Saturday, June 05, 2004

...And All About Zach

Baseball America and both have recent features on 21 year old Pittsburgh lefty Zach Duke, who's lighting up Class A+ Lynchburg. Duke was acquired in the 20th round of the 2001 draft, a draft that has looked brilliant so far for the Pirates. Pittsburgh got a ton of talent in that draft, including P/1B Jon VanBenschoten (Round 1), CF Chris Duffy (Round 8), P Jonathan Albaladejo (Round 19), 3B Kody Kirkland (Round 30), and C/1B/OF/Hitter Chris Shelton (Round 33). Unfortunately, Kirkland was quietly shipped to Detroit in the Pirates' first pointless Randall Simon acquisition (Kirkland proceeded to torch the Class A New York - Penn League at age 20), and Shelton was also taken by the Tigers, this time in the everything-must-go Pirate prospect clearance sale... er, I mean the 2003 Rule 5 draft.

There are two other relatively famous names in that draft list. The Pirates picked Stanford RHP Jeremy Guthrie in the third round, but weren't able to sign him; he was selected by the Indians with the 22nd overall pick the following year and is now a highly regarded prospect in their system. They also selected man of the hour Stephen Drew in the 11th round. Drew, who's J.D.'s little brother, is very likely to go to the Padres as the top pick in this Monday's draft.

The Pirates have the 11th pick in this year's draft and will probably select a position player. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has suggested that it might be Pine-Richland (Pittsburgh) HS catcher Neil Walker. If Vanderbilt pitcher Jeremy Sowers is still available, the Pirates could take him instead. I'd like to see the Pirates take a college masher, but the consensus seems to be that there aren't many college hitters besides Drew who will go that early in the draft. It's hard to get too excited, since this doesn't seem to be an outstanding draft for position players, and the Pirates' two drafts since scouting director Mickey White's departure have been conservative and weak.


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