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Talent undeniable, Hughston falls to Pirates

Though feared hard to sign, Alabama outfielder taken in third round

PITTSBURGH -- It didn't really matter what happened during the MLB Draft. Casey Hughston was going to celebrate on Tuesday night.

Still, as he gathered with his parents and a few friends, he was nervous. The Draft-eligible sophomore from the University of Alabama heard from a few interested teams, and he was completely honest with them about his bonus demands. He worried that the dreaded "S" word -- "signability" -- might have ruined his chances of being drafted at all this year.

It wasn't an ideal start to his 21st birthday.

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"There was a moment there I didn't think I was going to get drafted in this Draft," Hughston said in a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon. "It was very stressful. Very stressful."

But the Pirates alleviated that stress in the third round, selecting Hughston with the 96th overall pick.

"Definitely a relief," Hughston said. "They wanted me to become a Pirate, and I was ready."

The Draft concludes on Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 on beginning at noon ET.

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Since Hughston turned 21 on Tuesday, he was eligible for the Draft following his sophomore season. The slot value of the 96th pick is $592,700. Hypothetically, he could ask for a higher signing bonus, return to Alabama if he doesn't get it and rejoin the Draft pool next year.

According to Hughston, that was obviously on some teams' minds as they spoke with him. But Hughston said he's ready to move beyond the signability talk and get his career underway.

"I'm glad it's all over with, that it's done," he said. "I'm just ready to go out there and get started."

An infielder in high school, Hughston manned both corner-outfield spots in college and believes he could handle center field if asked. Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said Hughston has the speed to handle center but believes he'll settle in as an athletic corner outfielder as he continues to improve his route-running.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Hughston broke out at the plate this season, improving his pitch recognition and plate discipline. He hit .332/.389/.502 with six home runs, 44 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in 60 games for the Crimson Tide.

"He still has such a big upside," Gaspard said. "He's a five-tool player.

"Every at-bat, he's going to get closer and closer to where he wants to get to. It's just a matter of time. I really feel like he's destined to be a really good big leaguer and a guy that's going to have a lot of success once he does that."

But first, Hughston could take a few moments on Tuesday night to enjoy his present from the Pirates.

"I mean, I was planning on going out to eat, whether we were just celebrating my birthday or also the Draft. We didn't know yet," he said. "But I'm glad we get to celebrate both."

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.
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