Two decades after Houston passed on a high school shortstop named Derek Jeter with the first pick in Major League Baseball’s draft, the Astros made 17-year-old shortstop Carlos Correa from Puerto Rico the No. 1 selection.
Correa is the Astros’ third No. 1 overall pick, joining Phil Nevin in 1992 and Floyd Bannister in 1976. The last time they had the top choice, the Astros were one of five teams to pass on Jeter, who went sixth to the New York Yankees that year and has helped the franchise win five World Series titles.
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Correa, who has drawn physical comparisons to All-Stars Alex Rodriguez and Troy Tulowitzki, is the highest-drafted Puerto Rican player in major league history. While he’s signed to play at the University of Miami, the Astros can offer him a signing bonus of about $7.2 million.
“I suspect Miami will not see him, unless he’s visiting some friends,” Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow told MLB.com.
Houston had the first pick after finishing 56-106 in 2011, the worst record in the majors, and is seeking to improve a team that’s moving to the American League West division next season.
The highest a player from Puerto Rico had been drafted previously was Ramon Castro, who went 17th to the Astros in 1994. Castro spent 13 years in the major leagues with three teams, including the New York Mets in 2005-09.
“This means a lot,” Correa, who plays at the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy, told MLB Network. “I have been working hard. We have a lot of good players down there.”
Former Cleveland Indians General Manager John Hart likened Correa’s size to Rodriguez and Tulowitzki. Rodriguez, a former shortstop who now plays third base for the Yankees, is fifth on the MLB career home run list with 638. Tulowitzki is a two-time All-Star shortstop for the Colorado Rockies.
“The size jumps out to you,” Hart said on the MLB Network’s draft coverage. “The hitting and the power are both there, the only thing that’s a question is the run. He’s an outstanding fielder with plus-plus arm. This guy is light on his feet. He’s a physical shortstop that has all the tools.”
The Minnesota Twins took Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton with the second pick, while the Seattle Mariners drafted University of Florida catcher Mike Zunino at No. 3.
A pair of right-handed pitchers rounded out the top five, as the Baltimore Orioles selected Kevin Gausman from Louisiana State University and the Kansas City Royals took Kyle Zimmer from the University of San Francisco.
Stanford University pitcher Mark Appel, who was projected by MLB.com to be taken No. 1, went eighth to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Appel is represented by agent Scott Boras, who negotiated contracts with the Washington Nationals for 2009 and 2010 top draft picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington said he’s optimistic the team will be able to reach a contract agreement with Appel by the mid-July deadline.
“We stayed true to our agenda -- best player available,” Huntington told MLB.com. “We’ve done that.”
The Mets used the 12th pick on 18-year-old high school shortstop Gavin Cecchini, who hit .532 with 11 home runs in 36 games for Barbe High School in Louisiana. With the 30th selection, the New York Yankees took Ty Hensley, a right-handed high school pitcher from Oklahoma.