Jerry Jordan, per his bosses, had both a “twinkle” and a “glow.” As a result, the veteran baseball scout “pounded the table.”
It took four years of scouting by Jordan to persuade Pirates general manager Neal Huntington and director of amateur scouting Joe DelliCarri to draft third baseman Will Craig.
It took just six days for Craig to sign his first pro contract.
“We love watching him compete and love how he goes about it on the field,” Huntington said during a news conference announcing the first-round draft pick’s signing Wednesday. “And we’re happy to have the opportunity to get it done quickly and get him out and get him playing so he can experience that first full season.”
Craig, a two-time All-American at Wake Forest, earned full slot value for the No. 22 overall pick ($2,253,700), an industry source confirmed. Craig will begin his professional career in Morgantown when he reports to short-season Single A West Virginia Black Bears.
“I’d rather get on the field as soon as possible,” Craig said. “I really look forward to playing.”
Perhaps not as much as the man who scouted Craig dating to his days at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn.
DelliCarri said Jordan liked Craig’s skill set back then (Craig was taken in the 37th round of the 2013 draft by the Kansas City Royals).
“Jerry got to know Will very well over the years,” DelliCarri told the Tribune-Review. “He’s gotten that twinkle when watching the young professional approach that he has.
“And then executing that approach and his barrel consistency are probably his strongest (traits) — the person he is, and obviously the way he is in the batter’s box.”
A scout for more than three decades, Jordan knows when he sees someone he likes.
“There are certain guys that he gets that glow,” Huntington said. “In his term, ‘He’s a big leaguer.’
“(Jordan) hoped (Craig) would have a good enough season that we’d consider him at 22 — but not a good enough season that he’d go before us. Because he absolutely loves this young man.
“(Jordan) is relentless. He is a tireless worker, and he is an advocate for his players. But he pounded the table about as strongly as I’ve heard him pound the table as he did for Will.”
Craig, who also was Wake Forest’s closer, said defense is what he needs to work on most.
“The bat is obvious,” Huntington said. “We love the bat. We’re excited about the hitter.”
DelliCarri compared Craig to 2015 draft picks Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer in that not only were all three accomplished college hitters, they each were mature — and cerebral-beyond-their-years — college hitters.
“When you talk to them and sit down with them, they’re a little further along in some of the ways they approach certain pitchers,” DelliCarri said. “That’s part of the hitter traits for us — not just the swing or not just the mechanics. And we feel those three players, college-wise, in terms of hitters, were at the top of the draft in having those traits.”
Staff writer Rob Biertempfel contributed. Chris Adamski is a staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.