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Pirates 2019 Draft Manifesto




The NFL Draft, NBA draft and the MLB (Rule 4) Draft are all within a couple months of each other. They all sound like similar entities but they couldn ?t be more different. My analogy is that the NBA/NFL drafts are Pizza Hut and the MLB draft is an Ethiopian restaurant: both places to eat dinner, but with not much else in common.

In this article, I’ll delve into the wonderfully complicated and interesting MLB draft, it ?s 17-22 year old prospects that won ?t see the majors for 5 or 6 years, the Pirates ? likes/dislikes and what the scouts have been saying. Enjoy.

Pirates draft tendencies

The Pirates have certain attributes they try to draft:

  1. High character
  2. Intelligence on and off the field
  3. Premium positions
  4. Youth

Briefly touching on these characteristics: #1 and #2 are obvious. As is premium positions: catcher, shortstop, center field and starting pitcher carry much more weight than other positions because these positions are the hardest to find.

Let ?s talk about what I mean for ?Youth ?. Being young for your level is so important for the Pirates, because it allows for upside and breakouts. Young for a draftee means young for your high school or college class. It normally means a draft age of less than 18 for high school seniors or less than 21 for college juniors. This means a birth month in the late spring or summer.

Jim Callis of thinks that teams (like the Pirates) overvalue birth month. If I were the Pirates I ?d just point to these guys:

Barry Bonds July 24th
Alex Rodriguez July 27th
Roger Clemens August 4th
Mike Trout August 7th
Cal Ripken August 24th

2019 Draft numbers

If you ?re reading this article you ?re probably aware of how money is used in the draft and slotting positions. This year the Pirates have the 11th biggest draft poll to the tune of $9,944,000.

Their top 4 slots have the following values:

18 $3,481,300.00 1st rounder
37 $1,999,300.00 Comp pick for not signing pick last year
57 $1,243,600.00 2nd rounder
72 $870,700.00 Competitive balance pick

Pick Predictions

Like years past, I list many players that the Pirates might take at each of their first couple picks. I ?ve broken them into groups:

  1. Players who I think they ?ll take at 18 (with odds)
  2. Players in play at 37, but potentially at 57 and 72
  3. Some top 10 rounds guesses.

Predicting the 18th pick is pretty hard once you take all the variables into effect, hence why I ?m placing horse racing odds.

There are several top 10 guys that I think that the Pirates would take at 18 if they fall to them (Shea Langeliers, Hunter Bishop, Alex Manoah) but the chances are slim. Here are the remaining athletes I ?m handicapping for the 18th pick. First column is where Fangraphs and has each ranked. All videos thanks to our friends Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo at

FG/MLB rank Player Odds
18/18 George Kirby RHP 5-1 Elon
17/13 Matthew Allan RHP 5-1 Seminole HS FL
41/27 Gunnar Henderson SS 5-1 Morgan Academy HS AL
28/29 Maurice Hampton CF 8-1 Memphis University HS TN
12/16 Josh Jung 3B 8-1 Texas Tech
89/UR Matt Dyer C 8-1 Arizona
39/52 Blake Walston LHP 8-1 New Hanover HS NC
33/28 Keoni Cavaco 3B 8-1 Eastlake HS CA
21/21 Will Wilson 2B 10-1 North Carolina State
35/23 Daniel Espino RHP 10-1 Premier Academy HS GA
36/38 Matthew Lugo SS 12-1 Beltran Academy HS PR
41/31 Seth Johnson RHP 12-1 Campbell


Gunnar Henderson (VIDEO)

I currently have a negative connotation with a “Gunnar” as a German Shepherd of the same name makes my morning runs more interesting than I ?d like.

The Pirates definitely like “Gunnar” the baseball player. Hailing from Alabama, Henderson is rocketing up draft boards due to his ability to hit for power and play SS. He could be a fast riser through the minors as long as his transition to wood bats goes OK.

George Kirby (VIDEO)

Can you ever have enough pitching? Kirby is a starter and comes from Elon. He has excelled in college, as well as on the Cape and shows great control, leading D-1 with a 17.5 K/BB ratio. As far as tools you are pretty sure will help you at the ML level in today ?s game, command of your pitches has to be #1. College pitchers with high floors seem boring but Kirby might have a Trevor Williams-like ceiling, which means much more than it used to.

Matt Allen (VIDEO)

Allen is a top flight projectable HS pitcher in a time where the Pirates really need an elite pitcher in their low minors. With Cody Bolton advancing fast and Shane Baz in Tampa, they have a lack of starters with top of the rotation talent, unless we hit a lottery ticket with the prospects acquired in the Nova and Luplow/Moroff trades. Allen does have a U of Florida commitment which could scare the Pirates off.

Maurice Hampton (VIDEO)

Hampton is the prominent two sport athlete for this year ?s draft class. He ?s been offered a scholarship to LSU where it looks like he ?ll have the chance to play both football and baseball. If Hampton weren ?t so young (17 until August) and if the Kyler Murray decision wasn ?t so new, I think he ?d be a top 5 pick. It ?s too hard for me to understand his contract demands, but it seems like he could leverage money out of a team with a lower pick but higher bonus pool (i.e. Dbacks).

Josh Jung (VIDEO)

Wouldn ?t it be ironic if we drafted a 3B named Jung? Josh Jung doesn ?t resemble Jung Ho and his game is much different too. He has more of an all-fields approach to his hitting and the pull power hasn ?t shown up too much yet. He has hit since he stepped on to campus at Texas Tech and is even playing SS this year. Jung could be Best Player Available when the Pirates pick and wouldn ?t be questioned by anyone who follows college baseball.

Matt Dyer (LINK)

Dyer is a great example of the complexity of the MLB draft. A great high school catching prospect who was drafted but went to Oregon instead. After a year he left the Ducks and decided rainy Oregon baseball wasn ?t for him. He went to a JuCo in hopes of getting drafted but broke his finger and missed the whole JuCo season. He received draft offers of $500k after his JuCo season but turned them down to head home and play for the Arizona Wildcats instead of a second season at the JuCo. He gets invited to the Cape and hits well. During his only season with the Wildcats he rakes and plays a great catcher, but Arizona missed the NCAA tournament so scouts can ?t secretly watch him anymore. High character player and a young college draftee who is ranked high by Fangraphs, low by Baseball America and not at all by Seems like a perfect Cole Tucker type pick that will irritate the fanbase but turn out well.

Keoni Cavaco (VIDEO)

Cavaco is a ?pop-up ? prospect this year, meaning he wasn ?t on the scouts radar until recently. He ?s a super athletic 3B prospect that has power and tools to dream on. He ?s from San Diego and has a commitment to San Diego State, but it seems like he knows he ?ll get paid enough to ignore his commitment. He ?s also very young for his class. If you wanted to add a high end bat to the low minors and sign him for slot, this might be your guy. You wouldn ?t be sacrificing on upside yet as he doesn ?t turn 18 until draft day.

Blake Walston (VIDEO)

Upside upside upside. If you could imagine what Clayton Kershaw was like in high school, that ?s what Walston sounds like. The only difference is that Kershaw was a center on the football team (for NFL QB Matt Stafford) whereas Walston is the star QB. Walston is also considered a popup prospect as well, more due to not doing the summer circuit because of football. He ?s not considering a football scholarship, but his commitment to NC State for baseball might loom large. Walston has a great feel for a breaking ball, has an easy left-handed delivery and is young for his class. Definitely in the mix for the Pirates at 18 and probably won ?t last until 37.

Will Wilson (VIDEO)

Wilson sounds much like a RHH Adam Frazier: great bat control, hits to all fields, surprising power, etc. He does receive better defensive accolades than Frazier currently gets. Wilson is not fast but some think he can play SS in the majors, while others think he is a 2B only guy. Most agree that with his quick hands and bat he ?ll play in the majors. The high floor, high character guy with some kind of a ceiling is a possibility at 18.

Daniel Espino (VIDEO)

The Pirates have a past and current track record with Panamanians from Manny Sanguillien to Dario Agrazal. Daniel Espino was born in Panama, but came to the U.S. and is attending a prep school in the United States. Espino is a draftee that you can ?t help but love and hate. His 100 MPH fastball comes due to his great lower body, which allows him to reach the highest numbers. He also shows a good feel for a couple off speed pitches. The detractors say that his short stature (6 ?0 ?) destines him for trouble and his LSU commit is a hassle. Regardless, he might be the pitcher with the highest ceiling the Pirates could pick at 18.

Matt Lugo (VIDEO)

Wouldn ?t it be great if the Pirates would draft a Puerto Rican sometime? Maybe this year is the year. Matt Lugo is a super athletic SS prospect who is working with Carlos Beltran at his Puerto Rican Academy. Lugo did very well last year with the wood bat and shows a plus feel for someone so young (just turned 18). There are some that question his ability to stick at SS, but not many question his bat if he ?s able to stay there.

Seth Johnson (VIDEO)

Johnson isn ?t necessarily a pop-up, as his team Campbell College gets scouted hard, but he ?s an infielder who converted to a pitcher in the last two years. Johnson ?s already very good (plus delivery, easy mid 90 ?s, plus slider) but scouts dream on what he ?ll be once he gets more reps under his belt. He ?s also young for his college class, not turning 21 until September, making him younger than some of the JuCo draftees.

Players In Play At 37, 57, and 72

Kyren Paris – VIDEO SS Freedom HS CA
Crazy young SS with plus athleticism.
Spencer Jones – VIDEO LHP/1B La Costa Canyon HS CA
A legit two way player that would have been in play in first if not for injury.
Noah Song – VIDEO RHP Navy
Great college senior but Navy obligation muddies the water. BEAT ARMY!
Hunter Brown – VIDEO RHP Wayne State
Young college RHP with plus FB and slider. Small school questions.
Dilan Rosario – VIDEO SS Leadership Christian HS PR
The better glove of the Puerto Rican shortstops.
Chris Villaman LHP Ledford HS NC
Super projectable prep LHP with commit to NC State.
Adam Laskey LHP Duke
Won Cape Cod pitcher of year in 2018, dinged up until recently
Ricky DeVito – VIDEO RHP Seton Hall
20 year old college junior with a plus changeup and athleticism.
Tyler Nesbitt – VIDEO RHP Labelle HS FL
17 year old with lots of potential and a commit to U of FL
Hunter Gaddis – VIDEO RHP Georgia State
Small school 6 ?6 ? RHP
Korey Lee – VIDEO C Cal
Strong arm and big power draw Mike Napoli comps.
Carter Bins – VIDEO C Fresno State
Classic team leader behind plate.
Brady McConnell – VIDEO SS Florida
Highly regarded high school shortstop that ?s finally coming into own in college.
Michael Massey – VIDEO 2B Illinois
Exceptional hand eye coordination.
Antoine Harris RHP Chalmette HS LA
Lots of potential but super raw.
Nathaniel LaRue – VIDEO C McGill-Toolen HS AL
Position player turned catcher seems like a natural.

Some Guys I Like Towards The Tail End

Adam Lukas RHP Evansville
Beau Philip SS Oregon State
Christopher Mokma RHP Holland Christian HS MI
Cooper Johnson C Ole Miss
Jared Johnson RHP Smithville HS MS
Jordan Beck LF Hazel Green HS AL
Landy Pena SS Leadership Christian Academy HS PR
Michael Prosecky LHP Nazareth Academy HS IL
Philip Clarke C Vanderbilt
Randon Hostert RHP Bonneville HS IA
Ryan Sleeper LHP Lakeville North HS MN


Michael is a Pirates contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. Michael is former submarine officer and Naval Academy grad. He now runs a small consulting firm and does veteran related job fairs. He is a SABR member and regularly attends Altoona Curve games to scout the Pirate prospects.

7 Comments on Pirates 2019 Draft Manifesto

  1. Great stuff! A little surprised you didn’t mention Logan Davidson, the Clemson shortstop. I know the Pirates have been tied to him. He hasn’t hit at the Cape and his average is usually below .300 at Clemson so I’m not sure about him. Swaggerty isn’t hitting much yet and I’d hate to see another iffy college bat taken.

    • Michael Bradley // May 30, 2019 at 8:40 AM // Reply

      I’m sure he’s on our radar as well. It’s just so hard to whittle down to a real number. I kinda cheat by listing extra guys for the other picks. IF I could interview and assess character, which is uber important for us, I might be able to bump guys up or down.

      Glad you enjoyed.

  2. Thanks, Michael. This is my favorite article of the year. I ?m on the Gunnar bandwagon, sorry about your dog experiences! I ?m hoping he ?s the choice at either 1.18 or 1.37. Like Priester too. I did a mini deep dive on this that I ?ll reference when I ?m back from the mountains.

    Nonetheless, really appreciate all the work!

    • Alright. I ?m still away, but I wanted to see your thoughts. I looked over the the draft classes from 2012-2018 (new CBA w slots) and found the following ?trends ?:

      1. 69% of first round selections are position players. Of the 4 pitchers, they only signed 1 (and trades him almost as soon as they could)

      2. 54/46 HS/College split.

      3. 70% have signed underslot in rd 1.

      Break ? does that alter anything for you? I think they lean position player despite the lack of pitching depth in the system. I expect a young player (eliminates Baty, imo) and a prep player like Henderson fits perfectly to me into all of these trends. Especially because I read he ?s an underslot target. No proof to that obviously. Lol

      Rd 2 ?

      1. 90% HS
      2. 60% pitchers.

      Rd 3 ?

      1. 85% College / 85% Position
      2. 71% underslot.

      This is where, I believe the Pirates begin going to recoup slot value.

      If I ?m running the show (and I want to follow their early round trends), I ?m going HS underslot (Henderson) then HS overslot at 1.37 (pitcher here is fine?) the. Go overslot again for a prep pitcher in rd 2. Then recoup those overages in rd 3-10.

      • Michael Bradley // June 3, 2019 at 10:50 AM // Reply

        Joe, first thanks for the complements. Sorry, it’s taken a while to respond. Church festival all weekend.

        Second, I like your analysis on going position then overslot. I think this is a likely plan but depends on who’s there.

        Tweet at me today @ballsandgutters I’ll be following all day.

        Thanks again.

  3. great work

  4. Michael Bradley // June 3, 2019 at 10:51 AM // Reply

    Thanks Gary!

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