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As Draft approaches, Pirates keep options open

As Draft approaches, Pirates keep options open

As Draft approaches, Pirates keep options open
PITTSBURGH -- Two days away from the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, there remains plenty of suspense as to what is being discussed inside the walls of the Pirates' Draft room.

With team scouts and front office members huddled together in Bradenton, Fla., this week, the organization has been debating which player it wants to make the No. 1 overall pick on Monday. It's believed that the Pirates have had their list narrowed down to three college players -- right-hander Gerrit Cole, third baseman Anthony Rendon and lefty Danny Hultzen -- for a while now.

What's unclear, though, is whether the Pirates have made a final decision. Even if they have, general manager Neal Huntington has said the club will not make the decision public until the Draft begins.

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That runs contrary to the approach taken by the Nationals in each of the past two seasons, when it was public knowledge that Washington would select Stephen Strasburg (2009) and Bryce Harper (2010) with the top pick.

Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, at 6 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

The top of the Draft board has been muddled all throughout the spring baseball season, as no one established himself as the obvious top talent. Cole has an intriguing arm, though he has had some command issues this spring. A right-hander at UCLA, Cole can reach mid-to-high 90s velocity with his fastball and was widely considered to be the top pitching talent before the season began.

Hultzen has been as good as almost anyone at the collegiate level, though some wonder if his ceiling is as high as Cole's might be. But he has deservedly shot up Draft boards because of what he has done for the University of Virginia this season. Finding a left-hander with a power fastball and above-average changeup isn't easy, which is why the Pirates have discussed him extensively.

And then there is Rendon, who has been limited mostly to DH duty this year because of a shoulder injury. The Rice third baseman has already suffered two ankle injuries during his college career, which has led to questions about him being too injury-prone. There's little debate, though, that when Rendon is healthy, there is not a better hitter at the collegiate level.

Teams, including the Pirates, have been given access to Rendon's medical records in advance of the Draft. There is no indication that what is in that report will keep the Pirates from considering Rendon with their pick.

While the Pirates have the most anticipated pick on Monday, it will also be the team's only selection. The club does not have any other compensation picks. The Pirates have picked first three times previously, most recently in 2002 when the organization selected pitcher Bryan Bullington.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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