Houston Astros: Draft – First Round Starting Pitchers

Aug 3, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; A view of the Houston Astros logo during the game between the Astros and the Toronto Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park. The Astros defeated the Blue Jays 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 3, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; A view of the Houston Astros logo during the game between the Astros and the Toronto Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park. The Astros defeated the Blue Jays 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

The Houston Astros own the 17th overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft.

The Houston Astros have been rumored to be interested in a pitcher since the recent departure of some young arms have left.  Vincent Velasquez and former first-round pick Mark Appel were both traded to Philadelphia in the off-season, and Asher Wojciechowski was lost on waivers, leaving holes in the pitching pipeline for the Astros.

It also makes sense for the Astros to take a pitcher with their first pick, after last year’s draft saw them load up offensively with all three first round picks in order of SS Alex Bregman, OF Kyle Tucker, and OF Daz Cameron.

There are plenty of arms to be had at the top of this year’s draft board. This article will focus on the ones likely to still be available at pick 17.  In the last five drafts, the Astros have picked a starting pitcher in the first round three times: Lance McCullers (2012), Mark Appel (2013), and Brady Aiken (2014).

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Appel was mentioned earlier, and Aiken never signed with the club and was drafted next year by the Cleveland Indians, leaving McCullers as the only one which is still with the club.  The Astros have been linked to looking mostly at college pitchers for the first round selection.

Eric Lauer – LHP – Kent State

Lauer does not have electric stuff, but his efficient delivery and mechanics and his ability to throw four pitches have him projected as the top left-handed pitcher on many scouts’ draft boards.

Lauer receives high praise from the Kent State coaching staff, as being a true leader with encouraging upside.

"“I don’t even think he’s scratched the surface of what he can be,” Kent State coach Jeff Duncan said. “I’ve been around a lot of players who have maybe not even as much potential as he has, who have had good careers in the Big Leagues. I think (he’s) a John Lester-type, I think he can be a 1 or a 2 in the big leagues. He really can. He’s got the potential of it, he’s just got to continue to grow as a pitcher.” – http://americansportsnet.com/kent-state-fastballer-eric-lauer-draws-a-crowd-but-be-careful-crowding-him-at-the-plate/"

His fastball hovers in the low-90’s, and he has an above-average slider that comes in around 80-82 mph.  His curveball and changeup are listed as both average, but he has good control of both.  He has the mental makeup of a major league starter and is as well-rounded of a prospect as anyone in this draft. However, he lacks a true out pitch, and again, doesn’t dazzle anyone with spectacular numbers.  His strength is his consistency, and that could get him drafted in the early-middle first round.

Dakota Hudson – RHP – Mississippi State

Hudson likely will not be around at pick 17, but since the draft is loaded with arms, if he is available, the Astros should jump at taking him.  He is coming off both a stellar junior season and Cape Cod showing.  This year at Mississippi State, he went 9-4 with a 2.62 ERA, striking out 109 batters in 106.2 innings pitched.

The only true concern about Hudson are control issues that were present in his first two collegiate seasons, but his recent performances should quell any legitimate question marks.

Hudson has an above average fastball and slider.  His heater sits at 93-95 mph and has a good running and sinking action.  His slider is quite possibly his best pitch and comes in around 88 mph.  He has a projection to be a front of the rotation starter in a few years.

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Zack Burdi – RHP – Louisville

The Burdi family has produced some recent talent.  Zack’s older brother played quarterback at Western Michigan, and the middle brother Nick was drafted in 2014 by the Twins in the second round and is currently pitching in AA Chattanooga.  Zack serves as the closer on Louisville’s staff, and occasionally hits 100-mph, but usually stays around 95-98 mph.

Burdi projects a possible major league starter due to his clean delivery, but could get to the show quicker as a reliever.  Burdi has a plus-pitch slider to accompany his fastball.  In his junior season, Burdi struck out 45 batters in 27 innings and had a 2.00 ERA.

Fans can expect to catch some of Burdi’s final collegiate action as Louisville looks to move on to the Super Regional in the NCAA tournament.

Cody Sedlock – RHP – Illinois

The 6′ 4, 210-pound righty brings a heavy sinkerball and above average slider.  He spent the first two seasons in the bullpen of the Illini, but led the Big 10 in innings pitched and strikeouts, and also earned Big 10 pitcher of the year as a starter his junior season.  Development of a third pitch will be key for Sedlock.  Both his curveball and change-up could be described as average at best.

His mechanics are a bit “herky-jerky”, and having a large frame could generate some fears of durability among teams, but he should still get drafted in the middle of the first round.

We talked about the draft on last night’s Talking Stros.

T.J. Zeuch – RHP – Pittsburgh

Zeuch stands 6’7 on the mound and has a four-pitch repertoire.  His fastball usually sits between 92-94 mph and has an average slider and curve.  He rarely throws his changeup and hasn’t truly developed that pitch yet.

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His frame suggests that he could add some weight and strength to it, so that is something else teams will keep in mind if they are looking at Zeuch.  He was a three-year starter and in his junior year went 6-1 with a 3.10 ERA.  Zeuch’s size and traditional, smooth mechanics make him an appealing prospect to develop into a major league starter four years down the road.

***Stats and scouting reports from MLB Pipeline***