MLB Draft 2012: Top Candidates to Be the Houston Astros' No. 1 Pick

Jacob Betzner@@JacobBetznerCorrespondent IIApril 24, 2012

MLB Draft 2012: Top Candidates to Be the Houston Astros' No. 1 Pick

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    The Houston Astros "earned" the first overall draft pick in the 2012 MLB Draft after finishing with a 56-106 record in the NL Central last season.

    The Astros already have potential future star-positional players like 24-year-old left-fielder J.D. Martinez, 22-year-old second baseman Jose Altuve, 23-year-old shortstop Marwin Gonzalez and 25-year-old catcher Jason Castro in the lineup, but lack a proven pitching staff.

    Houston's rotation needs some improvement. Wandy Rodriguez is winless in two outings this year, but the 33-year-old has a 1.96 ERA. Promising 26-year-old Lucas Harrell shows promise with a 2.55 ERA, but there is a significant drop off in talent after the aforementioned hurlers.

    The 2012 MLB Draft features several pitching prospects with the potential to turn into big-time MLB aces and make an immediate impact on the Astros' rotation, but Houston could always opt to draft another positional player to bolster their already promising lineup.

Mark Appel

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    Appel actually was born in Houston before moving to southern California before his teenage years in an interesting side story.

    The former Detroit Tigers 15th-round draft pick opted to play collegiate ball and earned a spot in Stanford's starting rotation by his sophomore season.  Arguably the top prospect in the draft, Appel's pitches flirt with triple digits, and consistently hit the mid-90s.

    Although he only has an 8-8 collegiate record, the 21-year-old has struck out 112 batters in 148.1 innings and has a 3.76 ERA.

    The right-hander could become a starter for the Houston sooner rather than later, with a little more development in college and in the minors.

Kevin Gausman

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    Gausman finished a relatively successful freshman season with the LSU Tigers last year, recording a 5-6 record with a 3.51 ERA, and 86 strikeouts in 89.2 innings pitched.

    Gausman pitched for and won a gold medal with the USA Baseball Junior National Team prior to suiting up for LSU and was originally a sixth-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010.

    The 21-year-old throws a fastball in the upper-90s and the other pitches in his arsenal are improving.

    Also a right-hander, he is comparable to Appel, but lacks control at times. Houston could really go either way on draft day.

Kyle Zimmer

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    Kyle Zimmer recently began his freshman season at the University of San Francisco.

    Switching from a positional role late in his high school career, Zimmer has demonstrated an ability to quickly learn the control and utilization of a number of pitches.

    His stock has steadily risen as his skills have improved at the collegiate level, consistently throwing in the mid to upper 90s.

    The most intriguing part of Zimmer's game is that it's still developing and still so good. While he may have peaked, there is a chance the 20-year-old could end up being even better than Appel or Gausman.

    In nine starts this season, the 20-year-old has a 2.79 ERA and 65 strikeouts for the University of San Francisco Dons.

Byron Buxton

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    Buxton is generally regarded as the top positional prospect in the nation.

    The Astros don't need to address either the catcher or shortstop position, eliminating Florida Gators catcher Mike Zunino and Deven Marrero from Arizona State, making Buxton a logical choice if they decide not to go with a pitcher.

    Buxton has a powerful arm and explosive base-running speed, especially for a player coming right out of high school. 

    According to John Buzby of, the 18-year-old has reportedly decided to forgo college and plans to try to make it as a professional baseball player.

    Tagged as a true "five-tool" player, the Astros may be drafting a future star if they take Buxton.

David Dahl

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    Dahl is a natural power hitter for Oak Mountain High School in Birmingham, Alabama. He has hit over .400 in all three seasons of his high school career, is hitting well over the .400 mark in his senior year, and won a gold medal with the United States' under-18 team.

    If deciding between Buxton and Dahl, the Astros will have to evaluate whether or not Dahl's hitting prowess outweighs Buxton's athleticism. Additionally, Dahl is currently committed to Auburn University and has not yet declared his intention to playing for the Tigers next season.

    A definite top-10 selection, though maybe not a number-one overall talent, if the Astros decide to take a bit of a risk on Dahl, he could be big-time power hitter for the organization in the future.