Two college players who were drafted in 2022 could be on the Pittsburgh Pirates 2023 draft radar
The Pittsburgh Pirates lucked themselves into the first overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft. As things currently stand, the Pirates would likely take either Chase Dollander or Dylan Crews. But, as we saw in 2021 when the Pirates had the no. 1 pick, they went with a slightly unconventional first-overall pick with Henry Davis, and it ended up working exceptionally well in the long run.
Regardless of whom they select, it’s another chance to give the farm system a massive boost. This year’s draft includes two interesting names, as they’re re-entering the draft after getting drafted but not signing in the 2022 draft. Both of these players were not high schoolers who decided to go to college and wait to get a larger signing bonus, as they were both in college in 2022.
The first is right-hander Brandon Sproat. The New York Mets selected Sproat with their third-round selection, but the two sides could not come to an agreement. Sproat will return to the University of Florida for another season but will re-enter this year’s draft.
Last year, Sproat worked to a 3.41 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 89.2 innings. His 8.6% walk rate, mixed with his 21.5% strikeout rate, isn’t wowing anyone, but he gave up just five home runs. His overall HR/9 came in at just 0.50. It was a mixed bag for Sproat as he had his peaks and valleys throughout the season for the Gators.
Sproat has an excellent fastball. The right-hander sat around 96 MPH during the spring but then averaged out at 94-98 MPH. He also offers a distinct slider, a pitch that sits in the mid-80s and has above-average potential, as well as a curveball that is more of a get-me-over type offering. Sproat’s change-up is his least-used weapon, but it has flashed decent potential when he does use it.
Depending on how the Pittsburgh Pirates draft, Sproat would be a nice under-slot signing in the fourth round. If the Pirates go with a similar strategy to 2021, drafting over-slot players in the second and/or third rounds or potentially having over-slot deals lined up for later in the draft, Sproat would be a good way of saving money for the over-slot guys and still getting a semi-decent prospect out of it.
Just a few picks before Sproat, the Baltimore Orioles selected Nolan McLean in the third round. McLean, selected out of Oklahoma State University, is a two-way player. He’s mostly worked out of relief, and he’s also a very powerful hitter. The downside is he comes with the same downside that big power hitters and power pitchers come with.
In 290 plate appearances, McLean batted .285/.397/.595 with 19 home runs. He also hustled out 16 doubles. McLean had an impressive 12.8% walk rate. However, there was one massive, glaring hole in McLean’s season at the plate. He struck out a whopping 107 times for a 36.9% strikeout rate. This was actually an unimprovement from 2021 when he had a still worryingly high 28.9% strikeout rate. His 107 strikeouts were an NCAA Division I record.
As a pitcher, he runs his fastball up into the upper-90s. Not only does he have big velocity, but he does it with a low-effort delivery. Both his slider and curveball project as above average. But while he struck out 35.1% of batters faced, he also walked 11.7% of the opponents he squared off against. His ceiling as a pitcher is a mid-rotation starter or back-of-the-pen arm.
McLean saw most of his playing time at third base but has also taken up the corner outfield spots, second base, and first base. While he has a powerful arm to play the outfield, his range is sub-par at best. MLB Pipeline only gives him a 30-run grade.
Joey Gallo is a very lazy comparison, but there is a resemblance of his swing in McLean’s. But you also have to keep in mind that Joey Gallo is pretty much a one-of-a-kind player. There’s never been a hitter with a wRC+ of at least 110 (10% better than average) while batting below the Mendoza Line and striking out in over 35% of their plate appearances. Drafting McLean and expecting him to be the next Gallow would be like expecting Tres Gonzalez, the Pirates’ sixth-round pick last season, to become the next Tony Gwynn.
While McLean would likely be an under-slot draftee, I personally would rather not see the Pirates select him in the first five rounds as things stand right now. If McLean can get his strikeout rate below 20%, then we’re talking. However, he set an NCAA record for how often he strikes out. Sure he has good raw stuff on the mound, but his command is mediocre at best. If his profile does not change much, it would have to be a decently under-slot signing.