Pittsburgh Pirates: Recapping the 2016 Draft Class

Photo Credit: Kim Clement/USA Today Sports

With the 2021 MLB Draft quickly approaching, the Pittsburgh Pirates are working towards narrowing in on a prospect for them to select with the first overall pick. While they do that, we look back at some of their previous drafts to see how they have worked out. This article will feature the 2016 draft class.

Only the St. Louis Cardinals finished with more wins during the 2015 season than the Pirates, but their year was cut short after losing to the Chicago Cubs in the Wild Card game.

It was a frustrating end to a great season, and as the Pirates were following up that year in 2016 they ended up with the 22nd overall pick in the draft.

While five years isn’t quite long enough to fully grade a draft, it’s certainly long enough to get a decent idea. Instead in looking at what they could have had, I decided to take a look at what they did draft and go over some of the results.

There is still some potential for the Pirates to get some contributors from this draft, with a couple already making it to the majors.

First Round: Will Craig, 3B Wake Forest

Craig also served as the Demon Deacons closer, but it was always going to be his bat that got him drafted and to the majors. Over the course of his career at Wake Forest, Craig mashed his way to an 1.084 OPS, slugging 37 home runs and driving in 160 runs.

It was almost always expected for Craig to make the move to first base, but along the way he was able to get playing time at third and in the outfield. 

Whether or not he was going to be able to make consistent enough contact was always going to determine if he carved out a role in the majors, but along the way Craig picked up some praise for his defensive play.

Craig hit 20+ home runs in back-to-back years in the minors, both in Altoona (2018) and Indianapolis (2019) but also struck out nearly 25% of the time.

During the shortened season of 2020, Craig made his major league debut and played in two games, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout. He was later designated for assignment and brought back as a minor league free agent going into 2021.

When Colin Moran and Phillip Evans went out with injuries, Craig's contract was selected and he'd get another chance at the major league level.

His first hit was also his first career home run, going deep against the San Francisco Giants. In the largest sample size of his career, Craig failed to give any reason that the Pirates should hang on to him as they returned to health. Eventually he was DFA'd again and outright to Triple-A.

In 20 games at the major league level, Craig has a batting line of .203/.261/.281 with a home run and three RBIs. He's struck out 33% of the time that he has stepped to the plate.

Competitive Balance Pick: Nick Lodolo, LHP Damien HS (La Verne, CA)

The Pirates love to take risks on drafting high-upside prep pitchers and overpay to try and get them to sign instead of going to college.

Lodolo was one of those that didn't work out, as the two sides couldn't come to terms and the lefty went on to TCU where he stared for three years before being drafted in the top 10 in 2019.

Standing at 6'6", Lodolo was all about projection, the Pirates recognized that and tried to get him to sign. It didn't work out and now he is a top-100 prospect with the Cincinnati Reds.

Round Two: Travis MacGregor, RHP East Lake HS

MacGregor was another prep pitcher selected, a very common theme for the 2016 draft class. After working with Joel Hanrahan, and picking up tips from Chad Kuhl and Edgar Santana on throwing a slider, MacGregor had a breakthrough in 2018. The righty struck out 70 batters in 63 2/3 innings with the West Virginia Power.

He missed 2019 due to Tommy John, and has returned to action in 2021 with the Altoona Curve. Up to his most recent start, MacGregor was off to a great start to the season. In five starts, the righty had recorded a 2.89 ERA in 18 2/3 innings while striking out 28 batters.

Akron roughed him up a bit (5 ER in 1 2/3 innings) in his last start inflating his season numbers, but remains one of the more intriguing arms in the Altoona rotation.

Round Three: Stephen Alemias, SS Tulane University

The Pirates had a 'mold' when it comes to the middle infielders that they drafted under Neal Huntington. Nothing flashy with the bat, but strong with the glove. Alemias fit that mold, and got comparisons to Jordy Mercer, but unfortunately hasn't been able to stay on the field.

This year was supposed to be a big year for the shortstop, as he was expected to push for a spot in Indianapolis until an injury forced him to undergo season ending surgery before the year started. 

His glove still could land him on the bench in Pittsburgh, but the middle infield prospects are starting to pile up, most of which have more offensive upside than Alemias.

Round Four: Braeden Ogle, LHP Jensen Beach

Ogle was the 86th ranked prospect in the draft, according to MLB.com, and slipped to the Pirates in the fourth round. In 2019 he made the move to the bullpen and has since struck out 137 batters in the 143 2/3 innings he has pitched.

After spending 2020 at the team's alternate training site, Ogle is on a short list of players next in line to get the call up if Pittsburgh should need some extra arms. He currently leads Indianapolis relievers in innings pitched, and has 17 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched.

Round Five: Blake Cederlind, RHP 

Cederlind was the team's fifth round pick out of Merced College, and the Pirates had big plans for the hard throwing righty going into 2021. Unfortunately Tommy John will force him to miss the entire year. 

Making his major league debut in 2020, Cederlind threw four innings, allowed two runs and struck out four batters in his brief stint. Despite a 4.50 ERA on the surface, his fielding independent pitching (FIP) was just a 1.94. Cederlind averaged 98.3 MPH on his fastball during his time in Pittsburgh.

Round Six: Cam Vieaux, LHP Michigan State

The prototypical 'college lefty' made the jump all the way to Triple-A as a starter in 2019, before eventually settling in on a bullpen role with Altoona this year. He has posted a 6.14 ERA in eight appearances this year, but has a career 3.69 mark int he minors.

Round Seven: Brent Gibbs, C Central Arizona College

Gibbs only played one full season of professional baseball, batting .229/.282/.340 with West Virginia with three home runs and 11 RBIs. An injury forced him to retire and now owns his own business, according to his LinkedIn page.

Round Eight: Dylan Prohorof, RHP Cal State Fullerton

The Pirates are very aggressive in the early rounds with projectable prep pitchers, so that doesn't leave a lot of room for error for college players like Prohorof. Never getting out of A-Ball, the righty is now playing Indy ball currently.

Round Nine: Clark Eagan, OF Arkansas

Another prospect to only play one full season of pro ball. Eagan batted .261/.317/.386 with eight home runs and 59 RBIs during the 2017 season. He was released in 2018.

Round 10: Matthew Anderson, RHP Morehead

College senior pitched one season in Low-A ball posting decent numbers but not staying with the organization afterwards.

Notable Later Round Players

Max Kranick was the team's 11th round pick, spending the 2020 year at the alternate training site, seeing a major jump in his velocity and recently got a promotion to Triple-A. The Pirates lured him away from UVA with a $300,000 signing bonus.

Any comparison to the college version of Matt Wieters is a good one, and that's what Arden Pabst got. Another Georgia Tech catcher, like Wieters, Pabst threw out 25 baserunners in one season - topping the former first round picks previous high.

The defense has carried over for Pabst, as he has thrown out 34.6% of would be base stealers in the minors. 

Matt Eckelman was the team's 21st round pick out of St. Louis and the 27 year old is now part of the Triple-A bullpen. He has over 200 innings of minor league experience.

Hunter Owen was drafted in the 25th round out of Indiana St. and made his major league debut this season. He hit 37 home runs across a two year span of 2018-2019, but has struggled in Triple-A (.167/.191/.273).

A 29th round pick, Geoff Hartlieb has put his best stretch together in 2020 when he posted a 3.63 ERA in 22 1/3 innings for the Pirates, walking and striking out 19 batters. He's currently in Triple-A right now.

Who do you feel like has been the best player from this draft class? Is there anyone you feel like can still make an impact in the years to come? Let us know in the comment section below, subscribe to the link at the top of the site and follow the site on Twitter @SportBlogMurphy.

Also follow me on Twitter @AJ_Murfy.


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