After signing, top Bucs pick Craig raring to go

After signing, top Bucs pick Craig raring to go

PITTSBURGH -- Six days after Will Craig heard his name called in the first round of the MLB Draft, he put on a Pirates jersey and walked around the place he hopes to one day call home. The Pirates officially introduced Craig, their first-round pick, in a news conference on Wednesday afternoon at PNC Park.

It was a quick turnaround for Craig, who was selected 22nd overall on Thursday and touched down in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Craig signed for $2,253,700 -- the full value for the 22nd pick -- according to MLBPipeline.com's Jim Callis. But the 21-year-old third baseman out of Wake Forest University wouldn't have it any other way.

"I'd rather be out on the field as soon as possible," Craig said. "It's been a few weeks since our season ended. I'm looking forward to getting on the field, getting back in the swing of things."

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Craig will report to the Pirates' Class A Short Season West Virginia affiliate in Morgantown, W.Va. He'll make the trip from Pittsburgh on Thursday, and the Black Bears' season begins on Friday night. That will cap off a "pretty hectic" week, as Craig put it.

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"It's been a very eventful past six days," Craig said, "but it's something I look forward to and really welcome."

The Pirates, meanwhile, look forward to seeing Craig advance through their system. One of five finalists for the 2016 Dick Howser Trophy, awarded annually to collegiate baseball's top player, Craig hit .379 with 16 homers and 66 RBIs in 55 games for Wake Forest this season.

Craig received a strong endorsement from area supervisor Jerry Jordan, a baseball lifer who had scouted Craig since he played for Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn. The Royals made him a 37th-round selection in 2013, but Craig chose to attend Wake Forest instead.

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Jordan, who also scouted No. 2 Pirates prospect Austin Meadows, happens to cover both Tennessee and North Carolina, so he continued to follow Craig's collegiate career firsthand.

"Jerry's a veteran scout, and there are certain guys where he gets that glow: 'He's a big leaguer,'" Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "He pounded the table about as strongly as I've heard him pound the table for Will."

Neal Huntington (left) and Will Craig. (Pirates)

Craig is considered an advanced hitter, producing consistently hard contact with good bat speed, command of the strike zone and power potential to come.

"The bat is obvious," Huntington said. "We love the bat. We're excited about the hitter. We believe there's going to be raw power to come. We want him to be a great hitter. ... Trust us, the power is in there."

Pirates draft 3B Craig No. 22

Defensively, Craig will begin his career at third base. He believes he has the arm to stick there -- he's hit 94 mph as a pitcher -- and he said fielding will be his focus as he reports to West Virginia.

"Not that I'm a bad fielder, but I definitely have some things I want to continue to work on," Craig said. "I think my bat is going to be there. I'm going to keep working on that. You're never perfect. You always have stuff to work on. That's probably the biggest factor of my game I need to work on."

Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.