Pittsburgh Pirates 2018 MLB Draft Grades
BEST PURE HITTER: OF Travis Swaggerty (1) improved himself as a player each year at South Alabama and the Pirates rewarded him by taking him with the No. 10 overall pick in the draft. While Swaggerty has five impressive tools, he's got a great approach at the plate—he walked 54 times to 38 strikeouts in the spring as a junior—at at least an average hit tool despite a .239/.322/.383 line across two leagues to start his pro career.
BEST POWER HITTER: OF Jonah Davis (15) has plus raw power that he finally started tapping into as a junior with California this spring, hitting a career-high 14 home runs after just two in 45 games as a sophomore. The power wasn't unprecedented, as Davis knocked nine homers in the wood bat Northwoods League in 2016, but his swing was noisy enough to limit how much of that power he could regularly tap into. The returns in pro ball are strong, as Davis hit 12 home runs, six triples and 15 doubles in the Appalachian League, with the fifth-best slugging percentage in the league (.612).
FASTEST RUNNER: Swaggerty is a 60-grade runner who swiped 48 bags throughout his college career before going 9-for-12 (75 percent) in the New York Penn League. He's never been efficient in this regard, with a 69.5 percent combined success rate between his brief pro career and his NCAA numbers, and will need to improve that going forward. OF Daniel Amaral (14) is also a 60-grade runner, and stole 25 bags in 31 chances (80.6 percent) in the New York Penn League.
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: SS Connor Kaiser (3) was lauded for his reliable defense at shortstop throughout his collegiate career, as a sure-handed, steady glove lacking elite range but equipped with above-average arm strength. C Grant Koch (5) steadily improved himself behind the plate at Arkansas, and has an accurate arm with a solid transfer and footwork. He threw out 28 percent of baserunners with low Class-A West Virginia. Swaggerty profiles as a plus defender in center field with his speed and above-average arm.
BEST FASTBALL: RHP Logan Stoelke (9) threw just 49.2 innings over four years with Louisiana-Lafayette, but has an above-average fastball that's been up to 95 mph and had plenty of success during his senior season. Stoelke had a solid pro debut, posting a 1.59 ERA across 22.2 innings and two leagues, with a 13.9 K/9—all for a $50,000 signing bonus.
BEST PRO DEBUT: It's hard to argue with the .306/.398/.612 line and extra-base hitting that Davis managed in the Appy League, but 18-year-old OF Jack Herman (30) hitting .340/.435/.489 with just one fewer walk than strikeout in the Gulf Coast League is a loud pro debut as well, and more of a surprise considering where he was drafted and for the price tag of $50,000.
BEST ATHLETE: Swaggerty might be the obvious answer here as the five-tool center fielder with an obvious plus run tool, but Ashcraft was an elite high school football player who set many records as a wide receiver with Robinson (Texas) High. SS Zack Kone (13) and LHP Cam Alldred (24) are honorable mentions here.
MOST INTRIGUING BACKGROUND: Amaral's father, Rich, was a 10-year major leaguer with the Mariners and Orioles and played at least 95 innings at every position outside of catcher and pitcher, while hitting .276/.344/.351 for his career. He finished fifth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting in 1993.
CLOSEST TO THE MAJORS: Swaggerty is a college performer with a well-rounded toolset, plus defense at a premium position and an advanced hit tool.
BEST LATE-ROUND PICK: Davis and Herman are both solid options for reasons we've previously touched on, though RHP Michael Burrows (11) is also a name to keep an eye on after ranking as the No. 5 prospect out of the state of Connecticut and signing for $500,000.
THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY: RHP Gunnar Hoglund (1s) had one of the best spring seasons of any prep player in the class and made a jump forward with his stuff while also possessing arguably the best command of any high school pitcher. Some scouts projected future 60 command on him. He'll head to Mississippi where he should provide an instant impact in the rotation.