The Pirates pick second overall in the Major League Baseball amateur draft, which begins Monday. For the second consecutive year, the Washington Nationals have the first pick and are expected to take the consensus top talent, which this year is College of Southern Nevada catcher Bryce Harper. The second best overall talent isn't as clear, but most pre-draft prognosticators think the Pirates might pick either Florida high school shortstop Manny Machado or Texas high school pitcher Jameson Taillon.
Taillon is a high-upside talent, but I'd bet on the Bucs taking Machado. Last season, the Pirates picked fourth overall in a pitching-heavy draft, but they passed on a number of prized pitchers in favor of college catcher Tony Sanchez. The front office's current draft strategy seems to be to select a hitter in the first round and then pick up lots of arms later in the draft. This makes a lot of sense--young pitchers of all types are extremely vulnerable to career-changing injuries, and they might also lose velocity or have mechanical troubles on their way to the majors. History hasn't been particularly kind to pitchers drafted early in the first round, but other teams continue to do it anyway.
The Bucs only get one pick on the first day of the draft, even though they're awful and there are fifty first-day picks for thirty teams. (The current system, which rewards some teams with compensatory picks for lost free agents, makes little sense.) The next twenty-nine rounds of the draft will continue on Tuesday, and if last year's draft was any indication, these will be worth keeping an eye on as well. The Pirates spent lavishly in their first two drafts under Neal Huntington, often selecting players in the later rounds who were perceived as difficult to sign, and then offering them bonuses they couldn't refuse.