Pirates nab high school outfielder, catcher in 1st round
The Pirates employed a high-risk, high-reward strategy in making their two first-round selections Thursday in the Major League Baseball draft.
The Pirates targeted upside in selecting Grayson (Ga.) High outfielder Austin Meadows with the ninth overall pick and Kentwood (Wash.) High catcher Reese McGuire at No. 14. High school players often carry more upside than college prospects, but they are further away from the major leagues.
The Pirates had not drafted a high school position player in the first round since taking Andrew McCutchen in 2005.
The Pirates dipped into the high school ranks to take some of the draft's best available players in Meadows, rated as the draft's No. 5 overall prospect by Baseball America, and McGuire, who was rated 12th overall.
General manager Neal Huntington said Meadows and McGuire were the best players available.
“We really liked the upside,” Huntington said, “(and) where we were able to select them.”
The Pirates lack impact bats in their system and had taken right-handed pitchers in the first round in three straight drafts. Meadows is an athletic 6-foot-3, left-handed outfielder who scouts project to hit for power.
Baseball America rated Meadows as the best athlete. It also said he has the best strike-zone awareness and second-best hitting ability among high school prospects.
Meadows hit .535 with four home runs and 28 RBI as a senior. Some of the best prep baseball is played in northern Georgia, and Baseball America ranks Meadows as the second most advanced high school bat.
“With Southern hitters, there is a little more what you see is what you get,” Huntington said.
What will the Pirates get?
“Do we think (Meadows) will be a quality major league hitter with power? Yes,” Huntington said.
Meadows said he has extended family in Pittsburgh.
“I've heard a lot of good things about the Pirates,” Meadows said. “My brother (Parker) actually predicted I was going to the Pirates. ... I'm excited to get up there.”
McGuire is the highest drafted prep catcher since Kyle Skipworth was taken sixth by the Marlins in 2008. McGuire was rated as the second best defensive player among prep prospects by Baseball America.
Huntington said McGuire has a chance to be a rare two-way impact player at catcher.
“We really like the receive, the block, the throw,” Huntington said. “We believe there are the attributes to be a major league-caliber hitter. You add that to a plus defensive package, you have pretty good player.”
McGuire is lauded for his high baseball IQ. He has called his own games since he was 10. McGuire said he began calling his own pitches when his father and uncle coached his youth teams.
“It's helped me become the player I am,” McGuire said. “I feel very comfortable behind the dish.”
Signability is always a factor with baseball picks, though Meadows (Clemson) and McGuire (San Diego) are not thought to be major threats to stick to their college commitments. The slot value for the ninth pick is $3.02 million. The slot value for the 14th is $2.5 million.
“I think in this situation I'm going to be leaning toward professional baseball,” McGuire said.
The Astros took Mark Appel No. 1 overall. The Pirates selected Appel last year with the eighth overall pick but the Stanford ace did not sign.
As compensation, the Pirates were awarded the ninth overall pick.