HOUSTON -- The Astros headed into Monday, the final day to sign 2009 Draft picks, hoping to come to terms with at least one more player before the 11 p.m. CT deadline. But as the hours passed, the mood became less optimistic. Among the players the Astros were trying to strike a deal with was 12th-round pick Geoffrey Thomas, a right-handed high school pitcher from Georgia. Thomas, who committed to play for Southern Mississippi next yeaer, was Houston's only unsigned player from its first 26 selections in this year's First-Year Player Draft.
"We're less optimistic of any late additions," Astros assistant manager Bobby Heck said as the deadline neared. "We've had second and third type money out there on three players. It's more of them wanting school at this time." Houston signed the other 25 of its top 26 picks and overall, the Astros signed 35 of all 51 of their picks -- an improvement over 2008, when the team inked 32 of its 52 picks. "We're very pleased with having gotten that many players and that many guys that high up who now have a summer under their belt," Heck said. "That's a testament to the work our scouts have done and hopefully it says something about the players as well. The first and foremost thing was to get them out on the field." Since signing their first-round pick -- and No. 21 overall -- Jiovanni Mier on June 24, the Astros had been unable to negotiate a deal with any of the remaining 16 players. However, they were able to sign 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher Ruben (A.J.) Alaniz as a non-drafted free agent to bolster their crop of young talent. Alaniz, a product of Juarez-Lincoln High School in La Joya, Texas, who slipped under the radar before the June Draft, has a mid-90s fastball and a plus curveball, according to Astros scout Rusty Pendergrass and East Coast scouting supervisor Clarence Johns, who believe the 18-year-old has the ability to develop into a Major League starter. Alaniz reported to the Gulf Coast League Astros in Kissimmee, Fla., on Monday. Most of Houston's other signed picks have been playing since late June. "It puts them in a position, especially the younger players, to get some time and experience heading into a long season next year," Heck said. "It was part of the education process and showed the importance of them being able to go out and start in June."
Jason Grodsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.