Astros take Texan Whitley at No. 17 in Draft

Astros take Texan Whitley at No. 17 in Draft

HOUSTON -- Standing 6-foot-7 with a power fastball that touches 97 mph and three other plus pitches, including a changeup he can command, Texas high school right-hander Forrest Whitley was too much for the Astros to pass up.

The Astros drafted Whitley out of Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio with the 17th overall pick in the 2016 Draft on Thursday at the same Whitley was pitching for his school in the state tournament semifinals in Round Rock, Texas.

No. 61 overall: Ronnie Dawson

"This is somebody we watched for a few years, beginning with his work with the Team USA program over the summer, and have followed very closely in his high school career in Texas as one of the top pitchers in the state," Astros scouting director Mike Elias said. "Forrest is a power pitcher. He's anywhere from 92-97 with his fastball. We feel it's an explosive fastball and one that gets by hitters' bats easily, and he's exhibited outstanding command given how hard he throws in his career."

In the second round, the Astros took Ohio State outfielder Ronnie Dawson.

The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The preview show begins at 11:30 a.m. CT, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at noon CT.

What attracted the Astros most to Whitley isn't just his stuff, but his ability and his polish in terms of using it and his fluid motion, Elias said.

"This kid is already a pitcher," Elias said. "He's already experienced a great deal of success with the USA team which plays against the best international competition in the world at the high school level."

Whitley, who has committed to Florida State, entered Thursday's game with a 9-1 record and a 0.31 ERA. He had 126 strikeouts in 68 innings. Elias said the Astros were watching Whitley's performance in a state semifinal win Thursday night on a live stream during the Draft.

Elias on Whitley selection

He threw 123 pitches and struck out 11 batters in 6 2/3 innings, and Whitley received a nice ovation when he was pulled from the game. Afterward, he slipped on an Astros T-shirt while his teammates stood by his side.

"It's really flattering, but right now we're focused on the state championship game," Whitley told reporters in Round Rock. "I was a little relieved. It was nice to know it had finally come."

Former Major League pitcher Josh Johnson, who also stood 6-foot-7, is the player Whitley has been compared to the most. Elias said almost every player evaluator in the Astros' system made the trip to see Whitley pitch, including Nolan Ryan.

"To get a pitcher of his size and stuff, not only the fastball velocity, but he also has three other plus pitches -- an overhand curveball, a slider and a changeup which he has tremendous command over, especially for a high school pitcher -- we think it's a terrific pick at this point in the Draft or really any part of the Draft," Elias said.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.