Fireballing Ferrell a natural pick for Astros

Right-hander's Texas roots among factors in selection at No. 79 overall

Fireballing Ferrell a natural pick for Astros

HOUSTON -- The Astros were surprised Riley Ferrell was still available when it was time to make their third-round selection in the MLB Draft on Tuesday, but it was the kind of surprise every team desires this time of year.

With most teams coveting the same small group of elite talent in the early rounds of the Draft, there's no telling who will be available as players start flying off the board. When it was time to pick 79th overall, the Astros had no hesitation when selecting Ferrell, a hard-throwing right-hander from Texas Christian University.

"We were very happy to get him in the third round," Astros amateur scouting director Mike Elias said. "We thought he was a little better talent than that. He was somebody we viewed as top-50 talent or thereabouts. Getting him at 79, there's very good value there."

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Ferrell is the closer on a Horned Frogs team that is still immersed in its season. After a thrilling 16-inning win over Texas A&M on Monday night, TCU is headed to the College World Series.

The game didn't end until 1 a.m. CT onTuesday, with bedtime arriving several hours after that. Fast-forward to noon on Tuesday, and TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle was sending a congratulatory text to his star closer for being selected in the third round by the Astros.

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"He said, 'Thank you,'" Schlossnagle said of Ferrell's return text. "I think we're just trying to recover from going to bed at 4 o'clock in the morning."

Between the College World Series and what the Astros hope will be a quick signing process, the next few weeks will undoubtedly be a whirlwind for the 6-foot-1, 200-pound right-hander. Over time, the Astros will determine if Ferrell is destined for the rotation or bullpen, but for now, the club is leaning toward a relief role.

"We have some scouts that think he can start," Elias said. "What development route we have with him will be a conversation between us and Riley, ultimately. If he ends up remaining in the bullpen, he's still going to be an impact talent for us."

That scenario is nothing new for Ferrell. Schlossnagle and his staff have considered Ferrell for a starting role in the past, but decided his closing abilities were the best fit for this team.

"If he was back next year, we'd consider him to be a starter," Schlossnagle said. "We returned most of our pitching staff from the College World Series team last year. We felt the closer role was best for the team.

"He's a great teammate; he's been a joy to watch. He's got the right amount of ego between the lines and is as selfless as you can be away from the field."

Ferrell has logged 14 saves while posting a 2.83 ERA over 28 2/3 innings this season, walking 19 and striking out 45.

The Astros have strong connections to TCU, beginning with club president Reid Ryan, who pitched for the Horned Frogs in the 1990s. Through many conversations with TCU's coaches and extensive scouting, the Astros are confident they made the right selection.

"He has a big power arm , a plus slider and huge strikeout rate," Elias said. "The coaching staff at TCU raves about him. They say he's one of the best pitchers they've ever had there."

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.