"We wanted to line up as many left-handers as we could," said Paul Ricciarini, Senior Director of Player Personnel. "There is such a dearth of left-handed pitching today. The talent this late in the draft starts equalizing. We didn't draft a lot of pitchers yesterday, so this was a chance to make up for that."
In the 30th round, the Astros selected right-hander Matthew Hirsch, brother of Jason Hirsh, Houston's first pick in the 2003 draft. Of course, those bloodlines didn't garner quite as much attention as Tuesday's announcement that the Astros selected Roger Clemens' eldest son, Koby, as their eighth-round pick.
Koby Clemens signed a letter of intent last fall to play at the University of Texas, and now he has to decide whether he wants to first go to college, or sign with the Astros.
Clemens, a senior at Memorial High School, signed as a third baseman, but he appears to have some of his dad's pitching prowess, too. The eldest Clemens kid struck out 86 batters in 66 1/3 innings this year, allowing 49 hits and 45 runs for a 3.17 ERA. Earlier this season, he threw consecutive no-hitters.
As a hitter, he batted .523 (56-for-107) with 14 doubles, one triple, 10 homers and 55 RBIs.
"I've got a lot of big decisions," Koby Clemens said. "Either going straight to the pros or go to the University of Texas. So I've got two really great options."
"I don't know if it could be any tougher now," Roger Clemens said. "If it had been another team, another professional team somewhere else in the country, the decision might not have been that hard. He deserves it. He's worked extremely hard."
The Astros risked using a relatively high pick on a player who seemed intent on going to college, but general manager Tim Purpura said it was worth the risk. He and Ricciarini emphasized how much of an advantage a son of a Major Leaguer has over the rest of the draft class, because there is a maturity factor that comes along with having grown up in the big leagues, so to speak.
"Major League pedigree, to me, is important," Purpura said. "It gives you, sometimes, a more polished look."
Said Ricciarini: "They've been around the game. Koby's a strong kid and he's going to get stronger. He's got power, he's got arm strength. We're going to send him out as a third baseman and he's talked about maybe going behind the plate eventually. You start to activate your imagination a little bit.
"He's really a baseball player. They have such a distinct advantage of being in the arena that we don't have any risk there with him dealing with the daily issues of professional baseball. There's no guesswork like we have to do on the other
Purpura doesn't have an indication as to which way Koby Clemens is leaning.
"I don't think it's a foregone conclusion he'll sign with us and I think it's similar with UT -- I don't think it's a foregone conclusion he'll go there," Purpura said. "They've got options they have to think about and explore."
Said the Rocket: "He'll have another decision here probably within the next two weeks."
The Astros selected left-handed pitcher Brian Bogusevic, a junior at Tulane University, as their first-round pick (24th overall) and stayed in the draft through the 46th round. The following is a rundown of both days, including Ricciarini's comments on the players selected during Day 1 of the draft:
No. 38 Eli Iorg, OF, Tennessee
"Son of former Major League Garth Iorg, Eli is a five-tool player. He played in the College Classic at Minute Maid Park this year and he's a kid you just couldn't take your eyes off of because of the way he plays the game. His makeup's impeccable. Very competitive. Legitimate power/speed combination. Projected in right field, he can also play some center field. Similar to Jason Lane, with better speed and better base-stealing ability."
No. 72 overall: Ralph Henriquez, C, Key West (Fla.) HS
"Switch-hitting catcher and son of Braves roving catching instructor Ralph Henriquez. Catch-throw defensive type. He can probably catch at a higher level than where we're going to start him. We want him to get as many at-bats as possible. Strong, durable, very bubbly-type kid."
No. 89 overall: Tommy Manzella, SS, Tulane
Position: OF/LHP B/T: L/L
H: 6'3" W: 215
Born: 1984-02-18 Class: 4YR
Similar to Mark Mulder. Good delivery and mechanics. FB has late sink. Slider is out pitch. Circle change has deception and movement.
"Well-rounded kid. He makes all the routine plays. He has terrific instincts. He's a very poised, intelligent player. Has a good chance to be well rounded player. Unlike a Tim Bogar type, who could play every day but his bat held him back somewhat...this kid's got a chance to hit."
No. 104 overall: Josh Lindblom, RHP, Harrison (Ind.) HS
"Physical size, strength, he throws above average -- 90 to 94 mph, in that range. Just a power curveball. He had a little bit dip in his season, being a cold-weather pitcher, minor injuries set him back. We looked at the intangibles -- how did he deal with adversity? He just kept battling through it. Projected to be a No. 3, 2-type starter."
No. 134 overall: Josh Flores, OF, Triton (Ill.) College
"He might be the fastest runner we have, with Willy Taveras. Pure speed guy. He doesn't have Willy's arm strength, but he has more power. Can be an exciting base stealer."
No. 164 overall: Bill Hart, 3B, Southern California
"Former USC quarterback. Big, strong, very competitive. He's like a shorter Troy Glaus. Very good defensively. We have to project a little bit on his bat because he hadn't played baseball until two years ago. He just started to get back in the fold. He has power potential, corner potential. This kid really comes to play."
No. 194 overall: Brandon Barnes, LF/CF, Cypress (Calif.) College
"He was drafted as a left fielder, but we'll start him off more than likely in center field -- build his arm strength and give him the ability to play the aggressive position. He's so aggressive. He's a strong, muscular, flexible built kid who profiles out as a power/speed guy."
No. 224 overall: Tim Johnson, SS, Wissahickon (Pa.) HS
"He has strong tools across the board. He's a little bit of a sleeper. He didn't get very many looks because of the weather. He really has above-average defensive skills. Very athletic kid, well-above-average runner."
No. 254 overall: Koby Clemens, 3B, Memorial (Texas) HS
"He's strong. Kind of a compact, athletic kid that's going to get stronger up top. He's got powerful legs, like his dad. He's strong fingertip to elbow. Has hitter's strength. He can be an exciting player."
No. 284 overall: Jordan Meaker, RHP, Flower Mound (Texas) HS
"Tall, rangy kid. 6-foot-6. It's pure projection as far as how hard this guy can throw. He may be a pure power guy in time. He's throwing 90-93 now with a live arm. Breaking ball needs some work. He's going to need to make some mechanical adjustments, but he's very coordinated."
No. 314 overall: Allen Langdon -- OF, Eagle (Idaho) HS
"Left-handed-hitting outfielder, a compact, muscular kid. He's got strength. He's an average runner, at best, but has an above-average arm. He's kind of a Brian Giles type. He's got that kind of power potential. Above-average arm strength and projects out in right field."
No. 344 overall: Cory Lapinski, LHP, Illinois Wesleyan
"Left-handed pitcher who really knows how to spin a curveball. Hits anywhere from 88-92 mph on the speed gun with good tail and sink. Will need a better changeup."
No. 374 overall: Thomas Fairchild, RHP, U. of Southern Maine
"Curveball is his outpitch. He's not a fully developed kid, but pretty much near. What you see is kind of what you get, but it's pretty good. Hits 89, 92 with good sink. Uses curveball well, and that can be a good strikeout pitch for him in pro ball. He'll have to develop a better changeup on lefties."
No. 404 overall: Eric King, SS/2B, Tennessee
"He projects out more as a second baseman who can play short, kind of like how Eric Bruntlett and Jose Vizcaino play at second when we need them to. More of an offensive second baseman -- quick, agile, athletic kid."
No. 434 overall: Mark Ori, 1B, Northwestern
"The first pure left-handed bat we were able to get in the draft. He's a power-potential guy. He's got more line drive, gap power now. We've seen his pure power and we think he can really develop as a power hitter."
No. 464 overall: Eric Sheridan, RHP, Saddleback (Calif.) CC
"He's an arm strength kid who really needs to gain a feel for his secondary pitches. He's more of a one-pitch guy who can throw a slider. We've seen signs of it."
No. 494 overall: Aaron Bulkley, CF, Le Moyne (NY) College
"Tall, rangy kid, very athletic. He's a pure center fielder. He can steal bases. It'll come down to his bat, whether he's an everyday guy or a fourth outfielder."
No. 524 overall: Andrew Kroeker, C, Biola (Calif.)
"Left-handed hitting hitting catcher. He just comes to play. He's hard-nosed. You've got to let him go level to level. He'll overachieve because of his pure ability, but he can catch and throw and he's got some power."
No. 554 overall: Brian Needham, RHP, John Foster Dulles (Texas) HS
"We used a lot of projection. A likely draft and follow. He's got so much ceiling. We've seen him up to 94 mph on speed guns. I'm not a big gun guy, but he's got a live arm, and is very coordinated for a tall, lanky kid. We'll follow him this summer."
No. 584: Drew Himes, RHP, Illinois Wesleyan U
No. 614: Ryan Mitchell, RHP, Magnolia (TX) HS
No. 644: Scott Sarver, LHP, Cal State Fullerton
No. 674: Thomas Steele, CF, Canyon Del Oro (AZ) HS
No. 704: Chris Blazek, LHP, U. Vermont
No. 734: Sean Walker, RHP, Baylor (CA) U.
No. 764: Jacob Hurry, LHP, Coastal Carolina (FL) U.
No. 794: Michael Thompson, 3B, Santa Clara (CA) U.
No. 824: Matthew Luca, RHP, U. Nevada Las Vegas
No. 854: Eric Baker, 2B, Mansfield (NY) U.
No. 884: James Gant, RHP, Mississippi St.
No. 914: Matthew Hirsh, RHP, California Lutheran U.
No. 944: Brad Stone, RHP, Quincy (MO) U.
No. 974: Cole Graham, 1B, Triton (IL) College
No. 1004:Reid Kelly, RHP, Desert Mountain (AZ) HS
No. 1034: Nathan Warrick, LF, U. Texas Arlington
No. 1064: Andrew Darnell, RF, Chabot (CA) College
No. 1094: Matthew Cunningham, OF, UC (CA) Riverside
No. 1124: Matthew Bishop, RHP, Endicott (MA) College
No. 1154: Michael Colla, RHP, Clovis West (CA) HS
No. 1183: Zachary Williams, RHP, Seminole (OK) CC
No. 1212: Collin Fanning, CF, Clarendon (OK) College
No. 1241: Casey McCleskey, CF, Temple (TX ) College
No. 1270: Brandon Stricklen, RHP, Texas Southern (KS) U
No. 1299: Jacob Hower, RHP, American River (CA) College
No. 1328: Nicholas Cobler, LHP, Northeast Texas CC
No. 1357: Craig Herrforth, RHP, Arrowhead Union (WI) HS
No. 1386: Thomas Musick, LHP, Hudson (TX) HS