06/08/2004 9:12 PM ET
Pirates select 50 players in draft
Club shows balance with 25 pitchers, 25 positionals
By Ed Eagle / MLB.com
|Catcher Neil Walker is the Pirates' No. 1 pick. (courtesy Walker family)
PITTSBURGH -- Pirates scouting director Ed Creech and his staff wrapped up another busy year Tuesday with the completion of the annual First-Year Player Draft.
The 50 players selected by the Pirates included 16 right-handed pitchers, nine left-handed pitchers, nine catchers, six shortstops, four outfielders, two first basemen, two second baseman and two third baseman. The Bucs' draft couldn't have been split any more evenly, as 25 high school players, 25 college players, 25 position players and 25 pitchers were chosen.
Creech, whose philosophy is to select the best player available during each round rather than target any positional needs, was pleased with the mix of prospects the Pirates were able to add to their talent base.
"Every year, you get picked here and there. But we targeted a lot of different guys and we got them," said Creech. "Obviously we got the guy we wanted No. 1 [Pittsburgh-area high school catcher Neil Walker], but we also had a good mix here of some power arms, some bats and some guys that can pitch. We just feel really good about it."
While many of the picks fell as the Pirates had expected, Creech was pleasantly surprised to find Jason Quarles, ranked as the 43rd overall prospect in the draft by Baseball America , still available in the seventh round. After beginning the season as an outfielder, the right-hander was 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA at Southern University A&M.
"We were really surprised when Quarles was there in the seventh round," said Creech. "We liked this kid. He's a converted outfielder and he had minimum innings this year. But the guy has a power, power arm."
On the second day of the draft, the Pirates selected mostly "draft-and-follow" players -- prospects expected to attend junior college next season. By drafting these players, the team will have one year to watch their progress before deciding whether or not to try to sign them.
The exception to the "draft-and-follow" rule during the second day was 41st-round pick Daniel Schwartzbauer, a shortstop from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
"He's an acrobatic shortstop and we really like his defensive skills," said Creech.
Creech hopes to get most of the top 25 picks signed in time for mini-camp at Pirates City in Bradenton, Fla., on June 11.
"We want to get them out there as soon as possible," said Creech. "We want to get them a touch of the pro life before they get out there in the various [minor league] towns."
With Walker already expressing a desire to quickly begin his professional career, No. 4 pick Joseph Bauserman, a right-handed pitcher from Lincoln High School in Fla., who has been offered a scholarship to play quarterback at Ohio State, would appear to be the toughest prospect to sign. However, Creech believes Bauserman is committed to giving up football.
"He's a kid who indicated to us that he wants to play baseball," said Creech. "Everybody in that [draft] room who saw him pitch this year was impressed with his pitching ability. We are going to take him at his word and see if he wants to play baseball."
Creech believes the 2004 First-Year Player Draft compared favorably with his first two drafts with the Pirates, but he wasn't ready to put an "estimated time of arrival" on any of the prospects selected this week.
"They've got to work their way up and that's up to the individual person," said Creech. "You hope they get up there in three or four years. But if I start putting a time limit on those guys then they are in trouble and I'm in trouble."
Despite the long hours he has put in over the past year, particularly in the past few weeks, Creech does not plan to take much time off before preparing for the 2005 draft. After watching his 10-year-old son play in a baseball tournament this weekend, Creech will head to North Carolina to scout players on Team USA. Then it's off to the Instructional League in Bradenton to watch his latest picks in action.
"My favorite time of the year is going out and seeing the draft picks on one field," said Creech. "For me, it's like seeing Christmas come early."
Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.