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Astros Pick Power Arm, Then Grab Position Players

June 3, 2003
By Tom Halliburton

HOUSTON—Their emphasis significantly changed to drafting more position players, yet the Astros could not resist the opportunity to start off by selecting another power pitcher.

California Lutheran junior righthander Jason Hirsh of Burbank, Calif., became Houston's first choice in the 2003 draft.

The 6-foot-8, 250-pound Hirsh was selected in the second round, 59th overall. Houston did not own a first-round pick because that spot went to the Giants as compensation for the signing of Type A free agent Jeff Kent last December. Hirsh went 9-1, 3.68 with 126 strikeouts in 100 innings for the Kingsmen this season.

"I'm in the category of being a power pitcher," Hirsh said, describing his pitching style. "I have a fastball, a slider that's pretty hard, and I'm working on a changeup."

Astros scouting director David Lakey noted the great amount of improvement observed in Hirsh late in the season, compared to an early season observation.

"I saw him early and late in the year, and he really came on," Lakey said. "He developed a real power slider. He's a horse.

"When I went out there and saw him late in the year, his arm angle had improved and he seemed to have added at least 3 mph on his fastball. He can throw 94-95 and he just seemed to have a better feel for pitching, too."

Between his own observations and those of other Astros scouts, Lakey estimated the Astros had observed Hirsh pitch "probably 10 times" during the 2003 season.

"We monitored his progress," Lakey said. "His package was just too good to pass up . . . Overall, I thought the draft went pretty much like we thought it would, except for about three surprises."

Because of Houston's recent emphasis on pitching in the 2001 and 2002 drafts, the Astros stocked up on more position players with some of their higher-round picks. They drafted Atlanta (Texas) High School center fielder Drew Stubbs and Eastern Kentucky center fielder Josh Anderson in the third and fourth rounds. They also liked the speed of another center fielder, Rice's Jeff Jorgensen in the seventh round.

"We got some guys who can really run—leadoff guys at the top of the order," Lakey said.

Stubbs (6-foot-4 and 200 pounds) signed with Augie Garrido's baseball program at Texas. That caused Astros scouts to debate extensively over Stubbs' signability.

"Drew Stubbs can swing the bat real well," Lakey said. "He's a five-tool guy and he's a Texas kid. We debated long and hard over whether we would be able to get him signed.

"Anderson will put the ball in play. He has a high on-base percentage and he has above-average range. The thing we liked about Jorgensen was that he could really run . . . We have a need for more good position players in our system right now. We felt we were a little thin, especially in the lower minors (for position players)."

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