The first two rounds of the First Year MLB Draft were completed Monday. The Pirates took four high school players with their first four picks. Here is what you need to know about them.
First Round (12): Shane Baz, RHP Concordia Lutheran HS, Tomball, Texas
Baz was ranked as the 11th-best prospect overall according to Baseball America (BA), including the second best fastball among high school pitchers. MLB.com ranked him as the 12th best prospect. He was named First-Team All-District as a senior, going 6-2 with a 0.93 ERA and 96 strikeouts.
At just 17 years old, his heater consistently reaches the low 90s and has topped out at 98 MPH. He also has a curveball, cutter and slider- which all project to be potential plus pitches- and a changeup he is still trying to get a feel for, according to BA and Perfect Game (PG). PG’s scouting report says he has the athleticism, but his fastball command will be his greatest obstacle.
If his high school rings a bell, it’s probably because Pirates prospect and former first rounder Ke’Bryan Hayes also attended high school there.
Baz committed to TCU in 2015, and like all high school draftees, there is a risk he will forgo the contract and honor his school.
“I haven’t gotten there yet,” Baz said during a conference call with reporters Monday. “I’m just enjoying this for now. I’ll have to speak with my advisor and go over that another time.”
The Pirates have shown a willingness to pay high schoolers well in Neal Huntington’s time as GM, convincing Hayes, Josh Bell and Jameson Taillon to go straight to pro-ball. The pick comes with a $4,032,000 slot value. A figure around that ballpark may get the job done.
Second Round Compensation (42): Steve Jennings, RHP Dekalb County HS, Smithville, Tennessee
One high school righty was not enough for the Pirates, taking Steve Jennings with their second round pick. Baseball America ranked him as the 49th overall prospect. MLB.com had him at 47.
Jennings has not spent as much time on the baseball competitive scene because he played football. He tore his ACL this past fall playing football, but he recovered in time to pitch in the spring.
According to MLB.com, his fastball touches 95, but can increase with age. His slider sits around 85 MPH. He is working on a curveball and changeup, though the curveball is more polished.
Jennings committed to Mississippi, but according to the MLB.com bio, he would probably forgo school if he was drafted high enough. It appears that has happened. Jennings’ draft slot is allocated at $1,635,500.
Second Round (50): Calvin Mitchell, OF Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego
Mitchell may have been a stretch for the Pirates at 50th overall. Baseball America had him ranked as the 74th best prospect, while MLB.com had him at 79. He bats and throws left-handed.
PG praised his bat speed and his ability to hit to all fields last year, but he has changed his approach at the plate since then. According to MLB.com, he’s pulled his hands in closer to his body and is now top hand heavy, making him more of a pull hitter. It also created more swings and misses. A change back to his old form may come at the cost of a bit of power, but make him a more complete hitter again.
Mitchell is a left fielder by trade, but first base may be a better option consider his poor speed reviews. If nothing else, he is unlikely to play left at PNC Park. He would need to be converted to first or right because he could not cover that much ground.
The slot value for the pick is $1,357,300. It is possible the Pirates stretched for him because they figured he would sign under slot, giving them more money to play with for other picks. That or they were in love with his hit tool and did not want to risk losing him before their next pick.
Competitive Balance B (72) Conner Uselton, OF Southmoore HS, Oklahoma City
Uselton is the first player MLB.com and Baseball America seem to be separated on. MLB has him at 46 overall, BA 89. He bats and throws right-handed.
MLB.com praised his bat speed, strength and leverage, saying he has some of the best raw power in this year’s high school crop. PG praised his performance against premier high school pitching and his defense. To them, he takes good routes and has raw arm strength, but he could improve on positioning.
He’s already 19, which could be a problem for the Pirates because it means he could be eligible for the draft again in two years rather than three. If he feels he can improve his stock, he could be a tough sign. He has committed to Oklahoma State. His slot is valued at $804,000.