HOUSTON -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow gained enough confidence in the abilities and talent evaluating skills of Mike Elias during their time together with the St. Louis Cardinals that he deemed him a perfect fit to become the club's new scouting director.
Luhnow on Saturday tabbed the 29-year-old to run the club's amateur scouting department and oversee the First-Year Player Draft, which is no small task considering the Astros are rebuilding and will likely have the No. 1 overall pick next June for the second year in a row.
Elias replaces Bobby Heck, whose contract will not be renewed at the end of the season. Heck had served as director of scouting the past five years.
"I've worked with Mike for the past five years and he's got a real good feel for judging talent and he understands a lot of the things we did in St. Louis and that we're planning to do here and have done here," said Luhnow, hired away from the Cardinals in December. "He's been helping us in a lot of ways and I'm really excited he's going to be in a leadership position."
Luhnow called Elias his "right-hand man" on a couple of Drafts while they were with the Cardinals and praised his people motivation skills and leadership abilities.
"He's got the whole package," Luhnow said. "He's young, but I think he has a lot of upside, and I don't think this will be the last stop on his ascent in baseball."
Heck joined the Astros after the 2007 season and oversaw the Astros' last five Drafts, during which time Houston drafted catcher Jason Castro, pitcher Jordan Lyles, top prospects Delino DeShields Jr. and George Springer, as well as No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa this year.
"Like every scouting director, you have some hits and some misses, and I believe there's several players that were drafted under Bobby's tenure that are going to make it to the big leagues and going to help us," Luhnow said. "He's a good talent evaluator, there's no question about that. To be scouting director the way I need under this new model, it requires a little bit more than talent evaluation. I think Mike has been trained in a lot of the things I expect and he's going to do a great job."
Heck wasn't completely surprised that the Astros decided to go in a new direction considering the club is under new ownership and management and has been bringing new faces into the front office.
"I'm disappointed," Heck said. "Obviously, I've invested the last five years of my life into it and arguably the hardest five years of my baseball life trying to get this back on track, and time will show that we put a major dent in that, not only myself but the staff we were able to put together here.
"I also know that in change of ownership, change of front office, change of leadership, it's always a business as well. I'm very appreciative of the opportunity I was given here with the Astros and I'm just disappointed I'm going to have to watch the success we have added to the pipeline from afar."
Heck took over a Minor League system that was in poor shape after some subpar Drafts, but he helped get it back to respectability during his tenure. Castro and Lyles are key players on the Astros, and several players picked by Heck are making steady progress through the system.
"I think looking back at the five years, you could say 'mission accomplished,'" Heck said. "There are some things we would do differently, but the production from the five Drafts has started to show itself in Houston and also in the Minor Leagues, and a lot of those players will play here a long time and make this a contending club once again."
Elias, who came to the Astros in January as a special assistant to the general manager/scouting, joined the Cardinals as an area scout in 2007 and was promoted to manager of amateur scouting with crosschecking responsibilities in 2010, working closely with Luhnow. He played baseball at Yale University.
"I felt from my best judgment he's the person to best lead us going forward given what we have in front us, that we're in a situation where the Draft is so critically important to the organization," Luhnow said. "We're likely to have a high pick again next year and we really want to take advantage of it. Mike and Bobby both were instrumental in this year's Draft, and Bobby's done a terrific job the past five years, but my judgment is [that] Mike's the guy to lead it going forward."