By John Perrotto
The Pirates have concentrated heavily on stocking their farm system with pitching prospects since Neal Huntington became general manager late in the 2007 season.
However, the Pirates plan to shift gears in this year’s first-year player draft, which will be held from June 4-6. According to those close to the situation, the Pirates want to address their paucity of hitting prospects in the early rounds that is said to be short on pitching talent.
The Pirates have the No. 8 selection in the first round and one of the primary players they are targeting is slick-fielding Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero, who they feel could reach the major leagues as soon as 2014. Current shortstop Clint Barmes is signed to a two-year contract
that expires after the 2013 season.
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound right-handed hitting Marrero has had a disappointing season offensively. Going into Arizona State’s weekend series at Gonzaga, he was hitting .276 with three home runs and 26 RBIs in 44 games after being selected a first-team preseason All- American by Baseball America.
Marrero had also committed 11 errors in 44 games. He was named the Pacific-12 Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year last season.
The Pirates are also very high on Puerto Rican high school shortstop Carlos Correa. However, he figures to be off the board by the time the Pirates make their first selection.
In many regards, Marrero is similar to Tony Sanchez, the catcher from Boston College that the Pirates selected with their first-round pick in 2009. Sanchez was considered a defense-first player when drafted but has struggled offensively at Class AA Altoona each of the past two seasons.
“Marrero is what he is — and I don’t mean that in a negative manner,” said a scout who was watched Marrero often this season. “He’s a middle infielder with a plus glove and solid offensive skill set. There are higher ceilings for other prospects projected in the first round, but Marrero is as safe of a bet as there is in this year’s draft. Especially given the level he’s been playing at in the Pac-12.”
John Perrotto has covered the Pirates and Major League Baseball for 25 years.