Pirates unfazed by lower draft slot

| Tuesday, June 3, 2014, 10:00 p.m.

The Pirates have perhaps had an easier time finding their guy in recent drafts than they will in 2014, but general manager Neal Huntington is fine with that.

After a successful 2013, the Pirates won't pick until the No. 24 spot of the first round Thursday, the latest they've chosen since 1991 when they drafted catcher/outfielder Jon Farrell.

“It is very different picking 24th instead of the top 10 somewhere, and we hope not to pick in the top 10 any time soon,” Huntington said. “But we feel like we're going to get a good player. There's not as clear a situation, but we do think there are some good players in the draft, there's some depth to it. It's probably a good year to be picking in the middle of the pack.”

The Astros will become the first team to pick first in three straight years in a draft that's heavy on hard-throwing pitchers.

North Carolina State left-hander Anthony Rodon was widely considered the top talent available entering the season, but after a disappointing year he has been joined by other prospects who all conceivably could go No. 1 overall.

Those players include right-hander Tyler Kolek of Shepherd (Texas) High School, whose pitches routinely clock in at 100 mph; and left-hander Brady Aiken, a three-sport standout at Cathedral (Calif.) Catholic High School.

Baseball America's draft preview projected that the Pirates will draft Indiana catcher Kyle Schwarber, noting that he could move to first base or left field. The publication also mentioned Georgia high school shortstop Michael Chavis as a possibility.

Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com's draft expert, said that many regard Schwarber to be the best college hitter available.

He has been mentioned as high as a potential No. 8 pick. In his May 30 mock draft, Mayo had the Pirates taking Wichita State switch-hitting first baseman Casey Gillaspie, saying he might be the best player left on the board.

“If the Pirates are going for a college hitter, and there a few in their neck of the woods, Gillaspie's probably one of the better choices,” Mayo told Trib Live radio Tuesday. “Him and A.J. Reed (of Kentucky), who's another guy with power at first base. But (Gillaspie) is a guy who I think has a chance to move pretty quickly and hit for average and power.”

Huntington said they had to alter their approach this year to cover a broader span of players.

That includes having scouts looking at players considered to be worthy of the top five or 10 in case they are available when the Pirates pick, in addition to players projected to be on the board closer to their selections.

“We've diversified our looks a little, bit so it should allow us to have a deeper draft,” Huntington said.

Two local players who could go on the second day of the draft are Blackhawk pitcher Brendan McKay, who recently had his 72 13-inning scoreless streak end, and Norwin shortstop J.J. Matijevic, who led the WPIAL in batting average (.607), home runs (10) and RBIs (37).

Huntington said that while they scout area players the same way they scout everyone else, they won't draft a local player based on that fact alone.

“We want to make sure we understand where we believe they could go, what they can become, and let the integrity of the board stay in place,” Huntington said. “We'd love to have another Neil Walker come through the system and have a local guy make it big and become a big-time player. That'd be fantastic. But we'd hate to take a guy we like because he's local over a guy we like a little more because he's not and have that guy go on to become a pretty good player.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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