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Baseball America Online - College

Astros Draft Preview

By Jim Callis
May 12, 2003

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

2000 Draft (First five rounds, picking 27th)
1. Robert Stiehl, rhp, El Camino (Calif.) JC
2. Chad Qualls, rhp, Nevada
3. Anthony Pluta, rhp, Las Vegas HS
4. *Eric Keefner, 3b, De la Salle HS, Bridgeview, Ill.
5. Jake Whitesides, of, Hickman HS, Columbia, Mo.

2001 Draft (First five rounds, picking 10th)
1. Chris Burke, ss, Tennessee
2. Mike Rodriguez, of, Miami
3. Kirk Saarloos, rhp, Cal State Fullerton
4. Phillip Barzilla, lhp, Rice
5. Charlton Jimerson, of, Miami

2002 Draft (First five rounds, picking 29th)
1. Derick Grisgby, rhp, Northeast Texas CC
2. Mitch Talbot, rhp, Canyon View HS, Cedar City, Utah
3. Rory Shortell, rhp, San Diego State
4. Mark McLemore, lhp, Oregon State
5. *Pat Misch, lhp, Western Michigan
(*Did not sign)

2003 Draft
Astros pick 22nd in rotation (Lose first-round pick for signing Jeff Kent.)

The Astros' draft philosophy is well established. They prefer college players, taking 16 among their 20 picks in the first 10 rounds over the last two years, the second-highest ratio in baseball, behind only the Athletics.

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.