Pittsburgh Pirates: How the 2018 Offensive Picks are Playing

(Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
(Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images) /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates 2018 draft picks have been playing for a few weeks now in the minors.  Here is how some of the top picks have fair thus far.

The Pittsburgh Pirates had an interesting draft this past June.  They took a college bat inside the top 10 for the first time since drafting Pedro Alvarez in 2008.  They then went back-to-back with prep picks in the Competitive Balance round and second round.  However, they were only able to sign Braxton Ashcraft, their second round pick.  After that they went on to draft college players until round 11 when they took another prep pitcher by the name of Mike Burrows, who did sign.  So with that, a lot of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2018 draft class has stepped right in and has started playing in the lower minors while the prep picks like Ashcraft and Burrows are still working through the process of getting into game action.

Leading that pack is 10th overall pick Travis Swaggerty.  The left hander is currently being employed to play centerfield for the Morgantown Black Bears, the Pittsburgh Pirates advanced short-season affiliate. The former South Alabama product is off to a really strong start in his professional career and seems to be adjusting to wooden bats a lot better than most college players do.

Swaggerty is hitting .280 with a .352 on-base percentage, and is slugging at a .463 rate.  He has two home runs, seven doubles, and one triple in 21 games.  One area of concern in the early going is that he has 22 strikeouts, but that is a number that is to be expected with an aggressive young hitter.  One other note about Swaggerty is that he had to take some time away as his girlfriend battles cancer.  Obviously this can be a lot on a young person’s mind while trying to adjust to becoming a professional baseball player. So the fact that he is producing the way he is should say a lot about his character.  Based on his Instagram posts, she is doing well in her battle and continues to improve.

Shortstops

The next players to look at are a couple of middle infield prospects that the team took.  The first is third round pick and former Vanderbilt shortstop Connor Kaiser.  Kaiser stands out being that he is 6’4” as a shortstop.  He has appeared in 21 games for the Black Bears and has gotten off to a sluggish start.  So far his slash line is just .201/.301/.239 with 25 strike outs.  Furthermore, he only has two extra base hits in those 21 games.  The other prospect is shortstop Zack Kone.  Kone was a 13th round pick out of Duke, and was considered a pretty good value for the 13th round. Like Kaiser, Kone also has a big frame for a shortstop standing at 6’3” and weighing 200 pounds. Kone is off to a much better start compared to Kaiser.  He has a slash line of .286/.310/.393 through eight games.  Kone was one of the Pittsburgh Pirates last signings of the draft class, so he got a little bit of a later start to the season.

Backstops

The Pittsburgh Pirates also had two college catchers that they drafted in the top half of this year’s draft. The first one was Grant Koch, a catcher from the University of Arkansas.  Like Kone, Koch was one of the last picks to sign.  However, this was because the Razorbacks were in the College World Series.  So with that, he has only played in 11 games so far for the Black Bears.  He has not adjusted well thus far, batting below the Mendoza line at .194.  The other catcher was 12th round pick Zach Susi out of the University of Connecticut.  Susi was able to gain extra reps as he signed well before Koch.  However, he is still only batting .200.

Two of the Better Hitters Thus Far

The last two picks to talk about are two former college hitters in Brett Kinneman and Mike Gretler.  Kinneman was the Pittsburgh Pirates seventh round pick out of NC State, and considered to have the most raw power of the Pittsburgh Pirates top picks.  So far he has put up a solid slash line of .263/.372/.374 with 17 walks and 26 strikeouts in 27 games.  He has one home run, eight doubles, and 20 RBIs.  As he gets more comfortable with a wooden bat his slugging percentage should start to increase.  Michael Gretler is also having a strong début in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.  Like Koch, Gretler was a late signing due to Oregon State being in the College World Series.  However, he has not missed a beat, batting .275/.403/.392 in 15 games.  The righty has posted a really good strikeout to walk ratio of 12 to 10.

Next: Starting Pitching Targets

Now obviously this is a pretty small sample size for these players.  However, it is still interesting to see how players are adjusting to playing professional baseball every day.  Even more so, being these players are all former college players, it is interesting to see how they are performing with a wooden bat.  The best news out of all of this is that the Pittsburgh Pirates top pick is performing the best out of the group.  In fact, he is actually hitting better than previous first round picks Kevin Newman and Will Craig did at the same level.  Both of them have turned into pretty good prospects.  Hopefully, this suggests that Swaggerty will be doing some big things down the road.

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