Astros take Castro in first round of Draft

Castro selected with 10th pick

PITTSBURGH -- While most players watch the Draft coverage on TV or track it on mlb.com, Jason Castro was actually one of the last people to find out he landed as the 10th overall selection in a Draft that will eventually include more than a thousand players.

The catcher was on an airplane en route to Fullerton, Calif., when he was announced as the Astros' first pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.

Castro, a catcher at Stanford University, was on his way to the NCAA Super Regional, which will be held this weekend at Cal-State Fullerton. When the plane landed, Castro saw he received countless text messages and voice mails from family and friends who had already heard the news. The first message was from Astros area scout Joe Graham, who delivered the good news.

"It would have been exciting to see it live -- as it was happening," Castro said. "But just the fact that I was able to talk to family and friends not too long after it happened was nice."

Castro, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound junior from Castro Valley, Calif., is hitting .372 with 12 home runs and 63 RBIs over 61 games for Stanford this year. En route to the Super Regional, Castro was named as the catcher on the Stanford Regional All-Tournament Team. He was named to the All-Pac-10 team this season and ranks in the top 10 in multiple categories in the conference, including batting average, runs scored, hits, RBIs and total bases.

"He's a really nice package," Astros scouting director Bobby Heck said. "He has durability behind the plate, he was one of the top hitters in the Cape [League]. He does hit with power, but just as attractive is the number of quality at-bats he has. He has an extra focus with runners in scoring position. He's at his best with runners on base."

Prior to his junior season, Castro played in the Cape Cod Summer League in 2007 and batted .341 (second-best in the League) with 24 RBI to earn an All-League selection and a spot in the CCBL All-Star Game.

His performance in the Cape Cod League likely raised his stock entering this year's Draft. It helped that he transitioned well using wooden bats, a big test while talent evaluators try to figure out if young hitters can make the adjustment after using aluminum bats in college.

"It's a definite boost for your confidence," Castro said. "Going to Cape, I was coming off a rough season my sophomore year. To perform the way I did with the wood bats against the talent the Cape had, it helped boost my confidence."

Castro played mostly at first base or outfield while playing in the Cape League, in deference to teammate Buster Posey, who has caught most of the games at Stanford this season and was selected fifth overall by the Giants. Castro also had a minor elbow injury that required surgery during his sophomore year at Stanford, but he was given a clean bill of health and played injury-free this year.

The 20-year-old catcher was recently named one of three finalists for the 2008 Coleman Company-Johnny Bench Award.


"Going to Cape, I was coming off a rough season my sophomore year. To perform the way I did with the wood bats against the talent the Cape had, it helped boost my confidence."
-- Jason Castro

According to Baseball America, Castro is athletic enough to have good lateral movement and agility, and he's improved as a receiver, where he's considered fringe-average at worst. His arm was also graded as average.

The Astros have had signability issues in the past, but because Castro is a college player, negotiations may be easier this time. Castro sounded confident that he and the club will come to a swift agreement.

"I think everything will go very smoothly and hopefully we can keep things going as quickly as we can," he said. "I'm trying to focus on the Super Regionals and hopefully the College World Series. After that's all said and done, I don't think there will be any problems with transition."

A 2005 graduate of Castro Valley High School, Castro was listed among Street and Smith's 2005 High School All-America Prep Seniors to Watch and named as the 10th-best high school prospect in Northern California by the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005.

He led Castro Valley High School to three consecutive North Coast Section playoff appearances (2003-05) while compiling a .400 batting average over his three-year varsity prep career. Castro was selected in the 43rd round by the Boston Red Sox in 2005 but did not sign.

Astros' top five selections
Pick
POS
Name
School
10.CJason CastroStanford U
38.RHPJordan LylesHartsville (S.C.)
56.CFJoseph AustinNorth Atlanta HS (Ga.)
88.OFCharles DavidsonMilton HS (Ga.)
109.RHPRoss SeatonSecond Baptist School (Texas)
Complete Astros Draft results >
Houston has not selected a catcher this high in the Draft since selecting Robbie Wine with the eighth overall pick in 1983. Castro is the eighth catcher selected in the first round in franchise history.

The Astros also selected pitcher Bill Blair during the Special Negro Leagues Player Draft, which took place prior to the start of the First-Year Player Draft.

Blair played six seasons in the Negro Leagues for the Detroit Star and Cincinnati Clowns from 1946-51. The youngest black sergeant to serve in the United States Army in 1945 during World War II, Blair once threw a no-hitter during a Denver Post Tournament.

In 1948, Blair became the founder and owner of Southwest Sports News, a newspaper that specialized in publishing scores from African-American college games throughout the United States.

Round 1 (supplemental): Jordan Lyles, RHP, Hartsville (S.C.) High School: Lyles is the first right-handed pitcher taken by the Astros in the first round or supplemental first round since the club selected Derick Grigsby at No. 29 overall in 2002. He's projected as a rotation-type big league starter. He's an athletic, three-sport athlete with a good upside.

Round 2: Jay Austin, CF, North Atlanta (Ga.) High School: Austin was selected at No. 56 overall; other notable players selected with the 56th pick include Brewers shorstop J.J. Hardy and Whites Sox right-handed reliever Scott Linebrink. Austin is a potential prototypical leadoff man with tremendous speed.

Round 3: Chase Davidson, 1B, Milton (Ga.) High School: The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Davidson has good power and an exceptional ability to hit.

Round 3 (supplemental): Ross Seaton, RHP, Second Baptist School High School (Houston): The Astros had plenty of opportunities to watch this local product play, and they saw someone who has the potential to be a Major League starters. He really wanted to be an Astro, and the Astros were more than happy to take him.

Round 4: T.J. Steele, CF, University of Arizona: A big, athletic center fielder. Steele performed on the big stage of the Pac-10 and the Cape Cod League. He's a five-tool package. Steele was selected by the Astros in the Draft for the second time -- he was also selected by the club in the 22nd round of the 2005 Draft but did not sign.

Round 5: David Duncan, LHP, Georgia Tech University: Duncan is a polished college left-hander who had a lot of success in the ACC. He's a good thrower and is projected as a back-of-the-rotation starter.

Round 6: J.B. Shuck, CF, Ohio State University: Shuck has the chance to be an above-average defender, and overachiever who the club thinks could have a long career in the big leagues.

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