Astros successfully add depth through Draft
Right-handed pitchers, college talent dominate club's selections
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.
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.
• 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.
• 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.