Jul. 12—After taking their target in Louisville catcher Henry Davis with the top pick in the MLB Draft Sunday, the Pittsburgh Pirates reset their strategy for a second day that felt like it was an extended first round.
The Pirates added three more highly ranked prospects, including a pair of major-college football recruits.
They selected left-hander Anthony Solometo of Bishop Eustace Prep in Pennsauken, N.J., No. 37 overall to start the second round, added speedy outfielder Lonnie White Jr. of Malvern Prep near Philadelphia with their Competitive Balance B Round pick at No. 64 and right-handed pitcher/switch-hitting shortstop Bubba Chandler of North Oconee High School in Bogart, Ga. In the fourth round, the Pirates picked right-hander Owen Kellington of U-32 High in Montpelier, Vermont, a Connecticut recruit with a fastball and strikeout rate in the 90s.
“The first four players we took today out of the high school group — Solometo, White, Chandler, Kellington — those are guys that we had targeted that we really liked,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said. “Didn’t know, obviously, how the board would fall but really excited to get all of them. And we had them all rated pretty highly on our board.”
The next step will require convincing White and Chandler to play pro baseball instead of becoming two-sport athletes in college. White has committed to Penn State as a wide receiver, Chandler to Clemson as a quarterback. The Pirates, who have a draft pool of $14,394,000, might have to pay over their slot values to sign them.
“We took those guys with a level of confidence and optimism that we can reach an agreement, but we’re not done, so we’ll keep working at it,” Cherington said.
The Pirates’ first four picks ranked among Baseball America’s top 32 prospects, essentially giving them four players with first-round grades. They went under-slot by selecting college seniors Dallas Baptist third baseman Jackson Glenn in the fifth round (No. 133) and San Diego State middle infielder Mike Jarvis in the sixth (No. 163), adding another catcher in San Diego State’s Wyatt Hendrie in the seventh (No. 193), Cal right-hander Sean Sullivan in the eighth (No. 223), Louisville outfielder Luke Brown in the ninth (No. 253) and went for Bethel Park graduate Justin Meis, a right-hander from Eastern Michigan.
“We think we took an interesting combination of college pitching and college position players,” Cherington said. “A couple of college pitchers we think have the pitches and control, command, to start. And the college position players, a handful of guys in Glenn, Jarvis and Brown who we see as having defensive value and the ability to make contact and hit. A couple of those guys can really run. And then another catcher in Hendrie with good offensive performance in college and good arm strength. So, yeah, we like the combination of players we got.
A North Carolina recruit, Solometo was ranked the No. 17 prospect by MLB.com and No. 28 by Baseball America, so the Pirates got a pitcher with a first-round draft grade who slipped to the second round. The slot value for the No. 37 pick is $1,999,300, so it’s possible the Pirates could pay above slot. The 6-foot-5, 218-pounder has a funky sidearm delivery, a fastball that touches 96 mph and a low-80s slider that received a 60-grade on the scouts’ 20-80 scale. He was 5-0 with a 0.21 ERA, 64 strikeouts and five walks in 322/3 innings as a senior at Bishop Eustace.
“For me, it was just the natural way that God intended me to throw,” Solometo said. “My arm was always coming real far behind my back. Pitching coaches along the way tried to change that for me. I met the right pitching coach for me, the right fit, and he told me to develop that into who I am. We kind of based it off of Clayton Kershaw mixed with Madison Bumgarner type-esque. When it comes to everything building up, leading up to it with Kershaw, and everything finishing out with Bumgarner once I started progressing towards the plate.”
Despite his disappointment over being bypassed in the first round, Solometo was pumped to see the draft class the Pirates are assembling. While wearing a Pirates hat on a video conference call, Solometo raved about Davis, calling him “the best catcher in the draft,” and showed excitement to become teammates with White and Chandler.
“I knew going into this job that not only was I going to have to compete with guys in my draft class, guys that were already in the system and guys that were coming up through the system, but, at the same time, we’re all pulling for the same team. We’re all playing for the same side,” Solometo said. “It makes me so excited for what the future holds for our organization and how I can contribute and be a part of something great.”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .