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Astros Draft Report Card

By Jim Callis

Best Pro Debut: RHP Robert Stiehl (1) pitched just 11 innings, but they were 11 overpowering innings. He had a 1.69 ERA and a 20-5 strikeout-walk ratio, and opponents batted .135 against him.

Best Athlete: Described by assistant scouting director Pat Murphy as "5-foot-11 and 190 pounds of muscle," OF Jake Whitesides (5) reminds the Astros of Lenny Dykstra.

Best Hitter: Whitesides, though he batted just .178-1-6 at Rookie-level Martinsville with 49 strikeouts in 129 at-bats in his pro debut.

Best Raw Power: Though he didn’t show it in Martinsville, Whitesides’ best tool is power, and he hit 11 home runs in 20 swings at Kauffman Stadium in a predraft workout for the Royals. Houston also likes the pop in the bats of 3B Nate Nelson (10) and OF Anthony Acevedo (13).

Fastest Runner: The Astros didn’t sign any speedsters. Whitesides is the only above-average runner, and he’s only slightly better than average.

Best Defensive Player: Tommy Whiteman (6) is a slick 6-foot-3 shortstop with a strong arm.

Best Fastball: Stiehl threw 97 mph during the summer, a velocity matched by RHP Anthony Pluta (3) in instructional league. They both average 93-94 mph. RHP Chad Qualls (2) tops out at 95 mph, but his fastball might be even nastier. It has a lot of sink, and righthanders have trouble picking it up from his low three-quarters angle.

Most Intriguing Background: Stiehl was primarily a catcher at El Camino (Calif.) JC but began closing games this season. He would often catch the first eight innings of a game and pitch the ninth. The Astros envision him following the same career path that Troy Percival did successfully with the Angels.

Closest To The Majors: Qualls, though he signed too late to pitch in 2000, should move quickly.

Best Late-Round Pick: Acevedo generates plenty of leverage with a 6-foot-5 frame and he runs well enough to have moved from first base, his position at Fresno State, to left field.

The One Who Got Away: Power-hitting 3B Eric Keefner (4) would have been the best athlete signed by Houston, but he decided to play baseball and football at Arizona State instead.

Assessment: This was a typical Astros draft in that they went after raw arms and inexpensive college seniors, such as Qualls, Nelson and Acevedo. Just 12 of their 43 selections were used on high school players. Stiehl (inexperience) and Pluta (.500 record as a high school senior) were gambles, though Houston likes the early returns.

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