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Pirates sign top two picks just before deadline

| Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010

Few believed when the Pirates drafted right-handed pitchers Jameson Taillon second overall and Stetson Allie in the second round in June that they'd be able to sign both players.

Yet both high school fireballers reached contract agreements before Monday's midnight deadline, with the Pirates shelling out a total of $12 million on the 2010 draft class. It's the most money the current regime has spent on a draft class in the three years since taking charge.

General manager Neal Huntington declined to discuss individual figures, but reports including the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Sports Illustrated had Allie signing for a $2.25 million bonus and Taillon signing for just over $5 million.

"The day we drafted them, we knew we had a chance to sign them," Huntington said. "We believed the players wanted to play. We knew it wasn't going to be easy, but we had confidence."

Huntington said where Taillon and Allie go next is still up in the air, but that it's likely the first time either will pitch competitively will be in Instructional League play in September.

"There's value to having them get out, whether it's with a short-season or full-season team and getting a taste as observers of what the life is like," Huntington said. "But at the same time, we need to get the work in so they can hit the ground running as quickly as possible."

Taillon was 8-1 with a 1.78 earned run average and 114 strikeouts in 62 innings pitching for The Woodlands High School in Texas, and is projected to be a top of the rotation starter who already has a four-pitch arsenal. He throws consistently in the mid- to upper-90s and has reached 99 mph. He had a commitment to Rice University.

Allie, 19, was ranked the eighth-best prospect in the country by Baseball America going into the draft, and the Pirates drafted him 52nd overall. He was 9-1 with a 1.29 ERA and 134 strikeouts in 60 innings his senior year at St. Edward High School in Lakeland, Ohio, and reached 100 mph on the radar gun a half-dozen times. Allie had a commitment to play college ball at North Carolina.

Both players were expected to be difficult signings who would command more than the MLB-suggested bonus slot money of $3.25 million for the second overall pick and $684,000 for the No. 52 pick. Both players were being advised by the Hendricks brothers, who have a reputation as being tough negotiators.

Huntington said he did have his doubts in the hours leading up to the signings — Taillon's in particular was being reported around 10 p.m. but was not officially confirmed until 11:59 p.m. — that both would work out.

"Both players come from great families, they're both intelligent and they both had tremendous opportunities to go to college," Huntington said. "They had legitimate alternatives and the families' advisers used that leverage, but in the end we came to agreements we feel good about for both sides. They gave a little, we gave a little, and we got players excited to play pro baseball."

The Pirates signed 27 players out of the 50-round draft, including four signings yesterday. They announced midway through the 7-1 win over the Florida Marlins that they signed shortstop Drew Maggi, their 15th-round pick, out of Arizona State, and first baseman Jared Lakind, their 23rd-round pick, out of Cypress Woods High School in Texas.

Maggi hit .326 with 10 doubles, three triples, five home runs, 41 RBI and 36 stolen bases in 62 games as a sophomore, and will begin his professional career with the State College Spikes of the New York-Penn League.

Lakind, who had a letter of intent to play for Arkansas, hit .404 with 15 doubles and five home runs and will begin his career with the Gulf Coast League Pirates.

Huntington said that even with spending $12 million, they will still have enough money to pursue international players. Whether or not this year's draft puts to rest the notion that the team is unwilling to spend money on top picks is something Huntington said they don't concern themselves with.

"We liked (2009 first-round pick) Tony Sanchez, and last year we spent more than anyone in baseball on the draft," he said. "We signed Pedro (Alvarez), and now we're accumulating as much talent as we can, but on our terms and not necessarily to make people happy."

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