With a loss to the Cleveland Indians on Friday nigth and the Texas Rangers walking off the Houston Astros, the Pittsburgh Pirates have clinched the #1 pick for next year’s MLB Draft.
It’s been a long, rough year, but in the final home stretch with the Pittsburgh Pirates getting walked off on by the Cleveland Indians, and the Texas Rangers walking off the Houston Astros on Friday evening, the Bucs have ended on a high note, acquiring the #1 overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft.
Now reasonably, fans have had their doubts the Pittsburgh Pirates will get the #1 pick, as Manfred could make it to where 2019 records are also taken into account. However sources have stated that the 2021 draft order will be based on 2020 standings alone a few days ago:
The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates had the #1 overall selection in the draft was in 2011, one of the best drafts the franchise has ever had. They selected Gerrit Cole with the #1 pick, and they could select another pitcher yet again. The ovbisous answer would be Vanderbilt ace Kumar Rocker. Rocker stands at a hulking 6’5, 255 pounds. The right hander put himself into #1 overall selection talk after pitching 99.2 innings, striking out 114 batters, walking just 21, and giving up 2 long balls with Vandy in 2019. Rocker got off to another insane start to 2020 having a 1.80 ERA, surrendering no home runs, and striking out 28 batters in 15 innings. Rocker’s fastball can range anywhere between 95 MPH and topping out at 100 MPH. The real attraction is his slider. I mean just look at the filth on it:
Some scouts have already stated this is a 70-grade pitch. He also throws a change-up occasionally, and while it’s not a great pitch right now, many believe it can be a solid third offering to go with a 65-70 grade fastball and 70+ grade slider. His outstanding pitches helped him win College World Series’ Most Outstanding Player, and threw a no hitter in the World Series.
But don’t pen Rocker to the Pittsburgh Pirates just yet. The right hander has been absoltuely filthy through college, but Vanderbilt’s other ace might just overthrow Rocker for the #1 spot. Jack Leiter, who, by FanGraphs, is the #1 prospect in the draft, is also seen as a future ace. In Leiter’s freshman year, the right hander tossed 15.2 innings, allowed just three earned runs, struck out 22 batters, and gave up 5 hits, none of which left the park.
Leiter has been on draft radars since he was in high school, and was actually selected by the New York Yankees in the 20th round of the 2019 draft. However the two sides were unable to reach a deal. Leiter isn’t a flamethrower like Rocker is, but he can paint the black. He topped out at 96 MPH, but only reached that mark once. The pitch has decent movement with 10.1 inches of vertical movement and 4.5 inches of drop. It only sits in the low-90s range, but many believe it can be an extremely effective 60+ grade pitch if he can get it into the 94-96 range consistenly.
The curveball is where it’s at for Leiter as it has some serisous drop. Plus with it sitting in the low-to-mid 70s, it makes for a nice change of pace. His slider is also extremely strong, and is considered a plus pitch as well. His change up right now is seen as a solid fourth option, but nothing great, as of right now.
What makes Leiter rank so high despite not having an overwhelming pitch is that his mechanics and wind-up is repeatable and effortless, and is considered extremely durable. Though none of his pitches are overwhelming, he’s considered to have four, above average offerings already, and could develop into even better pitches. Imagine having a four, 60+ grade pitch pitcher in your rotation who has excellent control over all four pitches:
I know some people will say that Bob Nutting won’t pay top dollar for a top prospect, but remember the last time the Pittsburgh Pirates had the #1 overall selection, they broke three signing bonus records: Gerrit Cole who has the second highest signing bonus out of the draft of all time (highest at the time), Josh Bell with the highest second round bonus of all time, and Clay Holmes with the highest ninth round bonus of all time. In the most recent draft, the Pirates paid top dollar for Nick Gonzales as he was the sixth highest paid player in the first round at $5,432,400, even surpassing the #2 overall pick, Heston Kjerstad ($5.2 million). If anything, the one area where the Pirates aren’t afraid to throw money around is with the draft.
Regardless of wheter the Pirates draft Leiter or Rocker, both are extremely talented pitchers. Both have the stuff to be ace-level starters in the near future as both are 20 years old. The future looks bright for the Pittsburgh Pirates as they’ll get their second, top 10 pick in a year.