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Bucs take high school right-hander Keller with 64th pick

Bucs take high school right-hander Keller with 64th pick

With their regular second-round pick in Thursday night's First-Year Player Draft, the Pirates selected right-hander Mitch Keller from Xavier (Iowa) High School.

Keller, chosen overall No. 64, is regarded as Iowa's top prospect -- laurels he inherited from older brother Jon, who had that rank in 2010.

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"Mitch is a high-ceiling right-hander," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said of the lean 6-foot-3, 195-pounder. "We like the frame, and the quality of his pitches."

Brother Jon's experiences could influence the direction of Mitch, who has a college commitment to North Carolina. Jon opted to attend the University of Tampa, and eventually signed with the Orioles as a 22nd-round Draft pick. Mitch Keller's high Draft status could also play a part in deciding his next step.

"Whenever I talk to him about it, he says to sign pro ball because you never know what's going to happen," Mitch told the Cedar Rapids Gazette a month ago. "You could get hurt, things could not go your way, like what happened to him."

A premier baseball program such as North Carolina's could be competition for Keller's services. However, Huntington expressed optimism in being able to reach agreements with each of the Pirates' first-day selections, which also included prep shortstop Cole Tucker (at No. 24) and University of San Diego outfielder-first baseman Connor Joe (No. 39) before Keller, and La Grange High (Texas) School righty Trey Supak (No. 73) after him.

"Signability never drives our selections," Huntington said. "We make them based on how we like them. But I hope and expect to get them all signed, and get them out soon to start their careers. I'm optimistic about getting all four of these to agree to terms. At the end of the day, these are four very good players we look forward to getting into our system."

The Pirates' bonus allotment at pick No. 64 is $886,800.

"I'd probably say if the pick and money are right, then I'll definitely sign to play pro ball," Keller told the Gazette in that May 10 interview. "You can't really pass up that amount of money. It's life changing. But I'm taking it as a win-win situation either way. North Carolina is a great school, a great program. I'm excited about both ways."

Keller developed dramatically as a senior, adding 6 to 8 mph to a fastball that now regularly registers in the 90-94 mph range and pairs with a sharp-breaking curve.

The Draft continues Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com pregame show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1 p.m. ET.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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