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Pirates Have High Hopes For 2017 Draft Class

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The Pirates have experienced a steady talent drain in their system over the past four years. After ranking No. 1 in the organization talent rankings in 2014, they dipped to No. 16 this year with just two Top 100 Prospects in the system.

However, the Pirates have reason to hope that their 2017 draft class can help fix that. They had four picks in the top 75 and spent them all on high schoolers: righthanders Shane Baz and Steven Jennings and outfielders Calvin Mitchell and Conner Uselton.

So far, the Pirates have been thrilled with what they’ve seen.

"Our scouts did an unbelievable job of identifying good fits for the organization,” minor league director of operations Larry Broadway said. "They bring great value to the culture. The leadership on that class is tremendous.”

Mitchell, the second-rounder, has been among the driving forces for the class and minor league camp as a whole. The San Diego native spent the offseason living in Tampa to be close to the Pirates’ facility in Bradenton, Fla.

"He looks good physically,” Broadway said. "In the box he looks good. Mentally, he was one of the most down-to-earth, sharp kids I’ve been around.”

Uselton is healthy after blowing out his hamstring in his second game in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last season. He returned for work at Dominican instructional league and is now at 100 percent.

The Pirates also like what they see from Baz, taken 12th overall, and Jennings, though Broadway pointed out that like all pitchers who are high school draftees, their first spring training is about building the sort of work capacity they’ve never previously had in their careers.

"Every class is really important and, especially for us, how we deal with the market . . . we have to grow from within,” Broadway said. "We can’t afford to have bad classes, and that’s hard. I think this group is really good . . . They have a chance to do some things.”

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BURIED TREASURE

• After an injury-riddled 2017 campaign, outfielder Austin Meadows started the spring with a bang with six hits in his first 13 at-bats. "He looks freed up and he looks like he thinks and feels totally healthy,” Broadway said. "He’s playing free and easy and back to where we’ve seen him in the past, confident in his body.”

• Second baseman Kevin Kramer collected four hits in his first 10 at-bats at big league camp but was likely headed for Triple-A Indianapolis. "He has a different commitment and conviction in the box,” Broadway said. "He has basically just said, ‘I’m going to show you I belong here.’ ”

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