Astros take SS Carlos Correa with No. 1 draft pick

By Dennis Waszak Jr.

Associated Press

Published: Monday, June 4 2012 8:35 p.m. MDT

Appel slid a few spots lower than projected, going to Pittsburgh at No. 8.

Correa has an incredibly strong arm and terrific instincts on defense, and the Astros hope they've found a big-time bat for the middle of their lineup. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound star from Santa Isabel starred at the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and is committed to the University of Miami, but is likely headed to Houston's farm system instead.

"Right now, he stays at shortstop and if he was to happen to grow out of it, it's the power that's the attraction here and it's the middle of the order potential impact bat," Astros scouting director and assistant general manager Bobby Heck said. "So if he has to move, his profile is still very, very strong."

With the second pick, Minnesota took speedy Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton, considered a five-tool player with a bat considered the best among all draft prospects. The Appling County High School star has blazing speed, an outstanding arm and plenty of range in the outfield.

"It's an exciting feeling," Buxton told MLB Network. "I'm just ready to go out and play ball."

University of Florida catcher Mike Zunino, who has drawn comparisons to Jason Varitek for his leadership and ability to handle a pitching staff, was taken No. 3 overall by Seattle.

Baltimore went with LSU right-hander Kevin Gausman with the fourth pick, adding a potential ace to its system. The draft-eligible sophomore has had a terrific season for the Tigers, going 11-1 with a 2.72 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 115 2-3 innings.

Kansas City went with University of San Francisco right-hander Kyle Zimmer, a converted third baseman, with the No. 5 overall pick.

"I was surprised because I was always sort of a hitter growing up. I guess the move paid off," Zimmer, already wearing a Royals cap, told MLB Network.

The Dons' ace went just 5-3, but had a 2.85 ERA with 104 Ks and only 17 walks in 88 1-3 innings. He threw consecutive shutouts during one stretch.

"He was the No. 1 pitcher on our board," said Lonnie Goldberg, the Royals' director of scouting. "I think everyone should know that. He's the guy we wanted."

The draft opened with uncertainty about the talent — many teams considered this crop of players weaker than recent groups — and several significant rule changes in place. Under baseball's new collective bargaining agreement, teams will have a pool of bonus money from which to sign players. The Astros, for example, have about $11.2 million to use on bonuses for their 11 picks through the 10th round. The Twins, who have 13 picks in the top 10 rounds, have about $12.4 million.

Teams face a punitive tax and the possibility of losing draft picks if they go over the prescribed bonus total. If a player doesn't sign, the team loses the amount for that slot. Clubs now have until mid-July to sign draft picks, instead of the previous mid-August deadline.

Florida high school outfielder Albert Almora was selected sixth by the Chicago Cubs.

Max Fried, a high school left-hander from California, was picked seventh by San Diego. Right-hander Lucas Giolito, Fried's teammate at Harvard-Westlake High School, was selected nine picks later by Washington despite not pitching since March because of a sprained elbow ligament.

Pittsburgh, which selected UCLA righty Gerrit Cole with the top pick last year, went after pitching again in Appel. The ace of Stanford's staff has a mid-90s (mph) fastball and is 10-1 with a 2.27 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 119 innings for the Cardinal. In his last start before the draft, he avenged his only loss of the season by beating Fresno State in the NCAA tournament, fanning 11 in a dominant four-hitter.

Colorado rounded out the first 10 picks by taking speedy Alabama high school outfielder David Dahl.

Florida high school right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., the son of the former major league reliever, was drafted by Houston with the 10th pick of the compensation round, 41st overall.

The first round and the initial compensation round were completed Monday night, with rounds 2 through 40 conducted over the next two days via conference call.

AP Sports Writers Mike Fitzpatrick in Secaucus, Kristie Rieken in Houston and David Skretta in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.

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