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Youth movement: Astros may opt for prep stars

Houston looking to draft high school players, including righty Goss
@brianmctaggart
June 3, 2019

HOUSTON -- Five years after the Astros' third straight No. 1 overall Draft pick -- and five years after they were unable to sign prep pitcher Brady Aiken -- Houston will have the final pick in the first round tonight, when they select at No. 32 overall. Unlike in recent

HOUSTON -- Five years after the Astros' third straight No. 1 overall Draft pick -- and five years after they were unable to sign prep pitcher Brady Aiken -- Houston will have the final pick in the first round tonight, when they select at No. 32 overall.

Unlike in recent years, the Astros won’t have any extra compensatory picks, unless free-agent lefty Dallas Keuchel -- who turned down their qualifying offer -- signs before the Draft.

The 2019 Draft will take place tonight through Wednesday, beginning with tonight's Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com at 5 ET. MLB Network will broadcast the first 41 picks (Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A), while MLB.com will stream all 78 picks on Day 1. MLB.com will also provide live pick-by-pick coverage of Rounds 3-10 on Day 2, beginning with a preview show at 12:30 p.m. ET. Then, Rounds 11-40 can be heard live on MLB.com on Day 3, beginning at noon ET.

Go to MLB.com/Draft to see the Top 200 Prospects list, mock Drafts from MLB Pipeline 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.

Here’s how the Draft is shaping up for the Astros.

In about 50 words
With Mike Elias now the general manager of the Orioles, the Astros hand their Draft over to domestic scouting supervisor Kris Gross, who’s managing the field scouts, and amateur scouting analysis manager Charles Cook, who’s gathering the information internally and reviewing the technology and video. The No. 32 pick presents a unique challenge the Astros haven't had in years.

What they’re saying
“At [No.] 32, it’s different than all the other spots we’ve chosen where you know you’re going to get a player that has a high likelihood of making it to the big leagues in the next few years and has a chance to be an impact player. Once you get to [No.] 32, you have to compromise in some areas; you either take a player with some upside but more risk, or a player with maybe a little more certainty but maybe not as much upside. That’s the debate we’re going to have to have.” -- general manager and president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow

Who might they take?
The Astros would be thrilled if right-hander J.J. Goss, from Cypress Ranch High School in suburban Houston, is still on the board. If they look at college players, North Carolina first baseman/outfielder Michael Busch mirrors 2018 first-round pick Seth Beer in many ways and draws a lot of walks. Georgia Premier Academy right-hander Daniel Espino is another intriguing option, along with UCLA first baseman Mike Toglia.

Money matters
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $125,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.

Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75 percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75 percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100 percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100 percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.

This year, the Astros have a pool of $5,355,100 to spend in the first 10 rounds, including $2,257,300 to spend on their first selection.

Shopping list
The Astros always look for middle infielders and catchers, a position where the system has lacked depth. Of course, pitching is going to dominate Houston's Draft class once again. The club would especially like to add a few more left-handed arms. They have a bevy of middle infielders in the system they’ve added internationally, but homegrown middle infielders and catchers are priorities.

Trend watch
The Astros will be comfortable taking a high school player early with the confidence that they can sign him away from a college commitment, but prep players are harder to sign after the first couple of rounds. Last year, 31 of their first 32 picks were college players. The lone high school player was second-round pick Jayson Schroeder from Juanita High School in Kirkland, Wash.

Recent top picks
2018: Seth Beer, 1B (Double-A Corpus Christi)
2017: J.B. Bukauskas, RHP (Corpus Christi)
2016: Forrest Whitley, RHP (Triple-A Round Rock, on seven-day injured list)
2015: Alex Bregman, 3B (Astros)
2014: Derek Fisher, OF (Astros)

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.