Now that the 2023 draft is behind us, let's take a look at how some of the Pittsburgh Pirates top performers from the 2022 draft class
The Pittsburgh Pirates 2023 draft is now behind us. The Pirates were able to add some decent talent, but the big catch was Louisiana State University right-hander Paul Skenes. However, it’s now been about a year since the 2022 draft has taken place. So among the Pirate 2022 draft class, who is performing the best?
The Pirates’ first-round pick, Termarr Johnson, is having a strong season at the plate. He is currently slashing .250/.416/.462 with a .415 wOBA, and 144 wRC+. His power has also been a major strength, with a .212 isolated slugging percentage and ten home runs in 266 plate appearances.
While his 21.1% walk rate is no surprise, what is a surprise is his strikeout rate of 29.6%. His ability to avoid strikeouts was considered a strength before the draft. Still, it’s a little too early to consider this a major issue that needs to be dealt with immediately. After all, Johnson was one of the youngest first-rounders last season.
Their first-round competitive balance pick, Thomas Harrington, has had his fair share of positives this season. Harrington has a 3.70 ERA, 3.79 FIP, and 1.29 WHIP through 75.1 innings. Harrington has struck out over a quarter of the opponents he’s faced with a 27.5% strikeout rate but has matched that with an equally strong 7.1% walk rate.
Harrington also has a solid 0.96 HR/9. The right-hander has already reached High-A Greensboro. Although his surface numbers aren’t nearly as good as they were in Bradenton to start the season, bad luck has been a factor in his struggles. He has a .398 batting average on balls in play but has maintained relatively the same FIP and xFIP from Low-A.
The most surprising performance has come from first baseman/designated hitter Josiah Sightler. Sightler was the Bucs’ 15th-round pick out of the University of South Carolina. While Sightler posted outstanding numbers in his final and senior season in college, his performance so far this year has blown any potential expectations out of the water.
Sightler opened the year on the injured list, so he’s been limited to just 78 plate appearances between the Florida Complex League and Low-A Bradenton. But in that time, Sightler has 25 hits, including eight extra-base hits (4 doubles and home runs), and he’s walked 11 times against eight strikeouts. It’s a small sample size, and Sightler is a 23-year-old at the lowest full-season level of the minor leagues, but you couldn’t have asked for a better start for a 15th-rounder with zero expectations.
Another surprising senior draftee who is putting up great numbers is Nick Cimillo. Drafted in the 16th round out of Rutgers as an undershot signee, Cimillo is currently batting .273/.372/.531 through 148 plate appearances.
Cimillo has an 11.5% walk rate to oppose a respectable 21.4% strikeout rate. He’s also hitting for a ton of pop with a .258 isolated slugging percentage. Although drafted as a catcher, he’s mostly played 1B and DH, with just one inning caught this year.
On the pitching side of things, one of the more surprising performances has come from J.P. Massey, who was so good in the first half he was named to the Futures Game (essentially the all-star game for minor leagues and prospects). Massey has a 3.62 ERA 1.38 WHIP on the year but a poor 5.03 FIP. He has a 24.4% strikeout rate and 0.97 HR/9 but a poor 13.3% walk rate. However, most of Massey’s struggles have been when he came out of the bullpen.
Despite only pitching two games and 4.2 innings as a reliever, the ER he allowed in those short outings makes up nearly a quarter of the earned runs and over 10% of the walks he’s allowed. Massey has since joined his fellow 2022 pitcher draftee Thomas Harrington at Greensboro.
Many relief pitchers from this draft class have performed well at their respective levels. Cy Nielson has been one of the team’s best minor league relievers this year. Josh Loeschorn has some impressive peripherals. Julian Bosnic has had his ups and downs but is striking out a ton of batters. Mike Walsh got off to a great start to the year before being placed on the IL in mid-late April.
Over a year later, it’s nice to see a handful of the Pirates’ draft picks performing well. We’ll see if some of these prospects can continue to improve and establish themselves even further. If Johnson can cut down on the strikeouts, Sightler can hit in the upper levels of the minor leagues, and if Harrington can continue to pitch well into Altoona, things could really improve the Pirates’ long-term future.