Whitaker tops a balanced Day 2 for Astros
HOUSTON -- After sitting out the first day of the MLB Draft because they lost their first- and second-round picks as part of the punishment handed down by Major League Baseball last year in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal, the Astros jumped into the fray Monday.
The Astros did gain an extra pick this year at No. 132 overall, following the fourth round, which they received for George Springer signing with the Blue Jays. Astros amateur scouting director Kris Gross said there was a lot more depth in the Draft this year with players who would have gone in the sixth to 10th rounds in last year’s five-round Draft.
“I think we’re going to get some good players tomorrow in Day 3 because of that, also,” Gross said.
Round 3, 87th overall: Tyler Whitaker, OF, Bishop Gorman HS (Nev.)
Notable skill: Whitaker, an Arizona commit, has a combination of athleticism and offensive potential that had him climbing boards as the spring wore on and also earned him Gatorade state high school player of the year honors at the end of his season. Initially a shortstop, the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Whitaker moved to third base and then to the outfield corners, where most scouts feel his future lies. He runs well for his size and has a plus arm that worked from the left side of the infield. He has plus raw power that he’s learning to tap into more regularly. Over last summer, he performed more like a contact hitter, but he has been more upright with his stance and driving the ball more this spring.
Fun fact: Whitaker went to the same high school as Rangers slugger Joey Gallo.
Quotable: “We think he’s got potential five tools written all over him. He runs, he hits and we’re enamored by his power. We think he can impact the baseball on both sides -- defensively, offensively -- and we’re really excited to get him where we got him.” -- Gross
Round 4, 117th overall: Alex Ulloa, SS, Calvary Christian Academy (Fla.)
Notable skill: Ulloa is a self-proclaimed energetic player who likes to have fun playing the game. He has a strong right-handed bat and has held his own against premium competition. The Astros fell in love with the bat. He makes contact, but packs a punch. He has a good idea of what he’s doing at the plate and the ability to drive the ball with excellent bat speed. He has recorded above-average run times and can maximize his speed with an aggressive approach that carries over to his baserunning. Ulloa has good instincts on defense with an average arm. There are questions about whether he can play the position long-term, but Ulloa said, “I can stick at shortstop my whole career.” Ulloa signed with Oklahoma State, but he said he has an agreement with Houston.
Fun fact: Ulloa was a high school teammate of pitcher Andrew Painter, who was taken No. 13 overall Sunday by the Phillies.
Quotable: “It felt amazing. Something I was looking forward to before the Draft. It’s a team I had circled as one of my favorites, and I was glad to hear my name called.” -- Ulloa
Round 4C, 132nd overall: Chayce McDermott, RHP, Ball State University
Notable skill: McDermott went 8-2 with a 3.05 ERA and was fifth in the nation with 125 strikeouts (13.61 Ks per nine innings). He pitched mostly at 93-96 mph with his fastball this year, but he touched 97-98. “And it’s easy,” coach Rich Maloney said. His fastball has a high spin rate, so he can pitch up in the zone, which the Astros will like. His slider, at times, is Major League caliber, but it needs to be developed and become more consistent. McDermott has a chance to gain weight and get stronger. He’s a great competitor who comes from a family of athletes.
Fun fact: His brother, Sean McDermott, played basketball at Butler and for the Memphis Grizzlies. His mother played basketball at Indiana State.
Quotable: “It’s an amazing feeling. I can’t even put into words how much it means to me. Playing for such a great organization is going to be a real treat. I’m super excited to go to the Astros.” -- McDermott
Round 5, 148th overall: Quincy Hamilton, OF, Wright State University
Notable skill: “Honestly, I think he’s the steal of the Draft,” Wright State coach Alex Sogard said of Hamilton, a fifth-year junior. Sogard is so high on Hamilton because he was stuck behind other players and didn’t get to play much until his junior year, which was then cut short. Sogard calls him a “complete player” and easily one of his team’s best hitters, as well as being a good runner with a good arm. Sogard said if Hamilton were younger, he probably would have been a first- or second-rounder. He played center field last year but has played right field. He started 48 games and hit .374 with 18 doubles, four triples, 15 homers and a team-best 65 RBIs.
Fun fact: Hamilton was named the Horizon League Player of the Year, as well as being named to the Horizon League academic honor roll.
Quotable: “It meant everything. It’s what I've been working on for my whole life. I respect that they wanted me in the fifth round. I’m pretty much going to keep grinding and putting in work and always have that chip in my shoulder.” -- Hamilton, on getting drafted by the Astros
Round 6, 178th overall: Spencer Arrighetti, RHP, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Notable skill: Arrighetti went 7-5 with a 3.06 ERA, 90 strikeouts and 27 walks in 82 1/3 innings this year for the Ragin’ Cajuns after playing his sophomore season at Navarro JC, where he made four starts and owned a 2-2 record with a 4.26 ERA. He spent his freshman season at TCU, appearing in 16 games. Arrighetti fills the strike zone and throws a ton of strikes with a quality four-pitch mix.
Fun fact: Arrighetti went to Cinco Ranch High School outside Houston and grew up as a huge Astros fan, admiring Lance McCullers Jr. and Justin Verlander. He even attended the team’s World Series championship parade in 2017.
Quotable: “Oh gosh, it’s going to be surreal. I’m thinking about it right now. I’ve pitched on that mound before, but being able to be up there and throw and call myself a Houston Astro is a dream come true.” -- Arrighetti, on wearing an Astros uniform
Round 7, 208th overall: Joey Loperfido, OF, Duke University
Notable skill: A senior, Loperfido played the infield as a freshman before moving to the outfield as a junior and senior. He scored 142 runs in his career, tied for 17th in Duke history, and blasted 18 home runs to rank in the top 20. He had hoped to be drafted last year -- the Draft was only five rounds -- but opted to come back for his senior season.
Fun fact: Loperfido's mother played volleyball at Villanova, and his father was a member of the Muhlenberg College football team.
Quotable: “I can pretty much play anywhere on the field. I like playing center field the most, but I’m somebody that likes to hit at the top of the lineup and get on base and make things happen. I think there’s a lot more power in the tank.” -- Loperfido
Round 8, 238th overall: Colton Gordon, LHP, University of Central Florida
Notable skill: Gordon appeared in only nine games this year, posting a 2.77 ERA, before undergoing Tommy John surgery in late April. That came on the heels of a 2020 season in which he appeared in only four games because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to UCF, he played a season at Hillsborough (Fla.) Community College and had 86 strikeouts in 88 2/3 innings. He’s a big, physical pitcher who throws a ton of strikes with four pitches from the left side. The Astros are hoping to get him into games late next year and have him fully healthy in Spring Training of 2023.
Fun fact: Gordon outdueled two highly drafted SEC starters in each of the last two years, beating Doug Nikhazy at Ole Miss on Feb. 26 and Tanner Burns of Auburn a year earlier. Burns went 36th overall to Cleveland in 2020, and Nikhazy went to the Indians with the No. 58 overall pick this year.
Quotable: “Man, he’s put in so much work. It was really unfortunate when he got hurt, but I’m happy the Astros are going to take a chance on him. He’s going to rehab like crazy to get back. I know he’ll be back to at least the same guy he was before.” -- UCF coach Greg Lovelady
Round 9, 268th overall: Aaron Brown, RHP, Middle Tennessee State University
Notable skill: Brown was a reliever when he pitched his freshman year at Vanderbilt in 2018, but he transferred because he wanted to be a starter. He spent a year at State College of Florida before landing at Middle Tennessee, which is close to his home. He’s first and foremost a strike-thrower who’s competitive, with a makeup that’s “off the charts,” according to college coach Jim Tolman. “He’s a team-first guy, a high-character guy.” His fastball sits comfortably at 93-95 mph, and his changeup is a plus pitch as well. He struck out 113 batters and walked only 15 in 85 2/3 innings this year.
Fun fact: Brown was a teammate at Vanderbilt of pitcher Tyler Brown, whom the Astros took in the third round last year.
Quotable: “The farm system, the pitchers they have there, they just got a name for themselves alone. I’m pumped to be a part of it. It’s going to be a fun ride. I know that.” -- Brown
Round 10, 298th overall: Michael Sandle, OF, University of South Alabama
Notable skill: A hard worker who’s bursting with athleticism, Sandle committed to South Alabama on the spot after he attended a camp there as a senior in high school. This year, he ranked second on the team with a .328 batting average while also recording four doubles, one home run, 11 RBIs, eight runs scored, seven stolen bases and a .389 on-base percentage in 18 games. He played all three outfield spots in his first year, but he concentrated on center field the last two years.
Fun fact: Sandle had a career-high five hits, finishing 5-for-5 with a double and a home run, and a career-high seven RBIs against New Orleans on March 20, 2019.
Quotable: “I’ve been working for this moment forever, and for it to be the Astros, it’s kind of cool to me. I’m just happy and thankful for the opportunity.” -- Sandle