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McLouth money could go into Bucs' draft

| Monday, June 8, 2009

HOUSTON — Two unexpected events in the past few days might have a profound impact on the Pirates' draft strategy.

The first three rounds of the first-year player draft will be held Tuesday. The Pirates have the fourth overall pick. They also have a supplemental first-round pick (49th overall) for failing to sign second-rounder Tanner Scheppers last year.

The sudden trade of center Nate McLouth on Wednesday immediately created a roughly $1.3 million windfall of payroll funds. That cash could be used to bolster the budget for draft picks' signing bonuses.

"Any money that has been freed up (by the trade) will be poured right back into baseball operations," general manager Neal Huntington said.

Saturday, it was revealed that University of Missouri right-hander Kyle Gibson has a stress fracture in his forearm. The Pirates had scouted Gibson heavily, and there were indications he would not be difficult to sign.

Last year, the Pirates endured a messy contract holdout by top pick Pedro Alvarez.

Gibson has not pitched since May 30, when he went eight innings to beat Monmouth in the NCAA regionals. His fastball velocity was noticeably down and after the game he complained of tightness in his forearm.

Gibson will be shut down for six weeks and is expected to make a full recovery. However, the injury likely will hurt his draft stock, meaning he could fall to the lower half of the first round.

With Gibson probably out of the picture and more money in the coffers, the Pirates could splurge and go after another Mizzou product, righty Aaron Crow.

Crow was a first-rounder last year, but did not sign with the Washington Nationals. His asking price this year again is steep: reportedly, Crow wants a big-league contract and a $4 million-plus signing bonus.

In three starts for the Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association, Crow went 3-0 with a 1.06 ERA. His arsenal — a fastball that touches 97 mph, a hard sinker and a solid changeup — could be major-league ready in a short period of time.

The Pirates also have scouted college pitchers Mike Minor of Vanderbilt and Alex White of North Carolina. Other possibilities are Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez and high school catcher Wil Myers, both of whom could be available when the Pirates make their supplemental pick.

2009 MLB first-year player draft

When: Tuesday (first three rounds) through Thursday

What: 50 rounds, plus supplemental picks

TV: The first round at 6 p.m. Tuesday will be televised by MLB Network

Eligible: High school- and college-age amateurs in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada

Pirates draft pick: No. 4 overall

Pirates' 2008 top pick: 3B Pedro Alvarez (No. 2 overall)

Pirates' 2009 prediction: RHP Aaron Crow

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