Major League Baseball Draft: Pirates select Clemson pitcher in first round
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Daniel Moskos probably is not the player most Pirates fans wanted to see the team take with their first pick in the first round of the amateur draft yesterday.
Moskos is, after all, a pitcher. Another pitcher, some fans will say, groaning.
Moskos is not high school third baseman Josh Vitters, who went third overall to the Chicago Cubs, who picked just ahead of the Pirates.
And Moskos is not switch-hitting catcher Matt Wieters, the Georgia Tech star who went to Baltimore as the fifth overall pick.
It's possible the Pirates would have taken Vitters had he been available with their fourth overall pick. He was not, so that's a moot point.
But Wieters was available, but his super agent Scott Boras is rumored to want a $10 million signing deal for Wieters.
Did that scare off the Pirates?
"We've got the guy we want, really," general manager Dave Littlefield said. "Moskos is who we're happy to have. We feel he's going to be a very talented pitcher. With regards to other players, we decided to pick the best guy for us."
Is Littlefield concerned the Pirates will be viewed by their fan base as having drafted a player they know they can sign rather than having drafted a more expensive, perhaps higher impact player?
"What really concerns me is that we've got a talented guy and we think he's going to be a successful pitcher for the Pirates," Littlefield said. "That's really first and foremost what I pay attention to. My focus is on winning games and adding talent that we think is the best talent available for us. That's really how we feel about Daniel Moskos.
"He was the best guy for the pick we had. We're very happy to have him. We picked fourth. I'm not sure if you want us to say we wish we had a couple other guys. We don't have the first pick. We picked fourth.
"I have this sense that there's this desire to say we didn't get the No. 1 guy we wanted. We picked fourth. We're very happy with the player we have."
Someone mentioned to Littlefield that Baseball Prospectus had written that Pirates management submitted a request to ownership -- read, Bob Nutting -- to spend the money to sign Wieters and was denied.
"That's not true," Littlefield said. "We had an opportunity to draft a pitcher we really like. We think he's a good pick in our spot at four."
With all that aside, here is who the Pirates took with the fourth overall pick of the draft.
Moskos is a junior left-hander out of Clemson University who has spent most of his college career as a reliever but who is now a starter. Pirates fans can take a look at him today at noon when he starts against Mississippi State in the Starkville, Miss., NCAA super regional opener.
Moskos, however, likely will not be a starter once he signs with the Pirates, according to Ed Creech, the team's senior director of scouting.
"We like him in both roles," Creech said. "[But] I think the role he's probably going to end up [in] is closer. He has the mentality for it. He's an aggressive kid. He goes after hitters. He throws strikes. He has power pitches."
"I'm open to however the organization wants to use me," Moskos said. "I'm excited about the chance. If [a closer] is how I'm needed, I'm completely fine with it."
Moskos, 6 feet 1, 200 pounds, throws a good moving fastball that tops at 95 mph and might consistently clock at 95 in a couple of years. He has a "wipeout" slider, according to one evaluator, that he throws at 85-87 mph.
"That's my putaway pitch," Moskos said.
He also throws a curve for strikes and a changeup.
"I think the fact he throws a changeup kind of intrigued people," said Kevin O'Sullivan, Clemson's pitching coach. "But his fastball and slider are so good that I think if he just concentrated on those two he could be really, really good [as a closer]."
Moskos, who went to the same high school in California (Damien) as Mark McGwire and former major-league pitcher Frank Pastore, moved into Clemson's rotation several weeks ago when top starter P.J. Zocchi struggled.
"We needed a No. 1 guy," O'Sullivan said.
Moskos, 21, this season is 3-5 with six saves and a 2.91 earned run average. In 74 1/3 innings, he has allowed 71 hits, including three home runs and 33 walks and struck out 74. Last season, as Clemson's closer, he was 5-5 with 10 saves and a 2.52 earned run average.
Moskos, who likely will sign with the Pirates shortly after his Clemson season ends, pitched for the U.S. national team and in the prestigious Cape Cod League last summer. With the national team, he had an 0.86 earned run average and six saves in 18 appearances.
"He's a guy who's accomplished a lot -- at both the intercollegiate and international level," Littlefield said.
The Pirates have taken a pitcher with their first pick in eight of the past 10 drafts. First-round pitchers Bobby Bradley (1999), Sean Burnett (2000), John Van Benschoten (2001), Bryan Bullington (2002) and Brad Lincoln (2006) all have had arm surgeries.
Does that bother Moskos?
"That doesn't alarm me at all," Moskos said. "I don't think that has anything to do with my situation. I have no history of arm trouble. I haven't been over-used in my college career."
The Pirates took another pitcher with their second pick -- the 68th overall -- selecting right-hander Matthew "Duke" Welker, a 6-7, 220-pounder from Arkansas.
First Published June 7, 2007 10:36 pm