HOUSTON -- The Houston Astros have always approached the Draft with the intention to pick the best player available, rather than try to fill holes based on needs at various positions.

This year will be no different, but considering the Astros' first pick won't arrive until the third round -- 112th overall -- the best available player may not be a sure-fire future Major Leaguer.

Because they signed Type A free agents Carlos Lee and Woody Williams, the Astros lost three rounds of draft picks -- round one, the compensation round and round two.

Still, even though they're far down on the chain, scouting director Paul Ricciarini is optimsitic that the talent pool will have plenty to offer when it's time for the Astros to jump in on Draft Day.

The 2007 First-Year Player Draft takes place June 7-8 at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla. The first round will be aired on ESPN2 beginning at 1 p.m. CT, and MLB.com will have every pick of the 50-round Draft, start to finish.

Because of where the Astros are in the pecking order, this Draft may dictate that the club select more position players over pitchers, which would be quite a contrast from the past decade or so.

"The more we work the boards, it's deep enough where I'm getting more and more excited each day," Ricciarini said. "It opened up more options, player-wise, than I thought there would be. There's always young pitching, and there's some risk involved in young pitching, obviously. But the depth of this draft is in our favor.

"We can do some things maybe creatively and take some chances on tough signs and things like that. We're keeping all of the options open to try to make up for lack of not having a No. 1 or 2."

In other words, the Astros may be able to take advantage of having the extra money they won't have to spend on a first-rounder and spend some of it on a third-rounder who other teams may think would be too expensive. Ricciarini pointed to Andrew Miller, the sixth pick overall by the Tigers last year. In 2003, he was picked by the Devil Rays in the third round out of high school and was labeled as unsignable. Miller went to college and re-entered the draft in '06.

"In reality, he would have signed for a certain figure," Ricciarini said. "What that figure was, I don't know. But we have to keep options open like that. This is the year to do it. We've got plenty of resources to be creative and we're utilizing them."

Draft 2007 | Complete Coverage
Top MLB Draft Picks
Pick POS Name School
1. TB LHP David Price Vanderbilt U
2. KC SS Michael Moustakas Chatsworth HS (Calif.)
3. CHC 3B Josh Vitters Cypress HS (Calif.)
4. PIT LHP Daniel Moskos Clemson U
5. BAL C Matthew Wieters Georgia Tech
6. WSH LHP Ross Detwiler Missouri St U
7. MIL LF Matthew LaPorta U Florida
8. COL RHP Casey Weathers Vanderbilt U
9. ARI RHP Jarrod Parker Norwell HS
10. SF LHP Madison Bumgarner South Caldwell HS
Complete Draft list >

The club will select the best player available, but all things being equal, Ricciarini surmised he'd be looking at fortifying the depth up the middle, at the catcher, shortstop and center field spots.

"I just think you never have enough depth up the middle," Ricciarini said. "But we're looking obviously at corner power, and we're looking at left-handed hitters again, as we always do, and left-handed pitching. I think we put some catching into the system, but there's still some catching out there that's pretty attractive."

Here is a look at how Houston's recent top picks are faring:

2006
Max Sapp, C, 23rd overall pick:
Sapp hit .229 in his first professional season at Tri-City (Rookie). He's doing well this year, hitting .297 with 16 RBIs over 36 games, through May 27, for Class A Lexington.

2005
Brian Bogusevic, LHP, 24th overall pick:
Bogusevic was named the Carolina League's Pitcher of the Week in mid-May for Class-A Salem. The left-hander was 4-3 with a 3.42 ERA over nine starts -- including one complete game, through the last week in May.

2004
Hunter Pence, OF, 64th overall pick:
The Astros did not plan for Pence to play for them early in the season, but that changed toward the end of April, when the offense was lagging. Pence delivered, living up to the hype he created when he hit better than .500 during Spring Training.

Rising fast: Sapp
Drafted out of high school, Sapp was pushed to Tri-City, a mostly college-based league. He's only 19, but he's at Class A Lexington this year and was hitting .300 until just recently.

Cinderella story: C J.R. Towles
Towles was a 20th-round pick in '04, but he is rising quickly through the system. He spent some time at Double-A Corpus Christi when roster holes necessitated the promotion, but he'll spend most of the season at Class A Salem. In '06, Towles was a Baseball America Low Class A All-Star and a South Atlantic League Mid-Season All-Star.

In the Show: Pence has been steady at the plate and has adjusted well to center field, where it looks like he'll be playing long-term for the Astros.