General manager Jeff Luhnow was duty-bound to lavish praise on left-hander Brady Aiken, the first overall pick of the 2014 draft. Aiken was his Houston Astros' selection and, given the ugly history of prep left-handers taken first overall, Luhnow needed to sell the pick.
But Luhnow went above and beyond the usual plaudits when he lauded Aiken and the unusually advanced blend of makeup, command and stuff of the San Diego (Calif.) Cathedral Catholic High product.
"It's the most advanced high school pitcher I've ever seen in my entire career," said Luhnow, who is credited with helping build the pool of talent at the foundation of the St. Louis Cardinals success. "He has command like I've never seen before. The reason why he was so high last year was because of his command and pitchability. His stuff took a tick up as he came into this year and that's when he just exploded."
The Astros also selected 37th and 42nd overall, taking Virginia outfielder Derek Fisher and Kentucky first baseman A.J. Reed with those respective selections. Fisher was a touted prep product but signability concerns led to his dropping into the sixth round in 2011. He confirmed his talent with a .453 on-base percentage in the 2013 Cape Cod League.
Reed is a slugging left-handed hitter and finalist for the Golden Spikes Award given to the nation's top amateur player. He led the nation with 23 home runs and was named Southeastern Conference Player of the Year after winning 12 games as a pitcher and hitting .336 with 73 RBIs.
The Astros needed advanced power bats in their system. As for Aiken, his age -- he's two months shy of his 18th birthday -- might make him a long-range product. That doesn't mean he isn't focused on playing a critical role in the Astros' rebuilding future.
"I know that, in the next few years, the Astros are going to be World Series contenders," Aiken said. "I'm really excited and hopefully I can start my career here soon and work my way up and help the team win a couple championships. Lead them to a World Series, that's my main goal."