Results tagged ‘ Draft ’

Astros to sign second-round pick Fontana

Shortstop Nolan Fontana, taken by the Astros in the second round out of the University of Florida in the First-Year Player Draft, will be introduced to the media Tuesday afternoon at Minute Maid Park after he signs his deal with Houston.

Fontana was in Houston for a physical Monday morning, which was the last step before he signed. Fontana, taken with the No. 61 overall pick, was the Astros’ highest remaining unsigned pick.

Fontana hit .284 with nine homers and 30 RBIs his junior season for the Gators, helping them reach the College World Series. He had an on-base percentage of .406 in 66 games. The assigned slot value of Fontana’s spot in the Draft is $844,100.

The Astros signed No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa, a shortstop from Puerto Rico, within hours after he was drafted to a $4.8 million bonus, and on Monday signed fourth-round pick Rio Ruiz, a high school shortstop from La Puente, Calif., for $1.85 million. Pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., taken No. 41 overall out of Tampa, Fla., was signed earlier this month for $2.5 million.

Houston signed Correa for $1.3 million less than the prescribed bonus of $7.2 million for the top pick. The money the Astros saved enabled them to pay more to McCullers and Ruiz and steal them away from their college commitments.

When Fontana signs, the Astros will have signed 30 of their 41 picks, including 19 players selected in first 21 rounds. Houston still hasn’t signed seventh-round pick Preston Tucker, an outfielder from Florida, and 11th-round pick Hunter Virant, a left-handed pitcher from Camarillo, Calif., who’s committed to UCLA.

Astros’ Minor League player killed

Dustin Kellogg, a right-handed pitcher who signed with the Astros after being selected by his hometown team in the 34th round of this year’s First-Year Player Draft, was killed early Tuesday in a traffic accident, a team official confirmed.

“It’s extremely tragic news,” Astros assistant general manager/director of scouting Bobby Heck said. “Not even from an Astros standpoint, but just from a young person starting his life and starting his career, whether it’s baseball or anything else.”

According to the Conroe Courier, Kellogg, 18, was killed when his pickup truck was struck head-on by an 18-wheeler around 1 a.m. CT on Tuesday in Montgomery County, Texas. The Astros selected Kellogg out of Caney Creek High School in Conroe, which is in about 45 miles north of Houston in Montgomery County.

“He’s a good kid full of life with lots of athletic ability and a baseball future ahead of him,” said former Astros scout Rusty Pendergrass, who signed Kellogg.

The Astros invited Kellogg, 6-foot-4, to their pre-Draft workout and monitored him throughout the summer before sending him to the Gulf Coast League in Kissimmee, Fla. He pitched in six games, going 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA.

“He made it known all along he wanted to go out and play and wanted to be an Astro,” Heck said. “When he signed, we pulled the pen of his hand and he said, ‘Let’s go.’”

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.”

Springer headed to Houston, but talks to first

Astros first-round draft pick George Springer, who signed with the club late Monday for a $2.525 million bonus, will meet the Houston media as a group for the first time Friday when he has a press conference at Minute Maid Park before taking batting practice on the field.

This will be Springer’s second visit to Houston – the first coming earlier this month when he was in town for a few hours to undergo his physical. Prior to meeting with the media as a whole, Springer was gracious enough to grant his third interview with since being drafted.

“I’m extremely excited to get going and move forward and 100 percent relieved that’s it’s done,” Springer said of the signing. “I can just strictly focus on playing baseball.”

Springer, 22, was drafted with the No. 11 overall pick out of the University of Connecticut, where he hit .343 with 12 homers, 77 RBIs, 31 stolen bases and a .450 on-base percentage during his junior season. The center fielder will begin his career at Tri-City, but not before spending a few days at the Astros’ Spring Training facility in Kissimmee, Fla.

“I’m just looking forward to getting in and getting started and to compete for a job,” he said.

Considering his age, his tools and the Astros’ track record of moving players quickly through the system, it’s not a stretch to think Springer could be getting his feet wet at the Major League level late next year. The Astros’ center field position has opened up substantially since the team traded Michael Bourn last month.

Instead of competing with a two-time Gold Glove winner and an All-Star, he’ll eventually be in the mix with Jason Bourgeois, Jordan Schafer, Jay Austin and Austin Wates. Springer isn’t putting any kind of timetable on his path to the Majors, but he did make one promise.

“I’m a player that will play as hard as I can possibly play day in and day out,” he said. “I like to have fun, but I will play hard and do whatever I have to do to win.”

Springer instantly becomes one of the top Minor League prospects in an Astros’ Minor League system that has been infused with young talent in the last month with the trades of Jeff Keppinger, Hunter Pence and Bourn. With talent like Springer, Jared Cosart and Jonathan Singleton leading the way, the next crop of young talent could be hitting Houston soon.

“Hopefully down the road some of these young players will hopefully be in their primes and propel the Astros to where they want to be, which is on top of the division and competitive for the foreseeable future,” Springer said.

Before Springer hung up the phone, I jokingly reminded him he wouldn’t need a jacket for his trip to Houston, which has seen 100-degree-plus temperatures for 19 consecutive days.

“That’s unbelievable,” he said.

Thank goodness for the roof.

Armstrong feeling healthy, not focused on deadline

A week away from the deadline for team’s to sign players selected in June’s First-Year Player Draft, Astros third-round pick Jack Armstrong – a 6-foot-7 pitcher from Vanderbilt – isn’t concerning himself with the approaching deadline.

“I’m not too anxious,” he said. “My dad [former Major League pitcher Jack Armstrong] has done a good job making sure I’m focused on what matters, and that’s playing baseball and pitching. Whatever happens, happens. I have two good options next year, either going back to school or signing with the Astros.”

Armstrong, who has one year of eligibility remaining at Vanderbilt, has been pitching in the Cape Cod League this summer to re-establish his value. He experienced some tightness in his elbow late last month and has been moved to the bullpen, but Armstrong said Monday he’s healthy and hoping to make a start in the Cape Code playoffs.

“I’m feeling really good,” he said. “I threw an inning a couple of days ago and it felt good. [The injury] was just a little too much too soon out of my college season and being a relief guy and then jumping into 70, 80 pitches right away. It’s nothing major.”

Astros assistant general manager/director of scouting Bobby Heck expects Armstrong to come to Houston for a physical as soon as his Yarmouth-Dennis team is eliminated, which could happen later this week. First-round pick George Springer, who’s also unsigned, passed a physical last week in Houston.

“We’ve gotten signs that [Armstrong] wants to start his professional career, and we plan to be aggressive with him,” Heck said. “Obviously, it’s a lifetime between now and Monday night. It’s something we think is going to go down to the end, not because we’re far apart in negotiations, just because we’re working with him still playing and the plan is to get him here in front of [team medical director] Dr. [David] Lintner at some point. The physical part is going to be imperative to the negotiating process.”

Springer enjoys Houston visit

Astros first-round pick George Springer III made his first visit to Houston on Friday afternoon, but it wasn’t to sign a contract. Springer took and passed a team physical, getting the procedure out of the way in advance of the Aug. 15 signing deadline.

Springer briefly visited Minute Maid Park before hopping a plane back to his home in Connecticut.

“It’s an incredible ballpark,” Springer told “The atmosphere and the whole feel of the stadium was something special to me. [Houston] is an incredible place. I didn’t know it was as big as it was.”

Springer, 21, was drafted with the No. 11 overall pick out of the University of Connecticut, where he hit .343 with 12 homers and 77 RBIs with 31 stolen bases and a .450 on-base percentage during his junior season. He briefly met Astros manager Brad Mills on Friday.

“He seemed like a great guy,” Springer said. “He’s a baseball guy and was fun to be around for a while. I was only there a short time. It was basically in and out.”

Astros general manager Ed Wade wanted to get the physical done in case Springer signs near the deadline.

“If this thing drifts to the Aug. 15 deadline, we don’t have to set our hair on fire at that point to try to get an agreement in place,” Wade said. “He passed it with flying colors. It was an in-and-out deal. [Team medical director] Dr. [David] Lintner and the people at Methodist Hospital paved the way for him. The hard part is done. Now the easy part comes, getting him signed.”

Wade said he expects negotiations to continue until the deadline. The Astros are hoping to sign Springer, third-round pick Jack Armstrong, who’s currently pitching in the Cape Cod League, and 13th-round pick Horace Stubblefield, a right-handed pitcher from Lufkin, Texas.

Astros sign third-round pick Meyer, 33 players total

The Astros signed three players selected in the First-Year Player Draft, including third-round supplemental selection Jonathan Meyer, a third baseman out of Simi Valley High School in California. He’s a switch-hitter who will report to the Greeneville Astros of the Rookie Level Appalachian League.

Also signing Friday were right-hander Brandt Walker out of Stanford and outfielder Jacob Gobbert out of Northwestern. Walker, 21, is a Texas native picked in the eighth round, and Goebbert was taken in the 13th round.

Astros assistant general manager in charge of scouting Bobby Heck said talks are still progressing with No. 1 pick Jiovanni Mier. Don’t be surprised if a deal is reached soon.

The Astros have signed a total of 33 players from the 50 they selected in the draft.

On Thursday, Houston annonced the signing of eight more picks: shorstop Enrique Hernandez (sixth round out of American Military Academy), third baseman Erik Castro (10th round out of San Diego State), left-hander David Berner (14th round out of San Jose State), center fielder Garen Wright (29th round out of Putnam City High School), outfielder Sean Barksdale (38th round out of Temple University), right-hander Daniel Sariska (40th round out of Oglethorpe University), righthander Michael Schurz (44th round out of University of Iowa) and left-hander Spencer Hylander (50th round out of Oklahoma Baptist).



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.

Castro promoted to Corpus Christi; Heck continues draft preparations

Jason Castro, the Astros’ No. 1 prospect, was promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi from High-A Lancaster following Sunday’s game and is expected to join the Hooks on Wednesday against Midland. Castro hit .309 with seven home runs and 44 RBIs for the JetHawks, hitting .328 with four homers and 32 RBIs in May.

“We’re very excited about where he is in his development process,” assistant general manager Ricky Bennett said. “[Minor League field coordinator] Al Pedrique just left Lancaster yesterday and [catching coordinator] Danny Sheaffer has been in there, Mike Barnett, our hitting coordinator, has been in there, and we’re all seeing the same thing.

“He’s handled every challenge we put in front of him. His game-calling is better, his blocking is better, his throwing has been outstanding and he’s ready for another challenge. We are ready to move him through the system.”

Castro, 21, hit .275 in 39 games last year at rookie-league Tri-City after being drafted by the Astros out of Stanford with the No. 10 overall pick. The Astros have said they would like Castro to compete for the starting catcher’s job next year, and his promotion likely keeps him on that track.

When asked if it would be too much to expect Castro at Triple-A Round Rock later this year, Bennett didn’t hesitate.

“Yes,” he said. “We’re going to evaluate him on a daily basis. But I think realistically he’s going to benefit more from being in Double-A this year with a little bit better pitching staff, where the speed of the game is going to be a little different.”

Castro will also get a chance to work closely with Corpus Christi manager Luis Pujols, a former Major League catcher.

“I think he’s really going to develop under those circumstances and if he stays in Corpus for the rest of the year, that’s fine,” Bennett said. “I think the experience he’s going to get at this level will more more than anything else he’s ever really faced before in terms of competition and speed of the game and those types of things.”

The arrival of Castro in Corpus Christi has forced the Astros to shuffle some other players. Jonathan Fixler, who was the backup to Brian Esposito at Corpus Christi, will go to Lancaster and back up Koby Clemens, who will now be the No. 1 catcher at Lancaster.

“That’s kind of been the through process all along,” Bennett said. “When we started this season, I sat down with Koby in spring training and I told him in the first half of the season it maybe tough to get him time behind the plate, but hopefully at some point during the course of the summer he’ll get more playing time, and that time has come.”


Astros assistant general manager in charge of scouting Bobby Heck met with the media Monday after at Union Station to talk about the First-Year Player Draft. Heck didn’t give any insight on what the Astros might do with the No. 21 overall pick, simply saying the team was going to take the best available player.

Heck said the draft is getting a bad rap for not having much talent. He said it’s deep in high school pitching and lacking some college bats.

Heck’s draft team with the Astros consists of national cross checker David Post, East Coast supervisor Clarence Johns, Midwest supervisor Ralph Bratton, West Coast supervisor Mark Ross, area scouts J.D. Alleva and Joe Graham and coordinator of scouting Mike Burns.

Here are some excerpts from Heck’s comments:

Heck on draft preparations: “This drafted started the day after last draft. Within a week after last year’s draft, we had follow lists due for the players coming up, and we followed them all summer, we followed them all fall. We used those lists to prioritize guys as we attack them in the spring, but we’ve been in here for a week [spending] anywhere from 10- to 14-hour days, and that’s on the heels of last week having three days of regional meetings. Every scout has seen more 100 games and probably spent more than 90 nights in a hotel since the of January. We’re getting after it pretty good.”

Heck on his feelings: “Your nerves are controlled by how prepared you are. Our preparation has been good, but I think we’re tired more than we are nerve-wracked, especially picking at 21. A lot of it is out of our hands. our ideal thing is to have guys in place, guys on our board when it gets to 21 and the first 20 guys go, we better like the 21st guy.”

Heck on taking best player available: “Where we’re at as an organization it’s still adding a depth of quality to our organization. If there’s one thing that we might walk past, all things being equal, is catching. Jason Castro is on his way to Double-A right now and there’s a lot of young catching we like in our system. If I have two players at positions that are side by side and one’s a catcher, I’d opt for another position.”

Heck on the groundwork laid last year: “I need to add a few more classes like that. We’re only going to be as good as that type of depth. Truly, those players have gone out from last year and have performed. It’s very gratifying, but they’ve been healthy.I want to read in the boxscore they played the night before. That being said, some of those guys are going to break our hearts and not be everything we think they are and some of them are going to get hurt so we need to keep adding those types of players to our system to absorb that type of attrition.”

Heck on the draft’s talent pool: “This draft if getting a lot of bad knocks. This is a deep draft. I think more as we work our boards and put our boards together, there’s depth to it. Would I like to be picking 10 this year? No. I think the first half of the first round there’s a bit of decline in that type of talent, but after that the players that went in the second half of the first round last year are similar to this year. After that, there is depth.