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Astros think highly of top two picks

Astros think highly of top two picks

HOUSTON -- In the eyes of Paul Ricciarini, the Houston Astros selected two No. 1 picks on Tuesday during the First-Year Player Draft.

Ricciarini, the club's senior director of player personnel and scouting, thought as highly about Sergio Perez as he did of Max Sapp, even though Perez was the Astros' second pick while Sapp was the first.

"A few of us in the room had Sergio a little shade ahead of Max during our scouting season," Ricciarini said. "We flip-flopped back and forth on these two. We've seen an awful lot of both of these guys the last two years. We feel like we've got two No. 1 picks with our first two."

Sapp, a high school catcher from Windermere, Fla., was taken 23rd overall in the first round. Perez, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Tampa, was the 67th overall selection -- and, as Ricciarini described him, "the consummate winner."

"He'll battle through the rough spots and absolutely find a way to win," Ricciarini said. "His makeup's off the charts. His stuff is above average, across the board.

"He's got a good, hard sinking fastball. It's up to 96, 97 miles an hour at times when his mechanics are right. What he has to work on is consistency of his release point and his mechanics. I think he has a chance to get through the system quick. He's extremely mature."

The Astros made 18 selections on Tuesday, the first of two days of the draft. They picked seven right-handed pitchers, four left-handers, two catchers, two infielders and three outfielders. They selected just two high school players, and Sapp is the first first-rounder out of high school the Astros have picked since they picked right-hander Tony McKnight in 1995.

The rundown, rounds three through 18:

Round 3 (99th overall): Nick Moresi, OF, Fresno State University
His stats in '06 weren't terrific, but injury was mostly to blame. Moresi had a hamate bone problem, which required surgery and kept him in rehab mode all winter. He started the season and began to experience the pain again, and doctors discovered the entire hamate bone had a fracture. Moresi had another surgical procedure, missed most of the spring and played the last four or five weeks of the season. Moresi is considered an outstanding defensive center fielder, he runs above average and he has good power.

Round 4 (129): Chris Johnson, IF, Stetson University
Son of Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox manager Ron Johnson, he's a big, strong player who is considered to have good power and speed. He'll play third base, although he's played a lot of first base and shortstop.

Round 5 (159): Casey Hudspeth, RHP, U. of South Florida
Hudspeth has four pitches, three of which he uses on a frequent basis. He has a good feel for pitching and throws above average at times. His niche is his ability to throw a lot of strikes with three pitches. He can use his fourth pitch, a slider or curveball, to show to lefties.

Round 6 (189): David "Bud" Norris, RHP, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Norris is a starter who probably will end up in the bullpen because of his bulldog mentality. The key is for him to throw his offspeed pitches for strikes. He's a kid that has a 'Give me the ball, let's get out there quick and get it over quick' approach. His velocity ranges from 91-93 mph and he's been above that at times in a relief role.

Round 7 (219): David Qualben, LHP, Pace U.
Qualben comes from a small but good baseball progam. He's a big, strong lefty who throws a lot of strikes. He has good movement on his fastball and has a sharp curveball. Ricciarini was surprised personally that he was there in the seventh round. He was inconsistent early in the year, which is often the case during the cold-weather months in the northeast. He has good makeup and a good feel for pitching.

Round 8 (249): James Van Ostrand, OF, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
A strong, raw power guy, Van Ostrand projects out as a right fielder. He has an above-average arm and is an average runner. He's a little short on pure speed. His niche will be his ability to drive in runs. He swings the bat pretty well. He's got upside for a college player.

Round 9 (279): Greg Buchanan, IF, Rice U.
Described as a feisty "gamer," Buchanan is a compact-bodied kid who has surprising strength. He can put the ball in play. He's an on-base percentage type player and a No. 2 type hitter. He projects out as a good defensive player that can bat in that No. 2 role or leadoff.

Round 10 (309): Nathan Karns, RHP, James Martin HS (Arlington TX)
Director of pitching development Dewey Robinson watched Karns work out and liked his delivery. Karns can throw upward of 93 or 94 mph at times. Robinson watched Karns in an effort to detect any glaring flaws in his mechanics, and the general consensus was there was nothing that couldn't be corrected. Karns has a good curveball and a good live fastball.

Round 11 (339): Tom Vessella, LHP, Whittier College
He's going to be a pitcher who gets people out with his breaking stuff, but he also has a good, active fastball. He can touch 90, 91 mph on occasion, but he's not overly focused on velocity. He works on command rather than worrying about how hard he throws. He can change speeds and can pitch inside.

Round 12 (369): Bryan Hallberg, RHP, Pace U.
Hallberg has good arm strength, but his delivery's going to have to come together more consistently. He's a little bit raw. The Astros like his competitiveness. His secondary pitches need to come further, but he shows signs of having a bright future.

Round 13 (399): Chris Salamida, LHP, Oneota State U.
Salamida has a lot of upside, throwing 90, 91, 92 mph. He has good arm strength for a lefty. Described as one who "can't wait to get started," Salamida comes from a small program and will probably be brought along slowly through the system. He has a fastball, curveball and changeup and the Astros will work with him to develop a cutter.

Round 14 (429): Justin Tellam, C, Pepperdine U.
Playing behind front-line catcher Chad Tracy, Tellum was somewhat pushed to the background in terms of attention. But the Astros feel Tellam is a much better catcher and they're hoping that he continues to develop his defensive skills once he begins to play on an everyday basis.

Round 15 (459): Kevin Fox, LHP, Biola U.
A Mike Gallo type pitcher, Fox has a similar breaking ball but has to learn how to use the changeup more. Fox has a lot of upside as a middle reliever -- someone who can be stretched out for that role or possibly as a fifth starter.

Round 16 (489): Drew Holder, OF, Dallas Baptist U.
Holder's a little older than the other draftees, 23, which may have caused clubs to shy away. Ricciarini watched Holder work out and said he looks like Chris Burke's twin -- the same definition, same walk, same penchant for shooting balls to the gaps. His tools are superb, and he'll likely start in Lexington.

Round 17 (519): Justin Stiver, RHP, Florida Gulf Coast U.
Stiver has good arm strength and probably could have an average to above-average fastball and a good, quick slider. He's extremely competitive. He has to learn how to change speeds. He may stack up as a bullpen pitcher.

Round 18 (549): Colt Adams, RHP, Dixie State College
Similar to Stiver, Adams is an unpolished pitcher who needs that third pitch. He needs to use his pitches. He likes to pitch off his fastball a little too much, where he doesn't show his breaking pitch. He probably projects out as a reliever.

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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