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05/29/06 8:00 AM ET

Astros' draft plan takes left turn

Houston holds 23rd overall pick in next week's draft

The Astros' philosophy regarding the First-Year Player Draft is the same as it's been in the past. They'll select players based on talent, rather than fill position-by-position needs.

But that's not to say the club doesn't have a shopping list on hand. Senior director of player personnel and scouting Paul Ricciarini has his eye out for a few things -- mainly, left-handed hitting and pitching.

"We wouldn't do it just to do it, but we do have a dearth of left-handed hitting at the corner positions," Ricciarini said. "We'll look for it in this draft, and if you can grab one in the right round, you do it."

The Astros will have the 23rd overall pick in the first round. Their next pick will be 67th overall, followed by 99th. Typically, the Astros go heavy on college players, as opposed to high schoolers, but often, that's more by chance than design. Still, college players are, on average, less risky than high school players, because those with college experience tend to be more mature.

"Our system is structured to develop its pitchers and players," Ricciarini said. "You're looking at special players if you take high school players that high. We emphasize makeup with talent and put the best package together."

In the last 12 years, the Astros have focused mainly on college players, and most of the first-rounders have been pitchers. Beginning with the selection of Billy Wagner in 1993, the Astros have picked eight pitchers, two infielders, one outfielder and two catchers as their first choices.

Of those 12, three are members of the current Astros' team -- Lance Berkman (1997), Brad Lidge (1998) and Chris Burke (2001). Two are playing for other Major League teams: Wagner (Mets) and Ramon Castro (Mets).

The draft, which takes place June 6-7, will have 50 rounds and will conclude after all 30 teams have passed on a selection or after the final selection in the 50th round, whichever comes first.

Ricciarini, a self-described "pitching freak," appears to be on the prowl for all things left-handed.

"You can never have enough pitching," he said. "We can always upgrade left-handed pitching, and left-handed bats, with power."

Recent Astros top picks

2005: Brian Bogusevic, LHP (first round):
Bogusevic stuggled through the first six weeks of the season for Class A Lexington, falling to 0-2 over five games started. He allowed 18 runs (15 earned) over 12 2/3 innings with five walks and 13 strikeouts. He's currently sidelined with a muscular strain in his left elbow, likely a result of the adjustment he's had to make to be a fulltime pitcher for the first time. In college, he alternated pitching and playing the outfield.

2004: Hunter Pence, OF (second round):
Pence, in his third professional season, is having quite a year. Through May 24, the outfielder was hitting .310 with 12 doubles, four triples, 13 homers and 39 RBIs for Double-A Corpus Christi. The struggling Astros offense has fans screaming for a callup, but the conservative Astros aren't likely to bring Pence to the big leagues this year.

2003: Jason Hirsh, RHP (second round):
Hirsh is having a fine year at Triple-A Round Rock. As of May 24, the 6-foot-8 right-hander was on a roll -- over his previous five outings, he had a 3-0 record with a 0.50 ERA and 25 strikeouts. Hirsh is the top pitching prospect in the Astros' player development system.

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.