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MLB draft 2024: 5 landing spots for WVU star JJ Wetherholt. Will Pirates land the Mars grad?

Mars graduate and now-former West Virginia University standout J.J. Wetherholt, right, is congratulated by a teammate after a home run during the 2022 season. Wetherholt is expected to be taken early in Sunday’s MLB draft. Associated Press File Photo

In Sunday’s MLB draft, it’s expected Mars graduate and now-former West Virginia University standout middle infielder J.J. Wetherholt will be selected higher than any Butler County area baseball player ever has.

Wetherholt told the Butler Eagle last month he’s met with the first 13 teams picking. His former Planets teammate, Will Bednar, was taken by the San Francisco Giants with the 14th choice in 2021.

In three seasons with the Mountaineers, Wetherholt made noise with his bat, posting a .370/.468/.625 slash line with 29 home runs and 129 RBIs. The offensive prowess makes him a desirable talent at the next level.

Related Article: MLB draft 2024: How JJ Wetherholt, ex-Mars High and WVU baseball star, became a top prospect

Here are Wetherholt’s five most likely landing spots:

Cleveland Guardians

Despite tying the Pirates for the ninth-worst record in the majors last year, Cleveland’s lottery result gives it the luxury of choosing first in this draft.

In five-time All-Star Jose Ramirez, the Guardians have a franchise pillar at the hot corner. Andres Gimenez is a two-time Gold Glover who can play second base or shortstop. He’s signed through 2029.

Adding Wetherholt would fill whatever spot Gimenez isn’t at, further strengthening the American League Central Division leaders’ infield while adding an adept bat.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies finished with the worst record in the National League in 2023 (59-103) and — as of July 8 — are on pace for the fewest wins in a 162-game season in their 32-year history. With such struggles, it seems Colorado’s options should be open at virtually every spot.

Second baseman Brendan Rodgers was a first-round pick in 2015, but his 0.5 Wins Above Replacement since the start of the 2023 season has suggested more of a reserve role, according to Pro Baseball Reference. Adael Amador, currently in Double-A Hartford, is tabbed by MLB.com as the club’s No. 2 prospect, but his small sample size in the bigs is uninspiring.

By taking Wetherholt with the third pick, Colorado could sort out its questions at second base.

Chicago White Sox

Much like the Rockies, the White Sox are stuck in the mud.

Chicago lost 14 straight at one point this season. Its playoff chances are basically naught.

Veteran Nicky Lopez mans second base for the South Siders, but it’s not at all far-fetched to say Wetherholt would be an upgrade. The fact that he could be paired with shortstop Colson Montgomery, the White Sox’ No. 1 prospect according to MLB.com, could allow for a tandem that helps pull the team from the basement.

Los Angeles Angels

Headlined by Mike Trout, the Halos’ lineup is littered with first-round talent.

As the eighth pick, Wetherholt could join fellow recent first-rounders in first baseman Nolan Schanuel (11th overall pick in 2023) and shortstop Zach Neto (13th overall pick in 2022) in the infield and set L.A. up for life after its three-time American League MVP.

Current Angels second baseman and journeyman Brandon Drury’s contract is up after this season, which would set Wetherholt up to fill the vacancy sooner rather than later.

Pittsburgh Pirates

One Mars grad is working for the Pirates. Why not another?

That is, if Wetherholt somehow slides to the ninth pick.

While it’s highly unlikely that he would climb to the majors by the end of this season, Wetherholt could bring a much-needed offensive presence upon arrival, joining fellow Planet baseball alumnus and Pittsburgh closer David Bednar.

In the middle infield, though, Oneil Cruz likely has shortstop locked up for a while, as the lanky advanced-metrics darling isn’t slated to be a free agent until 2029. Nick Gonzales, the No. 7 pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, has provided some value at second base since being promoted in May.

Nonetheless, it would be difficult for Pittsburgh’s higher-ups to pass on the newest local product.

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