Astros sign ninth-round Draft pick Holberton

Astros sign ninth-round Draft pick Holberton

Astros sign ninth-round Draft pick Holberton

HOUSTON -- The Astros on Friday signed ninth-round pick Brian Holberton, a catcher from the University of North Carolina, leaving third-round pick Kent Emanuel, a left-handed pitcher who's also from North Carolina, as the club's only unsigned pick from among the top 10 rounds.

Holberton, who has been assigned initially to Rookie-level Greeneville, hit .308 with 54 runs, 12 home runs and 58 RBIs with a .419 on-base percentage and a .504 slugging percentage while helping the Tar Heels reach the College World Series.

"Brian brings a lot to our organization," scouting director Mike Elias said. "He hits for average and power and has shown us a professional approach throughout his career. He was a key figure in UNC's dominant offense this spring and helped lead them to the College World Series on both sides of the ball and in the clubhouse. He's a tireless worker, and his emergence as a catcher is something we're very excited about."

The club also announced the signing of left-hander Chris Cotton (14th round), third baseman Adam Nelubowich (18th round), catcher Jake Rodriguez (19th round) and right-hander Juan Santos (39th round). Cotton, Nelubowich and Rodriguez have been assigned to short-season Class A Tri-City while Santos will report to the Gulf Coast League.

The Astros have signed 29 of their 40 Draft picks this year.

Houston had the biggest Draft pool from which to spend money this year, and general manager Jeff Luhnow said the club can still go over slot to sign some high school players it took beyond the 10th round.

"You have a feel for your pool amount, but we have some high school players past the 10th round that to sign them will require using some of that pool," he said. "We still have a lot more variables out there."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.