Every major league amateur draft is like spinning the bottle or taking a dollar ticket in the lottery. This year, the talent isn’t nearly as top-heavy and the consensus hasn’t yet materialized. The good news: The Astros have two picks to get it right. The bad news: There may not be a consensus when the draft rolls around in less than a month (June 8), which means the Astros will be rolling the dice again with the stakes even higher than previous years.
The past several drafts have produced some positive results for Houston. With the exception of the Brady Aiken debacle, you could argue even that the past couple of drafts have been good to the Astros. To date, however, only one of Jeff Luhnow’s draft picks has made it to Houston (Preston Tucker) but others appear poised to soon follow.
The Astros have had a pick in the top 11 each of the past five years and have chosen first in each of the past three drafts. The Astros have had five first round picks (counting supplemental picks) since 2012 (the Luhnow era) and will not be making the first pick in the draft for the first time since 2011.
The Astros will pick early and often. In fact, Houston has six of the first 109 picks.
- 1/2. Pick for not signing Brady Aiken.
- 1/5. Regular 2015 pick.
- 1/37. Via trade with Marlins.
The Astros will pick fourth in every round thereafter.
One other tidbit: By virtue of having the second and fifth pick, Houston also has the largest pool of money: $17,977,283.
How important are the first four picks? Seven of the current Top 12 Astros’ prospects were taken in the first or second rounds. Three others were signed as amateur free agents. Since some of the draftees could slide into the Top 10 list quickly, especially when Carlos Correa, Mark Appel or others make it to MMP, getting it right is important.
In its mock draft, Baseball America projects that Houston will select Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson. Vandy has sent 11 players through the MLB draft in the last two years (17 in the last three) and two of those (Tony Kemp and Conrad Gregor) were drafted by Houston. You say Houston doesn’t need a shortstop, but others have projected the Astros will draft Brennan Rodgers, a high school shortstop out of Florida.
Why a shortstop? It’s really not about position. I am generally a proponent of getting the best athlete since those type of players can probably play most anywhere and there are generally no better athletes on the field than those who play shortstop. If you think about it, Houston has a few shortstops in its system now, but everyone knows only one — the big one — is likely going to play there for the next decade or so.
This time last year, the Astros had narrowed their list to five players. Now, they are considering at least 11 different players for the two picks. Here is the Top 100 Prospect list from Baseball America. Apparently the Astros are considering more college players (eight) than high schoolers, perhaps due to a lesson learned last year with Aiken and perhaps due to the talent level.
Here are the players the Astros are said to be considering. There are three shortstops on the list and multiple pitchers, but one glaring missing ingredient is a left hander.
- Brendan Rodgers, SS Lake Mary (Fla. HS).
- Dansby Swanson, SS Vanderbilt.
- Alex Bregman, SS LSU.
- Carson Fulmer, RHP Vanderbilt.
- Walker Buehler, RHP Vanderbilt.
- Daz Cameron, OF Eagle’s landing Christian Academy, McDonough GA.
- Ian Happ, OF, Cincinnati.
- Kyle Funkhouser, RHP Louisville.
- Dillon tate, RHP UC Santa Barbara.
- Kyle Tucker, OF Plant HS, Tampa.
- Mike Nikorak, RHP Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS.
Of course, Kyle Tucker is the younger brother of current Astros’ outfielder Preston Tucker. most believe that Kyle has better tools than his brother.
Obviously one option is the Baseball America route. Draft a college, then a high school player and try to save some of the significant budget for the #37 pick as with Lance McCullers Jr. What is clear is that Luhnow loves those low-first-round opportunities. McCullers was taken in 2012 and Derek Fisher was selected #37 with a pick from Baltimore last summer.
Both McCullers and Fisher are projected to be key to the Houston lineup in a few years. This year, Houston selects #37 with the pick received with Colin Moran and Jake Marisnick in the Jarred Cosart trade.
Just as last year, Houston has its scouts out watching the players remaining on the list and the list could be narrowed as the draft draws closer.
So, while not necessarily comprehensive, that sets the table for a discussion of the upcoming draft. Here are some other qeustions to spur the debate:
- College or high school player with the top picks. Does it matter?
- With Correa already in the fold, should the Astros avoid drafting a shortstop?
- While there may not be 1/1 pitcher, the range of pitcher choices may be larger this year. See anyone you’d prefer over another?
- Philosophically, how important is that #37 pick? Should the Astros continue to try to stock up on those through trades in the future?