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Pitching rules as Astros wrap up Draft

Pitching rules as Astros wrap up Draft

HOUSTON -- While the Astros were busy on the field trying to beat the Cubs to secure their fourth consecutive series win, their front office was busy working its magic putting together another talent-loaded Draft class.

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The Astros wrapped up the 2009 First-Year Player Draft on Thursday by selecting 20 players in the third and final day of the 50-round process.

When it was all said and done, Houston had spent the majority of its picks on pitching. The Astros drafted 25 pitchers, 19 right-handed and six left-handed, including left-hander Dallas Keuchel of Arkansas (seventh round, No. 221 overall), who is scheduled to start Arkansas' opening game against Cal St. Fullerton at the College World Series on Saturday.

"Walking into this Draft the only place we felt we had depth was behind the plate. We needed corner-outfield bats, and middle infielders and you can never have enough pitching," said Astros general manager in charge of scouting Bobby Heck.

Houston selected Jiovanni Mier with its first pick in the Draft and the 21st overall. Mier is considered to be a good defensive player with a very strong arm and has potential to develop into a good Major League hitter.

Taking a shortstop with the first selection set the tone for the Astros front office. Of the 15 infielders drafted by Houston, eight were middle infielders, six shortstops and two second basemen.

"We started with a high school shortstop that we believe is a true shortstop and there were college shortstops and second basemen that we think are offensive and were appealing to us to fill and inventory to that area," Heck said.

While the Astros leaned toward middle infielders and pitching, their main goal was to sign the best player possible and it turned out doing that provided the club with a variety of players at all positions.

Houston selected nine outfielders and two catchers to go along with the 25 pitchers and 15 infielders, giving the Astros a good balance of players that will help them down the road.

"It wasn't by design, it's just the way our board played out," Heck said. "As an organization we're still out to take the best player available and build an inventory of quality. At the end of the day when you can look up and you have type of balance you feel pretty good about it. I think we addressed a lot of our needs, especially at the middle-infield position, there is a lot of quality there."

Astros -- Top five selections
Pick
POS
Name
School
21SSJiovanni MierBonita HS
69RHPTanner BushueSouth Central HS
100LFTelvin NashGriffin HS
1113BJonathan MeyerSimi Valley HS
131RHPBJ HyattU South Carolina Sumter
Complete Astros Draft results >

Houston's first four picks were high school players and 19 of the total of 51 players selected are, or will be, recent graduates of high school. They can choose to either to sign with the Astros and enter the Minor Leagues, or attend the college to which they committed. Heck said that whether a player is in high school, junior college or college doesn't necessarily make a difference as much as the front office's ability to sign the player.

"We try not to let a player walk by that we have the same value on him that he has on himself," Heck said. "The word signability only means that player's number needs to match yours. If their number is significantly more than you have them valued at then you have move on to the next players. We're not into overpaying for players but we'll pay the going rate."

As of Thursday afternoon the Astros haven't signed any of their picks, but the front office is confident they will be able to ink most of their selections soon.

"We feel good about what we've accomplished," Heck said. "Obviously nothing is a done deal until they are all signed and out, but we've got scouts and a lot of meeting over the next couple of days and we hope to have most of them signed by the weekend."

Jason Grodsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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