Results tagged ‘ Bobby Heck ’

Heck ‘disappointed’ contract not renewed

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow made a significant change to his baseball operations staff Saturday by naming Mike Elias as scouting director to replace Bobby Heck, whose contract won’t be renewed.

Elias, who joined the Astros in January as a special assistant to the general manager/scouting, will oversee amateur scouting and the First-Year Player Draft. Heck, whose contract expires this fall, has been with the Astros for nearly five years.

“Bobby has been a key part of the front office for the past five years and has been instrumental in helping build the pipeline for the future,” Luhnow said in a statement. “His legacy here includes several high-ceiling players like [Delino] DeShields, [George] Springer, [Mike] Foltynewicz, and [Vincent] Velasquez – all top prospects in our system.”

Heck joined the Astros after the 2007 season and oversaw the Astros’ last five Drafts, during which Houston drafted catcher Jason Castro, pitcher Jordan Lyles, up-and-coming prospects DeShields Jr. and Springer, as well as No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa this year.

“I’m disappointed,” Heck said. “Obviously, I’ve invested the last five years of my life into it and arguably the hardest five years of my baseball life trying to get this back on track, and time will show that we put a major dent in that, not only myself but the staff we were able to put together here.

“I also know that in change of ownership, change of front office, change of leadership, it’s always a business as well. I’m very appreciative of the opportunity I was given here with the Astros and I’m just disappointed I’m going to have to watch the success we have added to the pipeline from afar.”

Heck took over a Minor League system that was in poor shape after some subpar Drafts, but he helped get it back to respectability during his tenure.

“I think looking back at the five years, you could say ‘mission accomplished,’” Heck said. “There are some things we would do differently, but the production from the five Drafts has started to show itself in Houston and also in the Minor Leagues, and a lot of those players will play here a long time and make this a contending club once again.”

Elias, 29, had been in the Cardinals organization since 2007 where he served as a scout before being promoted to manager of amateur scouting. Over the past several seasons, Elias has scouted domestically and internationally at both the amateur and professional levels.

“Mike has a keen eye for talent and a unique ability to blend scouting opinions with other valuable information like the players’ makeup, performance history or medical risk,” Luhnow said. “I’ve worked with Mike for many years now and believe his leadership and evaluation skills will help us maximize the output of our drafts for years to come.”

Heck discusses challenges of top pick

For only the third time in their 50-year history, the Astros will have the overall No. 1 pick in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. The Astros earned that distinction when Minnesota won its 60th game on Thursday, ensuring the Astros would have the worst record in baseball.

The last time the Astros had the No. 1 overall pick was in 1992, when they selected Phil Nevin, whose career took off after he left Houston. They also had the top pick in 1976 and chose left-handed pitcher Floyd Bannister.

“You better get it right picking No. 1,” Astros assistant general manager/director of scouting Bobby Heck said. “Obviously, it’s an opportunity. I hope it’s the only opportunity I ever have to pick one. The idea is to pick in the late 20s and even better, pick 30.

“These are the types of players you need to get you back to that point. As far as our approach, we walk into every year taking about candidates for the first pick, and I suspect we’ll have a smaller number going into the year. We’re still going to be open-minded and do our do diligence and select the best player.”

Unlike in recent years when phenoms Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper were the clear-cut no. 1 overall picks, Heck said there is a pack of players who have separated themselves. Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero, Florida catcher Mike Zunino and high school pitcher Lucas Giolito of California and outfielder Byron Buxton of Georgia are among the players who could go No. 1.

“That group will grow as we walk through the fall and enter the spring,” Heck said. “It’s just a matter of getting a group and expanding on it as you get towards the end and then shrinking it down.”

With the No. 1 pick comes a healthy financial commitment. The Astros this year paid a $2.525 million signing bonus when they took University of Connecticut outfielder George Springer with the 11th pick, and they could have to shell out about three times as much. This year’s No. 1 pick, pitcher Gerrit Cole, got an $8 million bonus from the Pirates.

“The precedent says you’re going to pay a lot of money for that first pick,” Heck said. “First and foremost, we better put the talent in the right order and deal with the money factors at a later time.”

Astros hoping to sign 4 more picks

Bobby Heck, the Astros assistant general manager/director of scouting, said the club is still trying to sign four additional draft picks ahead of today’s 11:01 p.m. CT deadline to sign draft picks. One of the players the club is still hoping to sign is third-round pick Austin Wates, an outfielder from Virginia Tech who has one year of eligibility left.

“We’re still working on them and seeing how they play out,” Heck said. “There are deals out there the guys could say ‘yes’ to.”

The Astros have already reached deals with their three first-round/compensation picks – second baseman Delino DeShields Jr., pitcher Mike Foltynewicz and third baseman Mike Kvasnicka and second-round pick Vincent Velasquez.

DeShields, who signed last week to a $2.15 million bonus, has played three games to rookie-league Greeneville and is hitting .143. He’s playing center field, but will make the move to second base in the instructional league this fall.

Kvasnicka is hitting .237 with four homers and 30 RBIs at Tri-City, and Foltynewicz is 0-3 with a 5.52 ERA in nine starts at Greeneville. Velasquez is 2-2 wiht a 3.16 ERA in seven games, including five starts.

Astros still hope to sign Wates, others

With the deadline to sign players selected in the First-Year Player Draft arriving on Monday, the Astros are in negotiations with five players and hope to sign at least four of the players – and perhaps all five – before the deadline.

“We’re exclusive to pursuing the five players at this point in time,” assistant general manager/director of scouting Bobby Heck said. “Others that are unsigned, outside of that five, either we’ve determined to continue evaluations and are better off going to school or we’ve been unable to bridge a gap between what our evaluated value is compared to how they value themselves. Some just said they’d rather go to school, and that’s typical of your later round drafts when you take fliers on for numbers.”

The Astros are very close to reaching a deal with 25th-round pick Rodney Quintero, a right-hander from Chipola Junior College in Miami. Third-round pick Austin Wates, an outfielder from Virginia Tech with one year of eligibility remaining, is one of the players the Astros still hope to sign, and he was in Houston on Monday for a physical.

“We’re putting a lot of time and effort into that,” Heck said. “We wanted to make sure the physical aspect was done because on a deadline deal, if you don’t get it, you’re unable to get it done in time. Then it’s all buyer beware.”

One of the players that likely will go unsigned is high school standout Jacoby Jones, a shortstop taken in the 19th round.

“We have a high value on him, but it’s not close to where it’s going to take for him to forgo LSU,” said Heck, who has signed 33 players from this year’s Draft and six non-drafted free agents.

Astros excited about signing of Alaniz, a non-drafted free agent

Astros assistant manager Bobby Heck was so excited about the signing of 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher Ruben (AJ) Alaniz as a non-drafted free agent Saturday that the club took the unusual step of issuing a separate press release to announce the deal.

Alaniz, a product of Juarez-Lincoln High School in La Joya, Texas, signed for $160,000, which is slightly more then the $154,000 bonus they gave fifth-round pick Brandon Wikoff, a shortstop from the University of Illinois.

Heck said Alaniz was the classic case of a player slipping under the radar before the draft. Astros scout Rusty Pendergrass first saw Alaniz during a tryout in South Texas in June, and the team made a run to sign him that night. The Astros waited to see Alaniz pitch in a game with a travel team out of Dallas, and soon other teams were on his trail.

“From there, the pursuit was on,” Heck said. “At the end of the day, a lot of this is because of Rusty’s due diligence and the relationship he built over time with the kid.”

Heck said both Pendergrass and East Coast scouting supervisor Clarence Johns believe Alaniz has the stuff to be a Major League starter. His fastball has been clocked at 94-mph, and he has a plus curve ball. Alaniz, 18, will report to the Gulf Coast League Astros in Kissimmee, Fla., on Monday.

Meanwhile, Heck said the Astros were hoping to sign at least one more draft pick before Monday’s deadline. They’ve signed 25 of their top 26 picks, leaving 12th-round pick Geoffrey Thomas, a right-handed high school pitcher from Georgia, as the highest unsigned pick.

Thomas is among three players the Astros are still negotiating with, but the Southern Mississippi commit doesn’t have the team as enthusiastic about his chances of signing as the two other players they’re negotiating with.

“I’m hoping to get another guy,” Heck said. “We’re engaged in three different ongoing negotiations now with significant money on the table for all three. We’re trying to keep adding to the list. There’s just a lot of moving parts and dynamics to them, especially with a lot of the other signings coming in. I’m going to be happy if I get one, and if I get more than that it’s a bonus and icing on the cake.”


Astros manager Cecil Cooper, who spent 11 seasons in Milwaukee as a player and has worked in several other capacities in the Brewers organization, and bench coach Ed Romero paid a visit to Commissioner Bud Selig on Saturday.

Selig owned the Brewers when Cooper and Romero played in Milwaukee.

“He’s special to me, but it hasn’t always been warm,” Cooper said. “He’s always been pretty good to me. I remember when I first left here after the ’87 season, we didn’t have the best of relationship. Because of his kids, they kind of smoothed it over and got us to be friends again, I guess you could say. They started recruiting me to come back as a coach and be part of the organization. We’ve always talked through the years.”