Athletic Ability Draws Astros to DeShields

Houston Pops Prep Star At No. 8





HOUSTON The Astros' mantra leading up to draft day was, as it has been every year under scouting director Bobby Heck, to select the best athlete available. This year, they just might have taken it literally.

With their first of three first-round picks in the draft, No. 8 overall, the Astros took the freakishly athletic Delino DeShields Jr., a versatile burner out of the Atlanta area.

Expecting that there would be competition for the son of the 13-year big league veteran of the same name before the Astros' picked again at No. 19, the Astros jumped on him, giving DeShields what he called "the best day of my life."

He has the speed of his father, who stole 463 bases in his major league career. DeShields, viewed as a potential leadoff hitter, stole 29 bases for Woodward Academy in College Park, Ga., in addition to his .415 average.

Once a running back, DeShields gave up on football when teams started backing off because of his standing in the MLB draft, and he committed to LSU for baseball. But the Tigers only committed to a partial scholarship, according to DeShields, because of his desire to play professionally.

"They really wanted me to go there, but coach (David) Grewe over there was like 'be honest me, will LSU be a backup plan?' And I was like 'yes sir, it is my backup plan, just in case I don't go where I want in the draft,' " DeShields said.

Heck is "extremely" confident in the Astros' ability to sign him and have him at Rookie-level Greeneville this summer.

"We have a very good relationship with Delino and his family through multiple scouts," Heck said.

Assuming he signs, the only question left is about his position. He's played center field lately after playing a lot of second base, and the Astros will ultimately place him at the latter—his father's position.

"He's going to play center field at Greeneville and then we'll begin the transition to second base probably during instructional league," general manager Ed Wade said.

SPACE SHOTS

• The Astros used their second pick in the first round, No. 19 overall, to take another dip in the high school pool, taking Illinois prep pitcher Mike Foltynewicz. The 18-year-old can reach the mid-90s with the fastball and complements it with a solid changeup.

• With the first pick in the compensation round, No. 33 overall and the second of two picks received as compensation for Jose Valverde signing with the Tigers, the Astros selected Mike Kvasnicka out of Minnesota. The versatile switch-hitter can catch and play outfield, but the Astros will seek to play him at third base.