HOUSTON -- As the top 10 picks unfolded in Monday's First-Year Player Draft and it became apparent to the Astros they were going to have a chance to select University of Connecticut outfielder George Springer at No. 11, jubilation erupted in the team's Draft room at Minute Maid Park.
In keeping with their philosophy of taking the best player available, the Astros couldn't pass up on the chance to select Springer, a 6-foot-3 center fielder, with their first-round selection in the hopes he can become a cornerstone player for the organization.
"Going into the year, he was a priority guy for us, and I think as this thing unfolded we realized there were five or six guys that weren't getting to us, and then we circled a group of 8-10 guys and have to get those in the right order," Astros assistant general manager/director of scouting Bobby Heck said. "When the board played out, he was the top guy. We're really happy to have him."
CWS, DET, NYY and PHI did not have first-round selections.
A 21-year-old junior, Springer was hitting .350 with 12 homers and 76 RBIs though 63 games for the Huskies, who beat Clemson on Monday night to advance to the NCAA Super Regional. He had a .628 slugging percentage with 35 walks, 38 strikeouts and 31 stolen bases in 38 chances.
"I really don't have any words I can put how happy I was at the time. It's something as a player and as a kid you always dream of," Springer told MLB.com. "My friend [and teammate] Matt Barnes told me in the fifth inning, and I was blown away.
"I don't have any words [to] describe it. It's an unbelievable feeling, especially topped off by a huge win in the last three games for our team and program. I'm beyond happy right now."
Springer, who throws and bats right-handed, started in center field for the Huskies in Monday's regional championship game in Clemson, S.C., and went 1-for-3 with two runs scored before being removed from the game after grounding out in the sixth inning as a precaution because of a leg cramp.
"It's just more of a severe cramp," Springer told MLB.com. "I was extremely dehydrated from last night and it just carried over."
With area scout John Kosciak getting the most looks at Springer, the Astros were sold on his power-speed combination and his athleticism. They plan to "exhaust" every chance to keep him in center field, though his power could profile him as a corner outfielder down the road.
"We held our breath knowing what players would probably go off the board ahead of us," Astros general manager Ed Wade said. "There was some uncertainty as to whether Springer would be gone before we had our chances to make the pick, and, fortunately, shortly before we got on the clock it became apparent he was going to be there for us. He was the best player remaining on board, and it worked out the way we anticipated it would."
Heck, who first saw Springer play as a junior in high school and again four or five times this season, said Springer's makeup was "off the charts." He didn't anticipate any problems getting him signed and into the system before the Aug. 15 deadline to sign Draft picks.
Springer's father, George II, and mother, Marie, both graduated from UConn, and his father played in the Little League World Series in 1976.
"From our scout, John Kosciak, and talking to his coaches at the camp, his coaches at UConn, guys he's played against, there's a lot of things to talk about, and all the stuff we got back was really good," Heck said. "The signability stuff -- we got indications he wants to start his professional career, and we'll probably get more in that as tomorrow unfolds and the next day."
Springer expressed a willingness to sign: "100 percent. I'm good to go."
The Astros will pick again at No. 69 overall (second round) when the Draft continues Tuesday, and don't be surprised to see them begin to focus on pitching, which is a strength of this Draft.
"I think we're going to be able to address pitching starting tomorrow, once we start our second pick," Heck said. "Not that I'm committing to that at this point in time, but there's going to be more opportunities to get pitching, and we're still not where we need to start addressing needs, especially in the first round. He was the most talented on our board."
Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft resumes at 11 a.m. CT Tuesday on MLB.com, where fans will receive exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
This is the fourth Draft under Wade, who hired Heck to help restock a farm system that was reeling from fruitless drafts in 2006 and '07. Their first pick -- '08 first-rounder Jason Castro -- made his Major League debut year ago, and right-hander Jordan Lyles -- taken by the Astros in the first round after Castro -- made his debut last week.
"Players will dictate by their performance how quickly they move, but one would anticipate a player who had some college experience as he does at a very high level would move at a somewhat more rapid pace," Wade said.
"That being said, we just saw Jordan Lyles' Major League debut at 20 a week ago. Guys will determine their own pace, and as they move, we'll carve out space for them, whether it's at the next level above at the Minor League level or at Minute Maid Park."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.