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Astros finalize deal with 1st-round pick Beer

MLB.com

HOUSTON -- On Wednesday, the Astros announced the signing of first-round pick Seth Beer, an outfielder from Clemson taken with the 28th overall pick in last week's MLB Draft.

Beer will report to short-season Class A Tri-City on Thursday, and he is expected to make his professional debut during the ValleyCats' first few games, Astros assistant general manager Mike Elias said. Tri-City's season begins Friday.

HOUSTON -- On Wednesday, the Astros announced the signing of first-round pick Seth Beer, an outfielder from Clemson taken with the 28th overall pick in last week's MLB Draft.

Beer will report to short-season Class A Tri-City on Thursday, and he is expected to make his professional debut during the ValleyCats' first few games, Astros assistant general manager Mike Elias said. Tri-City's season begins Friday.

Draft Tracker: Every Astros Draft pick

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

"I'm super excited," Beer said Wednesday at Minute Maid Park. "I want to go out and play. I want to do whatever I can for the organization. I'm so glad they've given me this opportunity, and I'm just going to do whatever I can to help our organization."

A polished left-handed hitter with a controlled swing, Beer hit .301 with 22 homers, 54 RBIs and a .456 on-base percentage in his junior year at Clemson. He walked 54 times and struck out just 36 times, showing remarkable plate discipline. In his career at Clemson, he drew 180 walks and struck out 98 times in 188 games.

"Every time I try to hit a home run, it usually never works out," Beer said. "I'm always just trying to do damage with pitches that I can handle and not try to swing out of the zone or be too aggressive."

The slot value for the No. 28 overall pick is $2,339,400. Beer signed for $2.25 million, according to MLB.com's Jim Callis.

Beer burst onto the scene as a freshman at Clemson in 2016, when he hit .369 with 18 homers, 13 doubles, 70 RBIs, 57 runs, 62 walks, 15 hit by pitches, a .535 on-base percentage and a .700 slugging percentage in 62 games. He became the first freshman to win the Dick Howser Trophy presented to the national player of the year.

Video: Mike Elias and Gavin Dickey talk about draft pick

The Astros also announced the signing of the following Draft picks: shortstop Jeremy Peña (3rd round), right-hander Cody Deason (fifth), catcher Cesar Salazar (seventh), right-hander Austin Hansen (eighth), outfielder Chandler Taylor (10th), right-hander Mark Moclair (12th), outfielder Marty Costes (22nd), infielder David Hensley (26th), catcher Juan Paulino (27th) and right-hander Layne Henderson (30th).

"We feel good about where we're at with our signings," Elias said. "It's a bit of a process. It can take some time. There's logistics involved, but we're well on pace. We've got several of our top 10 picks signed. We're going to have a lot of draftees out playing with the affiliates this coming week, so we feel really good about where we're at."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.

Houston Astros

Astros sign 3rd-rounder Pena, 5 other draftees

MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Shortstop Jeremy Pena, the Astros' third-round pick who they slated as the top defensive shortstop in the 2018 Draft earlier this week, signed with the club on Wednesday and will report to Class A Short Season Tri-City on Thursday, he told MLB.com.

The Astros announced the first six signings of their 40-man 2018 Draft class on Wednesday morning, including Pena, right-handed pitchers Cody Deason (fifth round), Austin Hansen (eighth), Mark Moclair (12th) and Layne Henderson (30th), and catcher Juan Paulino (27th).

View Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- Shortstop Jeremy Pena, the Astros' third-round pick who they slated as the top defensive shortstop in the 2018 Draft earlier this week, signed with the club on Wednesday and will report to Class A Short Season Tri-City on Thursday, he told MLB.com.

The Astros announced the first six signings of their 40-man 2018 Draft class on Wednesday morning, including Pena, right-handed pitchers Cody Deason (fifth round), Austin Hansen (eighth), Mark Moclair (12th) and Layne Henderson (30th), and catcher Juan Paulino (27th).

View Full Game Coverage

Pena, a native of Providence, R.I., arrived in Houston on Monday and completed his physical and medical evaluation without complications Tuesday, the day before penning a pro contract with the reigning World Series champions.

"Surreal, because it's a dream come true. It's what you dream of as a kid," Pena said. "Being here is a step toward reaching my goal. I'm just excited -- excited to go and play."

Pena started in every game of his three-year career at the University of Maine. Pena batted .311 with 19 extra-base hits during his junior season in 2018. Peña was joined in Houston by his father, Gerónimo, who played parts of seven MLB seasons with the Cardinals (1990-95) and the Indians (1996).

Deason, 21, held a 2.87 ERA in 14 starts as the University of Arizona's Friday night starter in 2018. Hansen, a 21-year-old righty, recorded nine saves with a 3.29 ERA in 34 appearances (38 1/3 innings) for the University of Oklahoma in 2018.

Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.

Houston Astros

Angels draft Astros Youth Academy star Nelson

Center fielder fulfills promise made to mother before her death
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Daryl Wade almost missed the call that sent him to his truck so he could cry privately.

Late Tuesday night, after orchestrating summer camps and games at the Astros' Youth Academy, Wade had already showered and fallen asleep on the couch.

HOUSTON -- Daryl Wade almost missed the call that sent him to his truck so he could cry privately.

Late Tuesday night, after orchestrating summer camps and games at the Astros' Youth Academy, Wade had already showered and fallen asleep on the couch.

Then Drevian Nelson called.

"And then my phone rang. It was him," said Wade, the director of the Astros' Youth Academy. "He said, 'Coach, coach, they told me they're going to be calling tomorrow.'"

With their 14th-round selection in the 2018 MLB Draft, the Angels selected Nelson with the 421st overall selection, fulfilling a promise made to his late mother.

Nelson's story -- which he told in a 2017 award-winning essay under the "Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life" program, a baseball-themed education program developed by Major League Baseball and Sharon Robinson, Jackie Robinson's daughter and MLB educational consultant -- was written as a testimony for how baseball can help a fractured life while inspiring others.

"After she passed, it was a struggle," said Nelson, a center fielder from North Shore High School, on Wednesday. "I promised her I would play Major League Baseball someday. Ever since then, I never stopped working."

"I know this is my passion. This is my purpose and this is what I've got to do in order to be able to let her know that I appreciate everything she did while she was here and that it's going to pay off."

As Nelson wrote in the essay, his mother, Donna Yvette Williams, died of cancer when he was 11 years old on June 7, 2011. Nelson, now 18, was selected by the Angels a day before the seventh anniversary of her passing.

"I really got to see what that kid had been through, and it made me even closer to him," Wade said. "You can hear about kids' parents passing away. But when you really go through it step by step with what he went through, it made me closer to him. From then on, it was just like he was my other son."

Shortly after being drafted on Wednesday, Nelson, who will wear pink wristbands and accessories while playing to pay tribute to his late mother, tweeted: "MOMMA I DID IT"

Tweet from @DrevianNelson24: MOMMA I DID IT🙏🙏🙏 https://t.co/UGN7AYmIjE

Earlier this year while funneling through boxes of sneakers given to the Youth Academy, Wade found two sets of pink shoes in Nelson's size.

Wade texted Nelson a photo of the shoes.

"You want these shoes?" he asked.

Nelson hustled over and picked up the shoes.

"He must've thanked me six times," Wade said. "'Thank you, coach. Thank you, coach.' He's just a great young man.

"I'm happy for him. I'm happy for his mom. I know she's not here. But as a father myself, you want the best for your kids even after you're gone."

Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.

Los Angeles Angels, Houston Astros

Astros successfully add depth through Draft

Right-handed pitchers, college talent dominate club's selections
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- The Astros sought to replenish much-needed shortstop and catching depth throughout their farm system in the 2018 MLB Draft. They didn't shy away from right-handed pitchers, and college prospects were chosen by the boatload. In all, 40 picks later, the club considers the three-day event a success.

"We're very pleased with it," said assistant general manager Mike Elias, who's in charge of the club's domestic and international scouting efforts. "There's a great blend of players. A good mix of arms and bats."

HOUSTON -- The Astros sought to replenish much-needed shortstop and catching depth throughout their farm system in the 2018 MLB Draft. They didn't shy away from right-handed pitchers, and college prospects were chosen by the boatload. In all, 40 picks later, the club considers the three-day event a success.

"We're very pleased with it," said assistant general manager Mike Elias, who's in charge of the club's domestic and international scouting efforts. "There's a great blend of players. A good mix of arms and bats."

•  Draft Tracker: Every Astros pick

The defending World Series champions put a bow on their 2018 Draft on Wednesday. From their first overall selection, Clemson's power-hitting outfielder Seth Beer at No. 28 overall, until the end of Day 3, the Astros selected collegiate prospects by the boatload. Thirty-three of 40 players drafted by the club, to be exact, with only seven high school picks.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

Like plenty of teams, but especially because of their late selections, the Astros sought bang for their buck selections by drafting college players instead of high school talent. Prep players tend to cost more because they are able to use their college commitments as the contractual leverage upper class college players do not have because they have nowhere else to go.

Astros covet position players on Draft's Day 2

"The reality of it is high school players are typically much more expensive than college players because they have been college commitments that they have yet to enter into," Elias said. "With our situation this year, with a smaller bonus pool and picking lower in the rounds, there's just fewer and fewer of them as you go."

Less than half a season into the win-now Major League roster construction with Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Brian McCann and Ken Giles -- deals that exported prospects to lift the Astros' chase to a first, and now second straight, World Series title -- Houston's 2018 Draft class was firm on stocking pitching, taking the best player available in the early rounds and "pouncing on" shortstops and catchers early in Days 2 and 3, Elias said.

"We don't discriminate too much with right or left-handed," Elias said of the 20 right-handed and two left-handed arms selected by the club. "We like guys with good stuff and good performance, and good command. If they're left-handed, that's great. But left-handers are treated with a little bit of an extra premium in the Draft, so if you want one, you kind of have to go up and get him early ... We're very happy to take a right-hander over a left-hander if we think that guy's got a better chance to succeed."

Drafting Arizona catcher Cesar Salazar in the seventh round, a bilingual game-managing catcher known for superb relationships with his batterymates, and Eastern Kentucky's Alex Holderbach helped bolster the farm system's catching depth.

Video: Draft 2018: Astros draft SS Jeremy Pena No. 102

Houston's third-round selection of shortstop Jeremy Pena, who the club evaluated as its highest-rated defensive shortstop in the Draft, checked off another box, although his bat needs work.

Draft notes
• The Astros selected a total of 20 right-handed pitchers and two left-handers. Houston drafted eight outfielders, five catchers and five infielders to complete its 40-player class.

• Houston followed its family tree late in Day 3. The club selected infielder J.C. Correa (33rd round) and left-handed pitcher A.J. Bregman (35th round), brothers to Astros stars Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa.

Video: Bregman on the Astros drafting his brother, A.J.

• Outfielder Antonio Cruz was taken by the Astros in the 37th round. He is the grandson of legendary Astros slugger Jose Cruz, whose No. 25 was retired in 1992. In 2017, the Astros selected Trei Cruz, Antonio's older brother, in the 35th round.

"We're blessed in our organization to have a lot of current players and alumni with strong baseball families in there," Elias said. "Generations of players, with the Cruz family in particular, where generation after generation they play the game the right way. ... It's just a big, big honor. It's a fun, rewarding moment for everyone in our Draft room when we get to select a family member."

• The Astros selected their first left-handed pitcher, Jonathan Bermudez, in the 23rd round with the 702nd overall pick. A Southeastern University product out of Lakeland, Fla., Bermudez was named the NAIA's Pitcher of Year -- going 15-2 with a 1.95 ERA and 153 strikeouts, setting school records in wins and strikeouts.

Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.

Houston Astros

Correa, Bregman brothers drafted by Astros

Jose Cruz's grandson, Antonio, also selected by club in 37th round
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- The Astros like the Correas. And the Bregmans. And three generations worth of the Cruz family.

There's Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman, the dominating left side of Houston's infield, and Jose Cruz, the eldest of the lineage of Cruz's forever legendary in Astros lore because of Cruz's unbreakable status as one of Houston's best hitters in franchise history. Cruz's jersey was retired by Houston in 1992. You know them.

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HOUSTON -- The Astros like the Correas. And the Bregmans. And three generations worth of the Cruz family.

There's Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman, the dominating left side of Houston's infield, and Jose Cruz, the eldest of the lineage of Cruz's forever legendary in Astros lore because of Cruz's unbreakable status as one of Houston's best hitters in franchise history. Cruz's jersey was retired by Houston in 1992. You know them.

View Full Game Coverage

• Draft Tracker: Every Astros pick

Then there's J.C. Correa and A.J. Bregman, the younger brothers to the Astros' stars, who were selected by their big brothers' Major League club in the 33rd and 35th rounds, respectively, of the 2018 MLB Draft on Wednesday. Antonio Cruz is Jose Cruz's second grandson to be chosen by the Astros in consecutive years. Houston selected Antonio in the 37th round, one year after selecting Trei, Antonio's older brother, in last year's 35th round.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

By the end of Day 3 of the Draft, the Astros' family had grown significantly.

"Super happy," Carlos Correa said. "I couldn't believe it when they told me. … I just called him. He told me he was crying when he found out. He's very happy, very excited. Right now he's in Alaska playing in summer tournaments. My dad was crying. The family is very happy and proud of him."

"Little bro just got drafted by the 'Stros. That's awesome," Alex Bregman said while standing next to A.J., who happened to be at Minute Maid Park to watch his older brother face the Mariners on Wednesday. "I had no idea. Just incredible."

"I'm really happy for Antonio, I know he was looking for that," said Jose Cruz, the father of Jose Cruz Jr. whose MLB career ended in 2008 with the Astros. "Now he can say that he got drafted by the Astros, the same way like Trei. I think everybody's happy. It's wonderful. What can I say, this organization, for me, is No. 1."

J.C. Correa spent multiple months with Carlos during the Astros' offseason. The brothers -- the first pair of brothers the Astros had selected before Alex's sibling was taken two rounds later -- spent two months together living in Carlos' home. They followed diets together, worked out the same way and went to the field together, Correa said.

"He put in the time and the work," Carlos said. "And it's showing in the way he's been playing. … Every time I hit with him, I always wish I had his swing."

Carlos said his brother, who's committed to Lamar University for the 2018-19 season, took a few pre-Draft workouts, including one in Houston. A.J. Bregman is a left-handed pitcher committed to the University of New Mexico, and he's currently training in Houston with a pitching coach.

Playing for the same club is a dream for a pair of brothers, Carlos Correa said. Now the Astros have two of them.

"That would be a dream come true," Carlos Correa said. "It's obviously hard to do. But it'd be great if we could play for the same team at the big league level. … Getting drafted in the same organization really means a lot."

Tweet from @brianmctaggart: Carlos Correa ran into the clubhouse to call his brother when he found out he was drafted by the Astros. "It was very emotional," he said. pic.twitter.com/IHCrH3SQSt

"I'm really excited," J.C. said. "I worked hard all my life waiting for this moment, and for me getting drafted by the Astros means a lot. It's the same team where my brother plays. I'm really happy ... When he called me, for me it means a lot.

Unlike the Correas, the Bregmans just dueled it out this offseason. A.J. pitched to Alex and what followed remains unclear.

"I say that it was a double and he says it was a popup," Alex said, jokingly.

Tweet from @brianmctaggart: Incredible: Alex Bregman tells his brother, A.J., he was drafted by the Astros. pic.twitter.com/hLX4SaclTl

As recently as Wednesday afternoon, shortly after Alex Bregman finished taking batting practice with his brother posted in front of the Astros' dugout, he walked over to A.J., who then began critiquing his older brother's swing from watching him in the cage.

"He told me, 'Stay inside the ball a little bit more' during [batting practice]," Alex said. "I said, 'Why don't you stop worrying about my swing and check Twitter' or something. 'You just got drafted by the 'Stros.'"

Tweet from @brianmctaggart: A.J. Bregman on being drafted by the Astros. He's a LHP committed to New Mexico. pic.twitter.com/sA4xvBJneM

"He told me [to check Twitter], and I didn't know why at first," A.J. said. "I'm like, 'Why?' I'm so happy now. … It was amazing. It was surreal. I'm just so excited that happened. ... I can't take it all in right now. Pretty shocked. I had no idea, honestly."

Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.

Houston Astros, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa

Astros covet position players on Draft's Day 2

Maine SS Pena, Cal Poly OF McKenna among club's 8 selections
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- The Astros tabbed position players with their first two selections in the third and fourth rounds of the MLB Draft on Tuesday -- the top-rated prospect out of Maine, shortstop Jeremy Pena at No. 102 overall, and Cal Poly outfielder Alex McKenna at No. 132 -- and the club continued loading up on right-handed pitchers on Day 2.

The Draft concludes on Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at noon ET.

HOUSTON -- The Astros tabbed position players with their first two selections in the third and fourth rounds of the MLB Draft on Tuesday -- the top-rated prospect out of Maine, shortstop Jeremy Pena at No. 102 overall, and Cal Poly outfielder Alex McKenna at No. 132 -- and the club continued loading up on right-handed pitchers on Day 2.

The Draft concludes on Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at noon ET.

Draft Tracker: Follow every Astros Draft pick

Nine of the Astros' 10 selections in opening two days of the Draft were college prospects. By the end of Day 2, Houston has reeled in four outfielders -- including first-round choice Seth Beer at No. 28 overall -- one shortstop with their third-round pick, one catcher and four right-handed pitchers.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

"Typically, if you're going to target positions in a Draft, it's usually catcher and shortstop because those are the hardest to play defensively and they usually go very quickly in the draft," Astros assistant general manager Mike Elias said. "We were happy to come away with a shortstop and a catcher today, both of whom we really like. But there was a lot of good college arms with good stuff -- right-handed pitchers and we got a couple of those today -- and then some big college power bats."

Astros draft Clemson OF Beer with No. 28 pick

Here are Tuesday's selections:

Round 3, No. 102: SS Jeremy Pena, University of Maine
"You can put him in there at any level right now and he's going to do well," Maine coach Nick Derba told MLB.com. "Defensively, he is as good as anybody I've ever seen or played with. And I think if he continues to develop the bat, which I think he will, then you'll see a lot of Jeremy Pena on TV."

Pena, the son of former Major Leaguer Geronimo Pena, is a 6-foot, 180-pound true shortstop with "good speed that leads to excellent range and possesses the strong arm and footwork necessary to excel at the demanding position," according to Pena's bio on MLB.com.

"I can't describe that feeling," Pena told MLB.com. "It was a dream come true and I was very excited ... It's an honor to be drafted, especially by an organization with what they've accomplished in the past year is incredible."

There's little doubt Pena, 20, will move away from shortstop. Pena, ranked as the 168th prospect in the Draft by MLB Pipeline, started in all 54 games at Maine last season, batting .308 with 50 runs scored, 65 hits and 28 RBIs in 211 at-bats. The Astros evaluated Pena the highest-rated defensive shortstop in the Draft, Elias said, and they are expected to discuss further future plans with Pena on Wednesday.

Derba, who was selected by the Cardinals in the 2007 Draft, formerly employed Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and assistant hitting coach Jeff Albert at the time of Derba's selection. Derba spoke to Albert throughout Pena's draft process, so the familiarity with Albert as his former hitting coach in the Cardinals' organization was surely beneficial. But Pena's play spoke for itself, Derba said.

"He's going to a place that I think is one of the best places to go," Derba said. "They're going to develop him. He's going to get an opportunity and they're going to invest their time. They're on the cutting edge of teaching the game. I'm really excited for Jeremy."

Round 4, No. 132: OF Alex McKenna, Cal Poly
McKenna's value as a prospect took flight in his sophomore season at Cal Poly when he slashed .365 en route to becoming an All-Big West Conference selection.

Like Pena, McKenna is a right-handed-hitting junior with experience at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds. McKenna's most enticing tool is his bat and line-drive oriented swing. Defensively, McKenna's a bit of a mystery. Elias expects McKenna to remain as a center fielder, but other pundits believe he may be bumped to left field or fit best as a fourth, rotational outfielder.

McKenna, 20, was previously drafted by the Twins in the 38th round in 2015. McKenna is the first Cal Poly prospect to be drafted since Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger in 2012.

Round 5, No. 162: RHP Cody Deason, Arizona
Deason's success as a freshman reliever at Arizona contributed to the Wildcats' College World Series run in 2016. Deason was promoted as their Friday night starter in 2018, bolstering his prospect status with a 2.87 ERA in 91 innings (14 starts).

A 6-foot-3 righty selected as Houston's second right-hander on Tuesday, Deason has never been previously drafted and became the second Wildcat to be taken by the Astros in as many years, joining infielder J.J. Matijevic (No. 75 overall, 2017).

Round 6, No. 192: RHP R.J. Freure, Pittsburgh
A Team Canada alum and Toronto native, Freure, a right-handed reliever, was the University of Pittsburgh's first player to be drafted in 2018.

"It's an honor to be given this opportunity to play professionally, and I would like to thank my coaches for helping me and showing me how to become a better player and person on and off the field," Freure said in a press release. "Mostly, I want to thank my parents for everything they have done for me and allowing me to pursue my dream. I am extremely thankful for this opportunity."

Freure, a two-year reliever and a Draft-eligible sophomore, compiled a 4.30 ERA in a school-high 27 appearances this season and he held opponents to a .227 average with 95 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings. He led the nation in strikeouts per 9.0 innings ratio at 14.57, striking out 95 batters.

"In my opinion, R.J. has a Major League pitch in his breaking ball," Pittsburgh coach Joe Jordano said. "Couple that with a mid to upper 90s fastball, when he develops his consistency and potential of a quality third pitch, he's a big league pitcher sooner than later."

Round 7, No. 222: C Cesar Salazar
The Astros nailed a need with Salazar's selection. With catching depth at a premium throughout the farm system, Salazar marks Houston's first catcher to be selected in this year's Draft and the second Wildcat chosen on Tuesday.

Salazar, a bilingual left-handed hitter, batted .339 in 53 starts and 189 at-bats this season.

"To get a catcher that can manage his own game, hit for average, throw runners out and speak Spanish and English is a really good package," Elias said, "so we went and got him in the seventh."

Round 8, No. 252: RHP Austin Hansen, Oklahoma
Hansen, a 6-foot reliever, can touch 96 mph with his fastball, but his velocity tends to fade as his outing lengthens.

Hansen posted a 3.29 ERA in 34 appearances for Oklahoma, which saw its season end on Monday in an NCAA Regional.

Round 9, No. 282: OF Scott Schreiber, Nebraska
The Astros went with a right-handed power bat from Nebraska late in Day 2.

Schreiber, who remained at Nebraska last season despite being drafted in the 26th round by the Rays in 2017, batted .369 with 18 home runs in 52 games in 2018, two years since suffering a groin injury. A 6-foot-3 right-handed hitter, Schreiber clubbed 37 home runs and 37 doubles in 176 games at Nebraska. Schreiber jumped 487 spots from 2017's selection at No. 769 to No. 282 in '18.

Round 10, No. 312: OF Chandler Taylor, Alabama
The Astros completed their Day 2 haul with Taylor, a 6-foot-2 junior corner outfielder with some first-base experience. He batted .223 with 37 hits in 166 at-bats at Alabama last season.

Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.

Houston Astros

Astros draft Clemson OF Beer with No. 28 pick

Houston takes Washington high school pitcher Schroeder 66th
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Just as Astros Draft pick Seth Beer, taken with the No. 28 overall pick out of Clemson on Monday, was wrapping up his conference call with reporters, Astros owner Jim Crane popped on the line and welcomed Beer to the organization.

"Well, thank you so much for the opportunity," Beer said. "It's truly a blessing and an honor. I'm so grateful and super excited."

HOUSTON -- Just as Astros Draft pick Seth Beer, taken with the No. 28 overall pick out of Clemson on Monday, was wrapping up his conference call with reporters, Astros owner Jim Crane popped on the line and welcomed Beer to the organization.

"Well, thank you so much for the opportunity," Beer said. "It's truly a blessing and an honor. I'm so grateful and super excited."

Draft Tracker: Follow every Astros Draft pick

Beer repeated the word "excited" several times during his interview, and for good reason. The defending World Series champions have high hopes for Beer, an outfielder who became the first freshman to win the Dick Howser Trophy, presented to the collegiate national player of the year, in 2016.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

A polished left-handed hitter with a controlled swing, Beer hit .301 with 22 homers, 54 RBIs and a .456 on-base percentage in his junior year at Clemson. He walked 54 times and struck out just 36 times in showing remarkable plate discipline. In his career at Clemson, he drew 180 walks and struck out 98 times in 188 games.

"Seth Beer is one of the premier college baseball players in the country and has been for the past three years, and even before that was one of the premier high school players in the country," Astros assistant general manager for player acquisition Mike Elias said. "So this is somebody we've been watching a lot over the past four to five years. He has a track record of production that is historic in terms of his college career and is hard for us to ignore."

The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 11:30 a.m. CT, with exclusive coverage beginning at noon.

Elias said Beer can play both corner-outfield positions, as well as first base, but Elias said Beer would likely move around at the beginning of his professional career. He played mostly right field in college. Astros scout Gavin Dickey said Beer has a Major League average arm that could improve.

"In today's game, there's a lot of value being placed on positional versatility, and certainly the ability to play some outfield and some first base will be something that he'll want to maintain in his skillset," Elias said.

Beer burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2016 when he hit .369 with 18 homers, 13 doubles, 70 RBIs, 57 runs, 62 walks, 15 hit by pitches, a .535 on-base percentage and .700 slugging percentage in 62 games at Clemson. He didn't duplicate those gaudy numbers the next two years but still controlled the zone and hit for power.

"His skills remain the same," Elias said. "Obviously, with the reputation he built up, he was pitched to much more carefully, and one thing we like at about him is he's not one to expand the zone or chase pitches that he shouldn't be. He was taking what was coming to him. All three of his years, to us, were elite, as far as production."

Video: Mike Elias and Gavin Dickey talk about draft pick

Beer, who grew up idolizing Chipper Jones, said he eats and sleeps baseball. So much so that he says his television is always on MLB Network. He also watched "every game, every pitch" of the World Series.

"To get the call from the defending World Series champs is an incredible opportunity and I'm just so excited," Beer said. "You just look at some of the guys they have, not only on their staff but their lineup, I'm just so honored and grateful to be a part of that."

The slot value for the No. 28 overall pick is $2,339,400.

In the second round, the Astros took high school right-hander Jayson Schroeder of Kirkland, Wash., at No. 66 overall. At 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, Schroeder is strong and physically mature. His fastball sits at 91-92 and consistently hits 93-95. He commands the fastball and has a solid curve, as well as a slider, allowing him to overpower high school hitters.

Schroeder has committed to the University of Washington, but the No. 66 overall pick comes with a slot value of $965,300 that the Astros will use to try to sign him to a pro contract.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros

Pick No. 28 is unusual Draft territory for Astros

Defending World Series champs projected to take OF Thomas
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- This will be an unusual MLB Draft for general manager Jeff Luhnow and assistant general manager Mike Elias, considering the Astros will be picking near the bottom of the first round for the first time in their tenure and will have no extra picks. Still, the MLB Draft represents an important opportunity for Houston to continue stockpiling talent.

The 2018 Draft will take place through Wednesday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com at 5 p.m. CT today. MLB Network will broadcast the first 43 picks (Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A), while MLB.com will stream all 78 picks on Day 1. MLB.com will also provide live pick-by-pick coverage of Rounds 3-10 on Day 2, with a preview show beginning at 11:30 a.m. CT. Then, Rounds 11-40 can be heard live on MLB.com on Day 3, beginning at 11 a.m. CT.

HOUSTON -- This will be an unusual MLB Draft for general manager Jeff Luhnow and assistant general manager Mike Elias, considering the Astros will be picking near the bottom of the first round for the first time in their tenure and will have no extra picks. Still, the MLB Draft represents an important opportunity for Houston to continue stockpiling talent.

The 2018 Draft will take place through Wednesday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com at 5 p.m. CT today. MLB Network will broadcast the first 43 picks (Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A), while MLB.com will stream all 78 picks on Day 1. MLB.com will also provide live pick-by-pick coverage of Rounds 3-10 on Day 2, with a preview show beginning at 11:30 a.m. CT. Then, Rounds 11-40 can be heard live on MLB.com on Day 3, beginning at 11 a.m. CT.

Go to MLB.com/draft to see the Top 200 Prospects list, projected top picks from MLB Pipeline analysts Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft on Twitter to see what Draft hopefuls, clubs and experts are saying.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

Here's how the Draft is shaping up for the Astros:

In about 50 words
Coming off a World Series championship, the Astros won't pick until No. 28 overall in the first round. With no extra picks this year, they will have the third-to-last pick in each round, meaning No. 66 overall (second round), No. 102 overall (third round) and every 30 picks after that.

The scoop
Despite trading away so many Minor Leaguers in recent years in deals to acquire impact players like Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Brian McCann and Ken Giles, the Astros' farm system remains strong thanks to some effective Drafts. This year presents a great opportunity for Houston to add more quality depth without the benefit of extra picks or a high first-round selection.

First-round buzz
In his latest Mock Draft, Callis has the Astros taking Chicago high school outfielder Alek Thomas. Florida high school right-hander Mason Denaburg could also be available when the Astros pick, along with a local product: Magnolia (Texas) High School third baseman Jordan Groshans. The Astros, especially picking so low in the first round, will focus more on "best player available" than position early on.

Video: Draft Report: Jordan Groshans, H.S. third baseman

Money matters
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $125,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.

Any team going up to 5 percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.

This year, the Astros have a pool of $5,492,900 to spend in the first 10 rounds, including $2,399,400 to spend on their first selection.

Shopping list
Adding quality pitching depth is always a goal, and this year's Draft should give the Astros an opportunity to do that. As usual, Houston will be looking to add some catching depth as well, considering it's been a weakness in the organization for years.

Trend watch
The Astros have leaned towards premium high school talent since Luhnow took over, with Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers Jr., Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley among the gems the team has taken high in the Draft. Last season, the Astros went heavy on college picks early, with 19 of their first 22 picks coming out of four-year universities or junior colleges. They did take high school third baseman Joe Perez with their second pick (No. 53 overall) last year even though he was headed for Tommy John surgery.

Last year, the Astros took 11 right-handed pitchers, six left-handed pitchers, five catchers, 11 infielders and nine outfielders. Of the 42 total selections, 35 came out of the collegiate ranks, and seven from high school. It marks the most high schoolers taken in the Draft by Houston since 2015.

Recent Draft history
The 2012 Draft -- Luhnow's first with the Astros -- remains his best so far, though it's too early to judge the last couple of years. The '12 Draft was led by Correa and McCullers. Last year's first-round pick, right-hander J.B. Bukauskas, has pitched in only two games this year at Class A Quad Cities because of an injury, and their first-round pick in '16, Whitley, is almost done serving a 50-game suspension for a failed drug test and should be ready to pitch next month at Double-A Corpus Christi. Right-hander Corbin Martin, the No. 56 overall pick last year, has also been impressive.

Video: Top Prospects: Corbin Martin, RHP, Astros

Rising fast
A 12th-round pick in 2015 out of St. John's River State College, outfielder Myles Straw has steadily progressed through the Minors and earned a big league Spring Training invite this year. With a high on-base percentage throughout his Minor League career and tons of speed, Straw jumped from Class A Advanced Buies Creek to Double-A last year and had a five-hit game at Corpus Christi on May 26. Through 47 games this year, he is slashing .363/.459/.437 with 31 steals. A right-handed hitter, he possesses little power.

Cinderella story
Josh James, a right-handed pitcher drafted in the 34th round in 2014 out of Western Oklahoma State College, made his Triple-A debut on May 10 for Fresno at Las Vegas, allowing three earned runs in five innings. This season at Double-A Corpus Christi, he had 38 strikeouts and had allowed only 17 hits and six earned runs in 21 2/3 innings.

In the show
Correa (first overall pick in 2012) and Alex Bregman (second overall pick in '15) helped anchor the infield on a World Series championship club last year, and outfielder Derek Fisher (No. 37 overall in '14) carved his name in Astros lore when he scored the winning run in Game 5 of the World Series. Other Astros Draft picks currently with the big league club are Tony Kemp (fifth round in '13), infielder J.D. Davis (third round in '14), starting pitchers McCullers (No. 41 overall in '12) and Dallas Keuchel (seventh round in '09) and World Series Most Valuable Player Award winner George Springer (No. 11 overall in '11).

The Astros' recent top picks

2017: J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, Class A Buies Creek

2016: Forrest Whitley, RHP, Double-A Corpus Christi (suspended)

2015: Alex Bregman, IF, Astros

2014: Brady Aiken, LHP, Did not sign (currently in extended spring training with Indians)

2014: Derek Fisher, OF, Astros (disabled list)

2013: Mark Appel, RHP, Out of baseball

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros

Where Astros' Top 30 prospects are starting season

MLB.com

With the 2018 season getting started, here's a look at where the Astros' Top 30 prospects are starting the season:

1. Forrest Whitley (MLB No. 9), RHP -- Suspended
2. Kyle Tucker (MLB No. 16), OF -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
3. J.B. Bukauskas (MLB No. 77), RHP -- Quad Cities River Bandits (A)
4. Yordan Alvarez, OF/1B -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
5. Freudis Nova, SS/3B -- Extended spring training
6. Cionel Perez, LHP -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
7. Jorge Alcala, RHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
8. David Paulino, RHP -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
9. J.D. Davis, 3B -- Houston Astros (MLB)
10. Corbin Martin, RHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
11. Hector Perez, RHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
12. Rogelio Armenteros, RHP -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
13. Jairo Solis, RHP -- Extended spring training
14. Joe Perez, 3B -- Extended spring training
15. Ronnie Dawson, OF -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
16. Framber Valdez, LHP -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
17. Drew Ferguson, OF -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
18. Dean Deetz, RHP -- Suspended
19. Cristian Javier, RHP -- Quad Cities River Bandits (A)
20. Riley Ferrell, RHP -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
21. Myles Straw, OF -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
22. Jonathan Arauz, SS -- Quad Cities River Bandits (A)
23. Gilberto Celestino, OF -- Extended spring training
24. Garrett Stubbs, C -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
25. J.J. Matijevic, OF -- Quad Cities River Bandits (A)
26. Jandel Gustave, RHP -- Houston Astros (MLB) -- DL
27. Chuckie Robinson, C -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
28. Brett Adcock, LHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
29. Abraham Toro-Hernandez, 3B/C -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
30. Brandon Bailey, RHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)

With the 2018 season getting started, here's a look at where the Astros' Top 30 prospects are starting the season:

1. Forrest Whitley (MLB No. 9), RHP -- Suspended
2. Kyle Tucker (MLB No. 16), OF -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
3. J.B. Bukauskas (MLB No. 77), RHP -- Quad Cities River Bandits (A)
4. Yordan Alvarez, OF/1B -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
5. Freudis Nova, SS/3B -- Extended spring training
6. Cionel Perez, LHP -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
7. Jorge Alcala, RHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
8. David Paulino, RHP -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
9. J.D. Davis, 3B -- Houston Astros (MLB)
10. Corbin Martin, RHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
11. Hector Perez, RHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
12. Rogelio Armenteros, RHP -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
13. Jairo Solis, RHP -- Extended spring training
14. Joe Perez, 3B -- Extended spring training
15. Ronnie Dawson, OF -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
16. Framber Valdez, LHP -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
17. Drew Ferguson, OF -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
18. Dean Deetz, RHP -- Suspended
19. Cristian Javier, RHP -- Quad Cities River Bandits (A)
20. Riley Ferrell, RHP -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
21. Myles Straw, OF -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
22. Jonathan Arauz, SS -- Quad Cities River Bandits (A)
23. Gilberto Celestino, OF -- Extended spring training
24. Garrett Stubbs, C -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
25. J.J. Matijevic, OF -- Quad Cities River Bandits (A)
26. Jandel Gustave, RHP -- Houston Astros (MLB) -- DL
27. Chuckie Robinson, C -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
28. Brett Adcock, LHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
29. Abraham Toro-Hernandez, 3B/C -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
30. Brandon Bailey, RHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)

Astros prospect coverage | Astros Top 30 prospects stats

Team to watch
Double-A Corpus Christi boasts the best hitter/pitcher combination in the system with precocious outfielder/first baseman Yordan Alvarez and left-hander Cionel Perez. Alvarez batted .304/.379/.481 between two Class A clubs, and he played in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game during his U.S. debut, while Perez made four starts for the Hooks to conclude his first year in the States. Right-hander Forrest Whitley, baseball's top pitching prospect in the Minors, likely will join them once he serves a 50-game suspension for violating the Minor League drug program.

Where baseball's top prospects are starting the 2018 season

Teams on MiLB.TV
Fresno Grizzlies
Corpus Christi Hooks
Quad Cities River Bandits

New faces
Right-hander Brandon Bailey recorded 120 whiffs in 91 innings with two Class A teams in the Athletics' system last year, then came to the Astros in a November trade for outfield prospect Ramon Laureano. Third baseman Perez, a second-round pick last June, won't make his pro debut until this summer. He hit 98 mph with his fastball and drew interest as a pitcher last spring before having Tommy John surgery, and Houston believes in his offensive upside.

On the shelf
Besides Whitley, right-hander Deetz also is out with a suspension (80 games) after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Right-hander Gustave is on the big league disabled list as he continues his comeback from Tommy John surgery last June.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Houston Astros

Astros prospect Tucker preps for Minors duty

Gurriel hopes to avoid stint on DL to open regular season
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- So what's next for outfielder Kyle Tucker following his monster Spring Training with the Astros? The club has yet to say whether Tucker will begin the regular season at Double-A Corpus Christi -- where he finished last year -- or Triple-A Fresno.

"He's not starting in the big leagues," manager AJ Hinch said before Tuesday's 8-1 win over the Brewers in an exhibition game. "That's pretty clear, but he's had a remarkable spring, and a very good impact and a good impression. His time is coming. It's not right now. No matter where he starts, the plan for him will remain the same."

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HOUSTON -- So what's next for outfielder Kyle Tucker following his monster Spring Training with the Astros? The club has yet to say whether Tucker will begin the regular season at Double-A Corpus Christi -- where he finished last year -- or Triple-A Fresno.

"He's not starting in the big leagues," manager AJ Hinch said before Tuesday's 8-1 win over the Brewers in an exhibition game. "That's pretty clear, but he's had a remarkable spring, and a very good impact and a good impression. His time is coming. It's not right now. No matter where he starts, the plan for him will remain the same."

View Full Game Coverage

Tucker, ranked as the club's No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, led all Major League players with 21 RBIs in 41 at-bats entering Tuesday's spring finale, including a grand slam on Monday night in his first career at-bat at Minute Maid Park. That was his fifth homer of the spring.

In 2017, Tucker batted .274 with 70 runs, 33 doubles, five triples, 25 homers, 90 RBIs, 21 steals and an .874 OPS in 120 combined games between Class A Advanced Buies Creek and Corpus Christi, where he ended the season. Despite being one of the youngest position players (20 at the time) in both the Carolina and Texas leagues, Tucker was one of just 10 players in the Minors to record at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases.

Tucker said on Tuesday that he'll head back to West Palm Beach, Fla., on Wednesday and report to Minor League camp. Infielder/outfielder Tony Kemp and infielder Tyler White, both of whom have Major League service time and just missed out on making the 25-man roster, won't have to go to Minors camp following Tuesday's spring finale.

White will remain in Houston while the Astros are in Arlington to play the Rangers, and Kemp will spend a few days at home in Nashville, Tenn., before reporting to Triple-A. The Astros will pass out World Series championship rings to the 2017 team prior to next Tuesday's game against the Orioles, but Kemp and White will have to get their rings at a later date.

Video: STL@HOU: Tucker triples to center, drives in three

"There's definitely times during the season when injuries occur or they need a different look or someone needs a breather, so just looking forward to being that first outfielder that's called whenever they need me and go down there a wreak havoc like I did last year," said Kemp, who led all of Triple-A in hits last year and was named Fresno's MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.

Gurriel hopes to avoid DL
Hinch said the club was hoping to get injured first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who's recovering from surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone in his left hand on Feb. 28, into a live game in Minor League camp on Tuesday or Wednesday. Gurriel will be suspended for the first five games of the regular season, but the Asros are hoping he can avoid the disabled list, which means he could play as early as next Tuesday against the Orioles.

"That's the next step for him is to face live competition," Hinch said. "The more at-bats he can get, the more likely he is to be ready if he keeps responding like he is."

The Astros won't have to decide until close to game time on Thursday whether Gurriel starts the season on the DL.

Hinch said early in camp that he planned to move Gurriel around the infield in the spring to get him more accustomed to playing second base and shortstop, in addition to first base and third base, which are his more natural positions. Because Gurriel missed so much time this spring, those plans have been shelved.

"I still feel I can put him at third and first if needed, but we won't be as open to as many positions around the field as we were originally hoping to get him some reps," Hinch said. "It's now important to get his hand strength up and get him in the lineup."

Dauer to throw first pitch
Rich Dauer, the retired former Astros first-base coach who nearly died after collapsing following the team's World Series parade in November, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Monday's home opener against the Orioles. Hinch will catch the first pitch.

Dauer, 65, underwent a successful surgery to repair an acute subdural hematoma, only hours after he collapsed during the team's parade on Nov. 3. When the surgery began, doctors said he had a three percent chance of survival. He's made a full recovery and lives in Atlanta.

Video: Astros first-base coach Dauer lucky to be alive

Dauer paid a visit to the team's spring camp earlier this month in West Palm Beach, Fla., and he traveled with them to the White House on March 12 to be honored by President Donald Trump for winning the World Series.

It took a perfectly executed string of events to save Dauer's life in the minutes following the parade. Astros team doctors, team officials and EMTs worked in unison to get an ill Dauer out of the massive crowd on a hot afternoon and to nearby Houston Medical Center. Surgery to remove pressure and stop the bleeding on his brain took three hours.

"I didn't know what I went through and there was a lot of people that had to be put in the right spot for me to go through what I did," Dauer said earlier this month. "I didn't have anything to do with it. God decided he didn't want me to die."

Up next
After Wednesday's off-day, watch live on MLB.TV as the Astros open the regular season at 2:40 p.m. CT on Thursday against the Rangers at Globe Life Park. Right-hander Justin Verlander (15-8, 3.36 ERA in 2017) will get the ball for the Astros in his 10th Opening Day start.

Brian McTaggart. has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Houston Astros, Yuli Gurriel, Kyle Tucker, Justin Verlander

Davis, Fisher make Astros as OD roster set

White, Kemp optioned to Triple-A Fresno
MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Astros manager AJ Hinch set the club's 25-man roster on Saturday, informing infielder J.D. Davis and outfielder Derek Fisher they had made their first Opening Day roster. Infielder Tyler White and infielder/outfielder Tony Kemp were optioned to Triple-A Fresno.

Davis beat out White for a spot in Houston's infield that opened up with the five-game suspension that starting first baseman Yuli Gurriel will serve to start the season. Davis, who increased his versatility this spring and can play the corner-infield spots and left field, is hitting .364 with five homers and nine RBIs this spring, and Hinch couldn't ignore the power.

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Astros manager AJ Hinch set the club's 25-man roster on Saturday, informing infielder J.D. Davis and outfielder Derek Fisher they had made their first Opening Day roster. Infielder Tyler White and infielder/outfielder Tony Kemp were optioned to Triple-A Fresno.

Davis beat out White for a spot in Houston's infield that opened up with the five-game suspension that starting first baseman Yuli Gurriel will serve to start the season. Davis, who increased his versatility this spring and can play the corner-infield spots and left field, is hitting .364 with five homers and nine RBIs this spring, and Hinch couldn't ignore the power.

View Full Game Coverage

"Davis really performed well this spring and was arguably one of our best offensive players and earned the right to make an Opening Day roster," Hinch said. "He swung the bat extremely well, especially against left-handed pitching."

Fisher held off what Hinch called a late charge by Kemp to win a spot in the outfield. Fisher, who has an impressive combination of power and speed, is hitting .292 this spring with a .407 on-base percentage. He'll join George Springer, Josh Reddick and Jake Marisnick as the club's four outfielders, though Marwin Gonzalez and Davis can play there, too.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"It's a dream come true, and it's something you work for your entire life," Fisher said. "To be a part of Opening Day is really special. It's my first one, and I'll definitely remember it forever."

Hinch said Fisher's at-bat got better over the past week to 10 days, when Kemp was pushing him, and he will work in the rotation in the outfield, specifically left field. The better he plays, the more he'll play, Hinch said.

"Fisher was certainly challenged by Kemp throughout the entire spring -- Fisher making a late push with his mechanics offensively and what he can bring us," Hinch said. "On the bases, we felt like he was the best option to fill out our roster."

Video: MIA@HOU: Fisher plates two on a double to right

Both White and Kemp will come with the team to Houston for exhibition games against the Brewers on Monday and Tuesday before heading to Fresno. Hinch said they deserve to be in the big leagues, but they just don't fit with the club currently.

"These are tough conversations at the end," Hinch said. "Player 26, 27 and 28, I've been there personally and know it's not a comfortable conversation. One of the best feelings is making an Opening Day roster, so you can imagine the frustration when they're the odd man out."

Let's revisit our pre-Spring Training and mid-Spring Training roster predictions, which were identical. We almost nailed it. The only one we missed was Davis over White.

Catcher (3): Max Stassi will serve as Brian McCann's primary backup, with Evan Gattis getting most of his at-bats at designated hitter.

First base (1): We originally had White over Davis to fill in while Gurriel was out, so we whiffed on this one. Davis' big numbers were too hard to ignore.

Second base (1): Jose Altuve. Check.

Third base (1): Alex Bregman. Check.

Shortstop (1): Carlos Correa. Check.

Utility (1): Gonzalez. Check.

Outfield (4): We had Fisher as the fourth outfielder all along with Springer, Reddick and Marisnick, but Kemp nearly beat him out.

Starting pitcher (5): Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr., Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton will line up in that order to start the season as expected.

Relief pitching (8): Tony Sipp won the final bullpen spot earlier this week, as expected. Thus, no drama here. He'll join Ken Giles, Chris Devenski, Will Harris, Joe Smith, Hector Rondon, Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh in the bullpen as predicted.

Brian McTaggart. has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Houston Astros, J.D. Davis, Derek Fisher

Tucker relishes playing near Tampa home

Astros No. 2 prospect gets start vs. Yankees in front of family, friends
Special to MLB.com

TAMPA, Fla. -- Nothing seems to rattle Astros rising star Kyle Tucker -- not even his homecoming party Friday night against the Yankees.

"I'm excited to play, my family coming, some friends coming," Tucker said before starting in right field for Friday's 2-0 Astros victory. "It'll be fun to play in front of them."

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Nothing seems to rattle Astros rising star Kyle Tucker -- not even his homecoming party Friday night against the Yankees.

"I'm excited to play, my family coming, some friends coming," Tucker said before starting in right field for Friday's 2-0 Astros victory. "It'll be fun to play in front of them."

View Full Game Coverage

Spring Training information

Tucker said this without breaking a smile or raising an eyebrow -- emblematic of his play this spring, when he's calmly hit four home runs and coolly totaled 15 RBIs, with both numbers leading the defending World Series champions.

His latest impressive number is 11 -- the amount of tickets he had to gather for a fan club of family and friends who mostly reside only five minutes away from the Yankees' Steinbrenner Field.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I don't think I came to a ton of Spring Training games [growing up]; I just watched them from home," said the product of Tampa's Plant High School. "I would see the traffic when they would have the Spring Training games."

Traffic also likely doesn't rattle Tucker, 21, who has made an incredible first impression in his first big league Spring Training. He's batting .405 after notching a single and a stolen base in Friday's game.

"It's hard not to be impressed by him, given the type of spring that he's had," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Just him getting comfortable around the older players, around players he's seen on TV, the mystique of the big leagues in Spring Training is something we want every young player to experience."

Video: HOU@NYM: Tucker clobbers solo moonshot to right

"It's going well; I've learned a lot," said Tucker, the Astros' first-round pick (fifth overall) in the 2015 Draft. "I kind of knew what I needed to work on coming into the spring."

That's the key to Tucker's success -- not resting on the laurels of being the team's reigning Minor League Player of the Year. He admittedly worked hard in the offseason to fine-tune his approach at the plate and did it by getting his work done early on a daily basis this spring.

"I made it a point early in the mornings before our practices start in the cages -- been working on it and it's gone pretty well," Tucker said. "Focusing on the strike zone, focusing not just on pitches in the zone but pitches over the plate that you can really drive."

The work has paid off for Tucker, who has more than lived up to all the hype of being the Astros' No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, but even with all of his success, he must wait his turn on an Astros roster that features a logjam of young stars who have had to do the same.

"I feel like these questions are the same ones I've been asked about [George] Springer, same ones I've been asked about with [Carlos] Correa, same with [Alex] Bregman," Hinch said. "We've kind of had the luxury of adding a guy like this [regularly] over the course of my tenure. So he has some people that will relate to him, some players who will help pave the way for him.

"He'll enter a clubhouse that's familiar with him, but more importantly the challenges he faces."

Video: HOU@NYM: Tucker swipes second base in the 9th inning

The waiting will be tough and Tucker knows the path to the Majors would be faster on lesser teams, but he's not worried about it.

"Yeah, it's tough, we have a great ballclub up there -- guessing it's a good thing we have that problem," he said. "I just have to keep doing what I'm doing and hopefully I'll make it a tough decision for them."

Hinch sees a future star in Tucker, who he admits has the body type of other tall and lanky corner outfielders of Hinch's generation like Shawn Green and Ben Grieve, but that's where the comparisons end.

"I don't like to compare anybody to anybody; the best version of himself is what we need," Hinch said.

For now, the Astros like Tucker for being Tucker.

"He's a pretty evenkeeled guy; he's comfortable in his own skin," Hinch said. "I haven't seen any panic in his approach. He's been quiet, which is the right thing to do as a young player. He's been comfortable since Day One."

Even on his homecoming night.

Mike Nabors is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Astros on Friday.

Houston Astros, Kyle Tucker