Catcher Hermelyn, right-hander Thornton follow TCU righty off board
By Alyson Footer
HOUSTON -- The Astros tapped into the college ranks in the early rounds of the MLB Draft's second day on Tuesday, selecting Texas Christian University right-hander Riley Ferrell as their third-round selection (No. 79 overall) and University of Oklahoma catcher Anthony Hermelyn in the fourth round (No. 109 overall).
In the fifth round, the club drafted right-hander Trent Thornton, a junior from the University of North Carolina.
Ferrell, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior from College Station, Texas, has logged 14 saves for TCU in 2015 while posting a 2.83 ERA over 28 2/3 innings. The Horned Frogs are headed to the College World Series after topping Texas A&M in a 16-inning thriller that ended at 1 a.m. ET early Tuesday.
According to scouting reports from MLBPipeline.com, which ranks Ferrell as the Draft's No. 45 prospect, the right-hander throws a 94- to 96-mph fastball and sports a mid-80s slider.
Astros amateur scouting director Mike Elias acknowledged that while the club probably views Ferrell as a power arm in the back end of the bullpen, some scouts within the organization believe he may be able to start.
"What development route we have with him with be a conversation between us and Riley, ultimately," Elias said. "If he ends up remaining in the bullpen, he's still going to be an impact talent for us."
Hermelyn split time between first base and catcher for OU in 2015 but was identified by the Astros as a catcher when they selected him. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder was named to the All-Big 12 First Team as a utility man after hitting .321 (78-for-243) with 12 doubles, six homers and a team-leading 49 RBIs in 2015. Hermelyn slugged .453 and had an on-base percentage of .360.
"He's a very good catcher," Elias said. "He's a plus receiver, he's got a solid arm, he can hit. He's an All-Big 12 selection, a Cape Cod League All-Star. Pitchers rave about him. He does a little bit of everything. When you see that in a catcher, it makes it a good prospect and good value. He's a good find."
Thornton, a 6-foot, 175-pound reliever, is coming off a season in which he posted a 5.08 ERA, a number that didn't reflect his ability over his first two seasons (1.37 ERA in 2013; 2.73 in '14; 2.82 average). Thornton appeared in 28 games in '15, making four starts and compiling 62 innings.
Elias said the Astros look mostly at strikeouts when evaluating college pitchers, and Thornton's numbers in that area -- 81 strikeouts in 2015 and an average of the same over three years -- appealed to them.
"He's got a plus curveball, and he throws hard," Elias said. "He's got a fastball that generates swings and misses. The strikeout ratio is one of the things we look at for college pitchers. He could be a fast-moving reliever as well, but if we choose to put him a starter's role, he can do that, too."
The Draft concludes on Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 on MLB.com beginning at 11 a.m. CT.
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.