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2015 'Cats begin to take shape with draft underway

Bregman and Eshleman highlight Astros early college picks
June 10, 2015

With the New York-Penn League regular season set to commence in only nine days, the roster possibilities of the 2015 Tri-City ValleyCats are starting to become clear with the results of this week's Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. The first two rounds of this years draft occurred Monday night, with rounds 3-10 taking place yesterday, and rounds 11-40 on the docket for today.

Each year, a good portion of the players the Houston Astros send to Joseph L. Bruno Stadium are comprised from college draftees selected in the draft, and this year should be no different. And due to them having two of the five picks, and four of the first 46 selections, grouped with the fact that they have such a strong track record of scouting and selecting polished college performers, this Astros draft class most likely will produce some big name and exciting ballplayers for 'Cats fans to enjoy watching at "The Joe" this season!

With the second overall pick, Houston on Monday selected shortstop Alex Bregman from Louisiana State University. Bregman, a native of Albuquerque, NM., is heading to the College World Series this weekend with his LSU team on the heels of a junior campaign that has seen him hit .316 with six home runs, 47 runs batted in and a Southeastern Conference-best 37 stolen bases. A finalist for the 2015 Golden Spikes Award (won last year by 2014 ValleyCat first baseman A.J. Reed), Bregman is concluding a storybook collegiate career that has included winning the 2013 National Freshman of the Year Award, being named 2013 National Shortstop of the Year, and being awarded All-SEC accolades all three seasons in Baton Rouge.

After picking high school outfielders Kyle Tucker (brother of 2012 ValleyCat and current Houston Astros outfielder Preston Tucker), and Daz Cameron (son of former big leaguer Mike Cameron) with the #5 and #37 overall selections, respectively, the Astros picked right-handed pitcher Thomas Eshelman from Cal-State Fullerton. Eshelman, who comes from the same collegiate program as 2014 ValleyCat J.D. Davis, has started 17 games for the Titans this season, but came on in relief Monday night to earn the save against Louisville to send his team to the College World Series. Mentioned as one of the most polished college arms in the draft, Eshelman has gone 8-5 with 131 strikeouts and a 1.58 ERA in 18 games (17 starts) this year en route to being named the 2015 Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year.

With rounds three through ten taking place yesterday, the Astros loaded up even more on college arms. They kicked off their day in the third round by selecting righty reliever Riley Ferrell from Texas Christian University, whose team will coincidentally face off against Alex Bregman and the LSU Tigers to open the College World Series on Saturday.

Ferrell, who has saved 14 games for the TCU Horned Frogs this season, was the first of five collegiate hurlers selected yesterday by Houston. Right handers Trent Thornton from the University of North Carolina, and Scott Weathersby from the Unviersity of Mississippi were selected by the Astros in the fifth and tenth rounds, while left handers Michael Freeman (the tallest draft pick of the day at six feet eight inches tall!) out of Oklahoma State and Zac Person out of LSU (Alex Bregman's collegiate teammate) were the others.

Offense certainly was not ignored by the Astros, however, as they also picked a pair of college catchers in day two. Anthony Hermalyn, a First-Team All-Big 12 honoree out of the University of Oklahoma was scooped up in the fourth round, while Garrett Stubbs, the 2015 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the year out of the University of Southern California, got chosen in the eighth round.

The only non-college player selected by the Astros yesterday was Nestor Murial, an outfielder from the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico. Murial, who doesn't turn 17-years old until tomorrow, likely will not reach Tri-City this season. And while fellow high school selected Tucker and Cameron may also play for Houston's Rookie-Level affiliates in the Gulf Coast League and/or Greeneville, (recent history shows that the Astros are more likely to send advanced college players to the ValleyCats, while high school draftees get their start in Rookie ball), judging by the first two days of the 2015 MLB Draft, there are plenty of exciting prospects fans can count on watching at "The Joe" this season!