Houston Astros' right-handed prospect Ross Seaton possesses the necessary talent, mentality, competitive drive and work ethic to fit the profile of a prototypical, major-league caliber pitcher.
In June, 2008, the Astros selected Seaton, 19, as their third-round supplemental pick out of Second Baptist High School in Sugar Land, TX.
During his senior year, Seaton went 8-2 with a 1.32 ERA and 120 strikeouts over 74 innings.
The 6'4", 190 lb. right-hander’s fastball touches 96 mph on the radar gun and he has a repertoire of pitches featuring a nasty curveball, a freezing changeup, and his personal favorite, a low sinker.
“Second Baptist is the best school ever. It prepares a student to be successful in life and offers a Christian environment. My friends, coaches, and teammates made a significant difference in my life. I’m a stronger and better person because of my experiences in high school,” Seaton said.
Born in Oklahoma, Seaton’s family settled in Sugar Land, Texas, setting the stage for the young, talented prospect. His parents, Pat and Jane Seaton, encouraged him and his older sister, Samantha, to be leaders and set challenging, yet attainable goals in life.
“My mom and dad will forever be my biggest influences. My dad knows me better than anyone. We do everything together baseball wise. I love them so much and I’m so proud of my older sister, Samantha, who is studying law at Oklahoma University,” he said.
Despite living in Texas, Seaton admits he favors another college football team over the Texas Longhorns. “It’s tough to admit it, but I’m an OU football fan. You don’t want to say that living in Texas, but what can I say. I was born in Oklahoma and I enjoy watching Sam Bradford play quarterback for the Sooners. As a pitcher, I notice when other athletes have great arms. Bradford definitely has a cannon,” said Seaton.
Growing up, Seaton improved his game with the advice and positive influence of several former Astros players. Right-hander Brian Williams, who pitched for Houston from 1991-94, resides next door to the Seaton family in Sugar Land. Williams always made time to offer advice and pass knowledge along to the eager, young Seaton.
Also, former Astros standout Terry Puhl coached Seaton during his middle-school years. Puhl hit .280 with 62 homers, 435 RBIs, 1,361 hits and 217 stolen bases during his 15-year career.
In the 1980 NLCS, Puhl stole the show against the Philadelphia Phillies with the best performance ever by a hitter in a playoff series. His .526 batting average during the series has long been superseded, but his ability to analyze and coach ball players earned him the head coaching position at the University of Houston-Victoria.
“I taught Ross how to hit. This extraordinary young man possesses the tools, mentality and hunger to be a successful major league pitcher. He has a special leadership which inspires his teammates to win,” Puhl said.
In high school, Seaton continued developing his pitching skills with the assistance of Second Baptist head coach Jeff Schroeder and pitching coach Jeff Calhoun.
Calhoun played five seasons in the big leagues, including three with the Astros (1984-86). The retired former pitcher played a critical role in molding the youngster into an elite talent. Calhoun taught Seaton how to outsmart hitters using his entire arsenal of pitches.
By the time Seaton pitched his last game for Second Baptist, he had already climbed the draft boards and established himself as the top high school pitcher in Texas, according to Baseball America. In addition to his success on the field, Seaton earned a tremendous amount of respect from classmates off-the-field by graduating from Second Baptist as the 2008 valedictorian.
Known for its rigorous academics, Second Baptist produces Ivy League caliber students. Since his freshman year, Seaton has always been able to balance academics with baseball.
“I experienced a lot of sleepless nights in high school. I enjoyed taking AP History and English. The mentality, self-discipline, and work ethic it takes to be successful at Second Baptist will help me for the rest of my life. I am a better baseball player because I went to Second Baptist,” Seaton said.
His overwhelming popularity opened doors and created several options for the teenager. Seaton knew he would have to make a life-changing choice of either accepting one of the multiple scholarship offers from a big-time Division I school or sign his first professional contract.
“At first, I was really interested in signing with Duke University. The reputation of the school combined with its exceptional athletic tradition got me excited. Stanford, Rice, and Vanderbilt also recruited me. Ultimately, I want the best of both worlds—pitch in the big leagues and earn my college degree,” he said.
After graduation, Seaton decided he wanted to attend Tulane University on a full baseball scholarship. “I fell in love with Tulane on my visit. I was given the grand tour and felt at home on their campus. Plus, I wanted to serve as a positive role model in the community of New Orleans, especially after the damaging effects of the hurricane back in 2005. The academics, coaches, baseball tradition, and the team’s reputation of making the College World Series sold me,” Seaton said.
Seaton learned in June, 2008 how life can throw someone a curveball. The high-school phenom could have easily been selected in the first round of the amateur draft. Instead, teams avoided using a high draft pick on him since Seaton announced his intent to play ball for Tulane in the fall.
The Astros’ scouting department took notice of Seaton’s talent and maturity for his age. It’s risky to use a high draft pick on a prep star who intends to play college baseball. Houston was willing to take the daring risk and draft Seaton with its third-round supplemental pick.
Tal Smith, Astros president of baseball operations, refused to let Seaton go undrafted by his hometown team. Smith acknowledges Spring Wood’s Roger Clemens, Spring’s Josh Beckett, Cy Fall’s Scott Kazmir, and Seaton as the top four high school pitchers ever to come out of the Houston area.
In order to persuade Seaton to sign with the Astros, Smith and owner Drayton McLane needed to come up with a substantially high offer. McLane values Smith’s opinion when it comes to young ball players. When McLane heard Smith describe Seaton as “one of the best ever to come out of high school,” the Astros owner made it a priority to sign Seaton.
McLane decided to offer Seaton a signing bonus higher than Commissioner Bud Selig’s slotting system for a typical third-round compensation pick. The Astros’ owner offered him a $700,000 signing bonus to forgo his baseball scholarship to Tulane and a $252,000 college scholarship plan.
“My family and I weighed all of our options. I knew I would get drafted. After talking it over with my parents, the offer was high enough to give me an opportunity to fulfill my dream. I have a legitimate chance of playing for my hometown team in the near future and earning my college degree at the same time. I can live off my signing bonus and work my way up through the minors. I’m prepared for my next challenge in life—making the big leagues by the time I’m 20 or 21-years-old,” Seaton said.
Since Seaton didn’t sign with the Astros until late July, he made only three appearances with the Rookie-Advanced affiliate Greenville Astros. Seaton went 0-0 with a 13.50 ERA in four innings. Even though his ERA was unimpressive, he barely had time to get his feet wet.
Seaton arrived to Kissimmee, Florida this spring to attend Minor League Camp for the Astros. “It was very important for me to learn and succeed during camp. The organization evaluates your overall performance and assigns you to one of the minor league affiliate teams. I wanted to do my best so I could start the season as high as possible,” Seaton said.
Upon the conclusion of camp, Seaton was reassigned to Class A Lexington. From 2007-08, the Lexington Legends set franchise records in losses. This year, the Legends have an exceptional starting rotation featuring Seaton and Jordan Lyles, the Astros’ No. 5-ranked prospect. Unlike the previous two seasons, the Legends will contend for the Southern Atlantic League (SAL) divisional title.
So far this season, Seaton has demonstrated the reason why he ranks as the No.3 prospect in the Astros’ organization. In three starts, he is 2-1 with a 1.62 ERA, including 12 strikeouts and three walks over 16-and-two-thirds innings.
Since organizations tend to deal in the present, Houston’s pitching rotation, led by ace Roy Oswalt, has an average age of 33-years-old. Veterans Mike Hampton, Brian Moehler, and Russ Ortiz are short-term solutions for an aging Astros’ rotation who don’t factor into the team’s long-term plans.
Houston’s organization gets criticized for their quality of starting pitching and overall lack of depth. In the near future, the rotation might consist of highly-rated prospect Bud Norris, Felipe Paulino, Polin Trinidad, Seaton, and Lyles. This group of elite talent, along with Oswalt, could possibly make the Astros’ pitching rotation one of the most feared in the National League.
Bearing any potential setbacks, Seaton should continue progressing up the minor league ladder and could find himself in the majors within the next two or three years. Hopefully, general manager Ed Wade doesn’t make a vital mistake in trading Seaton to another organization for an aging, veteran player. Numerous teams will be interested in trading for a franchise-caliber ace like Seaton.
When breaking down his game, Seaton has the physic of a young Randy Johnson, the competitive mindset of a young Nolan Ryan, and the sophistication of a young Greg Maddux. The combination of brains, talent, and the desire to win make Seaton a natural leader who can grow into an All-Star ace.
Seaton welcomes the grueling mental grind of minor league baseball. “Right now, I need to get as much experience as possible and survive my first full season. It’s an adjustment period being away from home for the first time and not having to go to school. The focus revolves around getting better and working on my command,” he said.
The ambitious, young man knows exactly what he wants in life. “I’d like to get to the point where I can master throwing the ball anywhere I want. I’m eager to learn and keep developing. In a few years, my goal is to wear an Astros uniform and become a 20-game winner while leading my team to the playoffs and hopefully the World Series. I want to be successful as a Houston Astro,” said Seaton.
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