Prior to the second day of the 2020 MLB June Amateur Draft prognosticators such as myself were predicting picks from all over the board and field. However, GMBC and company had only one goal in mind; keep your eye on the prize(s) and shoot straight down the middle. It came as a shock to some of us and caused great anger from a select few, but in the end the plan that the Pittsburgh Pirates new regime had laid out, netted them what has been described by many experts as a top 5 draft class.
As day two and the second right round began, my highest ranked catching prospect left on the board, Dillon Dingler, was quickly snatched up by the Detroit Tigers with the 38th pick. I waited in anxious anticipation to see what the Pirates would do only six picks later. To my surprise GMBC took a legit two-way player from La Mirada High School in California, Jared Jones; with power on the mound, as well as at the plate.
The young right hander posted a career .89 ERA and struck out 255 batters to in 181 innings pitched thanks to his 60 grade fastball, which consistently reaches around 97 mph, his 55 grade slider that drops of the map between 80-82 mph and an solid 85-88 mph change up. Command has been an issue at times, but he is young and has plenty of time to hone his skills. On the offensive side he batted .394 with 7 home runs and a 1.040 OPS. Cherington has said that he will be tested and utilized as a pitcher to start his professional career, but did not rule out the possibility of his bat coming into play as he makes his way through the system.
After such an exciting pick I thought it would be tough to keep the juices flowing. This is when Nick Garcia came off the board at pick number 79, in the 3rd round. The 6’4” 215 lb right hander was described by some as the steal of the draft and by others as a 1st round talent. His showing in the Cape Cod League last summer brought him draft buzz, as he struck out 20 in 17 innings of relief. However, it was his track record over the past two seasons at Chapman University, a Division III school in Orange County, California and the stuff that came with it, which totally sealed the deal for me. In two seasons he struck out 118 batters, while only walking 21 in 83 innings. In 2019 he helped lead his team to the NCAA Division III Championship, earning Most Outstanding Player honors. With a fastball (60 grade) consistently touches 97, a wipeout slider 85 mph slider and 86-88 mph cutter he always keeps hitters on their toes and heels; drawing comparisons to a certain Hall of Fame pitcher.
At pick 108 the Pirates and GMBC once again looked toward the college ranks, finding a potential two-way player in Jack Hartman from Appalachian State University. Hartman took a slightly unconventional route to pro-ball as he started out at Tallahassee Community College as a position player, moved to College of Central Florida splitting time as a relief pitcher and at third base before landing with the Mountaineers in 2019. Over the next two seasons he would primarily appear out of the bullpen striking out 26 in 21.2 innings with 4.98 ERA as a junior and improving upon this by striking out 22 in only 10 innings in this spring’s shortened season. His 4 saves were tied for the Sun Belt lead and his 3.00 ERA was the lowest of his short pitching career. A pitcher with a mid-90’s fastball/cutter that touches 97 and a biting slider, Hartman could easily find his way into a major league bullpen in the future.
As the draft went on many people still continued to think the catcher of the future may be selected, but GMBC had other ideas as he called upon a JUCO Bandit, Logan Hofmann from Northwestern State University. In his time at Colby Community College he set Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference career strikeout record with 230. Then came the Cape Cod season of 2019. He was named a Cape Cod League All-Star while pitching for the Falmouth Commodores; posting a 3-1 record with a 3.54 ERA and one save while striking out 27 in 20.3 innings. When he returned to college he did not allow a single earned run in 28 innings; striking out 38.
Honestly, take what you will from the draft. You have every right to do so. The Pirates may have not gotten every player you wanted, which we all know is the case from my earlier projections. However, don’t take it to heart. These young men are apart of our team now and we should only want the best for them. I know I do.