Astros load up on college talent in Draft

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HOUSTON — The Astros used the final day of the MLB Draft to grab some underrated talent they believe had slipped into the later rounds, as well as make sure they were able to fill out their Minor League rosters as the Draft wound down.

When the dust settled, the Astros had drafted 11 right-hander pitchers, six left-handed pitchers, five catchers, 11 infielders and nine outfielders. Of the 42 players they selected, 35 were college players. Nine of their picks have ties to the state of Texas.

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“In rounds 11-15 and just beyond that, we targeted some players that we had valued as possible Day 2 prospects and they slide into Day 3 and we were able to snap a few of them up,” Astros director of player development and scouting Mike Elias said. “It’s always nice to do that. We got some more pitching and some bats to spread around the system. Overall, I thought our guys worked hard all day long. It’s a lot of focus and a long couple of weeks getting through the Draft, but we feel good how it went and pleased it’s over.”

The first two players the Astros took Wednesday were Notre Dame pitcher Brandon Bielak, a right-hander, in the 11th round, and Seminole State College (Okla.) right fielder Jonathan Lacroix in the 12th round. Bielak went 2-6 with a 5.55 ERA in his junior season for the Irish, but he had 75 strikeouts in 73 innings. What caught the Astros’ attention was his 1.54 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings in the Cape Cod League last year.

“He moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation and really put up big numbers at the Cape when he was in the ‘pen exclusively, getting up to 94 mph with a good breaking ball and good numbers,” Elias said.

Astros scout Jim Stevenson has found hidden gems in the Oklahoma JUCO ranks the last few years, and the Astros hope Lacroix is no different. Elias compared him to Josh Reddick.

Other notable picks for the Astros are Texas outfielder Pat Mathis (22nd round), who had seven homers in 46 games for the Longhorns; Missouri catcher Brett Bond (23rd round); Houston high school shortstop Trei Cruz (35th round), who’s the son of former Major Leaguer Jose Cruz Jr. and grandson of Astros legend Jose Cruz; and University of Houston lefty Trey Cumbie (38th round), a Draft-eligible sophomore who was 10-2 with a 2.04 ERA in 15 starts.

“As we get later into the day, we start thinking about our Minor League rosters and making sure you have enough catchers, enough shortstops and enough arms to go around, but we’re still looking for talent,” Elias said. “If we pick up a few extra college arms, a few extra college third basemen, we’re going to find spots for them to play and let them show their stuff and see if they can perform.”

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for M/ since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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