Here are 5 potential candidates for the Pirates to select in the first round of the 2024 MLB draft

Noah Hiles / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The first round of the 2024 MLB draft will begin at 7 p.m. Sunday in Fort Worth, Texas. After having the first overall pick in two of the last three drafts, the Pirates will pick ninth overall this year, their latest spot for a first pick since 2019.

Draft experts have continually highlighted that this year’s batch of first-round prospects is dominantly made up of college position players. This sets up well for the Pirates, an organization flush with young pitching but thin in the hitting department.

General manager Ben Cherington expressed to reporters last weekend that the franchise’s strategy will be to draft the best player available. Here is a look at five prospects that the Pirates could select Sunday with the ninth overall pick.

Konnor Griffin, SS/OF (Jackson Prep, Miss.)

Height/weight: 6-4, 215 pounds

Bat/Throw: R/R

Age: 18

Analysis: Rated the No. 9 overall prospect in this year’s draft class by MLB Pipeline, Griffin grades as the top high school player available. Boasting notable athleticism for a prospect his age, some scouts believe he has 30-30 potential. Griffin is committed to play baseball at LSU, where he could also see time as a pitcher. His best tool is his arm, which is followed by speed and then power hitting capabilities. As a high school prospect, Griffin will likely require more time and development in the minor leagues compared to other players who might be available at pick No. 9, especially at the plate. But if the Pirates are looking for a player with the most raw, upside potential, Griffin, the 2023-24 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year, could be their guy.

Nick Kurtz, 1B (Wake Forest)

Height/weight: 6-5, 240 pounds

Bat/Throw: L/L

Age: 21

Analysis: Rated the No. 7 prospect in this year’s draft by MLB Pipeline, Kurtz could provide the Pirates with a lot of things they’re currently missing at the big league level. A native of Lancaster, Pa., Kurtz is viewed as one of the top power bats in the 2024 class, having drawn comparisons to Jim Thome. Analysts have also been quick to praise his overall approach at the plate, which allowed him to post a .531 on base percentage and 1.294 OPS this season. No player in Division I walked more than Kurtz (78) in 2024. Combine that with what scouts have deemed to be above average defense, and there is plenty to like. However, should teams ahead in the draft order be more interested in acquiring pitching or the best overall athlete, there is a decent chance Kurtz would still be available at pick No. 9.

Braden Montgomery, OF (Texas A&M)

Height/weight: 6-2, 220 pounds

Bat/Throw: S/R

Age: 21

Analysis: A former two-way player who MLB Pipeline rates as the No. 8 overall prospect in this year’s draft, Montgomery saw his draft stock rise after transferring from Stanford to Texas A&M, where he saw hardly any time on the mound. While his pitching days are likely over, Montgomery’s arm remains one of his top tools, giving him a likely future in right field. He is also a proven power bat, having hit 27 home runs and had a 1.187 OPS this past season for the Aggies. Montgomery’s potential also comes with a bit of risk, as his season came to an end in June when he broke his right ankle in a Super Regional matchup against Oregon in June. Once projected to be a top-five pick, that injury could allow Montgomery to slide to pick No. 9, if not further down the draft board.

James Tibbs III, OF (Florida State)

Height/weight: 6-0, 200 pounds

Bat/Throw: L/L

Age: 21

Analysis: Rated the No. 12 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Tibbs could perhaps be the most realistic option for the Pirates at No. 9. A strong overall hitter with notable pop, Tibbs batted .363 with 28 home runs, 95 RBIs and a 1.265 OPS this season for the Seminoles, earning him ACC Player of the Year honors. In addition to college ball, Tibbs has also been a standout in the Cape Cod League, a summer league that the Pirates front office has been known to value when looking over draft prospects. Tibbs’ average defensive grade and below average speed could create a likely path to him playing first base as a pro, a position he has some experience with.

JJ Wetherholt, 2B/SS (WVU)

Height/weight: 5-10, 190 pounds

Bat/Throw: L/R

Age: 21

Analysis: Rated the No. 4 prospect in this year’s draft, Wetherholt, a former local standout at Mars High School, is viewed by many as the best overall hitter in the 2024 class. Analysts have given mixed reviews for Wetherholt’s draft prowess, with some believing he could slide toward the back end of the top-10, and others projecting him to go first overall. While the chance of him being available at No. 9 seems unlikely, his injury-shortened junior season (hamstring) at West Virginia could give the Pirates a chance to draft the hometown boy. Wetherholt dominated at the plate in 2023, hitting .449 to win the Division I batting title. Similar to Tibbs, Wetherholt also performed well in the Cape Cod League, likely making him an even more enticing prospect for the Pirates’ front office.

Noah Hiles: [email protected] and @_NoahHiles on X