Polished arms among Astros' Draft haul
If signed, lefty Freeman will 'move as quickly as possible' through system
HOUSTON -- At the Major League level, the Astros have spent most of this season showing that they are ready to make a postseason push earlier than anticipated.
The next few seasons look bright for Houston, and judging by how college-heavy their first two days of this year's Draft were, it wouldn't be a stretch to envision a few of those picks jumping into the fray relatively quickly as the club continues to build for both the short and long term at the big league level.
Of the Astros' first 11 selections, eight are college players. Of the eight players they drafted on Tuesday, only one -- their sixth-rounder -- came from the prep ranks.
Round 6: CF Nestor Muriel, Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy (Puerto Rico)
Astros amateur scouting director Mike Elias isn't 100 percent certain, but he believes Muriel is the youngest player to be selected in the Draft.
Muriel will turn 17 on Thursday.
"He's one of the youngest ones we could come up with when we looked," Elias said. "We're pretty excited about him. He's a toolsy kid. He can run, throw and hit a little bit. You sign a kid like this, develop him and see what you've got in a few years. He could turn into anything at his age and [with] his physical tools."
Round 7: LHP Michael Freeman, Oklahoma State
Considered somewhat of a late bloomer, Freeman, 23, emerged as the Cowboys' most dominant pitcher in 2015, logging a 1.31 ERA over 15 starts. He walked 29 and struck out 97, and opponents batted a scant .184 against him. A change in arm slot seemingly made the difference.
Elias envisions Freeman as a reliever.
"He's got a plus slider; he throws hard," Elias said. "He had a massive ground-ball rate this year. He's a guy that I expect we will keep in the bullpen and let him move as quickly as possible. He's got really good stuff."
Round 8: C Garrett Stubbs, USC
Stubbs, one of three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award, an honor given to the nation's top collegiate catcher, finished the season throwing out 52.8 percent of would-be basestealers and was second on the team with a .346 batting average. He drove in 25 runs as the Trojans' No. 2 hitter and led the team with 20 stolen bases.
"He's a great team leader," Elias said. "He's a plus receiver, threw out a lot of baserunners. Just a really good senior catcher that can hit and play the position."
Round 9: LHP Zac Person, LSU
A teammate of first-round draftee Alex Bregman, Person, who pitched for LSU for two seasons upon transferring from LSU-Eunice prior to 2014, recorded 34 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings this year, mainly in a setup role.
"He throws 90, 91 [mph], with a plus curveball," Elias said. "The coaching staff and his teammates rave about him, Alex Bregman in particular. Whether we start him or relieve him, I don't know, but I think this summer, we'll probably keep him in the bullpen in [Short Season] Tri-City and move from there."
Round 10: RHP Scott Weathersby, U. of Mississippi
One of two Ole Miss captains in 2015, Weathersby produced a 2.62 ERA over 17 appearances, including four starts in his final four appearances. In 55 innings, he struck out 51 batters and walked 14. Opponents batted .216 against him.
"He's a tall righty that was in the bullpen for Ole Miss, and they moved him into a starter's role as the Friday night starter," Elias said. "He's got a good cut fastball, and that's kind of what we saw in him. We're interested to see how that plays against wood bats at the pro level. That was the attraction there."