The 2018 MLB Draft is underway. The Pittsburgh Pirates 144th overall pick in the fourth round has come and gone. The Pirates have selected Grant Koch with their third selection of the second day.
The Pirates selected an athletic collegiate outfielder from South Alabama in Travis Swaggerty with their first pick of the draft, and followed that pick up with high school arms Gunnar Hoglund and Braxton Ashcraft in with their next two picks, both fitting the traditional mold of Pirates prep pitchers.
In the third round, the Pirates selected shortstop Connor Kaiser from Vanderbilt. With the 114th overall pick, and the Pirates second pick of the day, the club drafted pitcher Aaron Shortridge from Berkley. Both the third and fourth round picks seem to be moves to save money for later prep players.
In the fifth round, the Pirates have selected Grant Koch, a catcher from Arkansas. The 21-year-old has hit .250/.366/.397 for the Razorbacks this past year, and he ranks as just a college hitter on The Board. For the US Collegiate team last summer, Koch hit .372/.500/.535 with 10 walks and 11 strikeouts. That’s coming off a season in which he hit .264/.358/.498.
Koch ranks 131 on MLB Pipeline and 128 on Baseball America. The slot value for this selection is $488,200. After seeing himself slide this past year, there’s a non zero chance he goes back to school to improve his draft stock (seemingly unlikely), but this also looks to be a pick that’ll save the Pirates some in terms of draft pool.
Defensively, Koch still needs work. MLB Pipeline grades him as a 50 arm and 50 field, with Baseball America writing,
"“Defensively, he’s shown steady improvement. His average arm plays up because he’s accurate with his throws and his footwork and transfer have gotten better at Arkansas. His lateral movement is his biggest challenge defensively.”"
Put that together and it sounds like a backup catcher ceiling if the bat plays. There’s no speed here, either, so the defensive profile needs to continue to improve and his bat needs to get back to where it was his sophomore year.
Koch won’t be in the Pirates top 20 lists, and given the last three selections, perhaps the Pirates are going to try to get creative after round 10, where any pick that doesn’t sign doesn’t cause a loss in the draft pool.