HOUSTON -- Astros director of amateur scouting Mike Elias said the team targeted so many college pitchers in this year's First-Year Player Draft for their "polish." It's hard to get much more polished than being a starting pitcher for a national champion.
Houston took Arizona pitcher James Farris in the 15th round of the Draft (437th overall), part of a string of five consecutive pitchers taken by Houston on Saturday.
"We liked his combination of promising tools and the pedigree he brought," said Elias. "James is a winner and a champion."
Farris helped Arizona to the 2012 NCAA championship and moved up to the No. 2 spot in the rotation this season. He went 5-5 with a 4.18 ERA in 99 innings.
"Mark Ross is our area scout and lives in Tucson, [Ariz.], so he spends a lot of time around that program and knows the kids really well," Elias said. "He raved about Farris for how he plays, but we know that the tools are there physically also to be a Major League starter. We target that potential whenever possible."
While the ERA is higher than his sophomore season's 3.97 mark, he struck out 73 and allowed only one homer as opponents hit just .240 against him in 2013.
Farris' mechanics are sound, but he's got an elongated delivery that could make him easy to steal on at the pro level. His fastball can hit the lower 90s, but a long stride and leg kick helps generate push even on his breaking pitches.
Astros open last day of Draft with pitcher pick
HOUSTON -- The Astros wasted no time looking for more pitching on Day 3, snagging high-school pitcher Devonte German of Bishop Manogue in Reno, Nev., with the first pick in the 11th round (317th overall) of the First-Year Player Draft on Saturday.
German is an elite athlete who starred in three sports in high school. As a baseball player, he is still raw and didn't play much on the road or showcase circuits. A true two-way player, German attracted scouts' attention with his athleticism and promise as an outfielder and on the mound.
"We're pretty excited about the pick," said Astros director of amateur scouting Mike Elias. "We felt he was a Day 2 talent that fell to us, and we were ready all morning to take him in the 11th round."
German throws in the low 90s now and his 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame makes it easy for scouts to project him to add even more velocity as he develops.
Over the past two seasons, he's compiled a 12-4 record with a 1.64 ERA and 157 strikeouts in 115 innings.
German's combination of speed and strength makes him a potential impact outfielder if Houston prefers to develop him as an everyday player. Since he didn't play baseball full-time, many scouts believe he hasn't come close to his full potential, and he's a teachable prospect.
"He's very tall, so there's a lot of projection there," Elias said. "He's got the type of young arm you really dream about as a scout, and it's still pretty undeveloped. It was a thrill to get such an athletic guy so late."
German has signed with Nevada, but a pro offer might be tempting. However, he said before the Draft that he expected to go sometime around the fifth round, making his 11th-round selection low for his standards.
McDonald's power lures Houston to take him in 12th
HOUSTON -- With pitching and speed dominating the Astros' priorities through 11 rounds, the organization finally opted for power, taking East Carolina University junior Chase McDonald in the 12th round (347th overall) of the First-Year Player Draft on Saturday.
"Chase is a quintessential power threat," said Astros director of amateur scouting Mike Elias. "He's so strong and hits for the fences without striking out much."
The first baseman/designated hitter has proven his power prowess across the collegiate and Cape Cod League levels. He's got a powerful swing, with hands that are quick enough to consistently turn on the ball while also staying steady through the zone.
He hit .274 with five home runs and 15 RBIs last summer in the Cape Cod League, and his junior season at ECU was even better. McDonald blasted 11 homers with 46 RBIs and a .299 average in 2013.
"The big thing is his contact," Elias said. "It's always strong off the bat and he makes contact, so there's a rare blend of home run power with the ability to make contact."
Overall, the Greenville, N.C., native has power to both sides of the field and the kind of powerful frame at 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds that could make him a scary prospect for many pro pitchers.
Florida kid's command grabs Astros' attention
HOUSTON -- Good hitting or good pitching? Judging by the Astros' continued commitment to pitching in the First-Year Player Draft, they're going with the latter over the former.
Houston took University of North Florida senior Kyle Westwood with the first pick of the 13th round on Saturday (377th overall), making it six pitchers in the first 13 selections for the Astros.
Westwood was a 44th-round pick of the Orioles in 2009, but he decided to attend school near his hometown of Tarpon Springs, Fla. He went 4-1 with a 3.75 ERA in 62 1/3 innings in his senior season.
"Scouts raved about his control around the plate, and he has a plus breaking ball that helps him get hitters out," said Astros director of amateur scouting Mike Elias.
Command is the right-hander's strong point, as he nearly posted a six-to-one strike-to-walkout ratio this year, with 71 strikeouts and only 12 walks. Westwood also posted a 10.75 K's/9 IP ratio on the season.
His stuff isn't considered electric, and his fastball barely touches 92 mph. However, scouts love his consistency and command of the plate, something that likely won't make him a dominant big leaguer but suits him for long-relief work.
"There's a bright future for him as a power reliever," Elias said. "We saw a lot of ground-ball movement on his fastball, and it'll occasionally even blow right by you."
LSU's 'Sheriff' roped in by Astros in 14th round
HOUSTON -- There's a new Sheriff in the Houston Minor League system. That's the nickname given to LSU senior pitcher Chris Cotton, whom the Astros tabbed as their 14th-round choice Saturday in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, 407th overall.
Cotton, all of 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, earned the nickname as LSU's closer in 2013, shutting down games with relative ease. He's a former walk-on who transitioned from long-relief duties last year to the Tigers' shutdown bullpen arm this season.
"We loved Chris Cotton, and our scouts across the South said we had to take him," said Astros director of amateur scouting Mike Elias. "He's from a big league factory at LSU. It's a steal to get a lefty with that pedigree in the 14th."
Cotton compiled a 1.29 ERA this spring, as batters only hit .164 against him. He has also tied the LSU single-season saves record with 16. He was the Most Outstanding Player in the 2013 SEC Tournament, where he went 1-0 with three saves while allowing no baserunners in four appearances. At one point, he retired 23 straight batters.
Those sound like the accolades of a dominant pitcher with fearsome stuff. That's far from the case with Cotton. He's a command guy, with a fastball that tops out in the mid-80s.
It's a nasty changeup that falls off the table as soon as it nears the plate that makes Cotton so tough to hit. His slider has improved dramatically, and he keeps it beneath the waist consistently and batters can't lay off until it's too late.
Cotton is much like the pitching version of Vanderbilt second baseman Tony Kemp, whom the Astros took Friday in the fifth round. Neither overwhelms with power, but uses baseball craft and staggering competence to get the job done.
"Those guys are both fan favorites at their schools, because fans appreciate what kind of players and clubhouse leaders they are and what heart they play with," Elias said. "Cotton's bulldog mentality and deception on pitches are huge pluses."
Astros draft Rocket's son Kacy Clemens
HOUSTON -- When watching Kacy Clemens, it is easy to see resemblances to his father. Like Roger Clemens, Kacy has a very strong build and a smooth delivery. He is aggressive on the mound and has shown a good feel for pitching.
The Astros apparently saw enough similarities, drafting him Saturday in the 35th round of the First-Year Player Draft.
"He throws like his dad, there's no denying that," said Astros director of amateur scouting Mike Elias. "We like him and have followed him throughout his career already. You can see that he'll be successful and has a bright future."
Clemens has a strong commitment to Texas, and it was a common belief that teams would have to take him within the first few rounds in order to sign him. Clemens appears to have his mind made up already.
"Got drafted by the Houston Astros!Pretty cool! But I will still be a Longhorn! Hook'em!," Kacy tweeted after the selection.
The elder Clemens is one of the franchise's most decorated players, despite pitching in Houston for only three seasons. The Rocket won a National League Cy Young Award with the Astros in 2004 and helped lead the '05 squad to an NL pennant while posting a career-low 1.87 ERA.
Kacy's best pitch is a fastball that sits in the high 80s with cutting action. He also throws a curveball that could turn into an above-average offering in the future.
Chris Abshire is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.