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AP Baseball Writer
(AP) — The Pittsburgh Pirates opened the amateur draft with a Louisville slugger.
That freed up the Texas Rangers to grab another famous baseball name at No. 2.
The Pirates selected Louisville catcher Henry Davis and the Rangers grabbed Vanderbilt pitcher Jack Leiter — son of big league All-Star Al Leiter — with the first two picks of Sunday night’s draft, the first held as part of All-Star weekend.
“Fired up,” said Davis, wearing a Pirates hat and jersey moments after his onstage introduction by Commissioner Rob Manfred. “Ready to go, ready to get to work. Super excited.”
Manfred announced the choices from Denver’s Bellco Theater. Major League Baseball moved the draft from its longstanding June slot to July’s All-Star festivities in an effort to better showcase its future stars.
Davis has big power and an even bigger arm, throwing out 46% of would-be basestealers to become a finalist for the Buster Posey Award as college baseball’s best defensive catcher.
He batted .370 and led the Cardinals with 15 homers, and his .482 on- base percentage was best in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“I want to win, a competitor,” Davis said. “I’m going to do everything I can to help this organization get where it needs to be.”
The Rangers grabbed Leiter with the second pick, taking a right-hander with a mid-90s fastball and two overpowering breaking pitches. His repertoire could play near the top of a big league rotation. He was 11- 4 with a 2.13 ERA with the Commodores, including a no-hitter against South Carolina, and struck out 179 in 110 innings.
Leiter watched the draft at home with his parents. Al Leiter, who pitched 19 seasons in the majors, said he was elated and “kind of weepy” hearing his son’s name called.
“It’s really hard to put into words,” Jack Leiter said. “I’m just so happy I was able to have my family and friends and people that care about me all here to celebrate with.”
This was Texas’ first pick under first-year general manager Chris Young, a longtime big league pitcher who came to the organization determined to help the farm system better develop pitching. Leiter was at the top of the Rangers’ board.
“Jack is someone we’ve zeroed in for a while,” Young said. “He fits everything we’re trying to accomplish as an organization.”
Leiter’s Vanderbilt team- mate, right-hander Kumar Rocker, was taken 10th overall by the New York Mets. Rocker was once considered a candidate to go first overall but slid down draft boards following an inconsistent spring.