Can the Astros strike gold at No. 21?
When the Astros make their first-round pick at about 6:15 p.m. in tonight’s First-Year Player Draft, they will be hoping to find someone like Jason Varitek or Todd Worrell and not Greg Gohr or Hiram Bocachica.
Varitek (Twins, 1993) and Worrell (Cardinals, 1982) are two examples of success stories taken with the 21st overall pick, while Gohr (Tigers, 1989) and Bocachica (Expos, 1994) are examples of busts.
In addition to Worrell and Varitek (who didn’t sign with the Twins), other players draft at 21 who had good careers including Gorman Thomas (1969, Pilots), Rick Sutcliffe (1974, Dodgers), Atlee Hammaker (1979, Royals) and Jake Westbrook (1996, Rockies). The Yankees took left-hander Ian Kennedy at No. 21 in 2006 out of USC.
The last time the Astros picked at No. 21 was in 1990, when they took Minnesota high school shortstop Tom Nevers, who never panned out. Nevers was taken the pick after the Orioles selected Mike Mussina out of Stanford. The Astros did strike it rich in 1987 when they nabbed Craig Biggio at No. 22, one pick after the Tigers took outfielder Steve Pegues — who? — at No. 21.
There have been more misses than hits at No. 21 through the years, but the entire history of the draft for any team is littered with can’t-miss prospects who did just that. The Astros appear to have got it right when they took catcher Jason Castro at No. 10 overall last year in the first draft for scouting director Bobby Heck, and Houston hopes to hit the jackpot at No. 21.