The Pirates have gotten plenty of looks at Alek Manoah.
He has led West Virginia University to the NCAA Tournament and the Mountaineers will host a regional beginning Friday night when they play Fordham. Pirates front-office personnel and scouts have made plenty of trips down I-79 to Morgantown this spring to watch Manoah, a 6-foot-6, 260-pound right-hander, and they are very intrigued by the Miami, Fla. native.
Whether the Pirates will be able to land Manoah, a 21-year-old junior, is in question. He could be off the board by the time the Pirates make their first-round pick with the 18th overall selection Monday when Major League Baseball’s amateur draft begins.
Manoah’s stock has risen throughout the season as he has gone 9-3 with a 1.85 ERA in 15 starts while throwing two shutouts after splitting time between starting and relieving in his first two seasons at WVU. He has struck out 135 in 102 1/3 innings and allowed 67 hits and 23 walks.
Manoah’s fastball reaches the high 90s and he also has a plus slider. His changeup is still rudimentary, though, and scouts worry that Manoah might have a hard time controlling his weight.
If Manoah doesn’t fall to No. 18, here are other players who could land with the Pirates, according to various baseball sources:
• Brett Baty. A third baseman from Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas, Baty is one the best power hitters in the draft and scouts grade that tool a 70 on the traditional 20-80 scale. A 6-foot-3, 218-pound left-handed hitter, he has a strong arm, but his below-average range will likely necessitate an eventual move to first base. One drawback is that Baty is already 19, making him one of the oldest high school players eligible for the draft. He is a University of Texas recruit.
• Logan Davidson. Clemson's switch-hitting shortstop offers plenty to like, including both power and speed, as well as above-average defense. However, a big question mark is his inability to make contract on a consistent basis. Some feel he will be overmatched by major-league pitching. This season, Davidson is hitting .296/.414/.588 with 15 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 57 games. A 6-foot-3, 195-pounder, Davidson has good bloodlines: His father Mark was a major-league outfielder for six seasons from 1986-91 with the Twins and Astros.
• Shea Langeliers. A catcher from Baylor, Lengeliers is considered a potential Gold Glover winner. He's 6-foot-1, 190 pounds with a strong arm, is a good receiver and possesses excellent pitch-framing skills. The big question is whether he will hit. He has a .304/.372/.485 line with seven homers in 41 games this season. Nevertheless, he is universally ranked as the second-best catcher available after Oregon State’s Adley Rutschman, who is expected to be drafted first overall by the Orioles.
• Brennan Malone. A right-hander from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., Malone, 18, is very familiar to the Pirates as he went to school in the same city where they hold spring training. Scouts love Malone’s 6-foot-4, 210-pound build and believe he can eventually add a few more ticks to a fastball that reaches 97 mph. Unlike most high school pitchers, Malone has a four-pitch mix, complementing the fastball with a curveball, slider and changeup. Both breaking pitches need refinement, though. He is a University of North Carolina recruit.
• Quinn Priester. This right-hander from Cary-Grove High School in Cary, Ill., is a late bloomer who moved up many teams’ draft boards this spring. Coming from a cold-weather state, Priester, is behind some of the other top-rated high school pitchers but he has an excellent curveball to go with a 93-mph fastball and rudimentary changeup. Scouts love the 18-year-old's mechanics and feel they give him a chance to add to his fastball. He is committed to Texas Christian.
The first two rounds of the draft will be Monday night. The third through 10th rounds will be Tuesday and the three-day event will conclude Wednesday with the final 40 rounds.
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