By John Perrotto
Who will the Pirates take with their first-round pick in the first-year player draft? Your guess is as good as anyone else’s.
“Beyond No. 1, this is the most unsettled draft I’ve seen in a long, long time,” said a scouting director for an American League who asked not to be identified. “There are a million different scenarios that could play out.”
The one certainly is that the Washington Nationals will take San Diego State right-hander Stephen Strasburg with the first pick. He is, by far, the best player available in this year’s draft crop, which is generally considered below average.
North Carolina first baseman Dustin Ackley, ranked as the top hitter in the draft by most sources, will almost certainly be off the board by the time the Pirates pick as either Seattle will take him at No. 2 or San Diego will grab him with the third pick.
That leaves the Pirates with plenty of possibilities and someone with direct knowledge of their thinking said earlier this week that their camp is divided between taking a college pitcher who could get to the major leagues quickly or going for a high school position player with high upside.
One thing the Pirates won’t do in the first round is go over slot money like they did last year in signing Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez to a four-year major-league contract worth $6,335,000.
The Pirates want to save some money to make a substantial run on July 2 for Dominican shortstop Miguel Sano, a 16-year-old who figures to sign for somewhere around $4 million. Players from the Dominican are not subject to the draft and all 30 major-league clubs can bid on them as free agents.
The college pitcher the Pirates like most is
Missouri right-hander Kyle Gibson, who is 6-foot-6 and has a good fastball/slider combination.
They also have interest in hard-throwing right-hander Aaron Crow, who is playing for the Fort Worth Cats in the American Association, an independent minor league.
Crow was Washington’s first-round draft pick last year after starring at Missouri but did not sign as negotiations between former Nationals general manager Jim Bowden and agents Alan and Randy Hendricks were acrimonious.
The Pirates are also high on two high school power hitters, corner infielder Bobby Borchering from Bishop Verot in Fort Myers, Fla., and Wil Myers, a catcher/third baseman from Wesleyan Christian in High Point, N.C.
One player the Pirates won’t be signing is right-hander Tanner Scheppers, who stock is going up rapidly while he pitches for the St. Paul Saints in the independent Northern League.
He has declined to give permission to the Pirates to redraft him after being their second-round pick last year.
Scheppers was upset by what he felt was a low-ball offer following his junior season at Fresno State that ended early because of shoulder problems. The Pirates were concerned Scheppers might need surgery but he has avoided the knife to this point.