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MLB Draft: Astros see strength in Nos. 15-75

MLB.com

HOUSTON -- With the best record in the Major Leagues and a strong farm system to boot, the Astros have a chance to fatten the cat in this year's MLB Draft with five of the first 91 picks, including two extra picks -- Nos. 56 and 75 -- they received from the Cardinals in the wake of the hacking scandal. 

The 2017 Draft will take place from Monday through Wednesday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com at 6 p.m. ET. MLB Network will broadcast the first 36 picks (Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A), while MLB.com will stream all 75 picks on Day 1. MLB.com will also provide live pick-by-pick coverage of Rounds 3-10 on Day 2, starting at 1 p.m. Then, Rounds 11-40 can be heard live on MLB.com on Day 3, beginning at noon.

HOUSTON -- With the best record in the Major Leagues and a strong farm system to boot, the Astros have a chance to fatten the cat in this year's MLB Draft with five of the first 91 picks, including two extra picks -- Nos. 56 and 75 -- they received from the Cardinals in the wake of the hacking scandal. 

The 2017 Draft will take place from Monday through Wednesday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com at 6 p.m. ET. MLB Network will broadcast the first 36 picks (Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A), while MLB.com will stream all 75 picks on Day 1. MLB.com will also provide live pick-by-pick coverage of Rounds 3-10 on Day 2, starting at 1 p.m. Then, Rounds 11-40 can be heard live on MLB.com on Day 3, beginning at noon.

Go to MLB.com/draft to see the Top 200 Prospects list, projected top picks from MLBPipeline.com 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.

:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::Here's how the Draft is shaping up for the Astros, whose first selection is the 15th overall pick.

In about 50 words
The Astros (15th, 53rd, 56th and 75th picks) and the Pirates each have a Major League-best four selections within the first 75 picks on the first day of the Draft, so the organization views this as a chance to add more premium talent to its already deep system.

The scoop
With additional picks, including two very close to each other, the Astros didn't add a lot of additional players to scout. It will increase the likelihood the Astros can nab a big leaguer on the first day. Even though the farm system is in good shape, don't expect the Astros to take more unnecessary risks than they normally would. They hope to make the same smart selections when the farm system is in good shape as they did when it wasn't a few years ago.

First-round buzz
Callis has the Astros taking Missouri State third baseman Jake Burger with the No. 15 overall pick in his latest mock draft, but the Astros haven't been shy about talking high school kids in the first round. Oregon lefty David Peterson, Kentucky first baseman Evan White and UC-Irvine second baseman/outfielder Keston Hiura are other college names to watch, though the Astros likely wouldn't be able to pass if local product Shane Baz, a high school pitcher from Concordia Lutheran High School in Houston, falls in their lap at No. 15.

Money matters
To ensure competitive balance, MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that each team has a bonus pool to spend based upon the number and position of their Draft picks. The more selections a team has and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. Any club that overspends its budget is subject to taxes and, in extreme cases, a loss of picks in future Drafts.

This year, the Astros have a pool of $9,039,600 to spend in the first 10 rounds, including $3,588,200 to spend on their first selection. The extra money that comes with two additional picks could mean the Astros take a shot at someone who's signabilty doesn't align with his slot bonus.

Shopping list
You can never have enough pitching, and the Astros have tried to stockpile arms in recent years. They drafted eight pitchers within their first 12 picks last year and 18 overall. The Astros have dealt numerous arms in recent years and would like to add some depth on the mound to protect from injuries, which are inevitable.

Trend watch
The Astros have the reputation of a team that tends to lean toward drafting college players over high school players, but that's perhaps a bit of a misnomer. General manager Jeff Luhnow and assistant general manager and director of scouting and player development Mike Elias have been bullish on premium high school talent since their St. Louis days, and that's carried over to Houston, where high schoolers Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers Jr., Kyle Tucker, Daz Cameron and Forrest Whitley were all high picks. As the Draft progresses, high school players become less affordable because of signability concerns.

Recent Draft history
While the Astros whiffed on the No. 1 pick in 2013 -- taking Mark Appel over future MVP Kris Bryant -- Luhnow & Co.'s track record in the Draft remains solid. Led by Correa and McCullers, seven of the first eight players they took in 2012 -- their first Draft in Houston -- have reached the big leagues, though not all with the Astros. Outfielder Derek Fisher, their second pick in 2014, is destroying Triple-A pitching, and it looks like they hit home runs with Alex Bregman (No. 2 overall) and outfielder Tucker (No. 5 overall) in 2015.

Rising fast
Left-hander Brett Adcock, a fourth-round pick last year out of Michigan, has had a nice start at high Class A Buies Creek and could push his way to Double-A in the second half of the season. He was 2-3 with a 3.64 ERA in his first 10 games (eight starts) with 58 strikeouts and 16 walks in 47 innings pitched.

Cinderella story
Drafted in the 19th round of the 2015 MLB Draft as a senior out of Belmont University in Knoxville, Tenn., outfielder Drew Ferguson was hitting .316/.408/.472 with six homers and 23 RBIs through 51 games at Double-A Corpus Christi. The Astros' analytics fell in love with him in college, and scout Nick Venuto was a fan of his athleticism. He can run, has some tools and is making improbable progress as a senior late-round Draft pick.

In the show
Bregman is the Astros' starting third baseman less than two years removed from being taken No. 2 overall -- a pick they gained when they couldn't sign Brady Aiken with the No. 1 pick in 2014. Slugging first baseman A.J. Reed (second round in '14) didn't fare well in his big league debut last year and is stuck in Triple-A. Infielder/outfielder Tony Kemp (fifth round in '13) has been up the past two years, but the 2012 Draft class remains Luhnow's crown jewel in his time in Houston, led by All-Stars-in-waiting Correa and McCullers. Others to reach the big leagues with the Astros from the '12 Draft are pitcher Brady Rodgers (third round), though he recently underwent Tommy John surgery, and outfielder Preston Tucker (seventh round), who hit 41 homers in 146 big leagues games in 2015-16.

The Astros' recent top picks
2016: Forrest Whitley, RHP, Class A Quad Cities
2015: Alex Bregman, IF, Astros
2014: Brady Aiken, LHP, Did not sign (Class A Lake County of Indians)
Derek Fisher, OF, Triple-A Fresno
2013: Mark Appel, RHP, Triple-A Lehigh Valley (Phillies)
2012: Carlos Correa, SS, Astros

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

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