had a first round pedigree. He is advanced for his age, and he just needs to learn how use his pitches to create more swings and misses and less contact. The poor swing and miss results could also be a factor from recovering from the torn ACL. This year should be better for him, as he was able to have a proper offseason to prepare and not rehabbing his knee. Jennings has the tools to be an upper half of a rotation type arm, hopefully he can take a step forward in doing so this season.