Pirates' picks in line with 'core set of values'
Bucs ignore experts' predictions, draft players based on their own evaluations
Pirates director of amateur scouting Joe DelliCarri acknowledged the franchise may value certain qualities differently than other teams, scouts or Draft experts.
So while some picks Pittsburgh made in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft raised some eyebrows -- most notably the Bucs' first two selections -- DelliCarri defended the club's approach to the Draft.
"We do find some things in our core set of values that perhaps are different from what other teams or people look at," he said. "And we are very consistent in that. There are many good players out there, and as far as we're concerned, we put our energies into those who answer our core values."
The Pirates started their Draft by taking high school shortstop Cole Tucker 24th overall. Tucker was a player many had pegged lower than the Top 25, but the 17-year-old was obviously high on the Pirates' wish list.
Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington said Tucker, who hit .404 as a senior at Mountain Pointe High School this season, with 13 stolen bases and 30 RBIs, was the "best player available on our board," and he did not think the Arizona native would be available when the Pirates made their next selection at 39th overall.
"With all due respect to the experts ... these are young men we are betting on, on their characteristics, work ethic -- as well as what you can see with your eyes," Huntington told reporters Thursday.
Fifteen picks later, the Pirates used their next selection -- which they obtained in a trade with the Marlins for reliever Bryan Morris last Sunday -- on another position player: University of San Diego outfielder Connor Joe.
The Bucs went position player-heavy early in the Draft, as five of their first seven picks were non-pitchers. The first three picks made by the Pirates on Day 2 of the Draft were all college position players: Fresno State outfielder Jordan Luplow, Florida catcher Taylor Gushue and Florida Gulf Coast outfielder Michael Suchy.
The Pirates added more and more arms as the Draft went on, however, and when the 40th round concluded, they ended up with more pitchers (22) than position players (20). Seventeen of those arms were picked up Saturday in rounds 11-40, including the Pirates' first pick of the final day in right-hander Gage Hinsz, a Montana high schooler.
Mitch Keller was the first pitcher selected by Pittsburgh when the team took him with the 64th overall pick. From Xavier High School in Iowa, Keller stands at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, touts a fastball that hovers between 90-94 mph and has plenty of potential.
"Mitch is a high-ceiling right-hander," Huntington said. "We like the frame and the quality of his pitches."
The Pirates took a total of nine high schoolers, with right-handed pitcher Trey Supak and Puerto Rican shortstop Nelson Jorge joining Tucker and Keller as the quartet of non-college players taken in the Draft's first two days. The earlier high school picks will likely sign with the Pirates and begin their professional career, but there will always be high school players who opt to play college ball.
"Signability" is a word used very often at this time of the year in the baseball world, and it is on the mind of both players and front offices. But Huntington said the likelihood of signing a player does not steer the direction of the team's picks in the early rounds.
"Signability never drives our selections," Huntington said. "We make them based on how we like them."
Huntington and Co. were not used to waiting as long to make a selection as they did this year. The Bucs had the 24th pick after going 94-68 last season and making the playoffs for the first time in two decades, and the selection matched the team's lowest in the 50-year existence of the First-Year Player Draft.
The Pirates returned to the postseason largely thanks to players they took when they had all those high Draft picks. First-rounders Andrew McCutchen, Gerrit Cole, Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker were all key parts to the run the team made last season.
The Pirates are hoping they found more everyday players in this year's Draft haul -- even if outsiders were initially skeptical.
"We feel really good," Huntington said after the first night of the Draft. "This was the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of great people doing really good things, many of them under the radar."
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.