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Draft Preview: Bucs to take aggressive path

Draft Preview: Bucs to take aggressive path

PITTSBURGH -- For the fifth straight year, the Pirates have one of the first four picks in the June First-Year Player Draft. This season -- and for the second time in three years -- that pick will come second, as the Pirates are lined up to make their selections after the Nationals make the Draft's first.

This will be the third Draft headed by general manager Neal Huntington and scouting director Greg Smith, who have been lauded for their classes in the first two. Once again, the Pirates will have deep financial resources at their disposal. And that could be critical given that the Pirates will likely have to pay over the recommended slot to secure their first-round pick.

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Draft Central

MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft from June 7-9 on MLB.com/Live. The first round and Compensation Round A will be broadcast live on MLB.com and MLB Network on Monday, June 7, beginning with the Draft preview show at 6 p.m. ET.

MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo will join Greg Amsinger, Harold Reynolds, John Hart, Peter Gammons and Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis on Monday's broadcast.

Coverage for rounds 2-50 will shift exclusively to MLB.com/Live. Rounds 2-30 will be streamed on Tuesday, beginning at noon, and rounds 31-50 will be streamed on Wednesday, starting at noon. Host Pete McCarthy will be joined by Mayo and former general manager Jim Duquette.

Here's a glance at what the Pirates have in store as the Draft approaches:

In about 50 words
The Pirates have vowed not to shy away from a player due to perceived bonus demands or agent representation, which reiterates the organization's promise to be aggressive. The Pirates are known to still be considering at least three players for their first-round selection as scouts and management members continue their Draft meetings in Bradenton, Fla.

Pirates' past five top picks
Year
Player
Current team
2009 Tony Sanchez Bradenton (A+)
2008 Pedro Alvarez Indianapolis (AAA)
2007 Daniel Moskos Altoona (AA)
2006 Brad Lincoln Indianapolis (AAA)
2005 Andrew McCutchen Pittsburgh
The scoop
"There's no [Dustin] Ackley and there's no [Stephen] Strasburg in this year's Draft, in our minds. Those two players [from the 2009 Draft] would stand alone if they were in this year's Draft class. Comparing this year's class to the '08 Draft, a good amount of the '08 guys would stand above the '10 guys. That said, we like a good number of guys in the 2010 class. We believe we are going to get a very good player." -- Huntington

First-round buzz
For the first time under Smith, the Pirates could use their first-round pick to snag a high school player. The consensus is that Washington is going to take 17-year-old Bryce Harper, and there are two high school players -- right-hander Jameson Taillon and shortstop Manny Machado -- who are expected to be chosen soon after. The Pirates have heavily scouted both.

Taillon possesses a fastball that can reach the mid- to-upper 90s, though high school pitchers are always the riskiest top picks to make. When describing Machado, Huntington noted the ability to "dream of his potential." Others have mentioned Alex Rodriguez as a comparison.

If the Pirates opt to go with a safer college pick instead, left-hander Drew Pomeranz could be their guy. Pomeranz hasn't had a sensational junior season at Ole Miss, but with a three-pitch mix and intriguing arm strength, he is widely seen as the best college pitcher available in a weak class.

Shopping list
The Pirates will not draft based on need; Smith and Huntington have made that abundantly clear. However, while Pittsburgh will stay true to the Draft board that it has established, two factors could come into play after its first-round pick.

First, the lack of overall left-handed pitching talent could force teams to take southpaws earlier than maybe they normally would since the pool isn't that deep. Two, with this Draft being deep with high schoolers, college players are going to be at a premium. That, too, could force teams to be more aggressive in nabbing collegiate players early.

Trend watch
Don't expect the Pirates to deviate from their recent strategy of taking high-upside high school players with the intention of luring them away from college commitments with above-slot bonus offers. The Pirates did that successfully with a handful of pitchers last season, and though they don't expect to be able to sign every such pick they make, the Pirates believe the reward is worth the risk.

Recent Draft History

Rising fast
Drafted just two years ago, third baseman Pedro Alvarez is already knocking on the big league door. The former No. 2 overall pick is the only player from the Pirates' 2008 Draft class to already make the jump to Triple-A, and Alvarez did it after only one season in the Minors.

Alvarez is expected to be in Pittsburgh before the end of the season. And when he arrives, Alvarez will be the first player chosen during Huntington's regime to make his Major League debut.

Cinderella story
A 28th-round pick back in 2006, left-hander Rudy Owens pushed himself into the discussion of being one of the Pirates' best pitching prospects with a sensational 2009 season. Owens, who was named the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year, combined to go 11-2 with a 2.10 ERA in 25 starts split between low Class A West Virginia and high Class A Lynchburg (Va.) last season. The breakout year came after he combined to post a 5.06 ERA in his first two Minor League seasons.

Owens began 2010 in Double-A, where he was 5-2 with a 3.07 ERA through his first 10 starts. Baseball America ranked the lefty as the organization's ninth-best prospect heading into the season.

In The Show
No one from the Pirates' past four Draft classes has yet to make it to Pittsburgh, though 2006 first-rounder Brad Lincoln is close. In fact, only one player drafted by the Pirates in the last five years has played for Pittsburgh's big league club. That, of course, is center fielder Andrew McCutchen, whom the Pirates selected with the No. 11 overall pick in 2005.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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