By John Perrotto
The Pittsburgh Pirates have never been an organization rich in great pitching.
Their all-time leader in victories is Wilbur Cooper with 202, hardly a Hall of Fame-caliber number. They have had only two Cy Young winners in Vernon Law and Doug Drabek. They haven’t had a 20-game winner since John Smiley in 1991 or an All-Star Game starter since Jerry Reuss in 1975.
However, it is as if the Pirates tried to change their non-pitching tradition all at once in this year’s First-Year Player Draft. Of their 50 selections, 32 were pitchers, including 25 right-handers.
While right-hander Jameson Taillon draws the most headlines as the Pirates’ first-round pick and the second overall pick out of Woodlands (Texas) High School, the draft class also includes some other very intriguing pitchers, including:
–Right-hander Stetson Allie, the second-round pick from St. Edward High School in Lakewood, Ohio. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder was 9-1 with a 1.29 ERA this season, striking out 134 in 60 innings in leading St. Edward to the Ohio state championship in Division I, the highest classification.
His fastball was clocked at 100 mph six times during the state title game as he struck out 13 in six innings and his slider also reaches 89 mph. Baseball America ranked his as the eighth-best player available in the draft and as having the second-best fastball among high school pitchers behind Taillon. Allie also played third base and has exceptional raw power.
–Right-hander Nick Kingham, the fourth-round pick from Sierra Vista High School in Las Vegas, Nev. The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder went 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 13 games. He was ranked as the second-best recruit in Nevada by perfect game and has signed a letter of intent to Oregon.
His fastball sits in the 90-93-mph range and his changeup is also an above-average pitch. Baseball America ranked him as the draft’s 186th-best prospect.
–Right-hander Jason Hursh, the sixth-round pick from Trinity Christian Academy in Addison, Texas. The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder was 9-1 with a 2.32 ERA and 108 strikeouts. Hursh, who has signed to play at Oklahoma State, touches 94 mph with his fastball but his secondary pitches need work. Baseball America had him as the No. 173 player available in the draft.
–Right-hander Austin Kubitza, the seventh-round pick from Heritage High School in Colleyville, Texas. The 6-foot-5, 205-pounder was 4-1 with one save, a 1.79 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 39 innings.
He also hit .356 with five home runs, eight doubles and 30 RBIs. Part of Rice’s recruiting class along with Taillon, Kubitza’s fastball tops out at 94 mph and he has a plus slider.
Baseball America ranked him as the 153rd-best prospect in the draft.
–Right-hander Zack Weiss, the 10th-round pick from Northwood High School in Irvine, Calif. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder was 7-5 with two saves and a 2.45 ERA in 11 games while striking out 82 in 65 2/3 innings.
His fastball tops out at 93 mph and his curveball is in the rudimentary stages but many scouts feel he could develop into a major-league closer. The UCLA recruit was the No. 132 available player in the draft according to Baseball America.
–Right-hander Cory McGinnis, the 44th-round pick from Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Hampton High School graduate was 11-2 with a 3.93 ERA in 18 games as a freshman this year.
–Left-hander Dillon Haviland, 48th-round pick from South Fayette High School. The Duke recruit was 10-0 with a 0.51 ERA in 96 innings and chosen as the Class AA Pitcher of the Year by the WPIAL Coaches Association.
John Perrotto has covered the Pirates since 1988 and is the editor-in-chief of BaseballProspectus.com and the baseball columnist for the Beaver County Times