Pirates select SS Cole Tucker in first round

The Pittsburgh Pirates announced they have selected shortstop Cole Tucker with the 24th overall selection in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.

The switch-hitting Tucker hit .404 (34-for-84) with eight doubles, four triples, five home runs, 30 RBI and 13 stolen bases for Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix, AZ, this past season.

Tucker, who was recently rated as the second-best High School player in the state of Arizona, was also a member of the 2013 USA Baseball 18U National Team that beat Japan, 3-2 to win the 2013 World Cup in Taiwan last September.

Tucker was ranked much lower on the draft board, so this pick is a bit of a surprise.

"We felt he was the right player and the best player available for us on our board," said Pirates' GM Neal Huntington, who added the Pirates didn't think Tucker still would be available when they made their next pick at No. 39 in the competitive balance "A" round.

"We talked repeatedly about drafting the best available player in our minds. It doesn't always line up with the external voices, but in our minds, this was the best guy on the board."

Tucker knew there was a good chance that he would be picked by the Pirates.

"I knew they had a lot of interest. The scouting department has been great about staying in touch with me," Tucker said on a conference call with reporters. "I'm excited. I heard it's a great place to play, and I'm stoked to be a part of it.

"Shortstop really is all I've known," Tucker added. "I think I can play shortstop in the big leagues. I feel like it's my best position on the field, and look forward to playing for the Pirates in the big leagues soon."

He is an athletic shortstop with a chance to stay at the premium position and he hits from both sides of the plate.

Tucker has gap power and ability to turn on velocity.  Right side was a little more natural, path was similar, but more line drive path.  Both sides show the bat speed and patience, works the ball to all fields.  Cole displays above average to plus speed, could be a high doubles producing bat with developing power.  Plus arm strength with carry, moves around well, first step burst, lateral range to both sides.  His footwork around the bag is fluid, quality defensive player.

Huntington said their scouts have been watching Tucker for a while, and his performance with Team USA last fall piqued their interest further.

"But it was the added strength (this year), the impact with the bat, refinement with the offensive game that gave us the confidence that we were in a good spot to take him at No. 24," Huntington said. "Our guys like what we think he can become."

The 17-year-old has committed to the University of Arizona, but his unexpectedly-high Draft selection is likely to make him sign with the Pirates.

With 39th pick, a Competitive Balance Round A selection the Pirates chose outfielder Connor Joe from the University of San Diego.

The right-handed-hitting Joe hit .367 (80-for-218) with 21 doubles, two triples, nine home runs and 51 RBI in 53 games during his junior year this past season. He led the team in home runs and RBI.

With their second-round pick, the Pirates selected Mitch Keller, a righty high school pitcher from Iowa who has a commitment to UNC.

Keller made a huge jump this spring and standing out in PG Spring League! Up to 95 mph at Spring Top. Good breaking ball potential.

With pick number 73, a Competitive Balance Round B selection the Bucs tabbed right-hander Trey Supak from La Grange HS (TX).

LaGrange (Texas) High hasn't had a player drafted since the Reds selected Homer Bailey seventh overall in 2004.

Supak already throws 88-92 mph, and he's still filling out his lanky 6-foot-5 frame, with his 18th birthday a week before the Draft. His fastball is more notable for its angle than its life.

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