On Tuesday, during the second day of the 2019 MLB draft, three members of the East Carolina Baseball team were selected by major league franchises.
Junior left-handed pitcher Jake Agnos was taken in the fourth round by the New York Yankees with the 135th overall pick. Seven picks later, junior outfielder/designated hitter Bryant Packard went to the Detroit Tigers in the fifth round as the 142nd overall pick in the draft while junior first baseman/designated hitter Spencer Brickhouse became a seventh round draftee of the Arizona Diamondbacks with the 212th pick.
Entering this year’s draft, the Pirates had a long history of players being drafted by Major League Baseball franchises. That history dates back to right-handed pitcher John Rawls being selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 22nd round back of the first ever MLB draft in 1965.
However, ECU had never seen multiple players selected in the first five rounds of a MLB draft, something that changed with Packard’s selection. Even before the draft, there was a sense this would finally be the year that fact became fiction as three Pirates were ranked inside mlb.com’s top 200 prospects.
Oddly enough, Agnos was ranked at No. 155, the lowest of the trio of Pirates represented. Also making an appearance was Packard at No. 106 and Brickhouse at No. 147.
None of the current ECU seniors were listed among the top prospects for the draft, but the three juniors that found their names among the best in the country have produced eye-popping numbers since they stepped on campus.
Beginning with Agnos, the left-hander has posted an 11-2 record and a 2.02 ERA across 16 starts during his junior campaign, holding opposing batters to a .193 batting average. In addition, Agnos struck out more than 100 batters for the first time in his collegiate career, punching out 140 over 98 innings of work versus 42 free passes.
This was the first season in which Agnos pitched exclusively from the starting rotation. In previous seasons, the left-hander racked up a hand-full of relief appearances, a role he seems destined for with the Yankees as he climbs the organization latter.
According to the scouts at mlb.com, Agnos’ fastball and curveball are his two best offerings as they give him a 55 mark on both. His changeup, while good at times, lags behind his primary pitches, something that could force him into a relief role at some point in the future if he can not further develop the offering. Nevertheless, Agnos has a lively fastball that could touch 96 or 97 MPH out of the bullpen and still live in the 93-95 MPH range if New York elects to keep him in the starting rotation.
On the offensive side of the coin, Packard has been a leader since posting a .406 batting average with a .671 slugging percentage as a sophomore, marks that produced 14 home runs.
His junior campaign has been more of the same as left-handed hitting outfielder has slashed .363/.448/.561 to cement himself as one of the better college prospects in this draft class.
While his numbers fell from a season ago, down to just seven home runs and 40 RBI, scouts are still tabbing him with a 55 hit tool, 50 power and below average marks on the defensive side.
Those numbers are on a 20-80 standard scouting scale used to evaluate the tools of a player. Tools and the grades assigned them by scouts are basically the amount of skill that player has in the particular area. There are five tools scouts look for in players which include hitting, hitting for power, fielding, throwing and speed.
To say someone has a 55 hit tool and 50 power, like Packard, is to say he can make above average contact on the baseball with the ability to hit for power at an average clip. Of course, those skills can be improved upon as that is the entire purpose of the minor leagues and development strategies put in place by every MLB franchise.
While Packard may have hampered his draft stock with a “down” junior season, going in the fifth round to a rebuilding Tigers franchise is nothing to be disappointed about. Like Agnos with the Yankees, Packard could move through Detroit’s farm system at a fast clip considering his polish as a college player.
With the benefit of being selected by an American League club, Packard may evolve into a DH in the future, especially considering his less-than-stellar defensive grades prior to the draft.
The last remaining Pirate on the top 200 list, Brickhouse, lasted until the seventh round when he became a member of the Diamondbacks. Ranked inside the top-150 on the prospect list as mentioned above, Brickhouse fell to pick 212, something that had nothing to do with his offense.
After posting a batting average south of .300 in 2018, the lefty bat vastly increased his production. In 35 less at-bats from season-to-season, Brickhouse hit three additional home runs with 13 and set a career-high in RBI with 55 as ECU enters Super Regional action.
His .335/.468/.620 slash line also represents career highs while both walk rate and defensive prowess has shown improvements. The scouts, however, are still not entirely sold on his hit tool, giving him a 45 in that area. What he lacks in pure hitting ability, though, he makes up for in power, pulling down a 55 mark in that department despite garnering a 30 from scouts on his fielding ability.
Luckily for Brickhouse, however, scouts have seen enough talent to compare him to Daniel Vogelbach, a former second round pick of the Chicago Cubs in 2011. After his ascension to the majors (mostly as a DH in the American League with the Seattle Mariners), Vogelbach has turned into a well above average hitter at the age of 26.
While Brickhouse’s lack of fielding ability could be one reason he slipped to the seventh round, he will need to improve on that side of the ball if he wishes to crack a National League lineup at the highest level. Now void of Paul Goldschmidt, the Diamondbacks may have found their first baseman of the future in Brickhouse as he has the offensive tools to progress quickly toward the majors.
With three players selected on Tuesday, ECU will added to the 101 former players who have been selected by MLB franchises since 1965. Of those, 16 (15 percent) have played in the big leagues with those guys accumulating 10.3 wins above replacement between them.
Following Tuesday’s action, there are still 30 rounds to be conducted in this year’s draft, meaning the Pirates have ample opportunities to further add to that list. With many additional draft eligible players on their roster, it’s likely we could see more Pirates taken on Wednesday in day three of the draft.
Rounds 11-40 will be held Wednesday, June 5 at noon. These rounds will be available for streaming on mlb.com.