Picking first for the third year in a row, the Astros went where no team leading off the draft had gone in over 20 years, making high school left-hander Brady Aiken the first overall pick in the 2014 draft.
Aiken is the first prep pitcher taken No. 1 overall since the Yankees went with left-hander Brien Taylor in 1991. Taylor, who seemed well on his way to justifying the hype initially, famous flamed out after hurting his shoulder in a bar fight.
Aiken follows high school shortstop Carlos Correa (2012) and Stanford right-hander Mark Appel (2013) as No. 1 overall picks to join the Houston farm system, as the Astros became the first team ever to draft first three straight years by virtue of having MLB’s worst record each time. Prior to 2005, that would have been impossible, since it was alternated by year whether the AL’s worst team or the NL’s worst team got the No. 1 pick.
Aiken, 17, is a SoCal native with a 94-97 mph fastball, curve and changeup. He told MLB.com he’s also working on a cutter. “The goal is to just maintain my command and velocity, and hopefully I can work in a fourth pitch like that [cutter],” he said.
The Astros will surely go slowly with Aiken, and it’s doubtful he’ll reach the majors prior to 2017 even if everything goes as hoped.
The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.
In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.
The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.