Pirates have options with no clear No. 1 in draft

There was no question at No. 1 in the last two baseball

drafts.

The Washington Nationals – and pretty much everyone else – knew

for weeks that they would likely take fireballing righty Stephen

Strasburg in 2009 and powerful slugger Bryce Harper a year ago.

Well, it’s the Pittsburgh Pirates’ turn with the first overall

pick Monday night, and they don’t have it as easy. That’s not to

say they don’t have plenty of options, but none quite as clear cut

as Strasburg and Harper were.

”Publicly,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said,

”it’ll absolutely come down to 2 minutes before the draft.”

While Strasburg and Harper were hyped as probable No. 1 picks

for months, several players have taken turns at the top of mock

drafts this year.

”I would rate this draft as without an elite No. 1, I would say

it’s safe to assume,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said,

”but it’s probably as deep a draft with power arms and impact-type

players as I’ve been around the last five or six drafts.”

When commissioner Bud Selig steps to the podium at the draft

site at the MLB Network studios in Secaucus, N.J., he might say

UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole’s name first. Or, maybe Rice slugging

third baseman Anthony Rendon. Perhaps it will be Virginia lefty

Danny Hultzen, or Oklahoma high school righty Dylan Bundy.

”There’s a cluster of pitchers that have above-average stuff,”

Rizzo said. ”There’s several pitchers that throw 95-100 in this

draft. That’s hard to say in the last couple of drafts.”

This will mark the first time the Pirates have the No. 1 pick

since they took right-hander Bryan Bullington out of Ball State in

2002. Regardless of who they take, the Seattle Mariners know

they’ll get an outstanding player one pick later.

”It’s a good year,” said Tom McNamara, Seattle’s director of

amateur scouting. ”I know a lot of scouting directors don’t say

that; they say it’s a down year, but it’s a good year this year.

There are a lot of good players. We’re pretty excited about

bringing the right player to this franchise.”

That could be Cole, who has put up mediocre numbers during his

junior season – 6-8, 3.31 ERA – but has what many consider to be

the best pure stuff in draft. He was a first-round pick of the New

York Yankees in 2008, but refused to even listen to an offer and

instead attended UCLA.

If the Pirates take him, Seattle might instead go with Rendon.

The slick-fielding third baseman has been hampered by teams

pitching around him, and a strained shoulder that limited him to

mostly DH duties. But he might be the best all-around hitter in the

draft.

”We’ve seen Anthony play a lot of third base,” McNamara said.

”We’re comfortable with what we’ve seen.”

Hultzen is a two-time ACC pitcher of year and Virginia’s career

leader in victories and strikeouts. He has also been impressive at

the plate, but is looked at as a future ace on mound.

Trevor Bauer, Cole’s teammate, was the Pac-10 pitcher of the

year and is 13-2 with a 1.25 ERA and a Division I-leading 203

strikeouts. He set school records for wins, strikeouts and innings

pitched.

”Supposedly it’s a deep draft, should be a deep draft,” said

Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin, whose team picks 12th and

15th overall. ”There’s a lot of good college pitchers early in the

draft. It depends on if they drop. Their signability is going to be

important.”

Meanwhile, Bundy is considered the best high school pitcher

available. The 6-foot-1 righty out of Owassa High School went 11-0

with 158 strikeouts in only 71 innings. He could be there at No. 6,

when Washington makes the first of its two first-round

selections.

”It’s hard to have that impactful a draft without those first

picks like the last couple of years, but we feel we’re going to get

an impactful guy at No. 6 and we think at 23,” Rizzo said.

”That’s really a strong pick.”

Arizona has the third selection, as well as the seventh – a

result of not signing Barret Loux, their top selection last year.

Baltimore picks fourth and Kansas City will go fifth.

Tampa Bay has a plethora of picks this year, getting 10 of the

first 60 selections and 12 of the first 89 – mostly as compensation

for losing top free agents such as Carl Crawford and Rafael Soriano

last offseason.

”Obviously, the more arrows you have, the more likely you are

to hit the bullseye,” said Andrew Friedman, the Rays’ executive

vice president of baseball operations. ”It’s great to have this

many picks. In large part because of the failure rate, it gives us

more of a chance to get guys that can impact a major league

game.”

Friedman said the focus will still be on taking the guys they

deem as the best available, and insist they’ve already considered

the issue of signability.

”This is something that didn’t just sneak up on us,” he said.

”We anticipated being in this position. It’s something we prepared

for.”

Other players expected to go early in the three-day draft

include: Florida high school shortstop Francisco Lindor, Kansas

high school outfielder Bubba Starling and Tennessee high school

lefty Daniel Norris.

There are also a handful of right-handers expected to hear their

names called in the first round: Vanderbilt’s Sonny Gray, Texas’

Taylor Jungmann and high school hurlers Archie Bradley from

Oklahoma and Taylor Guerrieri from South Carolina.

”It’s about getting the best player,” Melvin said, ”and doing

your homework.”

AP Sports Writers Tim Booth in Seattle, Colin Fly in Milwaukee

and Fred Goodall in Tampa, Fla., and AP freelance writers Chris

Adamski in Pittsburgh and Rich Dubroff in Washington, D.C.,

contributed to this report.