The Ben Cherington Era Begins: The Pittsburgh Pirates First Two Picks

From all of the reports and analysis I read leading up to the draft it seemed pretty clear that GMBC and his team were going to be leaning toward the college route, at least as it pertained to the first two or three picks. This led me to believe that within these selections the Pirates were going to acquire a college bat, a college arm and potentially a catcher; with the latter being the greatest position of need within the system. Based on these assumptions I laid out my blueprint for the first three picks (7th, 31st and 44th).

At the beginning of the night it looked like I was pretty locked on as the Pirates selected my Plan B choice Nick Gonzales (SS/2B) from New Mexico State with the 7th overall pick in the first round. With my Plan A of Emerson Hancock (RHP) from Georgia going off the board one pick earlier to the Seattle Mariners, to me Gonzales was the obvious choice. As a player who slashed .399/.502/.747 with 37 home runs during his 128 game college career there is no doubt that this kid can barrel up the ball. However it was his impressive showing in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2019 that pushed him into the Top 10 Pick conversation. In 42 games he batted .351 with 7 home runs, earning him MVP of the league.

Now I will be the first to tell you that I originally had some reservations about drafting Gonzales; even listing him as a “player to avoid” in an earlier draft article. There are questions about the level of competition he played against, as well as the lofty elevation and hitter friendly dimensions of his home ballpark, but after a conversation I had with Keanan Lamb, Senior MLB Draft Writer from Baseball Prospectus and watching a lot of video on him it became evident that he can just flat out hit. With a 60 grade hit tool, he was listed as one of the best pure hitters in the 2020 class.

As far as defense is concerned, GMBC has stated that he would like to keep him at short stop for the time being and he definitely has the athleticism to fill out this position. This immediately brought up concerns from Pirates Fans as they listed off all of the shortstops that already exist in the system. To me these concerns actually bring me comfort as we all know players don’t always stick at their drafted position or even make it to the MLB squad and it provides flexibility or opportunity in the trade market.

After this pick Pirates fans had to wait for 23 players to come off the board before being able to make their second selection. When the time finally came, I was happy to see three of the players I was targeting were still on the board, including my Plan A choice of Dillon Dingler (C) from Ohio State. To me this was the obvious choice, so I was pretty surprised when GMBC chose Carmen Mlodzinski (RHP) from South Carolina; someone I had seen film on, but hadn’t really considered. However, after scratching my head for a minute I dove into the numbers on Mlodzinski.

He is another player, much like Gonzales, that excelled in the Cape Cod League last summer; posting a 2.15 ERA while striking out 40 and only walking 4 in 29.1 innings. During these games his 60 grade fastball sat at around 92-96 mph with good movement/sink and run. He did touch 99 mph in fall practice, so the potential is there for increased velocity. He also possess a 55 grade slider that show up in the low 80’s with an almost cutting action at times and an above average change up, which gives him a strong three pitch arsenal.

Other than his performance in the Cape there isn’t as much data on Mlodzinski as there was on some of the the other pitchers I scouted, mostly due to his sophomore season being cut short after only 10.2 innings with broken foot and this spring ending after just 25.1 innings. I do have a little concern about decreased productivity this spring, as he only struck out 22 batters and gave up 3 home runs, but this is a small sample size so I am not sure how much judgement can be made; although I bet Pirates Fans will make a lot of them in the coming days and weeks.

So there you have it, the first day of the MLB Draft has past and there are two new members of the Pittsburgh Pirates Organization. What will come of them is anybody’s guess and only time will truly tell. However, GMBC, whether you like it or not, has stuck to the plan we assumed he would by picking up a college bat and arm. Now we wait to see if the Pirates get that catcher everyone so greatly desires with one of the next few picks.

Published by Craig W. Toth

Former Contributing Author at InsidethePirates.com, Co-Host of the Bucs in the Basement Podcast and life-long/diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan!

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