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Aplin a hidden gem in Astros' loaded 2012 Draft class

Center-field prospect with strong plate discipline thriving in Arizona Fall League
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

MESA, Ariz. -- The Astros' 2012 Draft class has the potential to be a very good one, with No. 1 pick Carlos Correa on the fast track to the big leagues and outfielders Preston Tucker and Brett Phillips coming off big seasons. And don't forget pitchers Lance McCullers and Brady Rodgers and infielders Rio Ruiz and Nolan Fontana.

There's a good chance a prospect from Jeff Luhnow's first Draft as general manager of the Astros will reach the Major Leagues next season, and outfielder Andrew Aplin -- a fifth-round pick out of Arizona State -- could beat them all to Houston.

MESA, Ariz. -- The Astros' 2012 Draft class has the potential to be a very good one, with No. 1 pick Carlos Correa on the fast track to the big leagues and outfielders Preston Tucker and Brett Phillips coming off big seasons. And don't forget pitchers Lance McCullers and Brady Rodgers and infielders Rio Ruiz and Nolan Fontana.

There's a good chance a prospect from Jeff Luhnow's first Draft as general manager of the Astros will reach the Major Leagues next season, and outfielder Andrew Aplin -- a fifth-round pick out of Arizona State -- could beat them all to Houston.

Aplin, a 23-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder, appeared in 28 games at Triple-A Oklahoma City last season, getting bumped up after Austin Wates was traded to the Marlins. Aplin hit .260 with a .348 on-base percentage after batting .267 with a .379 OBP in 98 games at Double-A Corpus Christi.

The Astros sent him to the Arizona Fall League, where he's hitting .308 and getting on base at a high clip (.419).

"It's been good to get out here with some of the group of guys I've never played with before and come out here and compete," Aplin said. "I think it'll translate into next season and get me ready for wherever I end up, even back in Corpus Christi or with the [Triple-A] Fresno Grizzlies, even with the Astros."

Aplin, a center fielder, plays hard and has a penchant for making difficult catches. Center field is a position of strength for the Astros, with Dexter Fowler holding down the spot and George Springer perhaps moving there from right field soon. But Aplin has tools -- he's an excellent defender with some speed, and his ability to get on base in the Minor Leagues rivals Robbie Grossman.

Video: SUR@SRR: Aplin lines a RBI triple into right field

"I've always been that type of player," Aplin said. "It kind of plays exactly into what [the Astros] want, and I've just got to continue to get better at it and keep going from here."

Last season, Aplin had 80 walks and only 71 strikeouts, recording 191 walks and 172 strikeouts in his career.

"I think it's just something I've worked on since I was a young kid," he said. "My dad always preached to me that you can't get a hit if you strike out, and I've always been a guy that gets to two strikes and battles until you get a pitch you can put in play or get a hit off of."

Aplin compares his game to Eric Byrnes, the former high-flying outfielder for the A's whom Aplin watched while growing up. His parents were season-ticket holders in Oakland.

"I've heard comparisons to Nick Swisher and stuff like that, players that grind it out," Aplin said. "I wouldn't say they're the biggest players, but they go out there and try to grind out every play."

Aplin stands only 6-foot -- again, like Grossman -- and will need to carve a niche to make the big league club. He'll need to get on base, he'll need to use his speed as a weapon and he's been working on his bunting.

"I'm just going to go out there and compete for another job," Aplin said.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Houston Astros