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Pirates prefer college picks on Day 2 of MLB draft

| Friday, June 6, 2014, 3:51 p.m.

The Pirates dipped exclusively into the college market on the second day of the 2014 draft, selecting three right-handed pitchers, two catchers, a shortstop and two right fielders in Rounds 3 through 10.

They weren't alone.

Of the first 30 players drafted Friday, 20 were from the college ranks.

Pirates scouting director Joe DelliCarri said they didn't enter the day intending to focus on college players.

“I think we looked at each individual selection as it came and picked the best player,” he said. “If the best player was a college or high school player, that's who we selected.”

The draft, which resumes at 1 p.m., concludes Saturday with Rounds 11 through 40.

More on the early picks

Late Thursday, the Pirates used the 39th pick in the Competitive Balance A round, gained through their recent trade with the Miami Marlins for reliever Bryan Morris, on 6-foot, 205-pound San Diego catcher Connor Joe.

General manager Neal Huntington praised Joe's offense and said that while he has the ability to catch, play first base and right field, the Pirates envision starting him in right field.

Baseball America had Joe ranked the 102nd player in the draft. MLB.com had him ranked 110th.

“He has a good swing, drives the ball gap to gap, commands the zone and makes consistent, hard contact,” Huntington said. “We got an accomplished college bat at 39.”

In the second round, at No. 64 overall, the Pirates took right-hander Mitch Keller out of Xavier High School in Iowa.

Keller was ranked 69th overall by MLB.com and 76th by Baseball America.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Keller was 5-5 with a 1.72 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 69 13 innings for Xavier this year and had a fastball clocked at 95 mph at the Perfect Game USA Pre-Draft Showcase in Cedar Rapids last month.

“Mitch Keller has a high ceiling,” Huntington said. “We like the frame and the quality of his pitches. He has a good fastball and the makings of a good breaking ball and changeup, and he fits into the mold we've liked in the past.”

Keller committed to North Carolina, and was quoted in an Iowa publication saying that the money would have to be right to turn pro.

With their final pick of the night, the Pirates drafted another high school right-hander in the Competitive Balance B round, taking Trey Supak with the 73rd pick. Supak, a 6-foot-5, 210-pounder out of La Grange High School (Texas), went 9-0 as a senior at the same high school where Homer Bailey played.

He was the No. 62 prospect on MLB.com and ranked No. 99 overall by Baseball America.

“He has a large frame, very similar to Keller,” Huntington said. “Good mix of pitches. They're both guys we believe have the makeup to excel at the major league level when and if they get there.”

Supak committed to Houston.

Tucker's ties to Pirates

Cole Tucker, it turns out, had a few connections to the Pirates before the team made him its first-round draft pick Thursday.

Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix is the same school where former Pirates player and 2013 hitting coach Jay Bell's children attended and where Bell volunteered after retiring from the majors.

Brock Bell and Tucker played together, and Jay Bell and Clint Hurdle spoke at the school in January.

“I spent the afternoon with the team and spoke at a fundraiser that evening,” Hurdle said. “I didn't spend any extended time with Cole, but he was there with a group of men I spoke with and answered questions with.”

Former Pirates infielder Kevin Young coached Tucker for five years, and Tucker considers him an uncle.

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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