With their first-round pick (No. 24 overall), the Pirates have selected Arizona high school shortstop Cole Tucker.
This comes as a bit of a surprise. Mock drafts this morning had connected the Pirates to South Carolina high school pitcher Grant Holmes, but the Dodgers grabbed Holmes at No. 22. Baseball America ranks Tucker the No. 84 prospect in the draft, so the Pirates must feel like they really love him, or else they're planning to save some money with this pick so that they can spend it later. There's a lot of depth in this draft and the Pirates have four picks today, so there would be some logic behind that strategy.
Still, this isn't someone we heard connected to the Pirates at all. The Pirates need shortstops, but drafting for need is a terrible idea (as Neal Huntington knows and has said over and over) and Tucker is 17, so that's not what the Pirates are doing. This reminds me a little of a couple years ago when the Pirates were repeatedly connected to Deven Marrero, a defense-first shortstop. That was the year they took Mark Appel, but this year they actually did take their shortstop.
Tucker figures to stay at shortstop, and he has good speed. Those traits aren't necessarily sexy, but players who can field at short and contribute value on the bases can be very valuable without posting huge numbers. He's a switch-hitter, and he's committed to Arizona. MLB.com says his bat has upside left, although he doesn't have much power, and ranks him the No. 67 pick in the draft.
We'll see how this works out, but the Pirates' attempt to go off the board in 2009 with Tony Sanchez hasn't worked out brilliantly. It also doesn't seem like teams are undervaluing injured pitchers this year the way they may have last year, so this might not be the best spot for the Pirates to try a Hunter Dozier / Sean Manaea trick the way the Royals did in 2013, taking a high-upside player at No. 39 and spending heavily on him. The Pirates could also spread some money over a variety of later picks, but for the most part, this pick must come down to the Pirates really liking Tucker. This isn't what I expected, but it isn't as if I can say the Pirates are making a mistake. It certainly doesn't make sense to criticize this pick until we see what else the Bucs do. We'll see how it works.