Cody Dickson had an up-and-down season at Sam Houston State, but he improved his Draft stock by pitching well toward the end of the season, enough that the Pirates took him in the fourth round (119th overall) of the First-Year Player Draft on Friday.
A 6-foot-3, 185-pound junior, Dickson was 9-5 with a 4.26 ERA for the Bearkats this season. The lefty had 91 strikeouts and 51 walks and ended 2013 with a 28 inning scoreless streak.
Pirates director of amateur scouting Joe DelliCarri said they had Dickson on their radar before the season and got to see him several times early on. Those early looks, which he said showed Dickson's potential and the lefty's improvements throughout the year, led to the selection.
"It was a nice progression for him," DelliCarri said. "He started out in a good spot and ended up in a really good spot for us."
Dickson is a tall, projectable lefty who throws his fastball mostly in the low 90s, but he could see an uptick of velocity with added weight. He has a very good three-pitch mix that includes a changeup that has the chance to be plus. He goes right after hitters and has a very good feel for pitching.
"I do think he has the chance to have three quality Major League pitches," DelliCarri said.
The chance to get a projectable left-hander with the potential to have two above-average pitches was too much for the Pirates to pass up in the fourth round.
Dickson has, however struggled with command at times. He allowed 19 free passes to just 25 strikeouts for Santa Barbara of the California Collegiate League in 2012, but he gave up just 12 hits and eight runs in 23 innings last summer.
Dickson became just the second player ever to be drafted out of Sam Houston State.
Bucs lean toward experience, arms on Day 2
No, the Pirates didn't select a Baltimore Ravens receiver in the third round of the First-Year Player Draft. That's Jacoby Jones.
They drafted JaCoby Jones --- note the capital 'C' --- with their third-round pick and the 87th overall selection. The LSU second baseman clocked a 4.1-second time to first base and is praised for his speed and athleticism.
Jones was announced Friday as an outfielder during his selection, but he has played second base for LSU and has yet to find a true home on the diamond.
"We'll develop the player and the person in combination to find the best fit for him on the field," said Pirates director of amateur scouting Joe DelliCarri. "We'll play him in multiple positions here. Most important, develop the person, continue to develop the athlete, and he has a chance to be in the role of a good baseball player."
Jones has all the tools to get to the Majors, but he's yet to use them consistently enough the last few years.
He won the Cape Cod League home run derby and had 12 extra-base hits in 35 games last summer. But with his aggressive approach at the plate, he also had 55 strikeouts in 139 at-bats.
Jones' LSU Tigers faced Oklahoma Friday night in hopes of advancing to the College World Series. Entering Super Regional play, he hit .283 with 38 runs, five homers and 29 RBIs this season. He had also stolen 12 bases in 15 tries.
DelliCarri said Jones has the athleticism to play different positions, and that will help his development as he searches for a true home in the field in addition to the continued progress of his bat.
Including Jones, the Pirates went with a variety of players on Day 2. They selected six college players and two prep players, in addition to the three high schoolers they selected yesterday --- outfielder Austin Meadows, catcher Reese McGuire and lefty Blake Taylor.
Pirates general manager Neil Huntington said the club wasn't trying to balance the amount of high school and college players they selected.
"It was a situation where we looked at the players of similar values at our time of selection and picked the one we felt the best about in the room," Huntington said.
Following that strategy, the Pirates selected Cody Dickson, a tall, projectable lefty out of Sam Houston State in the fourth round. At 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, Dickson throws his fastball in the low 90s, but he could add velocity with gained weight.
He went 9-5 with a 4.26 ERA this season and ended 2013 with a 28-inning scoreless streak, picking up his play at the end of the year.
"We did have Cody Dickson on our radar before the season started," DelliCarri said. "And we continued to stay with conviction in our first looks that he had a chance to get better, and it just happened in front of the whole industry and especially us at the end."
The Pirates then followed with two shortstops --- first Trae Arbet from Great Oak High School (Calif.) and Adam Frazier out of Mississippi State.
After 10 picks, Pittsburgh had taken two infielders, two outfielders, five pitchers and one catcher. The Pirates closed out Day 2 by drafting four right-handed pitchers.
Buddy Borden, out of UNLV, the co-Mountain West Pitcher of the Year, improved his command last offseason and trusts his stuff. The Pirates' seventh-round selection, Borden has a low-90s fastball in addition to a changeup and curveball.
Pittsburgh followed up that pick with Neil Kozikowski, a tall, lean righty out of Avon Old Farms School (Conn.) and selected Delaware's Chad Kuhl after that with their ninth-round selection.
The club ended Day 2 by taking Shane Carle of Long Beach State, a 6-foot-4 righty whose fastball has good sinking movement that causes a lot of ground balls.
Day 3 of the Draft continues with Rounds 11-40 streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. ET.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
"We're not looking to fill organizational needs," Huntington said. "Organizational needs can disappear in a hurry and surpluses can disappear in a hurry. The Draft is about adding another class of quality players. The draft is all about accumulating as much talent as you can."
Bucs land solid all-around infielder in Arbet
Trae Arbet, the middle infielder out of Great Oak High School in Southern California, was making plenty of noise this spring as the First-Year Player Draft approached. The Pirates didn't let any other team reap the rewards, taking Arbet with the 149th overall pick.
Arbet is a solid all-around player at the plate and in the field, and he has a good amount of athleticism working in his favor. He has pretty good bat speed and some gap-to-gap pop.
"He definitely has the tools for [shortstop]," said Pirates director of amateur scouting Joe DelliCarri. "The best way to explain our thought process there is athlete, tools, footspeed and arm strength."
Arbet got off to a slow start at the plate this season before finishing at .309 with 20 runs scored, 18 RBIs, eight doubles, two triples and two home runs.
An average runner, Arbet is a solid defender with decent action and range, plus a solid arm. Some feel that he is better suited for second base, while others believe he has the ability to stick at shortstop in the professional ranks.
Regardless of where Arbet plays at the next level, it's his plus athleticism that got him taken in the fifth round of the Draft.
"He is one guy that can play [shortstop] and has the toolset to play that position," DelliCarri said. "Yes, there's a chance for him to stay at shortstop and be that shortstop for us."
Instincts may take college shortstop Frazier far
In a Draft light on college shortstops, Mississippi State's Adam Frazier stood out despite his lack of elite tools.
Frazier, selected 179th overall by the Pirates, has excellent plate discipline and uses a quick left-handed stroke to hit line drives to all fields. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, Frazier has minimal power -- he didn't hit a home run throughout his college career -- and is unlikely to develop much more strength.
Frazier was a member of the Collegiate National Team last summer, though he wasn't the starting shortstop.
Frazier entered this year's NCAA Regional play batting .352 with a .399 on-base percentage, 20 walks, 25 strikeouts and a .461 slugging percentage boosted by 16 doubles and a team-leading six triples.
The junior is a heady player and uses his instincts well on the basepaths and in the field. He stole seven bases in 11 attempts for the Bulldogs during the regular season and Southeastern Conference Tournament.
While Frazier doesn't wow observers with his glove, he is a steady presence with an average arm at shortstop.
Pirates grab UNLV righty with live fastball
Taken by the Pirates with the 209th overall pick, UNLV right-hander Buddy Borden had a breakout season in 2013 and shared Mountain West Pitcher of the Year honors with Nevada righty Braden Shipley, who was picked by the Diamondbacks at No. 15. Borden doesn't have Shipley's upside, but he has also caught the attention of scouts.
His fastball in the low 90s and has been clocked as high as 96 mph. Borden also throws a curveball and a changeup, both of which have the potential to be Major League-average offerings.
The Pirates had him on their radar before the season, but a strong 2013 only affirmed their interest. Borden went 8-2 with a 2.59 ERA in 100 2/3 innings for the Rebels.
"Some of the good things he did this year reinforced our value on him," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said.
Borden's improvement came after he refined his command this season. He pitches with confidence and trusts his stuff, even in the hitter-friendly high-altitude environment of Las Vegas.
"The most important part of the Draft is what we believe they're going to do," Huntington said. "He gives us the attributes that believe he's going to continue that success when he gets in our development system."
Bucs tab righty Kozikowski in Round 8
At a lanky 6-foot-3, Neil Kozikowski has a big frame with plenty of room to grow.
The Pirates made Kozikowski, out of Avon Old Farms School (Conn.), their eighth-round pick Friday and the 239th overall selection in the First-Year Player Draft.
"I think there's a lot of upside for him, he's long and lean with an easy delivery," Avon coach Rob Dowling said. "I've seen him hit 92 mph with minimal effort."
Dowling said his former player, who turned 18 at the end of May, has a frame with plenty of room for growth, and professionals who specialize in developing young talent have a great product to work with.
Kozikowski, a Virginia Commonwealth signee, has a fastball that sits in the high 80s and touches the low 90s.
He signed early with VCU, and Dowling said Kozikowski has a difficult but exciting decision to make regarding his future.
"Really, there's no wrong decision," Dowling said. "Hopefully the scouts will speak to him honestly. This kid is an incredibly dedicated athlete."
Pirates grab Delaware ace in ninth round
Chad Kuhl performed at the collegiate level, so it's just a matter of whether or not his skills translate to professional ball.
The Pirates selected Kuhl, a University of Delaware right-hander, in Round 9 of the First-Year Player Draft on Friday.
Kuhl went 10-2 with a 3.75 ERA for the Blue Hens this season, striking out 76 while walking 31 in 105 2/3 innings -- a team-high. He became the first Delaware pitcher in more than a decade to win 10 games in a season. Kuhl was the team's No. 1 CAA starter.
The Bear, Del., native went 5-5 with a 4.42 ERA as a sophomore in 2012, and 1-4 with a 6.39 ERA as a freshman.
Kuhl earned first-team All-State honors in Delaware as a high school senior both on the mound and as a first baseman.
Steve Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.