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2018 MLB Draft Profile – Pittsburgh

You could forgive SS Liam Sabino for struggling some in his redshirt-junior season at Pitt after accumulating only 68 AB in his previous three seasons coming into this one. I mean, you could…but you don’t have to. Sabino is hitting a team leading .345/.464/.678 through 110 PA so far in 2018. That’s good. He’s also 13/14 stealing bags and playing quality defense. That’s also good. In less good news, Sabino’s 30.9 K% is as bright a red flag as you can find for an otherwise good looking hitting prospect. This got me thinking….and not just that I really could use a thesaurus. I wish I had the time and data skimming ability to find out for sure, but it certainly seems like Sabino ranks at or near the top of this year’s Three True Outcomes college leaderboard. My very quick search at least puts him in the exclusive (and admittedly very silly) 20/30/7 club. That would be BB/K/HR for those scoring at home. Other members include Kevin Woodall, Nick Ames, and Seth Lancaster. Anyway, if we add Sabino’s K% with his high BB% (18.2) and seven homers (6.4% of his PA) then we see he’s whiffing, walking, or walloping in 55.5% of his total plate appearances. That puts him squarely in Sano/Judge territory and in the same zip code as Gallo. Of course, all of those guys are doing it in the MLB and not the ACC, but you get the idea. So in Sabino we have a Three True Outcomes star, a transfer from Vanderbilt (never a bad thing when they’ve recruited you), an above-average runner and athlete, and a capable enough defender to stick at shortstop (or, at worst, not slide down the defensive spectrum too far). This is a really, REALLY intriguing prospect. The strikeouts keep me from going all-in on Sabino as a prospect (though I’m close…), but as a draft curiosity he’s second to none.

SS/2B David Yanni is a really interesting young hitter who is likely to use at least one of his two remaining years of eligibility. Admittedly, Yanni’s numbers are what I find most interesting about him considering my present scouting notes on him are sparse. 1B/3B Nick Banman has size and power but also strikeouts and dangerously low contact rates. Unfortunately, the latter is too much to make the former worthwhile as a draft prospect.

Quality stuff, low- to mid-90s velocity, more than enough strikeouts, and questionable control. Now you know about RHP RJ Freure, RHP Blair Calvo, and RHP Derek West. Each guy obviously brings his own individual strengths and weaknesses to the mound, but that’s still the general gist.

RHP RJ Freure is the shortest at 6-1, 200 pounds, and the easiest to project to pro ball. He’s a reliever, he’s always been a reliever, he has the delivery and lack of a third pitch to remain a reliever, and he’s really good at being a reliever. If Freure can soften some of the rough edges around his game (namely his control, or lack thereof) then it’s not much of a stretch to imagine his deceptive low-90s heat continuing to pile up swings and misses in the pros. Much of that also applies to RHP Derek West, though his build (6-5, 225 pounds) and more diverse offspeed repertoire (cutter, curve, change) at least gives him some hope of transitioning to the rotation as he gains more experience. That last part is another big difference between him and Freure: West is a redshirt-sophomore coming off of two straight seasons lost due to injury while Freure is a draft-eligible true sophomore based on age with over fifty extra college innings to his name. West also has a couple extra present ticks of velocity (up to 95) working for him.

Then there’s RHP Blair Calvo, who is sort of a mix between the two. He’s got an up-and-down track record on the mound (very good year in junior college in 2016, missed all of 2017 coming back from Tommy John surgery) that combines the past of both Freure and West (more or less) with velocity (also up to 95) and a depth of secondary stuff (average slider, occasional curve and change) to match West. His size (6-3, 200) puts him smack dab in the middle of the two. Interestingly, Calvo has started seven games so far but has only gone 24.1 innings. West has a similar ratio of starts (4) to innings pitched (14.1). It’s still kind of early in the season so maybe there’s nothing to it, but it sure seems like a potential hint that the bullpen is where all three of these guys will wind up in the pros. Assuming that’s the case, I’d rank them Freure, Calvo, and West.

I don’t have much on RHP Matt Pidich, but the 2018 results to date speak for themselves. I’m intrigued to find out more about him, though I’ll admit that the clock is ticking mighty fast as we approach early June. There may not be enough time left to circle back. Hopefully pro teams do a better job than me investigating how Pidich is doing what he’s doing because he deserves some notice. RHP/OF Yaya Chentouf has been good on the mound in the past, but it took until this year for his peripherals to catch up. Now that he’s striking out a batter per inning, the small (5-9, 190) yet highly athletic Chentouf becomes far more appealing. There’s no denying his arm strength (up to 94). That should lead to some fun conversations in draft rooms come the late rounds. “He’s up to 94,” he says. “Yeah, but he’s 5-9,” they’ll counter. In a battle of You Can’t Teach Natural Arm Strength vs Short Righthanders are the Worst, who will win the day?

SO RHP RJ Freure (2018)
rJR RHP Blair Calvo (2018)
rSO RHP Derek West (2018)
rSR RHP Matt Pidich (2018)
SR RHP TJ Pagan (2018)
JR RHP/OF Yaya Chentouf (2018)
rJR SS Liam Sabino (2018)
rSR OF Frank Maldonado (2018)
rSO SS/2B David Yanni (2018)
JR OF Connor Perry (2018)
SR 1B/3B Nick Banman (2018)
rSR C Caleb Parry (2018)
SO RHP Dan Hammer (2019)
SO RHP Chris Gomez (2019)
rFR LHP Peyton Reesman (2019)
SO 2B Alex Amos (2019)
SO OF Nico Popa (2019)
FR LHP Chris Cappas (2020)
FR OF Ron Washington (2020)


2017 MLB Draft Report – Pittsburgh

Hard to say at this point how strong Pittsburgh is from a prospect perspective, but, man, are a lot of the notable players on this roster off to really good starts in 2017. Could be a case of a team with a lot of good college players overachieving, but it makes me wonder a bit if I should start asking around more about guys like Sam Mersing, Josh Mitchell, Josh Falk, and Matt Pidich. All have been good to start the season. The two guys I have exciting notes on — Isaac Mattson and Blair Calvo — both seem draft-worthy from here. Mattson is a control artist with solid stuff (88-92 FB, good CB) and consistently strong peripherals. Calvo is out in 2017 with a knee injury, but has a pair of pitches (90-95 FB, average SL) that should play well in pro ball even after missing these important developmental innings.

Liam Sabino should have “Vanderbilt transfer” listed prominently on his bio as that’s presently the most intriguing thing about him. That’s not a knock on Sabino, a talented guy with speed, athleticism, and plenty of defensive aptitude, but rather praise for Vanderbilt…and, fine, maybe a little bit of a knock on Sabino’s limited college experience to date. If he can get on the field, he could rise quickly. PJ DeMeo has ample power and considerable swing-and-miss. I like what I’ve seen so far out of Caleb Parry and am eager to learn more about him, especially defensively. Frank Maldonado and Jacob Wright both could eventually get opportunities as senior-signs down the line. Parry, Maldonado, and Wright all belong with the group of overachieving pitchers mentioned above as “hmm, maybe this guys are better than I thought” types. Both Maldonado and Wright are well-rounded overall players with disciplined approaches at the plate. Those in the know have pointed me towards Nick Banman as Pittsburgh’s top 2017 bat. His size and power are certainly eye-catching, so gathering more info about him will be a priority this spring.


JR RHP Isaac Mattson (2017)
JR RHP Blair Calvo (2017)
SR RHP Sam Mersing (2017)
rJR LHP Josh Mitchell (2017)
rJR RHP Matt Pidich (2017)
SR RHP Josh Falk (2017)
JR 1B/3B Nick Banman (2017)
rJR OF Frank Maldonado (2017)
rSR OF Jacob Wright (2017)
JR 3B/1B Kaylor Kulina (2017)
rJR C Caleb Parry (2017)
SR 1B/3B PJ DeMeo (2017)
SR C Manny Pazos (2017)
rSO SS Liam Sabino (2017)
rFR RHP Derek West (2018)
SO RHP Tyler Garbee (2018)
SO RHP Collin Liberatore (2018)
SO RHP/OF Yaya Chentouf (2018)
SO SS/2B David Yanni (2018)
FR RHP Dan Hammer (2019)
FR LHP Peyton Reesman (2019)
FR RHP RJ Freure (2019)
FR OF Nico Popa (2019)
FR 1B Zach Zientarksi (2019)
FR 2B Alex Amos (2019)