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Pirates Draft Report Card

By Jim Callis

Best Pro Debut: RHP Josh Higgins (23) went 3-1, 1.04 with eight saves and a 40-8 strikeout-walk ratio in 35 innings at short-season Williamsport. His changeup is his best pitch, and because he’s 6-foot-5 he has the potential for plus velocity.

Best Athlete: RHP Chris Young (3) was a standout basketball player at Princeton and had legitimate NBA potential. He has smooth mechanics for a 6-foot-11 pitcher and is agile for his size. The Pirates were confident they could sign him and got him for $1.65 million after he spent the summer dominating the Cape Cod League.

Best Hitter: 2B Nate McLouth (25) spent all summer negotiating but looked good in instructional league.

Best Raw Power: 1B Jon Pagan (18) has terrific strength but needs to learn the strike zone.

Fastest Runner: OFs Troy Veleber (13) and Victor Buttler (14) combine well-above-average speed and sound baserunning instincts.

Best Defensive Player: SS Brandon Chaves (10) is a smooth glove man with outstanding hands and range. He batted just .154 at Williamsport and must get stronger to have a chance to hit.

Best Fastball: RHP David Beigh (2) is a 6-foot-5, 230-pound horse who throws in the low to mid-90s. Though Young is still learning to pitch and tops out at 92 mph, the ceiling on his fastball is very high.

Most Intriguing Background: For the second straight year, the Pirates spent their first pick on a polished pitcher from Wellington (Fla.) High. In 1999 it was righthander Bobby Bradley. This June it was LHP Sean Burnett (1). He throws in the high 80s with an impressive changeup. RHP Chris Gale (30), who didn’t sign, is the son of former major league pitcher Rich.

Closest To The Majors: Burnett has a tremendous feel for pitching and is easily the most advanced of the high school pitchers who dominate the top of Pittsburgh’s draft list. Young is attending Princeton and won’t rejoin the Pirates until May.

Best Late-Round Pick: McLouth. LHP Mike Connolly (19) has a 90-mph fastball and reminds Pittsburgh of Mike Stanton.

The One Who Got Away: OF Patrick Boyd (4) has exceptional tools and projected as a high first-round pick before he had a disappointing junior season at Clemson. When they decided not to meet his asking price, the Pirates freed up the money to sign RHP Jason Sharber (5) and McLouth.

Assessment: Getting Young was one of the draft’s bigger coups. He’s just one of several promising young arms hoarded by Pittsburgh, which departed from its small-revenue ways. Young got the second-highest bonus among third-rounders, while Sharber ($500,000) and RHP Cole Burzynski ($175,000) led the way among fifth- and seventh-rounders, respectively.

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