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Astros 2002 Draft Overview

By Jim Callis
May 17, 2002

Scouting Director: David Lakey (first year: 1997).

2000 Draft (First three rounds, picking 27th)
1. Robert Stiehl, rhp, El Camino (Calif.) JC.
2. Chad Qualls, rhp, Nevada.
3. Anthony Pluta, rhp, Las Vegas HS.

2001 Draft (First three rounds, picking 10th)
1. Chris Burke, ss, Tennessee.
2. Mike Rodriguez, of, Miami.
3. Kirk Saarloos, rhp, Cal State Fullerton.

2002 Draft
Astros pick 29th in rotation.

Overview
The Astros play it close to the vest on draft day. They don't make a lot of noise or spend a lot of money. Only once have they given a player as much as $2 million–No. 10 overall pick Chris Burke last year, when all first-round signees averaged $2.16 million–and on just three other occasions have they doled out seven figures.

Yet they haven't had any difficult raking in talent. In David Lakey's five drafts as scouting director, the club's first-round picks have been outfielder Lance Berkman (1997), righthanders Brad Lidge and Mike Nannini (1998), outfielder Mike Rosamond (1999), righthander Robert Stiehl (2000) and Burke (2001). Rosamond has stalled and Stiehl will have to come back from rotator-cuff surgery, but Berkman is a star, Burke should become one and Lidge and Nannini have promising arms.

Even more impressive has been the Astros' ability to find productive college seniors, who have been an inexpensive talent source. Several have blossomed into top prospects, including outfielder Jason Lane (sixth round, 1999), third baseman Morgan Ensberg (ninth, 1998), righthander Chad Qualls (second, 2000), outfielder Charlton Jimerson (fifth, 2001), infielder Keith Ginter (10th, 1998) and righthander Kirk Saarloos (third, 2001).

Houston traditionally has been one of the top teams in working the draft-and-follow process, with its most recent success being righthander Tim Redding, a 20th-round steal in 1997. In general, the Astros do as well in the later rounds as any club. In addition to the players already mentioned, they've also found such players as catcher John Buck (seventh round, 1998) and shortstop Tommy Whiteman (sixth, 2000).

With all that in mind, it's unlikely the Astros will use the 29th selection in the 2002 draft on a highly regarded player who has fallen because of signability. They'll probably take someone who will cost in the neighborhood of $1.5 million and continue to use the practices that have served them so well. And a couple of years from now, we'll probably be talking about the prospects they uncover.

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