Champion pitcher object of Astros' desire in 15th

Champion pitcher object of Astros' desire in 15th

Champion pitcher object of Astros' desire in 15th

HOUSTON -- Astros director of amateur scouting Mike Elias said the team targeted so many college pitchers in this year's First-Year Player Draft for their "polish." It's hard to get much more polished than being a starting pitcher for a national champion.

Houston took Arizona pitcher James Farris in the 15th round of the Draft (437th overall), part of a string of five consecutive pitchers taken by Houston on Saturday.

"We liked his combination of promising tools and the pedigree he brought," said Elias. "James is a winner and a champion."

Farris helped Arizona to the 2012 NCAA championship and moved up to the No. 2 spot in the rotation this season. He went 5-5 with a 4.18 ERA in 99 innings.

"Mark Ross is our area scout and lives in Tucson, [Ariz.], so he spends a lot of time around that program and knows the kids really well," Elias said. "He raved about Farris for how he plays, but we know that the tools are there physically also to be a Major League starter. We target that potential whenever possible."

While the ERA is higher than his sophomore season's 3.97 mark, he struck out 73 and allowed only one homer as opponents hit just .240 against him in 2013.

Farris' mechanics are sound, but he's got an elongated delivery that could make him easy to steal on at the pro level. His fastball can hit the lower 90s, but a long stride and leg kick helps generate push even on his breaking pitches.

Chris Abshire is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.