In some other timeline in this vast multiverse, there was no pandemic.
In that alternate universe, the 2019 MLB draft class would have been making their full-season debuts during the 2020 season.
Following a normal progression, most of the college picks would have played in A-ball in 2020. The best would have made it to Double-A during the 2021 season.
The top prep players would have likely been a step behind, ending up in A-ball in 2021, with first round talents looking like they could soon advance to Double-A.
That’s not the case in our reality.
Most of those 2019 draft picks played a short-season, then sat out a full season. They’re now playing their first full seasons after a long layoff from the game.
This all makes it very difficult to evaluate certain players. College guys who should be in Double-A by now, under a normal timeline progression, are in A-ball at an older level than normal. Are the success stories a result of playing at a lower level?
What about the struggling players? Do we offer more forgiveness than normal, waiting on 23 or 24 year olds to get their first second-chance three years after being drafted? And what about the players who were advanced rapidly to upper levels, only to struggle? Do we consider that they never had development in the lower-levels, or just assume that they would have always ended up in this role, with these numbers.
Those are all hypothetical questions for hypothetical players. Fortunately, we have real examples to look at. Here is the 2019 Pirates draft class, with notes on how each player is doing this year. In almost every case, I feel like the stats don’t really tell us much, due to the questions surrounding the impact of the lost 2020 season — plus the impact of reducing the amount of minor league teams.
Despite this disclaimer, the draft does look promising at this point, and the 2021 stats do provide hope. There is just a bit more skepticism warranted to go with that hope, due to the circumstances.
2019 Pirates Draft
Quinn Priester, RHP, Prep, 1st Round – Priester has lived up to his hype so far. He has a 2.65 ERA in 19 starts, with a 96:34 K/BB ratio in 95 innings. The low strikeout totals have been something to watch, although Priester has 42 strikeouts in 33 innings since the start of August, and looks to be hitting another gear at the end of the season.
Sammy Siani, CF, Prep, Comp A – Siani has played in Bradenton this year, hitting for a .766 OPS. That’s a product of a very high OBP and some power production. He’s shown the ability to be a power/speed outfielder, though he’s spent more time at the corners this year, where he would need more emphasis on the bat.
Matt Gorski, CF, NCAA, 2nd Round – Gorski has a .736 OPS in Greensboro, looking like a three-outcomes guy. He’s got the power/speed profile in center field, with 16 homers and 18 steals (in 19 attempts). He’s striking out in a third of his at-bats, leading to a .233 average. This is all largely the profile Gorski had since the draft, and what he showed in 2019.
Jared Triolo, 3B, NCAA, Comp B – Triolo has spent the season in Greensboro, hitting for an .858 OPS, while stealing 24 bases in the process, which is a bit surprising from the big framed third baseman.
Matt Fraizer, CF, NCAA, 3rd Round – Fraizer has been one of the best stories in the system this year. He had a .979 OPS in Greensboro, then moved to Altoona, where he has a .784 OPS. He’s shown off some power, with 22 home runs. That goes with 15 stolen bases and the ability to play center field, making him one of the biggest risers in the system.
J.C. Flowers, RHP, NCAA, 4th Round – Flowers has pitched between the two A-ball levels, getting most of his time in the Greensboro rotation. He has a 4.14 ERA in 58.2 innings in High-A, with a 67:20 K/BB.
Grant Ford, RHP, NCAA, 5th Round – Ford has pitched in Greensboro all year, making nine starts. He has a 6.04 ERA in 73 innings, with an 87:35 K/BB.
Will Matthiessen, OF, NCAA, 6th Round – Matthiessen has a .769 OPS in 245 at-bats in Greensboro, but has been on fire the last two month, with an OPS over .900 and nine home runs. He’s got the frame to support the power, and the recent success makes you wonder if something has clicked, or if he’s beating up on younger pitchers.
Blake Sabol, OF, NCAA, 7th Round – Sabol’s bat has been a surprise, with a .952 OPS and 10 home runs in 170 at-bats in Greensboro. His numbers faded in July and August.
Austin Roberts, RHP, NCAA, 8th Round – Roberts has been pitching out of the Greensboro bullpen, with a 4.92 ERA in 60.1 innings, and an impressive 94:25 K/BB ratio.
Ethan Paul, SS, NCAA, 9th Round – Paul has been used as a bench option for the upper levels, getting 100 at-bats in Indianapolis, with a .638 OPS. He has played second, third, and shortstop.
Cameron Junker, RHP, NCAA, 10th Round – Junker pitched in the bullpen for both A-ball teams this year, but is currently on the 60-day IL, out since mid-July.
Jase Bowen, CF, Prep, 11th Round – Bowen has spent the year in Bradenton, getting a lot of time at second base in his transition to the infield. He has a .717 OPS, 14 home runs, and 15 stolen bases.
Kyle Wilkie, C, NCAA, 12th Round – Wilkie has split time off the bench between the two A-ball affiliates. He’s shown the receiving skills to remain in the system as catching depth, but his bat hasn’t shown enough to project him higher than A-ball.
Chase Murray, CF, NCAA, 13th Round – Murray has spent time with Greensboro and Altoona this year, working mostly off the bench. He is currently on the 7-day IL.
Aaron Shackelford, SS, NCAA, 14th Round – Shackelford has a .734 OPS in Greensboro this year. He’s shown a lot of raw power, with 22 home runs, and has played first, second, and third base.
Garrett Leonard, RHP, NCAA, 15th Round – Leonard has pitched out of the Greensboro bullpen this year, with a 6.21 ERA in 58 innings, along with a 68:48 K/BB. He’s currently on the 7-day IL.
Eli Wilson, C, NCAA, 16th Round – Wilson hit well in Bradenton this year, with a .954 OPS. He hasn’t done as well in Greensboro, with a .698 OPS. He emerged as one of the few catching prospects in the system who could have a shot at the majors, before the Pirates boosted their depth at the position in July.
Ryan Harbin, RHP, Prep, 17th Round – Harbin has five starts in the FCL, with a 7.53 ERA. He’s currently on the 7-day IL, out since his 8/13 start.
Cory Wood, 2B, NCAA, 19th Round – Wood has received very limited playing time with the FCL this year, after getting 201 at-bats in Morgantown in 2019.
Jake Snider, CF, NCAA, 20th Round – Snider got 13 at-bats in Bradenton, and is currently on the 60-day IL.
Alex Roth, RHP, NCAA, 21st Round – Roth pitched in Bristol in 2019, and has pitched out of Bradenton’s bullpen this year. He has a 4.05 ERA in 20 innings, with a 25:15 K/BB.
Andres Alvarez, SS, NCAA, 22nd Round – Alvarez has a .953 OPS playing off Greensboro’s bench. It would be difficult to get playing time in that middle infield, playing on the same team as Liover Peguero and Nick Gonzales.
Jasiah Dixon, CF, Prep, 23rd Round – Dixon has split time between the FCL and Bradenton, getting 177 at-bats this year. He has a .724 OPS in the FCL, but had an .841 OPS in his first run through the rookie league. Dixon is raw, but one of the fastest players in the system.
Trey McGough, LHP, NCAA, 24th Round – McGough pitched in the short-season leagues in 2019. He returned this year to Greensboro, and has since moved up to be a regular starter in Altoona. His numbers at the Double-A level have been impressive, with a 3.84 ERA in 82 innings over 16 starts, and a 64:19 K/BB ratio.
Ethan Goforth, C, NCAA, 25th Round – Goforth played a depth role for Bradenton and the FCL this year, but has since been released.
Ryan Troutman, RHP, NCAA, 26th Round – Troutman has mostly pitched out of Bradenton’s bullpen this year, with a 9.00 ERA.
Samson Abernathy, RHP, NCAA, 27th Round – Abernathy pitched well in the Bristol bullpen in 2019, but has since been released. This would have been his age-25 season.
Bear Bellomy, RHP, NCAA, 28th Round – Bellomy has a 5.02 ERA in 57.1 innings in Greensboro’s bullpen this year, with a 66:16 K/BB.
Marshall Gilbert, C, NCAA, 29th Round – Gilbert retired after spending the 2019 season in Bristol.
Josh Bissonette, 2B, NCAA, 31st Round – Bissonette moved all the way to Double-A in his first full season, after previously playing in Bristol. He has a .595 OPS and good defense, while being a clubhouse leader for a young team.
Jake Wright, OF, NCAA, 32nd Round – Wright played in Bristol in 2019, and returned to the FCL this year for 13 at-bats. He has since been released.
Ernny Ordonez, 3B, JuCo, 33rd Round – Ordonez has spent the year in Bradenton, with a .733 OPS over 231 at-bats.
Dylan Shockley, C, NAIA, 34th Round – Shockley has been used as catching depth this year between the FCL, Bradenton, and Greensboro.
Deion Walker, CF, Prep, 35th Round – Walker returned to the FCL, where he has 75 at-bats and a .654 OPS, mostly working off the bench.
Jake Sweeney, LHP, JuCo, 36th Round – Sweeney pitched in the GCL in 2019, and remained at the FCL level in 2021, working as a starter/multi-inning reliever. He’s a 6′ 7″ lefty, so it makes sense he is still around.
C.J. Dandeneau, RHP, NCAA, 37th Round – Dandeneau pitched 14 games in relief for Bristol, and has since been released.
Daniel Ross, RHP, NCAA, 39th Round – Ross pitched 13 games in relief in the GCL, then was released.