"Kent is a polished left-handed starter with three solid pitches and excellent command," said Mike Elias, director of amateur scouting. "He has been UNC's ace the last two seasons and dominated in the ACC, which is one of the nation's toughest conferences. He's also very athletic, and we feel there is significant upside remaining with him. He immediately becomes one of our system's most promising left-handed pitchers, so we are thrilled to have him in the fold."
Emanuel, who is in Houston for a physical, said he would get on a throwing program in Florida later this week before reporting to Tri-City.
"I'm extremely excited," he said. "It's pretty cool knowing I get to turn baseball into a career. It's pretty special."
Plenty was written about Emanuel's workload and pitch count in the NCAA regionals and College World Series, but he says he feels fine.
"My arm feels great," he said. "Believe it or not, I just got done getting an MRI, and the doctor said my shoulder and elbow look as good as any he's seen in this Draft class. I'm good to go."
Emanuel's fastball tops out around 91 mph, his breaking stuff is fringy and he has a solid changeup. The lefty said that was his main area of focus for improvement.
Yet what he lacks in pure stuff, Emanuel makes up for with pitchability. He has excellent command and knows how to mix his pitches extremely well.
Originally drafted out of high school in the 19th round by the Pirates in 2010, the Woodstock, Ga., native instead honored his commitment to UNC, where he has had a stellar college career. He went 9-1 with a team-best 2.33 ERA as a freshman in 2011 and followed that season up by posting an 8-4 record and a 1.96 ERA in '12.
A lack of a true out pitch seems to be Emanuel's key limitation, but at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, he is big and strong and understands his craft, giving the Astros hope he will be a workhorse at the back end of their big league rotation in the future.
The Astros also reached a deal with first baseman Chase McDonald, selected in the 12th round.