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Pirates putting premium on pitching

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

General manager Neal Huntington's top priority remains improving the depth of pitching in the Pirates' organization.

"We're never going to have enough pitching," Huntington said. "We don't look at our system and feel like we've got a bunch of middle-of-the-rotation starters coming, or even the occasional top-of-the-rotation starter.

"Will it impact how we trade (or) how we draft• In a perfect world, no. But all things being equal, maybe we lean toward the pitcher."

Neither the best pitcher (San Diego State right-hander Stephen Strasburg) nor the top-rated hitter (North Carolina first baseman Dustin Ackley) likely will be available June 9 when the Pirates make the fourth overall pick in the draft.

The Pirates have scouted several college pitchers, including Missouri's Kyle Gibson and Vanderbilt's Mike Minor. They also have taken a long look at righty Aaron Crow, who is pitching in the independent league after failing to sign last year out of Missouri.

The crop of talent isn't as sexy as it was last year, when the Pirates nabbed slugger Pedro Alvarez at No. 2 overall. But that could end up working in their favor.

"This is a pitching-heavy draft," Huntington said, "but we're still going to try to stay true to the integrity of the board. Our belief is, if we have too many talented position players, we can trade them for pitching."

Then again, this year it's possible that the depth of pitching available in the draft could help the Pirates land a pricey position player during the international signing period.

The Pirates may pass on someone such as Crow, who last year turned down a reported $3.3 million bonus offer from the Washington Nationals. That would leave more money to use on other players — such as Dominican shortstop Miguel Sano.

The Pirates have heavily scouted Sano, who is expected to command a signing bonus in excess of $4 million. Latin American players are not eligible for the draft. The international signing period begins July 2.

Last year, the Pirates spent roughly $12 million combined on the draft and Latin American amateurs.

Building blocks

A look at how the first four picks might play out in the June 2 first-year player draft:

1. Washington — Will likely take Steven Strasburg and gird for battle against agent Scott Boras

2. Seattle — Eying Dustin Ackley, a slugger who could switch to OF in pros

3. San Diego — Has many needs, but is leaning toward a pitcher

4. Pirates — Will load up on pitchers throughout the draft




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