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The Astros added a pair of players Thursday they believe can help them next season when they selected right-handed pitcher Josh Fields with the first overall pick in the Rule 5 Draft and first baseman Nate Freiman with the first pick of the second round.
Fields, 27, is expected to pitch at the back end of the Astros’ bullpen. He appeared in 42 games in the Minor Leagues for the Red Sox last year and was 4-3 with a 2.01 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings. Fields was a consensus top pick for Houston.
“We liked him at 1-1 all along,” Astros director of pro scouting Kevin Goldstein said. “We had scouting stuff and analytic stuff, and Fields was at the top of both lists. In the end, there wasn’t a long conversation at all about 1-1. We kind of sat in the room and said ‘1-1 is Fields’ and everyone kind of nodded their head and moved on.”
Fields and Freiman will have to stay on the 25-man roster for the full season or be offered back to his former team.
Fields was drafted in the second round in 2007 by the Braves out of Georgia and returned to school and was selected in the first round (20th overall) the next year by the Mariners.
“We think he can pitch in our bullpen right away, and that’s something we needed,” Goldstein said.
The Astros would have passed with their first pick of the second round had Freiman not been available, Goldstein said. He’s a 6-foot-7 right-handed power bat who wears out left-handed pitching.
Freiman, 25, hit .298 with 24 homers and 105 RBIs in 137 games at Double-A San Antonio (Padres) with 95 strikeouts in 581 plate appearances. He followed up his big season with San Antonio with a standout performance for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic qualifier in September.
Of his five hits, four were home runs, though Israel lost to Spain in extra innings, thus missing out on a spot in the WBC next spring.
“This is a guy who’s worth taking a chance on, a guy we’ve like since his days at Duke,” Goldstein said. “He was great in Arizona and played well for Israel as well. Right-handed guys with that kind of power are not normally available in the Rule 5. You think about what we have right now. He destroys left-handed pitching and he’s a guy you give an opportunity to him in the spring and see what he can do.”