The Pittsburgh Pirates have taken shortstop Cole Tucker with the 24th pick in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft. The pick is a surprise, as Tucker wasn’t ranked highly in any of the rankings. He was the number 84 ranked prospect according to Baseball America. His highest ranking was 62nd overall by Keith Law.

The move is a surprise, since there were a lot of talented, and high upside guys on the board. Jacob Gatewood and Monte Harrison, for example, have a lot of upside, and are highly regarded.

Tucker is a switch hitter who is better from the left side. He’s got speed, and projects to be able to stick at the position. He doesn’t hit for much more than gap power right now, but has a projectable frame and could add some strength.

Tucker hit .404 (34-for-84) with eight doubles, four triples, five home runs, and 13 stolen bases this year with Mountain Pointe High School in Arizona. He has a commitment to Arizona.

The Pirates don’t have a lot of middle infield depth. This move looks like a big reach, and drafting for need. We’ll see what they do with the following picks. This approach didn’t work the last time the Pirates took it (2009 with Tony Sanchez), so this could get interesting.

UPDATE 9:51 PM: Neal Huntington just spoke with the media on a conference call. The highlights below:

Huntington on taking Tucker, who was ranked much lower…

“We felt he was the right player, the best player available for our board. We did not think he would get to us at 39, and we thought that was the right place to take him.”

On his skills at shortstop…

“Despite being 6′ 3″, we think he’s a quality athlete. We like his first-step quickness. We like his range, his fluidity. We obviously like the arm to be able to stay at shortstop. And again, we think we’ve got a 17-year-old that’s just beginning to grow into his body, and is going to only get better and better as he matures and ages and gets into our development system and gets going.”

On his projectability with the bat…

“We obviously love the defense. But we like the way the swing works. We think the young man’s got a frame to add strength to it. His bat has really come on over the past 12 months. Sometimes the challenge is, everyone is in the same draft pool, but there’s 19-year-old high school guys, there’s 17-year-old high school guys, and then there’s the average age of 18. And Cole is a guy who, age-wise, is really a year behind most in the draft class. We really like the advancement in the strength. We like the advancement in the bat in the last year. And again, we think he’s just scratching the surface of what he can be offensively, as well as athletically and defensively.”

On whether Tucker will sign…

“Our expectation is Cole is ready to take this step in his life.”

On the benefit of adding another shortstop (after saying they took the best player available)…

“It wasn’t position-specific. It was a nice benefit that he was a shortstop, but we certainly drafted the guy that we wanted at this pick.”

UPDATE 11:15 PM: Cole Tucker’s player page.

UPDATE 11:32 PM: Tucker had a conference call with the media, and wasn’t surprised that the Pirates took him. The quotes below…

On being drafted…

“I am so thankful to be a part of the Pirates’ organization. To be a part of such an amazing tradition of ball players that have put on the black and yellow. I’m excited to get there, and to get to work, and see what I can do to help out this organization. I can’t wait to get to work.”

On the Pirates picking him…

“I wasn’t [surprised] really. I knew the Pirates had a lot of interest, coming into this season, into the draft. The scouting department has been great, and let me know what they think and where they value me. It was cool to see it happen. I knew I was in the running to be a Pirate, and I was excited because it’s such an awesome organization. I think it’s a great place to play. I hear nothing but great things about the Pirates’ organization. I’m stoked to be a part of it.”

On his improved hitting…

“I feel like repetition is key for anything in life, especially baseball, because it’s a competitive sport. With me getting reps in the cage, really maximizing what I need to do in the box. A lot of scouts were like ‘this kid can play short, he’s a great athlete, great kid, can he hit?’ And I feel like I really showed people I could do that this year. Went out, had a great year. Was competitive. Showed people I could swing the bat a little bit. And I feel like that’s only going to get better as I start my journey into pro ball.”

On sticking at shortstop…

“I feel like it’s my best position on the field, and that’s where I want to stick. I feel like I could be a shortstop for the Pirates, pretty soon here.”

On his defensive skills and approach…

“I think just being a student of the game is just something that gives me an upper leg on guys. I watch tendencies. I see what guys do. I feel like I read hitters and pitches. I kind of know what’s coming. I feel like I have good baseball instincts that helps me with that. Like I said with hitting earlier: repetition. My dad’s always told me, if you take enough of these ground balls and you work hard enough, you can be a  pro ball player, you can be a shortstop in the Major Leagues. And I’m a firm believer that repetition is the key to excellence. I feel like if I can practice as much as I can, it will only help me on the field.”

[Note: Cole’s father, John Tucker, spent one year in the St. Louis Cardinals farm system.]
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111 COMMENTS

  1. I too,
    was initially puzzled with this pick. But, then after reading this kid’s
    quotes, it is obvious, that this pick was not done in willy, nilly manner. They
    had been heavily scouting this kid as a projectable player for sometime. At
    just age 17, the kid has a full scholarship to Arizona. Arizona doesn’t recruit
    scrubs. This kid was considered a potential first or second round pick just on
    face value alone. Without trying to sound too much like an apologist, the
    Pirates DO have a plan. If you look at how the Pirates are planning/positioning
    themselves, the Pirates are looking at the NEXT wave of players that will
    replenish the majors (as a group). Sort of like the way that the current group
    of players came up (i.e, Neal Walker, Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte…).
    Those players are playing together as a group in their PRIME. They will be
    together (along with Polanco and Tony Sanchez) and HOPEFULLY with Neal Walker
    and Pedro Alvarez. The goal will be to have them all under contracts that buys
    out their arbitration years and some of their Free Agent years (this why they
    tried to sign Polanco to a long term deal). With prime prospects like Reese
    Mcguire and Austin Meadows and now this kid, the Pirates are essentially
    running their farm production system like a business ongoing concern. This is
    what ANY well managed, NORMAL business entity would do. You forecast, you allow
    for attrition and you control costs. I know what I am saying should sound
    painfully obvious, but a MAJORITY of the 30 other major league franchises do
    NOT run their business like a “normal” business model. Many of the 30
    major league clubs have deficient player production systems and thus have to
    pay PREMIUM prices for talent. The Phillies for example, with their aging,
    injury prone roster, don’t have ANY projectable players beyond A-ball. That’s a
    big city franchise with a billion dollar TV contract. The Angels, with their
    billion dollar TV contract have a minor league system that is bereft of talent.
    They in fact, have the WORST farm system in baseball. You look at the Braves.
    the White Sox, the Nationals, the Brewers, the Tigers, and even the Dodgers
    (who historically have had an elite farm system) and their systems are
    surprisingly low on talent. This is the first time in YEARS that the Yankees
    have had enough talent to even consider making trades. MOST major leagues teams
    are procuring, evaluating and promoting their talent but at an unseemingly high
    attrition rate (when you consider their return on investment) and thus have to
    OVERPAY for on field talent. The Pirates rival the Brewers, because a lack of
    pitching development at the minor league level, were forced to pay 2 pitchers,
    Garza and Lohse a combined $85 million. Remember, TALENT is not static. You
    STILL have to develop it. If you are a small market team or maybe even if you
    are a large market team. You still have to DEVELOP your talent. That has to be
    one of your core competencies in order to have a successful farm system. You
    also have to be able to SEE what a 16 year old kid named Tyler Glasnow can BE
    (who would have been a top 5 pick today if he were in this draft) when others
    CAN’T. That is not luck. It is an organizational skill set, like the A’s
    penchant for developing quality pitching. I would just say that the Pirates
    have a good sensible plan, one that they should stay the course with.

    PS: I hope that the Pirates don’t trade left-handed pitcher Blake Taylor to the
    Mets

  2. Okay, I’m as stumped as anyone else but chew on this… Scharber, who many had dropping to use goes 4th overall, then Harrison and Gatewood, who many had as good picks at 24th are both still there after 39… shows how much the draft analysts know. Also look at how many former Pirate picks who didn’t sign as middle rounders are now bumping up to 1-2rounders. I think we are seeing the Pirates take signability picks early ala Sanchez with the notion of overpaying a lot o talent downline. And yes, I do think they want more of their wallet going to international signings.

  3. Like I just told lonely,I understand the draft and international pools are seperate,the money however all comes from one account and let’s face it the bucs do much better internationally than they do in the draft.( with a couple of obvious exeptions)

  4. If the brewers scouts are so much better than the bucs why do they have such a bad farm and the bucs have one of the best?

  5. well, he was and we passed on him again….and the Brewers got him. I hope we don’t live to regret that draft decision.

  6. they pass on Harrison and Gatewood to take another Catcher!

    That’s it….I’m going to bed.

  7. I gotta think Harrison is unsignable. Kid probably doesn’t even know what position he wants to play yet.

  8. Love all the draft gurus that have just come out of the woodwork here on P2. Clearly this pick was a surprise but does that automatically qualify it as a bad pick? Why don’t we relax and reserve judgement until ANYONE on here has any idea what we got other than this young man’s height, weight and age.
    We have no idea when he would have gone let alone if he would have been available at a later pirate pick. You can speculate on who’s still on the board but clearly these guys have question marks just like Tucker. There was no consensus pick at #24 nor any guy that was a can’t pass up prospect.

    • I agree, the pirates do have scouts who look at these kids, gotta have a little faith after all they do have one of the top farms,ya don’t get there by being stupid.

    • If hes ranked by everyone in the 60s-80’s, and we have 3 more picks before we are even out of the 70s, its pretty ridiculous to take him in the 20’s. That makes it a bad pick. Everyone is in agreement except the pirates, that this player could be had later, so even if the Pirates are right and he’s a fantastic player, its still a bad pick because he almost assuredely, WOULD be there at 39

    • yes there was- Gatewood is a can’t pass up guy at #24. He was ranked below 20 by pretty much everyone, and this kid ranked in the 80s. Even if there isn’t a consensus pick at #24, there surely was a consensus that it wasn’t this kid

      • Gatewood is still available and only two spots to go until 39, I guess the scouts can’t be but so dumb huh.

      • Well I guess there’s a disconnect then on what the “experts” think and what major league scouts and gms think because many of the top prospects are still there. You can argue signability or need but if the Pirates brass truly valued this guy at #24 then I have no problem with the pick. Many guys have gone so far that were ranked 100+ by the big draft outlets so I don’t think it’s a cut and dry as you seem to think.

    • You’re right Jose. The Pirates might have drafted the next Troy Tulowitzki or the next Sammy Halifax. Time will tell. For now I will keep the faith in the BMTIB. The organization knows these kids a lot better than I do.

  9. Tall, athletic, projectable shortstops who can stick at SS are pretty rare. I don’t hate this pick.

  10. It’s a brilliant PR move. When Polanco doesn’t come up tomorrow, nobody will be calling 93.7 FAN to gripe about that. They’ll be calling to gripe about Cole Tucker!

    • haha. about people they haven’t seen or have seen for <2 games. BA and KLaw are treated like gospel, when real life big boards can be drastically different.

    • jay…I haven’t found one person, outside of NH who like the pick.

      I guess we’ll know in 3-5 years whether it was stupid or sheer brilliance.

  11. My bet this guy either doesn’t sign or never reaches the majors. Either way it’s a wasted pick. Neal H is a moron and only has a job because he is a yes man. Tucker do us a favor and go to College maybe Neal will get the pick right next year!!!

  12. J. Mayo showed great restraint by not laughing at the pick on TV. He has seen this type of move by this cheapo organization before.

    • Now I don’t feel so bad – they went for the bigger reach with Matt Chapman at pick #25.

      Nah… I am still upset.

  13. NH on Tucker: “We really like the advancement in strength, the advancement in the bat in the last year.”

  14. Bill Brink ‏@BrinkPG
    Huntington: Tucker was “The best player available for us on our board. We did not think he would get to us at 39.

    They need a new board?

  15. Newsflash: Cole Tucker is the PTBNL in the Didi Gregorius trade that will be announced in April 2015????

  16. i meannnn…. i’d rather NH take a guy who his scouts love than just draft based on Jonathan Mayo’s mock draft and Keith Law’s top 200.

    but yeah it does look strange right now.

    • You could be right, but I have never seen a mock draft by anyone, that had this kid in the first round – not one.

    • if it was hanson, i’d imagine that it would’ve been announced when the trade happened.

      some of the main candidates were already SS before this pick was made.

  17. I was hoping for gillaspie, ah well I guess we will just have to see how this pans out,they need infield depth. I think corner infield more so than mi.

  18. Whaaaaaat?! Pass gate wood for this guy? Pirates must be too busy denying Polanco reports to focus on the draft! Or maybe their saving $ for the later picks?

      • I assume you approve of the Connor Joe pick – I just need someone to make sense of what appears to be pretty senseless

  19. Careful Tim – the BMTIB does not like to be questioned about this sort of thing – next thing you know they will arrange to have you fed another piece of bad info 😉

      • OK – then YOU explain this idiotic pick – it ranks right next to the Brent Morel call up a month ago. Please make no mistake I LOVE THE PITTSBURGH PIRATES – I moved back to Pittsburgh 3 years ago and bought a 20 game season ticket package and went to every game in the package until this year. I had hopes that last year would be the start of good things for Pirate fans – I was wrong…

        This FO – who I have and will continue to derisively refer to as the BMTIB (sarcasm) – is better than Littlefield – but cares very little about winning and the fans.

        So I love my PIRATES – but will NEVER attend another game while Huntington is the GM. – EVER!

        • too bad…PNC is a fabulous park. Somehow I think they will survive without your dollars.

          Oh, and you didn’t need to put (sarcasm) in parentheses…I ‘got it’.

        • regardless of how Tucker works out, at least it means you will never be at games again. THANK GOD

        • With all due respect, that post was idiotic.

          Take your meds. Seriously. NH has done more for this franchise than any GM since Joe Brown. Consider where it was when he started, and where it is now. And the fact that he has to work under Nutting.

          I know you’re old and think you’re gonna die, but trust me, they will win a championship before you or I leave this Earth. Be patient, it’s coming together.

              • Sure it is, I see it all the time on the walking dead.lol oh crap there goes wall, now only gatewood and burdi left from my faves.

                • Huntington resurrected a dead farm system. And made it into a consensus top three system. I don’t follow prospects before they are in our system, so I can’t evaluate this guy, and what I read has made me skeptical, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt at this point. Steeler fans say, in Colbert we trust when there are headscratcher draft picks. At this point, in Huntington I trust.

          • What has Huntington done/accomplished that gets your positive post…

            I just looked and the pirates are virtually tied with Cincy (better starting pitching than the bucs and a lights out closer) and are projected at 17% probability of making the playoffs – same as Cincy.

        • You don’t love your Pirates! You are a bandwagon fan that does nothing but complain. Am I thrilled with the pick, no! However, I have never seen the kid play and who the hell knows how the pick will work out at this point. I don’t like the 2nd pick either but I am not going judge before I even see someone play. These so called experts that make these list are wrong ALL the time.

          I can barely even come on this site anymore because most people posting on here think they are experts and most do nothing but complain and whine. Most wrote off the season a month into it.

      • Sorry – I just get angry when someone tries to tell me a bad idea is really a good idea – Spin must be Huntington’s middle name

        • I understand that draft money and international money are seperate pools, the money does however come from the same bank account,let’s face it the bucs have much better success in the international pool.

        • What did you expect NH to say? “Yeah, we saw all of these other more talented players available, but we went with the guy that’ll probably be a utility infielder if we’re lucky.” It was a bad idea, but how could you possibly expect him to not stand behind his own decision?

  20. On the surface, shades of Moskos pick…on one list of the top 300 prospects, he is listed #277. I thought the Pirates draft the best player available, not based on need? Even if it was based on need, there were 5-6 shortstops rated higher. This kid could end up being an All Star for all I know, as I do not know anything about him. But, when you draft a guy this highly, who was not considered close to being a first rounder, you better be right. I hope they know what they are doing.

  21. Sometimes I think David Littlefield still works for Nutting as an advisor to Huntington. This is definitely one of those times.
    What a letdown.

  22. Daniel Moskos the sequel, all kidding aside, it seems like draft cap posturing. They are probably looking to sign Tucker under slot and then reach for more high schoolers later

    • IMO, saving money in the first round for later picks is a fool’s game. go ahead and pay for first round talent. and if they really wanted to save in first round take a college player. I’m guessing the Bucs don’t have a deal in place with him. I think they took him because they like him and don’t expect him to be around at next pick.

      • I agree with the first part but disagree with the last part. I don’t like the pick, and I agree with you. Draft 1st round players in the first round, and I truly hope they don’t rationalize it like he was the best available. I really don’t like the pick if only because he would’ve been there at 39, hell he probably would’ve been there at 73. Why reach that high

  23. yesss… bring me ALL OF THE TOUGH-TO-SIGN GUYS AFTER ROUND 10 WOOOO….

    but yeah i kind of wanted to see Monte Harrison. oh well.

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