The Houston Astros’ move to the American League could turn into a homecoming for former Wellesley High and Duke University baseball star Nate Freiman, who was added to the team’s 25 man roster Thursday via the Rule 5 draft.
Houston plays at Fenway Park in late April next season.
The 6-foot-7, 225-pound Freiman, the overall first pick in Thursday’s second round, will have to stay on the roster for the full season or be offered back to the San Diego Padres, the team that originally drafted him out of Duke.
The Astros would have passed had Freiman not been available, said Astros assistant scouting director Kevin Goldstein.
“Our first pick (Red Sox minor league pitcher Josh fields) was pretty clear, but to our thinking, Nate was the top hitter on the board, absolutely the best offensive prospect available,’’ said Goldstein. “We were thrilled to get him because we weren’t sure he was going to be there and because you don’t usually find his kind of power in the Rule 5 draft.’’
Freiman, 25, hit .298 with 24 homers and 105 RBIs in 137 games at Double-A San Antonio this past season with 95 strikeouts in 581 plate appearances.
“That kind of contact rate for a power hitter is pretty impressive and he just destroys left handed pitching,’’ Goldstein said.
Freiman also hit four homers for Team Israel during the World Baseball Classic qualifier in September and also impressed the Houston scouting staff at the recent instructional league in Arizona. He has hit 20 or more homers in three consecutive minor league seasons.
Goldstein acknowledged Freiman’s age is a bit high for the AA level, but that “remember he did four years of college instead of three and as a pro scout I believe it takes a big power hitter longer to develop and that it takes taller guys with power even longer.
“I think Nate’s a late bloomer, definitely worth taking a chance on,’’ added Goldstein, “and we’d be as thrilled as Nate if he winds up playing in Fenway Park.”