Springer Astros' springboard to stockpiling arms
After selecting outfielder first, Houston drafts 24 hurlers
HOUSTON -- Bobby Heck, assistant general manager and director of scouting, said before this year's Draft that he expected only one or two top-notch college position players to be available early, whereas a multitude of capable pitchers would be available all three days.
The Astros' selections reflected Heck's pre-Draft thoughts, as they snagged University of Connecticut outfielder George Springer, the 2011 Big East Player of the Year, with their first pick before reeling in four pitchers with the next four and 24 pitchers in their 50 total.
"The premium college bats were few and far between," said general manager Ed Wade. "To get a guy like George Springer with our first pick at 11 was a huge step forward for us, and then that allowed Bobby to concentrate on those good arms that were out there as well."
The final tally was 18 right-handed pitchers, six left-handed pitchers, 10 infielders, 13 outfielders and three catchers.
Fourth-round pick Chris Lee, a left-hander from Santa Fe Community College in Florida, and 13th-round pick John Hinson, a second baseman from Clemson, have already signed.
Wade and Heck said they were able to obtain the pitching depth they wanted while still selecting the best athlete available at each turn.
"We're very pleased with the way the Draft went," Wade said. "Our guys were very well prepared. The first two days, as we've talked about previously, we have 120 names up on our main board, and Bobby Heck and his guys were able to pull off over 10 names on that list."
The Astros valued size when it came to pitchers. Only six of the 24 pitchers they drafted were under 6-foot-3, and all but one stands at least six feet tall.
"It's a big clubhouse over there," Heck said. "When you go in there, it's big men. I think that's one of the things we separate -- size and athleticism."
The Astros selected only 13 players straight from high school.
Seven of the first 10 picks on Day 3 were pitchers, mirroring the events of Day 2. Still, Heck said that every choice was based on whom the Astros considered to be the best player at the spot, not necessarily on filling a need.
"We just played the board the way it fell," Heck said. "If it was a pitcher, obviously it would have been a pitcher of quality."
Wade said that each pick is crucial to building a core nucleus of players who can help the club maintain success for years to come.
"You can identify players by name who have succeeded in this sport coming from way down in the Draft or undrafted, and our guys understand that," Wade said. "This process does run so rapidly after the fifth round, particularly when there's really no break between picks, that a lot of it is the forethought that the scouts put into it."
Clarence Johns, the East Coast scouting supervisor who was heavily involved in scouting Springer, said there were five or six picks who were "conversation-worthy" in the first round, including shortstop Francisco Lindor, but he is excited with the Astros' results.
"You're definitely happy with how it went," Johns said. "It's almost like when you're a kid and you have a grandparent who gives you a Christmas gift that's like a trust fund or something you can't cash for five years. This is our Christmas."
The Astros selected just three athletes from Texas in the first two days of the Draft before taking eight on Day 3, with five straight players from the Lone Star State taken 34th through 38th. The Astros selected Texas A&M teammates with the 36th and 37th picks in catcher Kevin Gonzalez and pitcher Steven Martin, respectively.
This was the second straight Draft in which the Astros selected the son of a former Major Leaguer within the first three picks. They took Jack Armstrong, whose father of the same name played in the Majors for seven seasons, one year after selecting Delino DeShields Jr. with the first pick.
University of Georgia first baseman Chase Davidson, who was selected in the 41st round, is no stranger to the Houston club. The Astros drafted him in the third round in 2008, but he did not sign.
"Unfortunately for him, his Draft maybe didn't work out after three years," Heck said. "But we got our player just three years later. We're happy to have him, and there's an opportunity here for him."
Rowan Kavner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.