After taking right-handed pitchers in the first round of the draft three consecutive years, the Pirates' draft board led them in a different direction Thursday.
The Pirates selected two high school players, outfielder Austin Meadows and catcher Reese McGuire, in the first round of Major League Baseball amateur draft.
"It feels great," Meadows said. "I've heard a lot of good things about the Pirates organization. They're really good on their development system. I'm excited to go out there and be a part of the team."
The Pirates took Meadows, a center fielder from Grayson High in Loganville, Ga., with the ninth overall pick. At No. 14, they grabbed McGuire, a catcher for Kentwood High in Covington, Wash.
"These are two guys that we feel very good about," general manager Neal Huntington said.
"They were the best players available on our board that we really liked the upside of. I don't know that there's any safe player in any draft. These are the players that we liked best in each of our slots."
Meadows hit .535 for Grayson High this season. Baseball America ranked him as the No. 5 prospect available in the draft. The 6-foot-2 outfielder added weight before this season.
"My goal was to gain 10, 15 pounds before the season as well as keep my speed and stay in center field," he said.
Meadows played high school ball in the same Georgia town as Clint Frazier, another top draft prospect, who starred down the road from Grayson at Loganville High. The Cleveland Indians took Frazier with the fifth overall pick.
McGuire hit .436 this season with four home runs. He is known as a good defensive catcher with a strong arm. Baseball America ranked McGuire as the No. 12 player available.
McGuire said his father, uncle and grandfather were catchers as well, and his dad and uncle coached his Little League team. It was then, McGuire said, that he began calling pitches himself.
"I think it's a tremendous aspect to have, being able to call my own game," McGuire said.
"He's called his own game forever, which is unique in this industry," Huntington said. "Even in the high school levels, the coaches are calling games more frequently than not."
The Pirates received the No. 9 pick as compensation for not signing Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, whom they selected with the eighth pick in the 2012 draft. The Houston Astros selected Appel first overall Thursday night.
The Pirates offered Appel a $3.8 million bonus, the most they could give him without forfeiting a future draft pick, but Appel returned to school.
MLB assigned the ninth pick in 2013 a value of $3,029,600, according to Baseball America, and the 14th pick a value of $2,569,800. The Pirates have a total of $8,884,600 to spend, according to Baseball America, on their 11 selections in the first 10 rounds or on bonus money in excess of $100,000 in the final 30 rounds.
Meadows is committed to Clemson, McGuire to the University of San Diego. McGuire said he favored signing with the Pirates at this point.
"San Diego is a great route as well, but I think in this situation, with everything that's happened, I think I'm probably going to be leaning a little bit toward [the] professionals," McGuire said.
"We've had good dialogue with them at this point in time," Huntington said. "Until they're signed, there's always challenges. There's no question about that. We've got two young men that love to play the game and are excited to be Pirates draft [picks]."
The Pirates took Blake Taylor, a California high school left-hander, with the No. 51 pick in the second round. The Miami Marlins took high school left-hander Matt Krook with the second pick in the competitive balance round, No. 35 overall. The Pirates traded that pick to the Marlins for Gaby Sanchez at the 2012 trade deadline.
Meadows has aunts and cousins in Pittsburgh and said he looks forward to the day when he can meet Andrew McCutchen.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published June 7, 2013 12:15 AM