Astros looking for turnaround in Draft

Astros looking for turnaround in Draft

Bobby Heck, the Astros' new scouting director, knows where his club stands in terms of organizational talent.

Baseball America ranked them dead last, 30th among the 30 teams. But this isn't the first time for Heck. His former team, the Brewers, had similar issues in 2000, but seven years later, their farm system was considered a strength.

Heck hopes to help the Astros achieve the same turnaround in 2008 as he prepares to oversee his first Draft as Houston's scouting director.

MLB.com will carry every pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, which takes place June 5-6 at The Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla. Day 1 coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET with a simulcast of ESPN2's broadcast of the first round and compensation picks. The remaining rounds on Day 1 will be shown exclusively on MLB.com, with live analysis on site from MLB.com Draft guru Jonathan Mayo.

Several of the top amateur prospects are expected in attendance in Orlando for Day 1 of the Draft, and each of the 30 Major League Clubs will be represented by front office executives and baseball luminaries. Fans are welcome to attend Day 1 of the Draft, and admission to The Milk House is free with seating limited to a first-come, first-served basis.

Day 2 will get under way at 11:30 a.m. ET and continue through Round 50, if necessary. Every pick on Day 2 can be heard live on MLB.com.

Here's a glance at what the Astros have in store as the First-Year Player Draft approaches:

In about 50 words
Unlike past years when they lost Draft picks because of free-agent signings, the Astros will be picking early and often this time around. They've got the 10th overall pick, plus the 38th pick as compensation for losing type-B pitcher Trever Miller. They'll pick 56th and 88th, and thanks to a new rule that gives teams who were unable to sign their first selection from the previous year an extra pick, they'll have the 109th pick as well. To put that in perspective, consider this -- the Astros first pick last year didn't arrive until the third round -- the 112th pick overall.

The scoop
"In the past, we've been pitching heavy. Some Drafts are geared toward need and maybe not the best player available, but that needs to be our mindset -- taking the best available, but also be open-minded that players come in all different shapes, sizes and ages. We're gearing toward complete players. We do play in the National League -- we want players who can handle all facets of game. Not one and two dimensional-type players." -- Scouting director Bobby Heck.

First-round buzz
The Astros' goal is to begin the long process of replenishing a rather barren farm system, so they're not going to close the window on anyone who has a legitimate chance to develop into a big league player. If they want a college pitcher, Shooter Hunt out of Tulane is a good choice. If either Brian Matusz or Aaron Crow slipped down a bit, the Astros would be thrilled, but that's not likely to happen. Some college first baseman may fit nicely and might still be available when it's the Astros' turn to pick. Miami's Yonder Alonso is a good bet, while University of Georgia shortstop Gordon Beckham may be an option as well. He isn't expected to last to No. 10, though. Another one to keep an eye on is first baseman Justin Smoak out of the University of South Carolina.

Shopping list
They need everything, but Heck has his eye on starting pitchers and position players up the middle -- catcher, shortstop, center field.

Trend watch
In past years, the Astros have gone heavy on the college players over high schoolers, citing maturity issues as an important factor. But lately, they've entrusted more high school players into their organization, and that philosophy will likely continue this year. Pitching is always at a premium, and the Astros have their eyes on pitchers projected to be starters.

Recent top picks
The Astros did not sign their top pick from 2007. Their first selection in '06, Max Sapp, is struggling in his second consecutive season with Class A Lexington. The 20-year-old catcher was hitting .211 through his first 38 games with one homer and nine RBIs. Left-hander Brian Bogusevic, the club's first selection in '05, has been slow to develop. He's currently in the rotation at Double-A Round Rock, where he ended the '07 season.

Rising fast
The Astros are excited about outfielder Russell Dixon, who is hitting for a good average at Class A Lexington. The 22-year-old Houston native was selected by the Astros in the seventh round of the '07 Draft.

Cinderella story
Right-hander Jordan Powell has a 3.75 ERA over 12 relief appearances, spanning 24 innings. He has one save.

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