Pirates Draft Outlook: Boras not factor in making first pick

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The midnight-deadline wrangling. The 2 1/2-month machinations. The tense and terse times that included a grievance, a hearing and legal eagles from both Major League Baseball and the players association.

None of those 2008 moments have altered the strategy of a Pirates management that still plans to select whomever it deems appropriate with the fourth pick of the First-Year-Player Draft June 9-10.

So, they contend, don't bother looking for a lingering Scott Boras hangover.

"We're not going to walk away from a guy because of his agent or financial demands only, and it's going to be a long summer," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said this week, amid preparations for the draft. "Some guys you evaluate at X, and they want X times 7, and other guys you evaluate at X, and they want X times 2. All else being equal, you go with X times 2."


Game: Pirates vs. Houston Astros, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.

TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).

Pitching: RHP Ross Ohlendorf (5-4, 4.20) vs. RHP Brian Moehler (1-3, 8.31).

Key matchup: Everyone vs. Houston slugger Miguel Tejada, whose 11-game hitting streak includes 20 hits in 45 at-bats for a .444 average, plus three home runs.

Of note: The Astros have lost seven in a row, their longest losing streak since eight last June, and have given up an average of 5.8 runs in that span.

But, he reiterated, "it's not going to impact our draft strategy as a sole driving factor."

Pirates officials stress, however, that Pedro Alvarez, the No. 2 overall pick last year, was not best served by what amounted to a 10-month lapse before he embarked on his pro baseball career as a minor leaguer.

They remain determined to sign the upcoming No. 4 pick in a timely fashion and deliver him to their minor league system with half a summer to play. And, in apparently one aspect they gleaned from their dealings with Boras last summer, they plan to use urgency as a recruiting pitch.

"We see real value in getting players signed as quickly as possible," president Frank Coonelly said in an e-mail interview. He added that there is "compelling" evidence about the success rate of players who utilize those extra 2 1/2 months of minor league development. "We will also attempt to do a better job this year of demonstrating to these players that, for several tangible reasons, it is in their interest to sign quickly and get out playing and beginning their progression to Pittsburgh. We will not, however, select a player [or not select a player] based on our view of the likelihood that he will sign promptly."

Coonelly, Huntington and the Pirates conceivably could find themselves across a negotiating table from Boras again: He represents prospects roughly rated Nos. 1, 2, 3, 11 and 12.

Client No. 1, Stephen Strasburg, the ballyhooed, 100-mph pitcher from San Diego State, is widely expected to be gobbled up by Washington with the first pick June 9. Who follows Strasburg in the draft remains a mystery, though clients Nos. 2 and 3 are widely considered the best position players available, outfielders Dustin Ackley of North Carolina and North Carolina-bound high schooler Donovan Tate, who may yet opt to play college football and baseball. Prep pitcher Jacob Turner and Southern California shortstop Grant Green also are represented by Boras.

Seattle and San Diego hold the second and third picks, right before the Pirates.

Eight of Baseball America's top 10 prospects and 14 of 20 are pitchers.

"The depth of this draft is pitching," said Greg Smith, the Pirates' scouting director. "You can never have enough of it. And we need pitching. There are some good position players in this draft that we like, some of them you're going to have to take quicker this year" because of their fewer numbers.

Two of the celebrated pitching prospects were top 2008 choices who went unsigned: Aaron Crow, tabbed at No. 9 by Washington, and Tanner Scheppers, an injured second-round pick by the Pirates. Some analysts rank them as highly as the top five for 2009. Huntington last week scouted Crow, for one.

"Just because they didn't sign a year ago doesn't put a negative mark next to their name," Huntington said. "If they're the right player, we'll certainly take them."

Other notable draft topics:

Huntington said the organization's infusion of resources into its new Dominican Republic facility -- and interest there in an elite prospect, Miguel Angel Sano, who could command a $4 million-plus bonus -- won't alter the Pirates' draft course: "They're independent entities. We don't take away from one to fund the other, or we don't shy away from a player in Latin America because we think we can draft a player in the United States. In an ideal world, the players we're able to sign internationally ... complement the draft."

With an eye toward televising the draft's early rounds on its MLB cable network, the process opens with the first four rounds starting at 6 p.m. June 9, rounds 5-30 June 10 and rounds 31-50 June 11.

"It's definitely going to be different," Smith said. "I'll tell you June 12 or 15, only because I don't know, was it better or was it counterproductive. I have some concerns having some more time. I have some interest in having some more time."

The Pirates start with picks Nos. 4, 49 (the last of 17 compensatory selections -- theirs for not signing Scheppers), 53, 84 and 115.

Pirates brass sat down with area supervisors and scouts more than a week ago in Pirate City at Bradenton, Fla. They are scheduled to hold similar meetings this weekend with regional and national supervisors.

Chuck Finder can be reached at cfinder@post-gazette.com . Catch more on the Pirates and join the discussion at the PBC Blog .


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