A look at 4 possible draft choices for the Pittsburgh Pirates

Let's look at four of the best possible draft choices for the Pittsburgh Pirates this year.
West Virginia v Pittsburgh
West Virginia v Pittsburgh / Justin Berl/GettyImages

Last year, the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Louisiana State University ace-turned major league ace Paul Skenes with the first overall pick. This year, they'll have the ninth overall selection in the draft. The draft is quickly approaching, and there's been plenty of speculation about who the Pirates will take.

On top of four college outfielders who the Pirates could be eyeing, I've identified four players who I think are the most likely to be selected when Pittsburgh is on the clock. So, let's go through each player and see what they could bring to the Buccos. Of course, there's still some time before the draft, and things can change, but as of right now, these four players seem to come up most often in rankings and mock drafts when or around the Pirates are selecting.

Bryce Rainer

Bryce Rainer is the only high schooler that I think the Pirates would consider in this year's draft with their first round pick. Rainer is a strong and fast middle infielder who has five-tool potential. After originally showing some signs he could become a two-way player, Rainer has mostly focused on shortstop this year, where he looks like he has a chance to go within the first ten picks.

Rainer has the potential to be a plus-power hitter. He is a big 6'3" and 195 LBS at just 18 years old (he'll be 19 by the time of the draft). His swing can get long at times, but he's worked to shorten it up. Right now, it projects as above average, but will still need some work. Rainer is a good runner, though some are concerned he could lose a step once he fills out.

Rainer was a two-way player but has mostly focused on being a position player this year. He has one of the best infield arms in this year's draft class, as he was able to top out at 97 MPH on the mound. That arm strength plays nicely on the left side of the infield. There is some slight concern that his range won't age well, given that he's already a big shortstop, but he definitely has the instinct to play there.

Rainer might be the best high school middle infielder in this year's draft class. He's big, strong, projectable, and can play a premium position. There's a lot of upside to his game. Rainer is about the only high school player that I could see the Pirates taking with the ninth overall selection. Either way, he'd be a solid pick nonetheless.

JJ Wetherholt

If Rainer is the best high school middle infielder in this year's class, then JJ Wetherholt is the best college middle infielder in this year's class. A WVU infielder, Wetherholt is a pure hitter through and through. Although his final position is up for debate, there's no doubt the bat has a chance to develop very well.

Wetherholt has been limited by a hamstring injury this year, but when he has played, he's been excellent. Through 155 plate appearances, Wetherholt is batting .345/.487/.621 with eight home runs. He hits for good power and has a .276 isolated slugging percentage. However, his plate discipline has been even better. He's walked twice as often as he's struck out (30 to 15). Although he hasn't been ultra-aggressive on the basepaths like last year (he attempted 44 stolen bases in 2023), but he's still 5-5 in attempts.

Wetherholt has one of the best hit tools in the class. He has a smooth left-handed swing who can make contact with just about anything. But it's not just a spray-and-pray approach, as he can hit the ball with authority and has the chance to have above-average power in the future. He's had no trouble hitting home runs in college and has 29 through 143 games. While Wetherholt hasn't been an aggressive base stealer in 2024, he has plus speed and the potential to be a 20-stolen base threat.

Wetherholt has mostly lined up at shortstop this year, but most of his time as an amateur has been at the keystone, and he has plenty of games logged at third base. He even played a handful of games in left and right field in 2021. He doesn't project as an outstanding defender at short, being able to make the routine plays but coming short of the spectacular outs. His arm is also about average. But he has the speed and range to play either middle infield position or outfield if he has to move there.

Wetherholt is the best pure hitter in this year's draft. He can hit everything thrown at him and make good contact while doing so. He's a guy who could project as a consistent .280+ batter with some 20/20 seasons sprinkled in, and his early season injury may have just been enough for him to fall into the Pirates' lap this year.

Trey Yesavage

Trey Yesavage is one of the big three pitchers in this year's draft, along with the likes of Arkansas' Hagen Smith and Wake Forest's Chase Burns. Of the three, Yesavage has the best chance of being available when the Pirates are selecting their first-round pick. Yesavage has a chance to go from being an East Carolina Pirate to a Pittsburgh Pirate in this year's draft.

Yesavage has been great on the bump this year, pitching to a 2.03 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 4.53 K:BB ratio while pitching a career-high 93.1 innings. He's gotten plenty of strikeouts with a 40.4 K%. His walk rate clocks in at 8.9%, which is solid but not overly impressive, but he's been good at limiting home runs with a 0.39 HR/9.

Yesavage isn't like Skenes, tossing 100+ MPH regularly. He sits at 93-95 MPH and tops out at 98. But his release point and the way he spins his four-seamer make the pitch play up. Along with his four-seamer, he throws two breaking pitches, of which his slider is the better offering. But his curveball is a solid secondary offering. Finally, there's his splitter that he tosses in the low-80s.

Yesavage is 6'4", 225 LBS. While he doesn't have a low-effort delivery, he hasn't had trouble locating. His control projects as average to above average. His over-head arm slot adds some ride to his offerings and drop to his curveball. Yesavage is definitely on the table for the Pirates, especially given their knack for pitcher-heavy drafts.

Braden Montgomery

Braden Montgomery is one of the best college power hitters in this year's draft. The Texas A&M outfielder transferred from Stanford this year and already has ten more home runs than in 2023 in 16 fewer plate appearances. Montgomery has a chance of still being on the board when the Pirates are up with their first-round pick.

Montgomery has done nothing but crush the ball this year. In 294 plate appearances, he is batting .322/.452/.733. He already has 27 home runs on the season with an isolated slugging percentage over .400 at .411. His strikeout rate clocks in at 20.1%, but he has also walked nearly as often with a 17.7 BB%.

Montgomery is a 6'2", 195 LBS switch hitter and can hit the ball very hard. But there is one red flag, and that's his swing and miss. His hit tool projects as average right now. On the plus side, he is trending in the right direction but will still need to polish his hit tool as he heads into pro ball.

There's no question Montgomery will easily make throws from the outfield. He has over 30 innings pitched throughout his college career, and he was able to hit 96 MPH on the mound. He has the best outfield arm in this year's draft class. As a defender, he projects as a solid corner outfield glove with okay range. 

Since the Pirates need outfield help and Montgomery is one of the best players in this year's draft, I definitely think the Pirates would select him if he was still available. He provides not just one of the best outfield options in the draft this year but is one of the better power hitters as well.