Carlos Correa was smiling when he heard his name announced, knowing he had made hometown history at the baseball draft.
The Houston Astros selected the 17-year-old slugging shortstop with the No. 1 pick, making him the 1st player from Puerto Rico to lead off the draft. NFL spreads
It was the 1st time Houston had the top pick in the draft since 1992, when the Astros selected Phil Nevin – passing on a young shortstop named Derek Jeter, who went 5 spots later to the N.Y Yankees.
First-year Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow said Correa “has an opportunity to be a star” who could hit 20-30 home runs in the pros, whether it’s as a shortstop or “ultimately perhaps third base.”
Correa was one of 5 players in attendance at the draft, but his introduction was far from the most entertaining. Texas high school outfielder Courtney Hawkins did a backflip — after being prodded by a TV correspondent when a video was shown of him landing one — 1 or 2 seconds after going No. 13 to the Chicago White Sox.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Hawkins, wearing a White Sox cap and jersey, talked with GM Kenny Williams shortly after he stuck his landing.
While the NFL has a few dozen players show up for its draft, baseball has slowly made its event a place to be with the televised 1st round and top delegates available — just a few years after it was held completely by conference call. The 5 players attending this year were the most since the draft moved to MLB Network studios in 2009.
Joining Correa and Hawkins were Oklahoma State lefty Andrew Heaney (No. 9, Marlins), Louisiana high school shortstop Gavin Cecchini (No. 12, Mets) and Washington high school catcher Clint Coulter, who went 27th to the Brewers.
Heaney, a draft-eligible sophomore, had tears in his eyes after Miami selected him. Sitting with the other prospects in a makeshift dugout, Heaney went over to shake Selig’s hand and shortly was wearing a Marlins cap and jersey.
While recent drafts lacked 1st-pick intrigue, Luhnow said the Astros did not settle on Correa till about an hour before they went on the clock. One or two ridicule draft lists expected the Astros would select Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, but instead Houston made a rather surprising pick– though Correa was regarded ones one of the top 5 players available.
Correa has an incredibly powerful arm and superb instincts on defense, and the Houston 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 supposed to happen to grow out of it, it’s the power that’s the attraction here and it’s the midst of the order potential impact bat,” Astros scouting director and assistant GM Bobby Heck announced. “So if he needs to move, his profile is still very strong.”