Houston adds LHP with 3rd straight No. 1 pick
HOUSTON (AP) As Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow walked into the room for a news conference about top overall pick Brady Aiken, his cellphone rang.
The 17-year-old left-hander was on the other end. After some small talk, Luhnow told him manager Bo Porter asked if he could start for the Astros on Friday night at Minnesota.
While the conversation was obviously a joke, the Astros wouldn't be surprised if the polished high-schooler rises through their ranks in a hurry.
''I'm not going to put any limitation on how quickly this player can move,'' Luhnow said.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Aiken became Houston's third straight overall No. 1 pick, joining shortstop Carlos Correa in 2012 and right-hander Mark Appel last year in a farm system that will be paramount to helping the Astros rebuild.
Correa and Appel are Houston's top two prospects and Correa is rated by Baseball America as the seventh prospect in all of baseball. They are a big reason why Houston's once barren farm system is now ranked among the best in baseball.
''The draft is a very efficient way to get premium talent, but you need to be very good at selecting the right players in the first round,'' Luhnow said. ''We're very happy with the players we have selected. It has infused a lot of talent.''
It's historically been considered risky to select a high school pitcher with the top pick. Aiken is only the third ever taken No. 1 overall and the first since 1991.
''We looked at it and we looked at what the history has shown us, and we feel in the category of high school pitchers this is about as safe a player as you can have,'' Luhnow said. ''He's got the polish. He's got the stuff. He's got the command. He has the delivery we like. He's got the makeup. He's got the size and it's really hard to poke any holes in this player except the fact that he's young.''
Aiken, who won't turn 18 until August, went 7-0 with a 1.06 ERA in 11 starts as a senior at Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego.
He certainly isn't lacking in confidence. When asked what major league player he compares himself to, he mentioned not only two-time National League Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, but David Price, who won the Cy Young in the American League in 2012, as well.
He's looking forward to being a piece of Houston's success in the future.
''I know in the next few years the Astros are going to be World Series contenders,'' he said. ''And I'm really excited and hopefully I can start my career here too and work my way up and help the team win a couple of championships. That's really my main goal is to help lead the team to a World Series champion.''
Aiken didn't attend the draft in New Jersey and didn't know the Astros were going to pick him until it was announced on television.
''We just wanted to keep it close with the family,'' he said. ''We didn't really want to do anything too big. We didn't want to be too flashy.''
Aiken has committed to play for UCLA, but Luhnow doesn't think signing him will be a problem.
''I'm sure UCLA would love to sign him, but I don't think they're going to,'' he said.