HOUSTON -- Astros second-round Draft pick Ronnie Dawson, a left-handed-hitting outfielder from Ohio State, officially signed with the team on Friday and took batting practice on the field prior to the game against the Reds at Minute Maid Park.
Dawson, who received a $1.0568 million bonus, will head to Class A Short Season Tri-City on Saturday and should be a key part of the ValleyCats' lineup. He hit .331 with 25 doubles, three triples, 13 homers, 51 RBIs and struck out only 43 times in 257 at-bats this year for the Buckeyes. He stole 21 of 25 bases and had a .419 on-base percentage.
"I love competing and I know it's going to be a grind, but I'm ready for it," Dawson said. "It's a great opportunity, and I'm ready to get it started now."
Dawson was an accomplished football player who turned to baseball after blowing out his knee in high school. He was a bat boy for the Triple-A Columbus Clippers as a junior and senior in high school and sought advice from the likes of Matt LaPorta, Corey Kluber and Michael Bourn. He soon turned his attention to baseball.
"This is somebody that we view as one of the top college bats in the Draft this year," Astros scouting director Mike Elias said. "He had an excellent junior campaign. ... He had a great college career, played well in the Cape Cod League, which we scout heavily. He's a guy we feel is a plus left-handed hitter with power and speed, a rare combination. That's why we grabbed him early in the Draft like we did."
The sister of Astros outfielder George Springer, Lena Springer, plays softball at Ohio State and is friends with Dawson.
"She texted me the day he got drafted and said we picked him and he's going to be here today, and I told her I'd let him know if he needs anything, he can call me," George Springer said. "I'll try to help him out the best I can. I don't have everything quite figured out, but I've obviously been through the system and know what he's about to go through."
With Dawson in the fold, the Astros have signed 14 of their 40 picks in the MLB Draft, including seven of their Top 10 picks. First-round pick Forrest Whitley, a right-handed pitcher from Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio, has yet to sign, but Elias expects talks to heat up.
"We've talked to his side and we made some initial contact, but really we were prioritizing getting some of these picks done, some of the guys in the Top 10 rounds," Elias said. "We would want Forrest to have a layoff anyway before pitching this summer if he signed with us. He threw like 75 innings in a long strenuous high school campaign. There's no real rush. Now that we've got a large majority of the Top 10 rounds out of the way, I do think we'll turn our attention a little more aggressively to his situation and see what happens."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com 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.