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Astros thrilled with variety of Day 2 Draft picks

HOUSTON -- To say the Astros' front office is thrilled about how the First-Year Player Draft is going for the club so far might be an understatement.

"I think we hit a home run today," general manager Jeff Luhnow said Tuesday. "I think we'll look back on this Draft and say it was an instrumental Draft for the Houston Astros."

Assistant general manager/scouting director Bobby Heck took it a step further.

"Walking away with what we've gotten today, on top of what we got last night, it feels more like a grand slam," Heck said.

The Astros are pleased with the wide variety of players they drafted on Tuesday: six college position players, five college pitchers, two high school position players and one high school pitcher.

The high schoolers -- fourth rounder Rio Ruiz, sixth rounder Brett Phillips and 11th rounder Hunter Virant -- probably have the most upside of any of the Astros' picks on Tuesday, but they also pose potential signability problems.

The new slotting system affects Houston's ability to overpay for talent, but Heck didn't seem too concerned yet.

"We're surrounded by a lot of creative minds," Heck said.

The college players taken in the first eight rounds -- second rounder Nolan Fontana, third rounder Brady Rodgers, fifth rounder Andrew Aplin, seventh rounder Preston Tucker and eighth rounder Tyler Heineman -- all come from schools with historically strong baseball programs.

Fontana and Tucker are teammates at the University of Florida. Rodgers and Aplin come from Arizona State University. Heineman played at UCLA.

Heck has been a part of five Astros' Drafts and said he thinks the collective group in this Draft is the strongest he's seen.

Here's a rundown of the Astros' picks on Day 2:

Round 2, Nolan Fontana, SS, University of Florida Fontana has been the everyday shortstop for the Gators since his freshman year. He batted .294 with a .412 on-base percentage in 2012. His team plays in a Super Regional against N.C. State starting on Saturday. Heck hopes Fontana can stay at shortstop but knows he may end up at second base.

Round 3, Brady Rodgers, RHP, Arizona State University Rodgers, a lifelong Astros fan, has the second-best career ERA in the aluminum-bat era at Arizona State, behind Floyd Bannister, the Astros' first overall pick in 1976.

Round 4, Rio Ruiz, 3B, Bishop Amat High School (Calif.) Ruiz's senior season was derailed after doctors found a blood clot in his clavicle, but projects as a run-producing third baseman in the Majors. "You trust your body of work," Heck said. "This is a guy we've seen for a few years. By industry standards, he was kind of famous for his talent." Ruiz, who is firmly committed to USC, may pose some signability issues.

Round 5, Andrew Aplin, CF, Arizona State University The second Sun Devil in the Astros' Draft, Aplin is known for his defensive prowess over his batting ability. He has a great arm and good range.

Round 6, Brett Phillips, CF, Seminole High School (Fla.) Phillips, who committed to N.C. State, is also an impact defensive outfielder. His quick swing could develop too. He does have signability concerns.

Round 7, Preston Tucker, LF, University of Florida Another Gator goes to the Astros, this one a power-hitting senior. He's hitting .316 with 15 homers in 63 games so far for Florida.

Round 8, Tyler Heineman, C, UCLA He's a switch-hitting junior catcher originally from Pacific Palisades, Calif. He's batting .351 on the season in 54 starts. He has thrown out 20 of 44 runners. The Bruins host TCU in a Super Regional series starting Friday.

Round 9, Daniel Minor, RHP, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Minor is the highest Draft pick in A&M-Corpus Christi history. He is 5-foot-11 and weighs 188 pounds. He had a 2.20 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 110 1/3 innings in 2012.

Round 10, Joseph Bircher, LHP, Bradley University In 15 starts in 2012, Bircher had a 2.70 ERA in 110 innings. He struck out 113, walked 21 and pitched four complete games.

Round 11, Hunter Virant, LHP, Adolfo Camarillo High School (Calif.) Virant, who committed to UCLA, projects as a pitcher who might end up with four above-average Major League pitches. He was viewed as a second-round talent heading into the Draft. "We're not sure we're going to be able to sign him, but it was too valuable of a talent to leave on the board," Heck said.

Round 12, Terrell Joyce, LF, Florida State College Joyce had a .436 batting average at Florida State College, a junior college. He also had 11 homers and 55 RBIs in 42 games.

Round 13, Brian Holmes, LHP, Wake Forest Holmes went 7-3 for Wake Forest in 2012, with a 2.83 ERA. He struck out 81 and walked 49 in 82 2/3 innings.

Round 14, Joe Sclafani, SS, Dartmouth College Sclafani played in all 42 games for Dartmouth this season, finishing with a .288 batting average and .442 slugging average. It was actually his worst season for Dartmouth after posting above a .325 batting and .458 slugging average in each of his first three seasons.

Round 15, Erick Gonzalez, RHP, GateWay Community College Gonzalez is 6-foot-1 and weighs 175 lbs. He went to Gilbert High School (Ariz.).

Houston Astros