Pirates' Choice Goes Down To The Wire





PITTSBURGH—Pirates general manager Neal Huntington called the choice of righthander Jameson Taillon as their No. 2 overall draft pick "gut-wrenching," but not because he was remotely displeased with it.

Rather, as Huntington openly acknowledged, the scouting staff agonized that much when going back and forth between Taillon, from The Woodlands (Texas) High, and Miami high school shortstop Manny Machado, who instead fell to Baltimore at No. 3. A decision finally was reached the weekend before the draft.

"Both guys, as players and people, are wonderful," Huntington said. "The decision was very difficult when evaluating the total package."

The Pirates long have been adamant they would not draft based on positional need, but their system long has been bereft of middle-infield prospects.

Then again, the Pirates also have been bereft of anything approaching an ace-type starter since Doug Drabek in the early 1990s, and there is no such pitcher in the current system, either.

Taillon, 18, is 6 feet 6, 230 pounds, and has "top of the rotation" potential, according to Huntington, with a fastball that ranges from 94-97 mph, a plus curve and slider, and a solid change. In 11 games as a senior at The Woodlands, he went 8-1, 1.78 with 114 strikeouts and 21 walks in 62 innings, including a March 23 no-hitter.

"He has impressive secondary pitches for a high school pitcher," scouting director Greg Smith said. "He also has strong traits mentally, physically, fundamentally and personally."

Taillon, represented by the Hendricks brothers, will cost the Pirates one of the largest bonuses in franchise history—Pedro Alvarez's $6.355 million two years ago is the record—as Taillon remains undecided about signing or attending Rice.

"I'm faced with a really tough decision," Taillon said. "But I know I'll make the right one."

Taillon was asked how it felt to be picked by the Pirates, given their 17 years of losing.

"It is a huge honor," he said. "When you get picked by a team like that, they see me as a future centerpiece of the organization."

TREASURE TROVE

• Righthander Victor Black, the Pirates' supplemental first-round pick last year, has been shut down most of the first two months, first with shoulder trouble, and that led to biceps tendinitis. He should be back by July.

• The Pirates are engaged in an aggressive pursuit of 15-year-old Mexican righthander Luis Heredia for the July 2 signing date for international prospects. Heredia, 15, throws in the 89-91 mph range.