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Astros Draft Preview
By Jim Callis
Scouting Director: David Lakey (first draft: 1997).
2000 Draft (First five rounds, picking 27th)
2001 Draft (First five rounds, picking 10th)
2002 Draft (First five rounds, picking 29th)
They don't spend lavishly--never more than the $2.125 million first-rounder Chris Burke got in 2001. Only five times has Houston spent $1 million or more on a draft pick; even the fiscally conservative A's did so four times in 2002 alone. The Astros have had success with college seniors and draft-and-follows, two ways to keep draft costs down.
Last year, Houston made draft news when owner Drayton McLane declared a midsummer embargo on signings as a potential strike approached. At the time, the Astros' top three picks hadn't agreed to terms. They all did before the end of the summer, but by then it was too late for them to make their pro debuts. The biggest splash was made by righthander Daniel Freeman, a 17th-round junior college find who used his curveball/sinker mix to lead the Rookie-level Appalachian League with nine wins.
Scouting director David Lakey has had seven first-round picks in his six years running the Astros' drafts. His first two, Lance Berkman (1997) and Brad Lidge (1998), have been the best thus far. The last two, Burke and Derick Grigsby, rank among the system's top prospects. Lakey won't get a chance to add to the list in 2003 because Houston forfeited its first-rounder to sign free agent Jeff Kent. The Astros' initial choice will come at No. 60, and given their track record it's unlikely that they'll spend more than slot money to pursue a first-round talent who slipped.
It's a better bet they'll try to compensate with draft-and-follows from 2002, such as Palomar (Calif.) JC first baseman/outfielder Scott Robinson (seventh round), Pearl River (Miss.) CC lefthander Nick Tisone (24th) and San Jacinto (Texas) JC catcher/outfielder Nick Stavinoha (39th). Robinson is a more pure hitter and Stavinoha has more usable power than anyone Houston already has signed from 2002. Tisone is raw but with a fastball that tops out at 94 mph, he'd have as much upside as any lefty in the system.