The Pirates' list of prospects for the No. 2 overall pick in the June 5 draft, which was seven deep a week ago, now is down to a handful.
One is Florida State University catcher Buster Posey, who two days ago was named Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year after batting .471 in the regular season. But there is a growing sentiment that Tampa Bay, which has the No. 1 pick, is leaning toward taking him. The Rays are deep at most positions but not catcher, so they might be in a rare position where they can draft by need.
The other four on the Pirates' list are Vanderbilt University third baseman Pedro Alvarez, Georgia high school shortstop Tim Beckham, San Diego State University left-hander Brian Matusz and one other pitcher. That other pitcher might be University of Missouri right-hander Aaron Crow.
Another right-hander the Pirates had on their list, Tanner Scheppers of Fresno State University, was crossed off in the past week because of shoulder trouble.
One highly respected scout -- not affiliated with the Pirates -- said the industry consensus is that they will go with Alvarez or Beckham, but that they are genuinely torn between the two.
Alvarez, 20, has rebounded from missing a month to a broken hand to play in Vanderbilt's past 32 games and bat .338 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs. He would be ready for the majors much sooner out of the two. He is represented by super-agent Scott Boras and will seek a signing bonus in excess of $7 million.
Beckham, 18, is a senior at Griffin High School and is seen by many as the draft's most talented player, blessed with power, speed and agility in the mold of the modern star shortstop. He is batting .500 with five home runs and 13 RBIs. He is committed to the University of Southern California, so he has not yet hired an agent.
One telling sign, perhaps: The Pirates held their initial predraft scouting meetings in Georgia, Beckham's home state, earlier this week.
Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .