...The Astros select Austin Wates, Junior RHB OF from Virginia Tech.
He is ranked as the 24th-best prospect for the Major League Baseball draft by ESPN.com's Keith Law and will be selected in the first few rounds of the draft, which runs from Monday through Wednesday. Hughes expects him to skip his senior season and turn pro.
"Every time I go to the field and look at that kid, it gets me bummed out because I'm on a short watch with the kid now," Hughes said.
Hughes loves Wates' quick hands and speed but also admires his curious and cerebral approach. He often picks Hughes' brain during games about bunting or stealing situations. "It's not normal policy for a player to be talking strategy with the coach during the game and asking why," Hughes said.
Yet Wates seems sharper than the typical baseball player.
Baseball Rumor Mill:
Wates was among the league leaders in hitting all season in the Cape Cod League for Yarmouth-Dennis. Wates’ main problem is he doesn’t have a true position, as Y-D has moved him to the outfield after being unimpressed by him as an infielder. Wates seems to hit the ball hard whenever he’s at bat. An all-around athlete who his coach, Coach Hughes, has called "the most athletic kid I've ever recruited" ... Is working to be a more consistent defender in the infield, but proved to be an outstanding offensive player in high school.
3rd round fits, slightly unconventional stroke, modest performance in ACC; speed, bat best tools.
Keith Law (had him 24th in his prospect list):
Can hit and run and play left field; he'll only go in the first round to a team that thinks he can play center.
Wates is a rare breed: a toolsy college hitter. The Virginia Tech standout's best tool is his speed and he should be a base-stealing threat at the next level. He can swing the bat, too, and projects to hit for more than enough average. What he's not going to do is hit for a ton of power. That, and his lack of a true position -- he's playing first and left field this season -- are the only real knocks against him. He has the skills to play left full-time and could be a future table-setter.