Astros Draft Report Card

Analyzing Houston's 2008 draft class




QUICK TAKE
In his first season as scouting director, Bobby Heck made bold calls on Jason Castro and Lyles, who weren't consensus choices at picks 10 and 38 but have looked good so far, and the Astros gauged signability well, avoiding the embarrassment of their 2007 class.
POSITION PLAYERS

Best Pure Hitter: C Jason Castro (1) hit .341 with wood in the Cape Cod League last summer, showing the excellent balance that is his hallmark. He keeps his bat in the strike zone a long time.  >>  Best Power Hitter: 1B Phil Disher (15) has raw power to rival former South Carolina teammate Justin Smoak, the 11th overall pick. He has a sound swing from the right side and tremendous strength.  >>  Fastest Runner: OF Jay Austin (2) has excellent athleticism and plus-plus speed on the field, and he has been clocked even faster in workouts, earning 8 grades on the 2-8 scale.  >>  Best Defensive Player: Castro, athletic enough to play some center field in the Cape last summer, is a strong receiver with an average, accurate arm and excellent intangibles such as work ethic and intelligence. Austin could be a premium defender with time in center field.

PITCHERS

Best Fastball: RHPs Jordan Lyles (1s) and Chris Hicks (14) both hit 95-96 mph this summer, which Ross Seaton (3) did prior to the draft. Lyles has the best present command.  >>  Best Secondary Pitch:  Five-foot-9 LHP Luis Cruz (9) has shown a plus changeup with sink and fade, and it could get even better. Fellow LHPs David Duncan (5, split-finger fastball) and Jarred Holloway (10, power curveball) also have strong secondary pitches.

ODDS AND ENDS

Best Pro Debut: Disher ranked second in the New-York Penn League in home runs (13), hits (85) and doubles (20) while batting .304/.381/.536. Tri-City teammate OF J.B. Schuck (6) batted .300/.385/.430 and walked (35) more than he struck out (34). Lyles struck out 64 and walked just 10 in 50 innings at Rookie-level Greeneville while going 3-3, 3.99.  >>  Best Athlete: Austin is more athlete than baseball player right now, but that's mostly because of his elite athletic ability and inexperience. OF T.J. Steele (4) also has all-around tools but is a notch or two behind Austin.  >>  Most Intriguing Background: SS Jeff Hulett (12) is the second son of ex-big leaguer Tim Hulett to play pro ball, joining older brother Tug. Holloway has power stuff with his curve and a low-90s fastball, but never had success in college (6.37 ERA in 2008, 12.89 in the 2007 Alaska League).  >>  Closest To The Majors: Castro's polish stands out in a draft that leaned toward raw talent.  >>  Best Late-Round Pick: Disher doesn't have a true position, but he's improved at first base and may have an impact bat. The Astros also have high hopes for nondrafted free agent Pat Urckfitz of Monroe (N.Y.) CC, who showed three average pitches.  >>  The One Who Got Away: 1B Chase Davidson (3) wanted second-round money, and while the Astros budged it wasn't enough to keep Davidson from becoming part of a deep recruiting class at Georgia.