"This is just a dream come true," said McCutchen. "Right now, I'm sure there are thousands of baseball players my age who wish they could be in the position I'm in."
McCutchen, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound outfielder, enjoyed an outstanding season as a senior at Ft. Meade (Fla.) High School. A right-handed hitter, McCutchen batted .709 (39-for-55) with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs and was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Florida.
"This is a guy who looks like he has a chance to be a good hitter," said Pirates GM Dave Littlefield. "He stings the ball hard and hits well to all fields. He does have some power. I don't anticipating him being a big power hitter, but he hits the ball with authority. The bat is the key."
McCutchen was rated by Baseball America as the second-best pure hitter, second-fastest runner, third-best five-tool talent and fifth-best player in the draft.
McCutchen's combination of foot speed and bat quickness impressed Pirates scouting director Ed Creech.
"The guy can really run," said Creech, noting that McCutchen ran a 60-yard dash in 6.3 seconds. "The bat is a strong bat. We think he is going to be a [high batting] average guy with home run power, a lot like Marquis Grissom."
McCutchen's size had some questioning whether he'd be selected early in the first round, but the Pirates don't see it as a problem in center field.
"[His size is] one of the things that we tossed around a lot," said Creech. "But he's not a basketball player. This is a baseball game. You've got to hit the ball and run to catch it. You don't have to really jump too high."
McCutchen doesn't expect his size to keep him from reaching the big leagues either.
"I'm not the only small guy out there," said McCutchen. "There are plenty of people who play in the big leagues who are as big as I am. I'm sure as I get stronger and develop I'll develop into a bigger player. That's kind of scary thinking about that."
Despite his smallish frame, McCutchen has displayed the ability to hit for power. While working out for the Pirates at PNC Park last Friday, he hit a home run off the top of the shed in the visitors' bullpen, beyond the fence in left-center field.
"It's unusual to see that type of power in a package like his," said Creech. "But we don't expect this guy to be a great home-run hitter. We think he is going to be a good hitter with some home runs."
The Pirates also believe McCutchen will develop into a valuable defensive asset.
"He's a center fielder who can really, really run," said Creech. "The instincts that we've seen so far give us every indication that he's going to be a good center fielder."
McCutchen, whose father is a youth minister, impressed the Pirates with his makeup and his physical tools.
"Everything points to this guy being just as good of a kid as you would ever want to be around," said Creech.
"[My parents] taught me ever since I was little to always be a humble person," said McCutchen. "The Lord God blessed me with all of these talents and all of these abilities. He can also easily take them away."
Fort Meade High School
Position: OF B/T: R/R
H: 5'11" W: 175
Born: 1986-10-10 Class: HS
Wiry, athletic body w/ strong wrists and forearms. Gap-to-gap hitter w/ some pop, he has had success w/ wooden bats. Good first step and acceleration in center; exciting, five-tool player.
Signability does not appear to be an issue with McCutchen. Although the University of Florida offered him a scholarship, McCutchen wants to begin his professional career as soon as possible.
"I'll probably sign pretty quickly," said McCutchen. "I just really want to go out and play baseball."
Once signed, McCutchen is expected to begin his professional career with Bradenton in the Gulf Coast League. From there, McCutchen is hopeful that it won't be long until he can contribute to the Pirates' youth movement in the big leagues.
"I can see that there is starting to be a change in the team," said McCutchen, who impressed reporters with his knowledge of the Pirates' recent strong play against the Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves. "I hope that I can bring something to the team. Hopefully we can start getting better and get on the winning side."
McCutchen's selection marks the second consecutive season the Pirates have taken a high school position player with their first pick. In 2004, Pittsburgh chose switch-hitting catcher Neil Walker from Pine Richland (Pa.) High School with the 11th overall pick.
Prior to Walker's selection, the Pirates had taken a pitcher with each of their first-round choices from 1998-2003.