Pittsburgh Pirates: Late Round Draft Prospects on Note

(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates finished up their 2019 MLB Draft this evening.  Here are some of the later picks of interest that the team made.

The Pittsburgh Pirates had an interesting 2019 Draft.  The team spent their first two picks on two high school players.  They used the 18th pick on Illinois prep pitcher Quinn Priester and their number 37 pick on Pennsylvania native Sammy Siani.  However, they went very college heavy after taking those two prep prospects.  The team drafted nothing but college players with their day two picks (rounds 3-10).

With that being said, that is all part of the Pittsburgh Pirates typical draft strategy.  They usually take a lot of college players on day two to help save money against their bonus allotment.  They then, in turn, are able to take higher upside prep players and give them larger bonuses with the saved money.  Be it a high school or college player, the most important thing is finding prospects that can help this team down the road.  Here are the prospects of interest from the later rounds.

First and foremost, let’s start with the Bucs tenth round pick.  The team made this pick on Tuesday, but we decided to save the preview for today’s article.  With the Pittsburgh Pirates tenth pick, the team selected Notre Dame right-handed starter Cameron Junker.  Junker just finished up his junior year at Notre Dame where he posted a 3.62 ERA in 14 starts.  The righty struck out just over eight batters per nine innings pitched but did walk over four per nine.  Although his walk rate is significantly down from 2018 when it was over six per nine.

The most intriguing thing about Junker is his size.  The right-hander has the ideal size for a pitching prospect, standing at 6’5” and already weighing 220 pounds.  He ranked as Baseball America’s 390th best prospect entering the draft.  Here is more from Baseball America on Junker:

"“After walking 6.4 batters per nine over 35 innings as a sophomore, Junker has cut that rate to 4.1 in 14 starts and 74.2 innings as a junior, with 67 strikeouts. Junker throws a fastball in the 90-95 mph range and touched 96 at times down the stretch, with a slider that projects as an average pitch.”"

The very next pick in the 11th round the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted a high school outfielder by the name of Jase Bowen.  The Pittsburgh Pirates have made it a trend to take high school players in the 11th round who they give bigger bonuses to.  Usually, the 11th round is where a lot of projectable high school players slide to because teams do not have to give up any of their bonus allotment if they fail to sign the prep player (in the top 10 rounds, team’s lose money from their allotment if they fail to sign the pick).

Bowen is an outfielder from Toledo Central Catholic in Ohio.  He was announced as a center fielder by the Bucs.  He has a solid and projectable athletic frame standing at 6’1” and weighing 190 pounds.  What is interesting about Bowen is he is also committed to Michigan State to play football and is supposed to report by the end of June for preseason workouts.  Bowen is a three-star wideout and will likely need a decent sized bonus to have him give up football and pursue professional baseball.

The team also drafted a catcher from the University of Minnesota, who is the son of a former big league player.  The Bucs drafted a catcher by the name of Eli Wilson in the 16th round.  Eli is the son of Dan Wilson, a former All-Star catcher who played for Cincinnati and Seattle, spending 12 of his 14 years with the Mariners.  Eli Wilson is a 6’2” and 190-pound catcher who is considered a good receiver and has a good arm.  At the plate, he has good discipline and projectable power.

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The last prospect of interest is likely the team’s highest upside pick on day three of the draft.  The team used their 23rd round draft pick on prep outfielder Jasiah Dixon.  Dixon is a centerfield prospect from west coast powerhouse Orange Lutheran High school.  Dixon will likely be a tough sign for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He is committed to the University of Southern California and likely will keep the commitment unless the Bucs are able to throw a significant bonus at him.

However, Dixon might be worth the large bonus if the Bucs can figure out how to save as much money as possible.  He was ranked inside Baseball America’s Top 200 Draft Prospect list at number 176 overall. Dixon is an athletic right-handed hitting and throwing outfielder who stands at 6’1” and only weighs around 160 pounds.  He is a plus runner and has plenty of room to add strength to his frame.  Here is more from Baseball America on the 23rd round pick:

"“Dixon is an exciting athlete with plus-plus speed, a plus arm and the ingredients to be a plus defender in center field. His pure athleticism is among the best in the class, and he has feel to play the game. Dixon’s bat is the question mark. He shows bat-to-ball skills but lacks natural timing or feel for the barrel, resulting in a lot of mishit balls and poor quality contact. He has plus bat speed and flashes raw power when he gets into proper launch position.”"

Baseball America also noted that Dixon had a chance to be drafted as high as the fifth round because of his five tool potential.  Hopefully, Neal Huntington and the Pirates can find the money to sign this upside outfielder.

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All in all, the Bucs had an interesting last day of the draft.  They took a good mix of players, from college hitters and pitchers to high upside prep players.  Hopefully, the team finds a few diamonds in the rough from the later rounds that can make a difference down the road.