Astros nab Vandy commit Clifford, who anticipates signing

‘A dream’ come true for Houston native Loftin drafted in 13th round by hometown team

July 20th, 2022

HOUSTON -- With their first pick on the final day of the MLB Draft, the Astros nabbed a player some projected would go on the first day. Ryan Clifford, a high school outfielder from Cary, N.C., has a commitment to baseball power Vanderbilt, which is why he dropped into the 11th round.

The Astros took Clifford with the 343rd overall pick and hope to be able to sign him away from his commitment to Vanderbilt by using some of the bonus money they’ll save by giving under-slot deals to some of the college seniors they drafted in the first 10 rounds. The deadline to sign Draft picks is Aug. 1.

“When you get to Day 3, some guys slip through the cracks,” Astros scouting director Kris Gross said. “I don’t know if we’re going to be able to come to terms with him. We’ll have discussions over the next couple of weeks, but we were drawn to the player himself.”

In 2019, the Astros paid well over the slot value to sign Colin Barber, who was taken in the fourth round, because they had saved money from signing first-round pick Korey Lee, second-round pick Grae Kessinger and third-round pick Jordan Brewer to under-slot deals. Barber was signed for $1 million (slot value was $410,100) instead of playing at Oregon.

Clifford said he anticipates signing with the Astros instead of going to Vanderbilt.

“It’s a great organization,” he said. “Obviously, they’ve done a lot with bringing their players up. I think a lot of them are homegrown, and I think that’s really exciting as a young player to get drafted to, because it feels like you really have a good chance to be in the mix with them. They’re a winning program -- winning championships and always in the playoffs. I’m really excited to get working with them and hope to help them win another World Series.”

Clifford, a 6-foot-3 left-handed-hitting outfielder, was ranked No. 92 on MLB Pipeline’s Draft Top 250, so he is a third-round talent. A mainstay on U.S. national teams since he was 12, Clifford has the tools to be one of the better all-around hitters in the Draft.

Clifford has a good left-handed swing that’s equipped to hit for power with an advanced approach at the plate. He can drive balls from gap to gap and rarely chases pitches outside of the zone. Scouts compare him to former Astros Draft pick Seth Beer, but with more athleticism.

“We’ve known [Clifford] for a while,” Gross said. “The bat is the calling card here. It’s a nice combination of a chance to hit and hit for power while profiling in right field or first base.”

The only other high school player taken in the Draft by the Astros also has a college commitment. Outfielder Isaiah Jackson of Cienega High School in Vail, Ariz., is committed to Arizona State and was taken in the 18th round. He’s a 6-foot-4, 215-pound left-handed power bat.

“For his size, he moves around really well in the outfield and gets into big power at the plate,” Gross said. “I think he’s got a chance to profile in a corner-outfield spot and get into his fair amount of home runs one day.”

Of the 21 players selected by the Astros, 19 were college players. Houston drafted seven right-handed pitchers, five outfielders, four shortstops, three catchers, one first baseman and one left-handed pitcher.

Astros take Houston-area product in 13th round
Jackson Loftin estimates he’s been to probably a “couple of hundred” games at Minute Maid Park, including the 2005 World Series. So you can only imagine his excitement when his hometown Astros drafted him in the 13th round on Tuesday.

“Definitely a dream,” Loftin said. “They called this morning and said it was a pretty good possibility [I would get drafted] in the 13th, and I was getting pretty excited. And then it happened. I’m super pumped and my family is super pumped, too.”

Loftin, a 6-foot-2 outfielder from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., attended Klein Collins High School just north of Houston. Loftin, who played for three years at Sam Houston State before transferring, hit .349 with 10 homers, 54 RBIs and 25 stolen bases in 58 games at ORU this season.