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Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Report Card

By David Rawnsley

Best Debut: C/1B J.R. House (5) powered his way through the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and hit .300-1-13 in 100 at-bats in the New York-Penn League–a rare feat for a high school player. OF B.J. Barns (6) hit .400 for three weeks in the NY-P and showed good power after a promotion to Class A Hickory.

Best Athlete: House was one of the top prep quarterbacks in the country and threw a state-record 10 touchdowns in the West Virginia state championship game as a senior. Six-foot-4, 175-pound OF Aron Weston (3) has five-tool potential if he can add strength and learn to hit.

Best Hitter: House has a strong upper body and a short, compact swing that produces plenty of line drives.

Best Power: Scouts feel Weston, a Darryl Strawberry clone, has easy plus power potential, though it may take a few years to develop. Barns has good loft in his lefthanded swing, and House will develop power as he learns his swing.

Fastest Runner: Weston is a 4.0 runner to first base from the left side with long, easy strides.

Best Defensive Player: C Ryan Doumit (2) has very good catch-and-throw skills behind the plate, as well as the game management skills learned from being a coach’s son.

Best Fastball: Though RHP Bobby Bradley (1) is better known for his dazzling curveball, he is capable of hitting 92-93 mph when he needs it. RHP Justin Reid (4) also has a low-90s fastball.

Most Intriguing Background: 2B Josh Bonifay (24) is the son of Pirates general manager Cam Bonifay. Because of his father’s job, House was able to play high school football in West Virginia in the fall and baseball in Florida in the spring.

Closest to the Majors: The Pirates’ top picks were mostly high school players, but Bradley has the polish of a more experienced pitcher. Expect him to move quickly as he learns how to use his fastball on wood bats.

The One That Got Away: The Pirates belied their small-market status by signing everyone they wanted, and they even had money left over to sign RHP Patrick O’Brien (39) away from Notre Dame late in the summer for an eye-opening $500,000 bonus.

Best Non-Draft Sign: No first-year Latin players made an impact in 1999, but RHP Luis Torres, who pitched two games in the Dominican Summer League in 1998, was named the No. 6 prospect in the GCL. He also excelled in seven starts at Hickory, going 3-2, 3.26.

Summary: The Pirates won’t see the benefits of this draft class for a few years, but on first impressions their young high school players have significant ability. The college picks had a more disappointing debut on the whole.

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