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.]