Astros assistant general manager/director of scouting Bobby Heck announced Thursday that the organization has agreed to terms with right-hander Nick Tropiano (fifth round), center fielder Andrew Muren (22nd round), first baseman Chase Davidson (41st round), right-hander Blake Ford (44th round) and outfielder Chris Epps (45th round) — all of whom were selected in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
Tropiano, 20, went 12-1 with a 1.84 ERA and 119 strikeouts over 93 innings in 14 starts while holding opposing hitters to a .191 batting average en route to being named the 2011 American East Pitcher of the Year as a junior for SUNY Stony Brook this season.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound right-hander was named 2011 Louisville Slugger Second-Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and earned a selection as one of 25 finalists for College Baseball Hall of Fame’s Pitcher of the Year award.
Muren, a 22-year-old redshirt junior out of Cal State-Northridge, hit .306 with 32 RBI, 17 doubles and 39 runs scored while posting a .451 slugging percentage for the Matadors in 2011.
Davidson, 21, may arguably be the most intriguing signee of the Astros’ 2011 Draft class, considering Houston had previously selected him in the third round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Davidson elected to attend the University of Georgia in an attempt to improve his draft status down the road, yet he’s continually struggled with injury and inconsistency over the last three years with the Bulldogs in the competitive SEC.
Davidson bounced back with a respectable junior season in 2011, hitting .278 with seven homers and 31 RBI over 151 at-bats in 51 games.
Heck has taken an interest in Davidson for several years, and in the end, he was more than thrilled to get his guy — even three years later.
“With Chase, he was at the University of Georgia and was in the backyard of both Clarence [Johns] and David Post,” Heck said. “That’s part of the choices that kids make when they decide to embark for a college experience. Unfortunately for him, his draft maybe didn’t work out as what he had thought after three years, but we ended up getting our player just three years later.
“We’re happy to have him and there’s opportunity here for him.”
Ford, 23, went 6-4 with a 3.42 ERA and 78 strikeouts over 102 2/3 innings in 16 games (15 starts) as a senior for Lamar University this season.
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Ford, a product of Lufkin (Texas) High School, told icedjamb.com Wednesday night that he was going to sign with the Astros prior to attending the team’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals with his girlfriend at Minute Maid Park.
“I’m eager to learn and get better,” he said. “Whatever the Astros need me to do, I’ll do it. It was my dream to get drafted and now I have to go in there, get better and show them I’m somebody they need to take a close look at. I’m going to work really hard.
“We’ll see how it goes.”
Epps, 22, joins fellow Clemson teammate John Hinson (13th round) as signees with the Astros after being selected by the organization.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound outfielder served as team co-captain for the Tigers in 2011 and made the majority of his starts in right field.
Also, the Astros made another transaction Thursday, signing University of Arizona catcher Jacob Meskin as a non-drafted free agent.
Meskin, 22, hit .267 (4-for-15) with four RBI, four total bases and five runs scored for the Wildcats as a fifth-year senior this season.
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