5 players to watch from Bucs’ 2021 Draft

January 7th, 2022

The 2021 Draft was an exciting time for the Pirates. Holding the first No. 1 overall pick since 2011, Pittsburgh selected a player whom it hoped could be a building block for many years to come and surrounded him with some extremely high-upside prospects.

Among the group of draftees, which included five players among MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Draft prospects, which ones warrant attention in the coming Minor League season? The five players listed below each have unique reasons for fans to stay tuned in to their performance.

Henry Davis (Round 1)
This is too easy, right?

I nearly considered leaving Davis out. As the No. 1 overall pick, it goes without saying that he will have a ton of eyes on how he does on his way to the Majors. But his success could be critically important to the Pirates’ hopes of returning to the playoffs.

Davis, the No. 1 prospect in the Pirates' system per MLB Pipeline, fills a catching position where the Bucs have not had a true sustained star since Jason Kendall from 1996-2004. (Francisco Cervelli was certainly a fan favorite, but fairly average MLB-wide at the position). At one point this offseason, Pittsburgh had no catchers on its Major League roster; needless to say, Davis has a chance to claim the spot for a long time.

And if Davis fares well after the success of Gerrit Cole -- the Bucs’ No. 1 pick in 2011 -- it would be two great first picks in a row after a couple of misses in Bryan Bullington and Kris Benson.

Bubba Chandler (Round 3)
Some prognosticators were a bit shocked when the Pirates didn’t take Bubba Chandler with the No. 17 pick in the 2021 Draft, then were able to sign him well above slot from a Clemson football and baseball commitment in the third round.

Now, the Pirates' No. 8 prospect has an opportunity to shock others in the industry by positioning himself as a two-way prospect in the Pirates’ system. It’s not too surprising at this early of a stage: We knew the organization would give such a well-rounded player a chance in the beginning, though many scouts believe he may be a stronger fit on the mound.

But after Shohei Ohtani showed what was possible as a modern-day two-way player, becoming one of the most famous baseball players among the general populace in the process, it’s exciting to see more of these types of younger two-way prospects receive looks at both spots. In Chandler’s case, it’s the infield -- particularly, shortstop -- in addition to his arsenal that features a fastball that touches 97 mph.

Owen Kellington (Round 4)
For Kellington, so much of the intrigue is the unknown about the right-handed pitcher among fans.

Some Major League scouts were aware of his potential, but he was tucked away in the Vermont prep leagues where few Major League players (only two since 2000) were born, the larger baseball world was unfamiliar with him. The competition who faced Kellington, whose 102nd selection was the highest by a Vermont prepster in MLB Draft history, had no handle on him, as he gave up one earned run in 49 innings with 133 strikeouts -- good for an unbelievable 91% strikeout rate.

Though bits of video have begun to circulate from his bullpens at Pirate City, there’s still a lot to be learned about the 18-year-old pitcher. The new year should answer many of the questions.

Jackson Glenn (Round 5)
The name value of players among baseball fans as a whole largely dropped among the Pirates’ 2021 draftees after their tear of ranked selections in the first three rounds, but like Kellington, Glenn is not one who should be slept on.

Unlike the Vermont teenager, Glenn, an infielder out of Dallas Baptist University, played professional games in 2021. And he played them extremely well: Playing primarily as a second baseman, the 24-year-old hit .340/.454/.490 with 14 doubles and a triple in 30 games across Rookie and High-A.

Now, the interest is how this hot hitting fares against older, more advanced competition. Will the momentum continue, or will 2022 be the first year of big adjustments for Glenn?

Braylon Bishop (Round 14)
Bishop has the potential to be one of the best late-round signings by the Pirates in recent history.

Of course, no one should step up and crown a teenage prospect without any affiliated games under his belt, even one like Bishop, who was among the Top 100 Draft prospects per MLB Pipeline. With a commitment to Arkansas, it seemed like the outfielder – who is seen as one of the best all-around athletes in the class – was on the way to going undrafted and joining the Razorbacks. But the Pirates again were able to go overslot and sign him away.

The upside in the field is there, as he has above-average grades in speed, fielding and arm strength, but the question is how his left-handed swing will fare. If he’s able to contact the ball at a good rate, he could be a quick rise in the system.