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Bucs load up on pitching in Draft

MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Breaking from recent tradition, the Pirates quickly jumped into the pool of high school talent available in this year's MLB Draft. The Pirates' first four picks were all prep players, including No. 12 overall selection Shane Baz, a right-hander from Concordia Lutheran High School (Texas).

But the Pirates returned to the college ranks over the last two days. Overall, 34 of their 42 picks this year were selected out of college or junior college. They selected eight high school players, five of them right-handed pitchers, and three of them within their first eight picks.

PITTSBURGH -- Breaking from recent tradition, the Pirates quickly jumped into the pool of high school talent available in this year's MLB Draft. The Pirates' first four picks were all prep players, including No. 12 overall selection Shane Baz, a right-hander from Concordia Lutheran High School (Texas).

But the Pirates returned to the college ranks over the last two days. Overall, 34 of their 42 picks this year were selected out of college or junior college. They selected eight high school players, five of them right-handed pitchers, and three of them within their first eight picks.

The Pirates have reportedly agreed to terms with four of those arms: Baz, sixth-rounder Cody Bolton, 16th-rounder Hunter Stratton and 19th-rounder Jacob Webb. The high number of college choices should give them a better shot to sign the rest of their prep picks, including right-hander Steven Jennings (42nd overall) and outfielders Calvin Mitchell (50th) and Conner Uselton (72nd).

Pirates' top 30 prospects

:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::

"It's the new system," general manager Neal Huntington said Wednesday. "You'll see some high school players sprinkled in here and there; those are players that are motivated to start their professional baseball careers. The system really makes it hard to pay a player $700,000 in the seventh round unless you are able to negotiate aggressively or save money at the top of the Draft."

The Pirates wound up selecting 17 right-handed pitchers, two lefties, three catchers, 11 infielders and nine outfielders. They were working with a larger bonus pool than in years past, the seventh-highest total in the Majors at $10,135,900, and they have proven willing to accept penalties to pay more than that.

"It allowed [director of amateur scouting Joe DelliCarri] to be aggressive with the guys we wanted, and in this case, the guys we wanted early happened to be high school players," Huntington said. "It wouldn't have been any different if the guys we'd wanted had been college players. You've got to manage the entire pool and manage expectations pick by pick. Joe's done a tremendous job of that over the years of the new system."

The gem of the class appears to be Baz, the athletic, 6-foot-3 17-year-old with a deep arsenal. Baz will turn 18 on Saturday, and it is possible he will have officially begun his Pirates career by that point.

"We're very hopeful in getting something done and then moving forward and starting Shane's career," DelliCarri said Monday.

One of the more unusual storylines of Day 3 on Wednesday was two picks with connections to Keith Osik, who caught for the Pirates from 1996-2002. Matt Seelinger, a 28th-round right-hander, was coached at Farmingdale State College (N.Y.) by Osik, and 40th-round infielder Tyler Osik is the former backstop's son.

"It's no different than any other good connection among scouts and people in the baseball world," DelliCarri said. "Being close to people and treating them right and trusting information along the way as you connect, it just worked out."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.

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