One draft prospect at each position that should be on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ radar

Going position by position, who are some players that should be on the Pittsburgh Pirates' draft radar from this year's class?
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The Pittsburgh Pirates landed the ninth overall pick in the 2024 draft during the draft lottery during the December Winter Meetings last year. It marks the fifth year in a row they’ve received a top-ten pick, and it will also mark Ben Cherington’s fifth draft as the Pirates’ general manager. The draft won’t happen for another three months, but given the college season has been in full swing for a while now, we can get at least an idea of who is good and who will go early in the draft.

This year’s draft has a lot of college talent. The first five picks could be college players. This could be a good chance for the Pirates to snag a top college bat to help the line-up within the next year or so. So, going position-by-position, who are some names that the Pirates should have on their radars?

Catcher: Walker Janek

Catcher Walker Janek is one of the best backstops in the draft. He could go late into the first round or early second round. The Sam Houston State product has been a great hitter throughout his college career. He has also displayed the skills to remain behind the dish in the long run, but also some versatility.

Janek has logged 176 plate appearances this season batting .392/.477/.730. He already has 25 extra base hits. That includes 11 home runs, doubles, and three triples. He has a 12.5% walk rate and an 18.2% strikeout rate this season. Janek isn’t considered a great runner, but he’s not slow, either. He’s shown good instinct on the basepaths and has gone 24/28 in stolen base attempts throughout his college career.

Janek has displayed bat speed, which should help his power play reach an above-average level. But he will need to sharpen up his swing decisions. He swings outside the zone a lot, and while he’s made good contact so far in his college career with that approach, it is something that could get exploited in the professional ranks. Still, there’s potential for at least an average hit tool here.

Janek has displayed good fielding prowess behind the dish. He has good hands that help him frame and blocks well. Janek’s arm is his best defensive weapon, as he makes strong, accurate throws from behind the plate with good reaction times. Although Janek is a catcher by trade, he has also seen time at third base, second base, and corner outfield. While catcher will likely remain his primary position, he could see some time at both the corner infield and outfield from time to time.  

Currently, Janek is projected to go within the first 40 picks. Joe Doyle has him 38th overall, just one pick after the Bucs’ competitive balance selection. MLB Pipeline has him ranked as the 38th-best prospect in the draft. While the Pirates have plenty of long term catching options, Janek would not be a bad pick-up with their 37th overall selection, especially given he has some versatility.