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Draft Report Card

John VanBenschoten

Best Pro Debut: RHP John VanBenschoten (1) was named the top prospect in the short-season New York-Penn League, though he had pedestrian numbers at 0-2, 3.51 with 19 strikeouts in 26 innings. OF Chris Duffy (8) batted .317-1-24 and topped the NY-P with 30 steals, while RHP Jeff Miller (15) had a 1.13 ERA and led the league with 15 saves. LHP Brady Borner (31), a Kirk Reuter type, had a 0.71 ERA in 13 NY-P innings before gong 5-1, 2.43 with 59 strikeouts in 58 innings in full-season Class A.

Best Athlete: Most clubs envisioned VanBenschoten, who led NCAA Division I with 31 homers, as a prototype right fielder because of his power, arm strength and speed. He also was used as a reliever at Kent State, and the Pirates decided to keep him on the mound. His four-seam fastball can reach 94 mph and his curveball has good rotation. He just needs more innings after being mainly a hitter to this point. Pittsburgh let him DH some this summer but that didn’t alter their opinion that his long-term value is as a pitcher. OF Rajai Davis (38) played basketball at Connecticut-Avery Point.

Best Hitter: 3B Jose Bautista, a 20th-round draft-and-follow from 2000, has the best bat of the players Pittsburgh signed this year. From the draft, it would be either Duffy or C Chris Shelton (33), who batted .305-2-33 in the NY-P. SS Jeff Keppinger (4), who signed late and has yet to make his pro debut, also has a quality bat.

Best Raw Power: VanBenschoten’s power graded out as 75 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale. Of the draftees who will focus on hitting, 1B Tim Brown (12) has the most, though Bautista has more.

Fastest Runner: Duffy and Davis can run sub-6.5-second 60-yard dashes. They’re both switch-hitters who can get from the left side of the plate to first base in 3.6 seconds on drag bunts.

Best Defensive Player: Duffy is an above-average center fielder who makes up for lackluster arm strength with his quickness and accuracy.

Best Fastball: VanBenschoten. Miller, who was a two-way player himself at New Orleans, also can touch 94 mph. He has good life on his fastball and a late-breaking slider.

Most Intriguing Background: Unsigned SS Stephen Drew’s (11) brothers J.D. and Tim were 1997 first-round picks. They played in the majors this year, as did unsigned RHP Robert Coomer’s (25) brother Ron. Unsigned 1B Jase Turner (40) is the grandson of former big leaguer Jesse Gonder.

Closest To The Majors: VanBenschoten’s ETA at PNC Park should be quicker as a pitcher than it would have been as an outfielder.

Best Late-Round Pick: Miller and Shelton were pleasant surprises, and Shelton was better defensively than expected. Pittsburgh may have done even better with RHP Casey Shumaker (23), a projected early-round pick who fell because of signability. Shumaker used a low-90s sinker and nasty slider to lead NCAA Division I with 14.0 strikeout per nine innings in the spring before dominating the Cape Cod League during the summer.

The One Who Got Away: Sophomore-eligible RHP Jeremy Guthrie (3) decided to return to Stanford for his junior season. If he can recapture the 90-94 mph velocity he showed in the middle of the college season, he could be a first-rounder in 2002.

Assessment: Though new GM Dave Littlefield reassigned scouting director Mickey White in October, White turned in three straight solid drafts for the Pirates. Almost all of Pittsburgh’s premium prospects are a product of White’s work. The pressure will be on White's successor as the Pirates have the first pick in the 2002 draft.

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