The Houston Astros have picked up another high-profile piece for their high-profile rebuilding project.
He'll have to graduate from high school before he starts pitching in, though.
Picking at the No. 1 spot for the third straight year, the Astros selected Brady Aiken, a 17-year-old lefthanded pitcher, with the top overall choice in Thursday night's first round of the MLB amateur player draft.
Aiken, who will turn 18 in August, stands 6-foot-4, weighs 205 pounds and attended Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego. It's said he already commands a full repertoire of pitches with a fastball that's already topping out in the high-90s.
The UCLA recruit was known more for his athleticism and his feel for pitching than for any single pitch, but increased velocity to go along with that pitchability has been the buzz of the spring. He has the chance to develop three above-average or better offerings. His once-average fastball is now topping out at 97 mph and sits 92-94 mph, featuring both run and sink. He commands his fastball well and throws all three of his pitches for strikes. He gets good depth on his curveball and keeps hitters off balance with his changeup, which usually comes in around 10 mph slower than his fastball.
Both of those pitchers are generally recognized as two of the bigger No. 1 disappointments in draft history; the Astros will be hoping that Aiken does not follow form. They've finished with 100-plus losses in three straight seasons and are looking to rebound with the fruits of their recent drafts. The team's top overall pick in 2011, George Springer, recently had a big debut in the major leagues and their No. 1 selection in 2012, Carlos Correa has been successful in the minor leagues so far.
Even though he hasn't signed with the team yet, it didn't take long for the Astros to picture Aiken wearing their big league uniform.
Selecting a pitcher who's still not old enough to vote signals that the Astros are planning on taking their time with the rebuild and want to do things right. Still, if and when these picks start to pan out, the Astros could be a formidable team down the road especially if righty Mark Appel, the team's top pick in 2013, overcomes some early struggles and fulfills the promise he showed at Stanford.
Aiken wasn't the only high school pitcher tabbed early on Thursday. The Miami Marlins selected Tyler Kolek, a high school righthander out of Texas with the second selection. Carlos Rodon, a lefthander from North Carolina State, went to the Chicago White Sox at No. 3 after rumors of his salary demands hurt his stock earlier in the day.
The Chicago Cubs surprised people at No. 4 by taking Kyle Schwarber, a catcher from Indiana University. Prep shortstop Nick Gordon, the son of former pitcher Tom Gordon and the brother of Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon, went to the Minnesota Twins at No. 5.
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