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Four prospects added to fill out 40-man roster

MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates added four upper-level prospects to their 40-man roster before Tuesday night's deadline, protecting them from the Rule 5 Draft and pushing them a step closer to their future in the big leagues.

Pittsburgh selected the contracts of right-hander Mitch Keller -- the club's top prospect, according to MLB Pipeline -- along with shortstop Cole Tucker, outfielder Jason Martin and right-hander J.T. Brubaker. The Pirates created one spot on their roster. which is again full, by trading right-hander Tanner Anderson to the A's for a player to be named or cash.

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates added four upper-level prospects to their 40-man roster before Tuesday night's deadline, protecting them from the Rule 5 Draft and pushing them a step closer to their future in the big leagues.

Pittsburgh selected the contracts of right-hander Mitch Keller -- the club's top prospect, according to MLB Pipeline -- along with shortstop Cole Tucker, outfielder Jason Martin and right-hander J.T. Brubaker. The Pirates created one spot on their roster. which is again full, by trading right-hander Tanner Anderson to the A's for a player to be named or cash.

Tuesday was the deadline for clubs to protect Minor League players from being selected in the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place on Dec. 13 at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. Each pick in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft costs $100,000. If the selected player doesn't remain on the 25-man roster for the entire season, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000. Among the top prospects left unprotected by the Pirates are Gage Hinsz, Brandon Waddell and Domingo Robles.

There was no doubt the Pirates would add Keller and Tucker, two of their first three picks in the 2014 Draft, to their roster before Tuesday's deadline. Nor is it particularly surprising that the Bucs protected Martin, one of four players they received from the Astros for Gerrit Cole. Brubaker has quickly advanced through the system. None of them are far away from making an impact in Pittsburgh.

Keller, MLB Pipeline's No. 16 overall prospect, should make his Major League debut at some point next season. The 22-year-old cruised through the Minors before struggling for the first time after a midseason promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis. Still, Keller bounced back to post a 3.09 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings over his final eight starts.

Tucker, the 24th overall pick in 2014, looks like the Pirates' shortstop of the future after a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League. Highly regarded for his leadership and intangibles, the switch-hitting 22-year-old hit .370 with an .899 OPS in the Fall League. Tucker struggled through a brutal slump in May then hit .281/.370/.407 with 15 steals over 53 games in the second half for Double-A Altoona. Pittsburgh's No. 5 prospect will begin next season in Triple-A.

Martin, 23, was left unprotected by the Astros in last year's Rule 5 Draft, but won't be up for grabs this year. The lefty-hitting outfielder put up a .913 OPS in Double-A, but struggled in his first taste of Triple-A, batting .211 with a .589 OPS. Martin will begin the season in Triple-A as upper-level outfield depth, which the club otherwise lacks behind its top three of Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco. Martin is the Pirates' No. 13 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

Brubaker, who turned 25 on Saturday, was the Pirates' Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season. A sixth-round pick in the 2015 Draft, Brubaker posted a 3.10 ERA in 22 starts for Indianapolis this year after six dominant starts in Double-A. That success could make Brubaker an option for Pittsburgh's bullpen, but it more likely puts him in position to serve as necessary rotation depth if the Bucs shift out-of-options right-hander Nick Kingham to the bullpen on Opening Day.

Anderson, 25, made his big league debut this season and put up a 6.35 ERA in 11 1/3 innings over six relief appearances. A 20th-round pick out of Harvard in 2015, Anderson put together a 2.64 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in Triple-A last season.

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

Pittsburgh Pirates

Pirates' Tucker wins AFL sportsmanship award

MLB.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Throughout his life, shortstop Cole Tucker has always been able to relate well to a wide variety of people.

"For whatever reason I've always been that 'glue guy' that guy that's friends with everybody," Tucker said. "It's something I take pride in. I want to walk into every clubhouse and be that leader, that guy that the kid from Tennessee can hang out with but also the kid from the Dominican Republic can hang out with and be that bridge and ultimately just bring the team and everybody closer together."

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Throughout his life, shortstop Cole Tucker has always been able to relate well to a wide variety of people.

"For whatever reason I've always been that 'glue guy' that guy that's friends with everybody," Tucker said. "It's something I take pride in. I want to walk into every clubhouse and be that leader, that guy that the kid from Tennessee can hang out with but also the kid from the Dominican Republic can hang out with and be that bridge and ultimately just bring the team and everybody closer together."

:: Complete coveraege of the 2018 AFL championship game ::

The Pirates prospect was rewarded for his efforts Saturday before the Arizona Fall League Championship Game at Scottsdale Stadium when he was given the Stenson Sportsmanship Award, which was created in 2004 in memory of former AFL player Dernell Stenson, who died the previous year during the Fall League season.

The award is presented annually to the player who best exemplifies Stenson's character on and off the field: unselfishness, hard work and leadership.

Tucker, the Pirates' No. 5 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, hit .370/.442/.457 for Surprise this fall after spending the regular season with Double-A Altoona.

"I had good numbers, obviously, but it was cool because this was a good litmus test for who you are as a baseball player because there's a ton of guys here that have been in the big leagues and guys about to be in the big leagues," Tucker said. "So, to come out here and have success really gives me a lot of confidence going into Spring Training, going into next year."

Tucker grew up in the Phoenix area as a fan of the Arizona Diamondbacks, but his baseball idol was Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who was also known for his ability to lead his teammates. That's not where the similarities end.

"Derek Jeter just has a spotless reputation in the league and in the [player's] union," Tucker said. "He's someone that I've always looked to. Obviously being a tall, lanky, bi-racial shortstop doesn't hurt, but I always looked up to him in how he carried himself on and off the field. I definitely always tried to model the way I carried myself after Jeter."

The shortstop made it a point throughout the Fall League season of staying after games to sign autographs and pose for photos with fans.

"He's a great guy," said Brewers prospect Keston Hiura, who won the league's Most Valuable Player Award. "I got a chance to know his this Fall League. He's from Arizona and just being able to see him out on the field and then talk to him, he's a great all-around player and good all-around guy. I'm happy for him and couldn't think of anyone better deserving."

Below is the complete list of Stenson award winners:

2018 -- Cole Tucker (Pirates), SS, Surprise Saguaros
2017 -- Eric Filia (Mariners), OF, Peoria Javelinas
2016 -- Austin Nola (Marlins), C, Mesa Solar Sox
2015 -- Yadiel Rivera (Brewers), SS, Surprise Saguaros
2014 -- Patrick Kivlehan (Mariners), 3B, Surprise Saguaros
2013 -- Garin Cecchini (Red Sox), 3B, Surprise Saguaros
2012 -- Cole Kimball (Nationals), RHP, Salt River Rafters
2011 -- Kevin Mattison (Marlins), OF, Surprise Saguaros
2010 -- Steve Lombardozzi (Nationals), IF, Scottsdale Scorpions
2009 -- Russ Mitchell (Dodgers), 1B, Peoria Javelinas
2008 -- Jason Donald (Phillies), IF, Mesa Solar Sox
2007 -- Sam Fuld (Cubs), OF, Mesa Solar Sox
2006 -- Kevin Frandsen (Giants), IF, Scottsdale Scorpions
2005 -- Andre Ethier (Athletics), OF, Phoenix Desert Dogs
2004 -- Mark Teahen (Royals), 3B, Phoenix Desert Dogs

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Pipeline names Bucs' Prospects of the Year

MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Mitch Keller took another step toward the Majors this season. Infielder Kevin Kramer got the call every young player dreams of. Both learned through adversity at the next level, and both could play a role next season after being named MLB Pipeline's Pirates Prospects of the Year.

PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Mitch Keller took another step toward the Majors this season. Infielder Kevin Kramer got the call every young player dreams of. Both learned through adversity at the next level, and both could play a role next season after being named MLB Pipeline's Pirates Prospects of the Year.

:: Complete prospect coverage ::

Keller, Pittsburgh's top prospect per MLB Pipeline, battled through 10 starts in Triple-A Indianapolis after a midseason promotion from Double-A Altoona. Kramer, the Pirates' No. 7 prospect, struck out in half of his big league plate appearances in September. But Keller and Kramer's initial success seems more indicative of what's to come, making both worthy of this recognition.

Each team's Hitting and Pitching Prospects of the Year were chosen by the MLB Pipeline staff. To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors and appeared on the team's Top 30 Prospects list.

Keller, the No. 16 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, dominated in Double-A to start the season. The 22-year-old posted a 2.72 ERA and 1.12 WHIP with 76 strikeouts in 86 innings over 14 starts for Altoona. At the end of June, the Pirates front office moved Keller to Triple-A.

Video: Top Prospects: Mitch Keller, RHP, Pirates

In his first two starts for Indianapolis, Keller gave up 13 runs on 16 hits in 8 2/3 innings. To put that in perspective, he allowed 13 earned runs over his previous eight Double-A starts combined. Keller's next outing came in the Florida State League as a tune-up for the Futures Game. After he returned to Triple-A, the right-hander put together a 3.09 ERA while averaging a strikeout per inning over his final eight starts.

General manager Neal Huntington called it "a great learning year" for Keller, who is still refining his changeup to complement his high-octane fastball and hammer curveball. Pittsburgh must add Keller to its 40-man roster this offseason, and the right-hander likely will make his Major League debut sometime next year.

"He recognized that Triple-A hitters hit mistakes hard, and that changeup is going to be a really important weapon for him," Huntington said. "He learned that he's going to have to make pitches. He's going to have to attack the zone and stay ahead of hitters, and when he didn't, they made him pay for it. To see him battle back and finish fairly strong, that's going to be a great learning experience for him."

Counterintuitive as it may seem, the Pirates don't mind when their prospects struggle a little before they reach the Majors. No Major League player succeeds from start to finish without opponents exploiting a flaw in his game, so a slump at the plate or a skid on the mound is simply part of the development process. The key is how they bounce back.

That will be the case for Kramer next season, as his big league debut didn't go according to plan. Playing later in the year than ever before, the 25-year-old struck out 20 times and hit five singles in 40 plate appearances. Kramer still could lock down a utility spot on the bench next season given his ability to play three spots in the infield.

Video: MIA@PIT: Kramer's first career RBI ties game in 7th

In Triple-A, Kramer proved that his injury-shortened breakout in Double-A last year was no fluke. The lefty-hitting infielder batted .311/.365/.492 with 15 homers and 35 doubles in 129 games for Indianapolis. After struggling in May, Kramer said he stopped worrying about the mechanics of his swing and focused strictly on his timing at the plate.

"When I started doing that, it freed me up just to go out there and compete. There are still things that I need to work on, and I know that," Kramer said last month. "I know what those areas are, and that's something that I will look to do here and take that into the offseason, but I think that I gave myself more of a chance."

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

Pittsburgh Pirates, Kevin Kramer

Bucs instructs: Lolo, Ogle, Hinsz trending up

MLB.com

Back in July 2015, the Pirates signed a small, speedy outfielder named Kevin Sanchez out of the Dominican Republic for $450,000. He was known as Lolo by the time fans in the United States got to see him in any fashion, and after a pedestrian debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2016, he started making it look like Lolo would be a household name in Pittsburgh eventually with a very strong U.S. debut in the Gulf Coast League a summer later.

The teenager added to his legend in big league Spring Training before the start of the 2018 season. It was just one appearance, but he raised his profile with a straight steal of home. Everyone was excited for what 2018 would bring, and the Pirates pushed him aggressively to the full-season South Atlantic League just shy of his 19th birthday.

Back in July 2015, the Pirates signed a small, speedy outfielder named Kevin Sanchez out of the Dominican Republic for $450,000. He was known as Lolo by the time fans in the United States got to see him in any fashion, and after a pedestrian debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2016, he started making it look like Lolo would be a household name in Pittsburgh eventually with a very strong U.S. debut in the Gulf Coast League a summer later.

The teenager added to his legend in big league Spring Training before the start of the 2018 season. It was just one appearance, but he raised his profile with a straight steal of home. Everyone was excited for what 2018 would bring, and the Pirates pushed him aggressively to the full-season South Atlantic League just shy of his 19th birthday.

Pirates instructional league roster, schedule

Instructional league rosters

That's where things started to go sideways for the young prospect. He hit just .163 out of the gate in April and while he did improve upon that with a .275/.362/.347 second half and finished with 30 stolen bases, it was a very up-and-down year for the Pirates' No. 10 prospect. He took those lessons with him into a very productive stint in instructional league play for the Pirates in Bradenton, which wrapped up late last week.

"A lot of guys, especially offensively, are starting to move some things forward," Pirates farm director Larry Broadway said. "Lolo had a rough year, but now he's staying behind the ball better with some better lower-half foundation. He seems to be grabbing a hold of it."

Some of Sanchez's issues were mental. Dealing with "playing under the lights" for the first time, against a much higher level of competition, got the better of him at times. The Pirates saw some positives, but will continue to work on his ability to figure things out more quickly.

"He handled it pretty well, not excellently," Broadway said of Sanchez's ability to deal with adversity. "He would've been able to make faster adjustments in a perfect world. There were some bright spots, there were times he had tough luck, and he had some spots when he just wasn't good at all. The league punched him in the mouth, he punched back, then the league punched again. Now he's making some advancements that are encouraging."

Many of those advancements are about his balance at the plate. Sanchez teed off on fastballs in the Gulf Coast League, and when he started seeing more and better breaking stuff, he got off-kilter in the box.

"His balance got exposed, got him on his front foot a decent amount," Broadway said. "We've hammered out his foundation, he's more adjustable in the box and he's committing to the approach with more conviction. He might work out with his winter ball team to continue his progress, but we're encouraged with his ability to stay balanced in the box.

Pitchers showing encouraging signs

Sanchez wasn't the only one moving in the right direction at instructs. A couple of sidelined young arms also have arrows pointing up. One is left-hander Braeden Ogle, the 2016 fourth-round pick who seemed primed to take a nice step forward with a solid showing in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in '17. But he made just four starts in April in the SAL, spanning 17 innings, in 2018 due to a shoulder issue. He threw side sessions and some simulated games in Bradenton, with Broadway and staff cautiously optimistic he's putting the injury behind him.

Then there's right-hander Gage Hinsz. The organization's No. 19 prospect was a project taken out of the Montana high school ranks in the 2014 Draft and was making slow but steady progress up the ladder. He had reached the Class A Advanced Florida State League in '17, though he scuffled there, and a scapula stress fracture ended his year a bit early.

The 22-year-old didn't throw a competitive pitch in 2018, but not because of that injury. It was discovered that Hinsz had a faulty valve in his heart, and while it wasn't impacting his ability to throw, it obviously was something he needed to get taken care of. But he's back on the mound and is now in the Dominican to get some game action in the Pirates' instructional league there after shaking off some rust in Bradenton.

"He looks good on the mound," Broadway said. "The ball is coming out well, it wasn't an arm injury. He's champing at the bit and isn't worried or hesitant. He'll pitch in Dominican instructs games, get a couple weeks worth of games there, then maybe some more innings after that in winter ball. He's trending up."

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Newman getting on-the-job training with Bucs

Rookie shortstop looks to benefit from Major League experience
MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- At his home in Arizona, Pirates shortstop Kevin Newman keeps a handful of his most treasured baseball awards and accolades. He has an MVP award and a pair of batting titles from his time in the Cape Cod League, along with plenty of hardware he earned at the University of Arizona. This offseason, he'll add two glass-encased baseballs currently sitting inside his place in Pittsburgh: his first Major League hit and his first RBI.

"All that stuff is pretty important," Newman said on Monday. "None probably as cool as my first Major League hit."

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ST. LOUIS -- At his home in Arizona, Pirates shortstop Kevin Newman keeps a handful of his most treasured baseball awards and accolades. He has an MVP award and a pair of batting titles from his time in the Cape Cod League, along with plenty of hardware he earned at the University of Arizona. This offseason, he'll add two glass-encased baseballs currently sitting inside his place in Pittsburgh: his first Major League hit and his first RBI.

"All that stuff is pretty important," Newman said on Monday. "None probably as cool as my first Major League hit."

View Full Game Coverage

While checking off those notable "firsts," Newman is also learning -- on the job -- his first lessons about life in the Majors. The rookie, who was called up on Aug. 16, entered Monday's series opener against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium with only five hits and 13 strikeouts in 43 plate appearances after hitting .302 for Triple-A Indianapolis this season.

Video: PIT@MIL: Newman doubles for 1st Major League hit

"The start here isn't how I would have liked to have started, but you come to the yard every day, getting better and learning more," Newman said. "The more you see guys, the more you learn from them. Going around and seeing these pitchers now is definitely going to help down the road."

Newman will continue to play on a regular basis over the final three weeks of the regular season as the Pirates look toward next year, and he believes he will benefit from his introduction to Major League pitching. Newman said he gathers more information from facing pitchers than watching them on video. This month, he'll get a chance to see the Bucs' National League Central rivals for the second time.

Shortstop Jordy Mercer will be a free agent at the end of the year, and Newman -- a first-round pick in the 2015 MLB Draft -- looks like his heir apparent. Mercer hasn't ruled out the possibility of returning to the club next year, but for now, he's serving as an example and sounding board for Newman as Clint Barmes once did for him.

"It makes all the difference in the world," Newman said. "Getting up here and being able to see how he works, what he does, how he prepares. He's an amazing guy and he's helped me along the way.

"It's great seeing these guys, how they work and everything. It's the big leagues; it's the big leagues for a reason. The guys up here are really good. It's a game of adjustments, and having to make those in-game adjustments against guys that are the best in the world is what it's all about."

Around the horn
• With Gregory Polanco out for the season due to left knee and shoulder injuries, the Pirates will use Adam Frazier, Jordan Luplow and Pablo Reyes in right field, manager Clint Hurdle said.

Jose Osuna could also be another option in right, but the club would prefer to see him work as a corner infielder. The Bucs also want to make sure that Frazier, who started in right on Monday, continues to get plenty of time at second base.

"I thought he was developing the best defense we've seen from him at second base, so I don't want to completely unplug him from that," Hurdle said of Frazier.

Video: PIT@STL: Hurdle on Harrison and Mercer's future

• Second baseman Josh Harrison on Monday made his first start since Aug. 31. Harrison has dealt with a left hamstring injury throughout the second half, and the Pirates decided at the beginning of the month to cut back on their veteran middle infielders' playing time -- perhaps limiting them to one start per series -- to get a better look at younger players like Newman and Kevin Kramer.

Harrison and Mercer started on Monday in part due to their experience against veteran Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright.

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

Pittsburgh Pirates, Kevin Newman

Craig, Tucker highlight star-studded AFL rosters

MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates will send four of their top prospects, including former first-round picks Cole Tucker and Will Craig, to the Arizona Fall League this offseason.

The Arizona Fall League released its preliminary rosters on Thursday, and the Pirates are well represented on a star-studded Surprise Saguaros squad that includes Blue Jays phenom Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the No. 1 prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline.

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ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates will send four of their top prospects, including former first-round picks Cole Tucker and Will Craig, to the Arizona Fall League this offseason.

The Arizona Fall League released its preliminary rosters on Thursday, and the Pirates are well represented on a star-studded Surprise Saguaros squad that includes Blue Jays phenom Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the No. 1 prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline.

View Full Game Coverage

Pittsburgh is sending Tucker, Craig, outfielder Bryan Reynolds, catcher Arden Pabst, left-hander Blake Weiman and right-handers Dario Agrazal, Geoff Hartlieb and Matt Eckelman. Tucker (No. 5), Reynolds (No. 8), Craig (No. 16) and Agrazal (No. 26) are all on MLB Pipeline's list of the Pirates' top prospects. All eight AFL-bound prospects are currently playing for Double-A Altoona.

Tucker, a switch-hitting shortstop, is hitting .256/.332/.350 with five homers, six triples and 33 steals this season. The 24th overall pick in the 2014 Draft, Tucker was invited to big league Spring Training this year and should return next season before advancing to Triple-A.

Video: Top Prospects: Cole Tucker, SS, Pirates

The Fall League, a destination for top prospects looking to take the next step and face high-level competition, will also be a homecoming for Tucker. The 22-year-old is a native of Phoenix who graduated high school from Mountain Pointe High School, which is about an hour away from Surprise Stadium.

The Pirates selected Craig 22nd overall out of Wake Forest University in the 2016 Draft. During his first two professional seasons, Craig hit for average and got on base, but lacked power. He's changed the narrative this year in Double-A, batting .245/.316/.448 with 20 home runs, 28 doubles and 98 RBIs in 128 games. Craig, 23, has spent the past two years at first base after being drafted as a third baseman.

Video: TB@PIT: Craig ropes a solo home run to center

Pittsburgh picked up Reynolds, a switch-hitting outfielder, along with Kyle Crick in the trade that sent Andrew McCutchen to San Francisco. The 23-year-old, a second-round pick in 2016, has made a smooth transition into the Pirates' system, as he entered Thursday batting .303/.382/.442 with seven homers, 40 walks and only 68 strikeouts in 83 games.

Video: Top Prospects: Bryan Reynolds, OF, Pirates

Reynolds and Agrazal will get a chance to make up for lost time in the Fall League. Reynolds missed more than a month due to a fractured hamate, while Agrazal was sidelined for two months with a strained right shoulder. Agrazal, who was in big league camp this year after being added to the Bucs' 40-man roster last offseason, has gone 5-5 with a 2.78 ERA in 16 games, including 15 starts.

Pabst, 23, has hit .271/.303/.484 with 10 homers in 63 games this season. The 2016 12th-round pick bounced from Class A Advanced Bradenton to Triple-A Indianapolis and back before arriving in Altoona last month.

Hartlieb, a 29th-round pick in 2016, owns a 3.42 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings over 44 relief appearances for Altoona. Eckelman, a 21st-rounder in 2016, put together a 1.99 ERA in 38 appearances for Bradenton and Altoona. Weiman was an eighth-round Draft pick just last year, but he has jumped from Class A West Virginia to Double-A this season while posting a 2.57 ERA and 1.00 WHIP with 73 strikeouts and only eight walks in 63 innings.

Around the horn
• Left fielder Corey Dickerson was not in the starting lineup for Thursday's series finale at Busch Stadium. After an outstanding July, Dickerson has hit just .212/.225/.235 in 23 games since returning from a strained hamstring.

Adam Frazier took Dickerson's place in left field on Thursday, and Kevin Newman made his fourth start at second base. Josh Harrison has started only one of Pittsburgh's last nine games.

Gregory Polanco has driven in 72 runs as a right fielder this season, the most by a Pirate at that position since Jose Guillen had 83 RBIs in 1998.

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

Pittsburgh Pirates

Bucs prospect Newman debuts at shortstop

Mercer to DL; Luplow recalled; Stallings optioned; Sadler DFA'd
MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- With Jordy Mercer injured, the Pirates called up their potential shortstop of the future on Thursday.

The Pirates selected the contract of infielder Kevin Newman, their first-round Draft pick in 2015, amid a series of roster moves before Thursday's series opener against the Cubs at PNC Park. Newman made his Major League debut in the ninth inning of Pittsburgh's 1-0 loss, entering the game as a defensive replacement at shortstop.

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PITTSBURGH -- With Jordy Mercer injured, the Pirates called up their potential shortstop of the future on Thursday.

The Pirates selected the contract of infielder Kevin Newman, their first-round Draft pick in 2015, amid a series of roster moves before Thursday's series opener against the Cubs at PNC Park. Newman made his Major League debut in the ninth inning of Pittsburgh's 1-0 loss, entering the game as a defensive replacement at shortstop.

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"It's a dream come true. This is what every baseball player strives for and wants to get to," Newman said. "To be here and be in this clubhouse with these guys, it's really exciting. I look forward to it."

Video: Newman talks about being called up to the Pirates

Mercer was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a left calf strain, which he sustained Tuesday night in Minnesota. Putting Mercer on the DL allowed the Bucs to quickly recall outfielder Jordan Luplow, who was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis on Sunday.

With catchers Francisco Cervelli and Elias Diaz in good health, the Pirates also optioned catcher Jacob Stallings to Triple-A. Right-hander Casey Sadler was designated for assignment to make room for Newman on Pittsburgh's 40-man roster.

Newman learned of his promotion from Triple-A manager Brian Esposito after Indianapolis' doubleheader on Wednesday night. His first call was to his wife, Shayne, who caught a red-eye flight from California and arrived at PNC Park on Thursday along with Newman's parents, John and Tammy, and sister Fallon.

"Got a pretty good reaction out of her," Newman said, smiling. "She was really happy, screaming on the phone. It was great."

Newman was not in Pittsburgh's starting lineup on Thursday -- veteran Adeiny Hechavarria got the nod behind Ivan Nova -- but the 25-year-old will get a chance to play while Mercer is sidelined. Newman, the Bucs' No. 6 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was hitting .302/.350/.407 with 30 doubles, four homers, 35 RBIs and 28 steals in 109 games this season for Indianapolis.

Newman heated up just before his promotion, batting .366 in his final 10 games for Indianapolis. That stretch included a 5-for-5 performance on Aug. 7 during which Newman and Stallings both hit for the cycle. Newman is regarded as a high-average hitter who makes consistent contact, and his steady middle-infield defense has improved this season.

"I think he's the most dependable shortstop that we could call up," manager Clint Hurdle said. "From Opening Day until now, he's improved every facet of his game. He hasn't blinked when other people have been called up."

But Newman made a fairly quick climb through the Pirates' system. A year and a half after being drafted 19th overall, he was invited to big league Spring Training camp. Last July, he made the leap to Triple-A. A little more than three years after his professional debut, Newman found his No. 27 jersey in the Pirates' clubhouse.

"It happened in its own time. It happened when it needed to happen," Newman said. "The Pirates felt that I was ready. I've worked hard, and thankfully they selected me and brought me up here."

Mercer will be a free agent at the end of the season, and Newman is in line to take over as the everyday shortstop as soon as next year. Assuming Newman remains in Pittsburgh the rest of the year, he can continue to learn from Mercer as Mercer once learned from Clint Barmes.

"This is another one of our own guys. Jordy was one of our guys. So there's a kindred spirit there, I believe, that's special as well," Hurdle said. "They've already spent some time together, and there'll be more dialogue with Jordy while he's here that will help. I know it will help."

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

Pittsburgh Pirates, Jordan Luplow, Jordy Mercer, Kevin Newman

Bucs send Baz to Rays to cap Archer deal

Right-hander was Pirates' No. 4 prospect
MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- General manager Neal Huntington said on July 31 that the Pirates agreed to send a "significant" prospect to the Rays to complete their trade for Chris Archer, and his words proved to be true on Tuesday.

The Pirates completed their blockbuster trade for Archer by sending right-hander Shane Baz, their No. 4 prospect, to the Rays. Baz, a 19-year-old right-hander from Texas, was the Pirates' first-round Draft pick (12th overall) last year and signed for $4.1 million. He was ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 95 prospect in baseball.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- General manager Neal Huntington said on July 31 that the Pirates agreed to send a "significant" prospect to the Rays to complete their trade for Chris Archer, and his words proved to be true on Tuesday.

The Pirates completed their blockbuster trade for Archer by sending right-hander Shane Baz, their No. 4 prospect, to the Rays. Baz, a 19-year-old right-hander from Texas, was the Pirates' first-round Draft pick (12th overall) last year and signed for $4.1 million. He was ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 95 prospect in baseball.

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The Pirates gave up Baz along with outfielder Austin Meadows and right-hander Tyler Glasnow, but they felt that was the cost necessary to acquire a proven starter with top-of-the-rotation stuff like Archer.

"We're excited to have Archer, and we knew that Archer's price tag was going to be high," manager Clint Hurdle said on Tuesday. "We wish [Baz] nothing but good things. I hope it turns out to be a great trade for both sides. The other hard part is not every Minor League prospect ever pans out to be a great Major League pitcher. You just don't know. We love the kid. We love the development, the progress, the track that he was on -- just as we did with Glasnow, just as we did with Meadows."

Baz was 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings over 10 starts this season for Rookie-level Bristol. His last two starts, both made since the Trade Deadline deal, were perhaps the best of his young career. Baz pitched 9 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out 12 batters over his last two outings to earn Appalachian League Pitcher of the Week honors.

"It's all part of organizational development and success," Hurdle said. "There's only two types of currency in today's game to go get players that you don't have and you're not raising: you either buy them, or you trade for them. This was the option that we were able to choose."

Video: Top Prospects: Shane Baz, RHP, Pirates

Baz may one day develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter, as scouts have projected after seeing him throw a fastball that touches 98 mph, a plus cutter and a curveball. But he is years away from the Majors, and while the Pirates aren't all-in on this season, they are confident in their current core. That group now includes Archer, who is under contract next season with club options for 2020 and '21.

Still, it was an unexpectedly aggressive move by Pirates general manager Neal Huntington. Glasnow and Meadows will be under club control for several more years, and both were once ranked among the game's top prospects. Meadows showed flashes of his potential during his first few weeks in the Majors this season, and Glasnow has harnessed his overpowering arsenal during his first three starts with the Rays.

"We believe in this team," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said at the time of the trade. "We believe in the young core that's here, the young core that will be here for several years as we move forward and the wave that's right behind them that we believe in. We wouldn't have paid the steep price that we paid today in terms of Major League players and prospects for a player who was here for two months. But we were able to bring in somebody who we believe can help push us forward this year and then help us in '19, '20 and '21. That was important."

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

Pittsburgh Pirates

4 Pirates among re-ranked Top 100 Prospects

Keller, Hayes, Swaggerty, Baz represent Bucs in midseason update
MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Mitch Keller leads a group of four young Pirates players who landed on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects after a midseason re-ranking.

Keller, 22, ranks as the No. 14 overall prospect after beginning the season at No. 16. He began the year with Double-A Altoona, where he posted a 9-2 record with a 2.72 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 14 starts. He was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis in July and has encountered growing pains, allowing 17 earned runs in 17 2/3 innings over his four starts with the club.

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PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Mitch Keller leads a group of four young Pirates players who landed on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects after a midseason re-ranking.

Keller, 22, ranks as the No. 14 overall prospect after beginning the season at No. 16. He began the year with Double-A Altoona, where he posted a 9-2 record with a 2.72 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 14 starts. He was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis in July and has encountered growing pains, allowing 17 earned runs in 17 2/3 innings over his four starts with the club.

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Keller remains the No. 1 prospect in the Pirates' organization.

Third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes began the year outside of MLB Pipeline's Top 100, but he has leaped into the No. 55 spot thanks to his progression with Double-A Altoona this season. He also made a jump among the club's top prospects, sitting at No. 2 after being No. 4 in the preseason.

Video: WLD@USA: Hayes hammers a 2-run homer to left-center

Through 89 games, the 21-year-old has batted .285 with an .813 OPS. He's appeared to take a more patient approach at the plate, as his walk rate is up and his strikeout rate is down compared to years past.

First-round MLB Draft selection Travis Swaggerty, an outfielder out of South Alabama, is ranked No. 87 overall and No. 3 in the Pirates' organization. He's slashed .267/.345/.475 with four home runs and 12 RBIs in 26 games with Class A Short Season West Virginia.

Video: Top Prospects: Travis Swaggerty, OF, Pirates

Right-hander Shane Baz rounds out the list of Pirates in the Top 100 at No. 97, 30 spots below where he began the season. The 19-year-old has posted a 5.05 ERA in eight starts for Rookie-Level Bristol and ranks No. 4 in the Pirates' system. Meanwhile, shortstop Oneil Cruz made the biggest jump within the club rankings, bumping up from No. 14 to No. 5 after posting an .845 OPS with Class A Short Season West Virginia.

Video: Top Prospects: Shane Baz, RHP, Pirates

The Pirates recently dealt left-hander Taylor Hearn, who was listed as No. 7 in the Pirates' organization, as well as a pair of former No. 1 club prospects in Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows. Despite the moves, general manager Neal Huntington stated that the organization is confident with the level of depth their farm system provides.

"We've given up players of significance in these trades," Huntington said. "But because of the job our amateur scouting department has done, our player development group has done, our professional scouting department has done through trades, through minor acquisitions, through significant acquisitions, we like the depth of our system."

Injury updates
• Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang was originally scheduled to begin a rehab assignment in Bradenton on Tuesday, but he was shut down due to recurrent left wrist symptoms. The club has yet to set a timetable for when his assignment will begin.

Corey Dickerson is eligible to return from the disabled list on Saturday. He tested out his hamstring on Wednesday, and he will be assessed over the next few days to see if he will be able to stay on schedule for a return in the Cardinals series.

• Right-hander Chad Kuhl (right forearm strain) was moved to the 60-day disabled list, providing a more realistic timetable for his return, not because of any form of setback.

Josh Bell, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list on July 28 with a left oblique strain, remains in the early stages of his recovery. According to director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk, he continues to show "encouraging" signs of improvement every day.

• Right-handers Nick Burdi (recovering from Tommy John surgery) and A.J. Schugel (right shoulder discomfort) continue to take steps on their road to recovery. Burdi is continuing his rehab assignment with Double-A Altoona, while Schugel continues to throw simulated games in Bradenton.

Mason Wittner is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Rays land Glasnow, Meadows in Archer deal

MLB.com

The Rays officially traded right-hander Chris Archer to the Pirates before Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, acquiring a talent-rich package that includes outfielder Austin Meadows, right-hander Tyler Glasnow and a player to be named.

Archer was one of few frontline starters available on the market at this Trade Deadline, and he shouldn't merely be a rental -- he is controllable through 2021, with team-friendly options of $9 million for 2020 and $11 million for 2021.

The Rays officially traded right-hander Chris Archer to the Pirates before Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, acquiring a talent-rich package that includes outfielder Austin Meadows, right-hander Tyler Glasnow and a player to be named.

Archer was one of few frontline starters available on the market at this Trade Deadline, and he shouldn't merely be a rental -- he is controllable through 2021, with team-friendly options of $9 million for 2020 and $11 million for 2021.

Do-Hyoung Park is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Chris Archer

Keller makes move up Pirates' pipeline

Top prospect set to make his first Triple-A start
MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Mitch Keller, the Pirates' top prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is moving closer to the big leagues.

Keller, 22, will make his next start for Triple-A Indianapolis, the club announced. Keller went 9-2 with a 2.72 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 14 starts for Double-A Altoona this season. Keller is MLB Pipeline's 13th-ranked prospect in all of baseball.

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PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Mitch Keller, the Pirates' top prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is moving closer to the big leagues.

Keller, 22, will make his next start for Triple-A Indianapolis, the club announced. Keller went 9-2 with a 2.72 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 14 starts for Double-A Altoona this season. Keller is MLB Pipeline's 13th-ranked prospect in all of baseball.

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Keller is not on the Pirates' 40-man roster, and while it's possible he could be called up in September, he likely won't make his Major League debut until next season. Keller was not invited to big league camp this spring, but he gave the Pirates a preview of his potential while striking out three over two scoreless innings during a Spring Training game against the Red Sox.

Tweet from @Pirates: Bucco pitching prospect Mitch Keller is scheduled to make his next start for Triple-A Indianapolis.

"I'm not trying to get too far ahead. But it's close," Keller said on March 18. "Just talking with people, I'm right there, so I just got to hone in my craft and just get everything a little bit better than it already is and be more consistent. So that's really what I'm looking for."

Keller, the Pirates' second-round Draft pick in 2014, is viewed as an advanced, polished young pitcher. After making six Double-A starts last season, he held opponents to a .208 average while striking out 76 batters in 86 innings for Altoona this year. He has been particularly effective of late, going 4-0 with a 1.11 ERA over his last five outings -- all quality starts.

If the Pirates were looking for proof that Keller was ready for the next step, he provided it in his last Double-A start. Keller allowed only one hit and two walks while striking out six over eight scoreless innings against Harrisburg. General manager Neal Huntington recently said Keller's changeup has improved. That pitch had been considered the missing link for Keller, who throws a fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s, with a swing-and-miss curveball.

"To see him grow and develop the way he has, our staff's done a great job and Mitch deserves a ton of credit, too," Huntington said on Sunday at PNC Park. "We've still got some growth to go, but we believe he can be a really good Major League starting pitcher."

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

Pittsburgh Pirates

Bucs place Feliz on 10-day DL (shoulder)

MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- On Sunday, the Pirates placed reliever Michael Feliz on the 10-day disabled list due to right shoulder inflammation and recalled right-hander Clay Holmes from Triple-A Indianapolis.

The Pirates needed another arm to provide relief depth on Sunday. They were able to make room for Holmes by sidelining Feliz, who pitched four times and threw 97 pitches over the previous eight days.

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PITTSBURGH -- On Sunday, the Pirates placed reliever Michael Feliz on the 10-day disabled list due to right shoulder inflammation and recalled right-hander Clay Holmes from Triple-A Indianapolis.

The Pirates needed another arm to provide relief depth on Sunday. They were able to make room for Holmes by sidelining Feliz, who pitched four times and threw 97 pitches over the previous eight days.

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Feliz gave up a run on two hits and two walks over two innings in Saturday's 7-2 loss to the D-backs at PNC Park. Of greater concern, his average fastball velocity dipped for the third straight game, according to Statcast™, registering at just 92.8 mph after averaging 94.8 mph this season. Richard Rodriguez missed 11 days earlier this month with a similar injury.

"Hopefully, much like Richard, Michael will be able to battle through this and get that inflammation out of there and be ready to go soon after the end of the DL stint," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We'll reevaluate the bullpen at that point in time."

After a strong stretch through April and early May, Feliz began struggling in late May and fell out of his setup role. But Feliz has bounced back a bit, allowing only two earned runs in seven innings over his last five appearances after being scored upon in six straight appearances.

Overall, Feliz has posted a 5.51 ERA with a 1.47 WHIP, 39 strikeouts and 16 walks in 32 2/3 innings over 33 appearances this season.

Holmes, 25, made his Major League debut in relief for the Pirates on April 6. He was scheduled to start on Sunday for Triple-A Indianapolis but wound up pitching two quick, scoreless innings in the Pirates' 3-0 loss to the D-backs.

"I had some crazy travel early on in the year. It kind of comes with it, so you kind of get used to it now," Holmes said. "Once your name's called and you're out on the field, it kind of goes away."

Holmes is 6-3 with a 3.39 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP in 13 Triple-A appearances, including 12 starts. The Pirates' No. 18 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Holmes has been outstanding of late. Over his last four starts, Holmes is 4-0 with a 0.71 ERA.

"I think the main thing is, I've been pitching to my strengths, kind of throwing my best pitches. I think they were feeding off each other," Holmes said. "Been getting ahead in counts with all my pitches, staying with my strengths, staying within myself. The execution has been there, and the results have been there, too."

Holmes will be used as a long reliever, which may free up manager Clint Hurdle to use right-hander Tyler Glasnow and left-hander Steven Brault in more high-leverage situations. Glasnow and Brault, both starters pitching out of the bullpen, have been two of the Pirates' best relievers lately.

"We see Clayton as a guy very capable of being a power-sinker, Major League starting pitcher," Huntington said. "Sometimes those guys end up being power-sinker, Major League relievers."

Polanco sits
• Right fielder Gregory Polanco was out of the starting lineup for the third straight day on Sunday. While Polanco has slumped since mid-April and entered Sunday batting just .215, he seemed to be turning things around with six hits, including a home run and a double, and six walks over his last 19 plate appearances before Sunday.

Corey Dickerson got the start in left field with Starling Marte in center and Austin Meadows in right. Polanco flied out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning.

"I've only got three spots and four outfielders," Hurdle said. "Trying to play the guys we feel are going to match up best and give us time. … Performance comes into play as well."

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

Pittsburgh Pirates, Michael Feliz

Bucs, 1st-rounder Swaggerty complete deal

'This is my job now. It's an incredible feeling.'
MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Travis Swaggerty didn't start playing baseball until he was 10 years old. He would venture out to the field to watch his father, Travis Sr., during his weekly softball games with friends. That was when Swaggerty developed a love for the game that paired well with his competitive attitude.

"I used to be a pretty aggravating kid," Swaggerty said, "because I always wanted to be first."

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PITTSBURGH -- Travis Swaggerty didn't start playing baseball until he was 10 years old. He would venture out to the field to watch his father, Travis Sr., during his weekly softball games with friends. That was when Swaggerty developed a love for the game that paired well with his competitive attitude.

"I used to be a pretty aggravating kid," Swaggerty said, "because I always wanted to be first."

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• Pirates Draft Tracker

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

That drive helped propel Swaggerty from undrafted high school senior to 10th overall pick in the MLB Draft. The Pirates on Friday completed a deal with Swaggerty, a highly regarded outfielder from the University of South Alabama, signing him and introducing him at PNC Park. Swaggerty signed with the Bucs for a $4.4 million bonus, according to a source, as first reported by MLB.com's Jim Callis.

"I'm just super excited. I'm so blessed. I mean, I'm choking up right now," Swaggerty said during an afternoon news conference. "I don't want to cry, but I'm going to. I'm just so thankful for the Pirates for thinking of me as such a high pick to represent the organization."

Swaggerty agreed to an under-slot bonus, as the 10th overall pick came with an assigned value of $4,560,200. The 20-year-old will report to Class A Short Season West Virginia on Saturday, though he may not join the Black Bears' lineup for a few days as he gets acclimated to pro ball.

If it were up to Swaggerty, he'd be starting in center field on Day 1. After attending the Draft, Swaggerty returned home to work out and hit so he'd be in the best shape possible for his professional debut, he said. Even after meeting the media on Friday, Swaggerty said he was ready to take off his suit, put on a pair of tennis shoes and hit in the PNC Park batting cages.

That fell in line with everything the Pirates learned about Swaggerty's work ethic, as he hit .296/.455/.526 with 13 homers, 38 RBIs and nine steals in 57 games during his junior season. General manager Neal Huntington said each of the Bucs' evaluators would praise a different element of his game -- hitting, baserunning, defense, toughness and his drive to win.

"As you started to hear them each talk, you recognize that we have a chance to have a pretty special young player," Huntington said. "And that's what we believe we've added to this organization."

Video: Huntington, Swaggerty on signing of first rounder

On his way to PNC Park, Swaggerty was stunned to realize he was coming across the Roberto Clemente Bridge -- "the bridge," as he repeatedly called it. He'd seen the bridge on TV and in video games, but the idea that he might soon play in front of that backdrop became real on Friday, his first time visiting Pittsburgh.

"Sitting here in front of y'all with a jersey on, with a hat on, it's like, 'Let's do this thing,'" Swaggerty said. "This is real. This is my job now. It's an incredible feeling."

One reason Swaggerty has made it this far, he said, is his father. The two of them have been on their own the last eight years. His father drove him around, took time off from work and made every possible sacrifice for the sake of Swaggerty's career. So you can only imagine the pride Travis Sr. felt when he heard his son's name called by Commissioner Rob Manfred on June 4.

"I think we're probably as close as any father and son can be. We're not only father and son, we're friends," Travis Sr. said. "This game has drawn us closer as father-son as well. I'm grateful for that part of it, too. That's what this game has done for me."

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

Pittsburgh Pirates

No. 10 pick Swaggerty leads Pirates' Draft class

Pittsburgh taps into high school talent on Day 3
MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Unlike last year's MLB Draft, which saw the Pirates select four of their eight high school draftees on Day 1, the Bucs focused much of their early attention on selecting college players. Through the first two days, nine of their 11 picks were selected out of college. They dipped into the high school talent pool on Day 3 of the Draft, however, drafting eight prep players in their final 30 picks.

Draft Tracker: Every Pirates pick

PITTSBURGH -- Unlike last year's MLB Draft, which saw the Pirates select four of their eight high school draftees on Day 1, the Bucs focused much of their early attention on selecting college players. Through the first two days, nine of their 11 picks were selected out of college. They dipped into the high school talent pool on Day 3 of the Draft, however, drafting eight prep players in their final 30 picks.

Draft Tracker: Every Pirates pick

It appears the gem of the class is No. 10 overall selection Travis Swaggerty, who was the first top 10 pick for the Pirates since Austin Meadows was taken No. 9 overall in 2013.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

Swaggerty, an outfielder from the University of South Alabama, entered as MLB Pipeline's No. 11 Draft prospect. After coming into college as a two-way player, he quickly quit pitching to focus solely on hitting. He slashed .296/.455/.526 with 10 doubles, 13 home runs and 39 RBIs during his senior year.

"There's a player, premium position, that has a chance to hit in all three facets of the game," Pirates senior director of amateur scouting Joe DelliCarri said on Monday. "[He] stood out at that part of the board that he was the right fit for us there."

The Pirates also selected a pair of high school right-handers -- Competitive Balance Round A pick Gunnar Hoglund (36th overall) and second-rounder Braxton Ashcraft (51st overall) -- o