PITTSBURGH -- For the first time since selecting Jameson Taillon second overall in 2010, the Pirates used one of their top two picks on a high school pitcher.Pittsburgh chose left-hander Nick Lodolo, an 18-year-old out of Damien (Calif.) High School, with the 41st overall pick, their Competitive Balance Round A
PITTSBURGH -- For the first time since selecting Jameson Taillon second overall in 2010, the Pirates used one of their top two picks on a high school pitcher.
Pittsburgh chose left-hander Nick Lodolo, an 18-year-old out of Damien (Calif.) High School, with the 41st overall pick, their Competitive Balance Round A selection with an assigned slot value of $1,576,000.
Lodolo appears to be the definition of projectable, coming to the Bucs with a 6-foot-6, 180-pound frame and a low-90s fastball that he can throw down in the strike zone. That downhill angle is particularly appealing to the Pirates, who have thrived the last four seasons by emphasizing ground-ball pitching and defense.
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Always searching for the best player available, the Pirates have leaned toward hitters atop their recent Drafts. That trend continued in the first round on Thursday, when they selected Wake Forest University infielder Will Craig with the 22nd pick. Then they deviated from their recent history, selecting Lodolo and right-hander Travis MacGregor, another projectable high school arm.
• 22nd overall: Will Craig
• 68th overall: Travis MacGregor
"Both of these young men have given us 'now' stuff with the chance to exceed and continue to progress," Pirates scouting director Joe DelliCarri said. "We believe we can add to their frames and athleticism and grow them as young men to stand up as grown men on that mound at PNC Park. ... We really like what we're getting in both of those kids."
Over the previous five years, Pittsburgh wound up with a bevy of position players or college pitchers in their first two picks: Kevin Newman and Ke'Bryan Hayes in 2015; Cole Tucker and Connor Joe in 2014; Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire in 2013; Mark Appel (who returned to Stanford) and Barrett Barnes in 2012; and Gerrit Cole and Josh Bell in 2011.
But that trend changes slightly with the selection of Lodolo, who is committed to play for Texas Christian University. The lefty could benefit from the Pirates' recent track record with high-ceiling arms, including Cole, Taillon and Tyler Glasnow. Lodolo's fastball has been clocked up to 92-93 mph but more recently sat at 88-90 mph.
"You're going to see some different waves in there at different times," DelliCarri said. "In no way did we see decreases in the things we like."
Lodolo looks like a high-risk, high-reward bet for the Pirates, and they seem to believe the potential return on their investment will be worth it.
"There's a lot more that goes into drafting, especially high school pitchers and high school position players," general manager Neal Huntington said. "These guys have a lot of the traits that we believe down the road will project into quality Major League pitchers."
The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1 p.m. ET.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.