'Us up-north guys can play': Wayne State's Hunter Brown goes in fifth round to Astros

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Wayne State's Hunter Brown was taken by the Houston Astros in the MLB Draft on Tuesday.

Detroit — Wayne State right-hander Hunter Brown saw the pre-Major League Baseball projections, those tasty takes that had him a top-100 prospect.

But he tried not to get caught up in that as one pick after another went by, first Monday night, then mid-day Tuesday.

The patience paid off when the Houston Astros took him in the fifth round, as he sat with family and friends and watched the draft on TV.

"Honestly, you know, you wait your whole life, as long as you play baseball starting in Little League, to hopefully sit there and hear your name called," Brown said over the phone Tuesday. "And you see your name go up on the screen.

"It's a pretty exciting feeling. It's nothing like you've ever felt. It was awesome."

Brown, 20, was taken with the 166th pick in the draft.

Interestingly, Wayne State's best showing in the draft was another right-hander, Anthony Bass, who was selected in 2008 — with the 165th pick.

"So he went one ahead, huh?" Brown said, laughing. "We were trying to find out what pick he went. We knew he went in the fifth round.

"Anthony's great, he's had a big-league career. And he's been kind of a mentor to me, this year especially. So, hey, 165 or 166, or anything range, it's awesome."

Bass, 31, is in his eighth season in the major leagues, now with the Seattle Mariners.

But over the offseason, during a a fall scout day on campus and during Bass' annual camp at Wayne State, he made sure to pass along his cell number to Wayne State coach Ryan Kelley — to give to Brown.

They've talked a lot, and Brown said he's grateful for the guidance. Bass wasted little time in tweeting congratulations to Brown on Tuesday. Bass also called Wayne State coach Ryan Kelley right after Brown was drafted Tuesday.

"He took me under his wing, with any questions I had," Brown said. "Any help, and I was open to hearing about it."

Brown, who didn't really have many Division I offers out of high school outside of a walk-on opportunity at Eastern Michigan, didn't need much help on the mound this season. The kid out of St. Clair Shores Lakeview High School had an electric junior season, going 9-0 in 14 starts. Over 85⅓ innings, he struck out 114 and walked just 39.

And get this: Brown put up this numbers while posting a 4.0 grade-point average during the spring semester.

"He really got after it," Kelley said.

On the mound, it was a major step forward for Brown, who was a reliever much of his sophomore season, and split time between starting and relieving as a freshman.

Brown sports a four-pitch arsenal, with a slider and change-up, and a fastball that typically sits 92 to 93, but has been clocked as high as 98 mph.

"The kid had probably anywhere from 15 to 25 scouts watching him during all his starts, and it didn't faze him. He wasn't trying to overthrow, he was locating his pitches," said Kelley, who attributed Brown's ascent to mental maturation, as well as a lot of time in the gym. "He didn't try to do too much, just because he was looking out at radar guns.

"He was locked in and doing his job to help our team win on that given day."

Wayne State was 35-17 this season, and made the Division II NCAA Tournament.

Brown, the 89th-best prospect by MLB.com entering the draft, was surprised he was taken by the Houston Astros, but Houston must know something about Michigan baseball. They took Michigan outfielder Jordan Brewer in the third round.

"I guess," said Brown, "us up-north guys can play a little bit, too."


Twitter: @tonypaul1984