Astros take Aiken with the first pick

Astros take Aiken with the first pick
June 5, 2014, 5:30 pm
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(USA Today Images)

The Astros selected Brady Aiken, a hard-throwing left-handed high school pitcher, with the first-overall pick in the MLB Draft on Thursday. 

Aiken, considered the best high school pitcher in the country, draws comparisons to Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, he throws consistently in the low 90s but has been clocked as high as 97 with his fastball. 

"He has everything going for him in terms of his size, his delivery, his repertoire, his pitchability," Astros director of amateur scouting Mike Elias said about the selection. "I think most importantly what Brady's made of is a big reason why he was our pick today." 

The Astros, who usually wait until the final moments before the draft to make their decision, kept Aiken in the dark about selecting him.

"We actually did find out on TV," Aiken told MLB Network on Thursday night. "We were going back and forth and we just found out and it was a crazy moment. It's been a fun experience and this whole things, it's just been crazy." 

Aiken continues the Astros' trend of drafting young high school players; Aiken is just 17 years old. The Astros selected outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. in 2010 and shortstop Carlos Correa in 2012. Both were under the age of 18 when they were selected.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow was quoted earlier this week about the possibility of taking a high school player because the farm system is loaded with top prospects at the upper levels of the minor leagues.

“We wanted the best player for the organization and the amount of time it takes to get to the big leagues was not a huge factor," Luhnow said after making the selection. "Having said that, for a kid who is 17 years old,  I’m not going to put any limitations to how quickly this player can move. (Aiken) is the most advanced high school pitcher I've seen in my career.”

Aiken will likely start at short season rookie league Greeneville or Tri-City and be kept on an innings-limit similar to the way the Astros handled last year's No. 1 overall pick, Mark Appel.

"I'm just ready to move forward and see what the Astros have in store for me in the future and I'm really excited and I just want to say thank you to all my family and friends and everybody who's gotten me to this point because it's really been an honor," Aiken told MLB Network. "Being drafted by the Astros, it means a whole lot." 

There is some risk in taking Aiken. He becomes the third high school pitcher taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the MLB Draft. The first, David Clyde of Houston, made his first professional start with the Rangers one week after graduating from Westchester High School and beat the Twins. His initial success and the size of the crowd that came to see him kept him in the majors, despite his age. The lifestyle of a professional athlete contributed greatly to his demise and he was finished in the majors by 1979 with a career record of 18-33.

Brien Taylor was the other. Taylor, drafted in 1991 by the New York Yankees, hurt his shoulder in a fight after his first season in the minor leagues and was never able to reach the Major Leagues.   

"Obviously, when you pick a high school pitcher this high in the draft, you feel very convicted that this pitcher in particular is a special one," Elias said. "A lot of our senior scouts agree that this is the best high school left-hander that they’ve scouted."

Aiken becomes the third consecutive No. 1 overall selection by the Astros. Houston took Correa in 2012 and right-handed pitcher Appel in 2013. This is the first time one team has had the first pick in the draft for three consecutive seasons.

All three No. 1 picks were made by Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who joined the team after the 2011 season.