2015 Draft: Shortstops, RHP, OF on Astros’ short list

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.
  • 2/46.
  • 3/79.
  • 4/109.

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?



29 comments on “2015 Draft: Shortstops, RHP, OF on Astros’ short list

  1. Thanks for doing this Chip – I just don’t seem to have time to chase the draft info this year.
    ■College or high school player with the top picks. Does it matter? I like the idea of choosing one of each – one who cna get to the bigs sooner and one later.
    ■With Correa already in the fold, should the Astros avoid drafting a shortstop? I think you should take the best athlete available – we don’t know if Correa will always be at SS or if the draftee will stay there. I will say that you might have a problem signing a high school SS when they can see themselves blocked in the organization.
    ■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? I would lean towards the college pitchers – I think that you can never have enough pitching especially major league ready pitching.
    ■Philosophically, how important is that #37 pick? Should the Astros continue to try to stock up on those through trades in the future? I like the fact that you can pick up some folks who are on the fence about going pro – grab a value pick that only needs a little $$$ incentive to sign.


  2. I am like you in that I think the Astros should take the best, overall talent regardless of his position. All reports have Rodgers going #1, which is the best high school player among the 11. Thus, the Astros will, in all likelihood, take a college player with their 1st pick. You take the best player available as he or another player that plays that position can be used as trade bait down the road, if needed. I like either Funkhouser or Tate with the #5 pick and the Astros lack depth in pitching in the minors. As you mentioned, Luhnow has had success taking a player considered unsignable in the supplemental round and if they can save some of their pool money on the 1st two picks then I like the idea of going after someone like McCullers or Nix, which is a player many considered unsignable.


    • You obviously are draft savvy. I really like that you mentioned these players as tradeable down the line. Having “name” players as high prospects in our system becomes much more relevant as our major league product improves, because those are players that other teams are going to covet when we go shopping to make that playoff push.
      Right now the Union Agreement makes it hard to trade new top draftees, but I think Manfred is going to push to get that changed.
      By the way, Rodon’s fast advancement to the majors does not hurt Dillon Tate’s stock in this draft. Whereas his name has flown up boards anyway this year, Rodon getting to the majors so soon whets team’s appetites even more for college pitchers who might help them sooner rather than later.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. And on the side – Mr. Bill had asked if there was any public declaration from the Astros on George Springer’s status – Springer is eligible to come off the concussion list on Wednesday. There was a short blurb last night on chron.com (Spit!!) that I won’t link here because it was so minimal in real information. AJ Hinch says that Springer will workout Monday at MMP. It indicated that it would likely be a light workout saying “nobody would be doing much”. It did not address his condition or an expected return date, but stated that they missed him and his upbeat and infectious attitude. Deep digging journalism here…


  4. Chip, I know that you live in Baton Rouge. I’m a lifelong LSU fan and have enjoyed seeing Alex Bregman play for the last three years. I’ve seen him play for the last three years mostly on TV, but a few times at the games. I’ve also seen Vanderbilt play since I go to Nashville a couple of times a year on business.

    From the mock drafts that I’ve seen, Rogers will probably go #1. Swanson is pegged a few slots higher than Bregman. I realize that I’m looking at these players through LSU colored glasses, but I prefer Bregman over Swanson and he would be a terrific addition to the Astros. He has leadership and energetic qualities that remind me of Biggio along with his skills. (did you see the defensive gems this weekend against Missouri).

    With the Astros pick at #2, I think they will get a college pitcher, perhaps Dillon Tate RHP,

    With the #5 pick, I hope they consider Bregman.


    • I’m not Chip, but the two reasons Bregman is not listed higher are 1) ACL tear as senior in HS and 2) expectation he has to play 2B at pro level. I like him better than Swanson, but admittedly have not seen Vandy in action this year due to time constraints.


    • Larry, I’ll say that I’m partial to LSU players, but perhaps not for the reasons you might expect. I’m a diehard UL-Lafayette fan, ranked #1 last year for part of the season.

      LSU, however, plays in front of 10,000 fans every home game and the complex has the feel of a major league facility. The players there have already adjusted to that.

      Moreover, LSU has been around longer than Vandy and the program is more solid, which provides immediate support that is unbelieveable in the community, on campus. Heck, they play in the shadow of Tiger Stadium, perhaps the single most fearsome football stadium in America.

      Yeah, I’d take Bregman…he may well be “targeted” for 2B, but let me tell ya, the kid can play an incredible SS…did it from Day 1 at LSU. All that said, I would have also probably taken Nola last year and perhaps Gausman the year before…


  5. The reason they like college guys is because they have two extra age years to work with them before the players are Rule V eligible. Last year they took 37 college players.
    It’s my understanding that Rodgers may be the best talent, but not a consensus, so they may have a chance to get him at 2 and if they did they would be crazy not to. Following that up with a college pitcher at 1.5 would make a lot of sense to me unless Swanson would happen to be there at 1.5
    This seems to be the kind of draft that the Astros would fall in love with a player and go with him in the 1.5 spot, whether he was rated that high or not.
    Just as a wild guess, they could be in love with Swanson enough to go for him with the 1.2. I wonder if they see him as a Colin Moran type player. with a better attitude.


  6. Has anyone here actually seen Tate pitch? The 1.2 and 1.5 are going to be expensive. I really expect Luhnow to bargain shop rather than zero in based on talent due to the perceived lack of true talent this year.


  7. Being a California kid, I have not seen Tate, but I’ve seen the two Vanderbilt pitchers who are top 4-15 rated. From my limited perspective they both are not even close to Aaron Nola (LSU) who went to the Phillies last year with the #7 pick. It’s great to have two picks in the top 5, but our choices for blue chip talent is a gamble.


  8. Everybody seems to think this is a weak draft year. And this is the year the Astros have a huge draft pool of cash. Isn’t that poor timing? I am expecting the Astros will draft down to save their cash for an expensive pitcher via trade or free agency in the off season. Why spend the cash just because you can if the talent isn’t there?


    • Nance – I guess that things are relative – but the $18 million they have in a year with some questionable blue chip at the top may best be used in convincing some 1st round talent drafted later to forego a college scholarship and join the future World Champions.


  9. I think Houston is going to go after their BPA in that 1.2 slot and not bargain hunt. They have to get a top quality producer to replenish what they lost at the Top in 2014. If they had signed Aiken he would be in rehab right now and not a top 5 prospect. I think they want to draft and sign a guy who is going to come in and push Marlk Appel for the #2 slot in their system. That means Rodgers or Swanson, because both are top five rated in the draft and are at the premium position of all, SS, combined with plus hit tools.
    Maybe it’s just me, but taking a guy like Tate who has jumped from a first round guy to a top 5 guy in less than a year is a gamble.
    What is really important for me for the Astros to get in this draft is a guy whose bat can be plugged into the lineup in the next couple of years in a place where the Astros need it to compete for a world series. Right now the Astros don’t have a plus hitter in the majors or upper minors that would fix their problems at 3B, 1B, DH, or LF. If a guy like Swanson has that bat and is a SS right now, with his body type, he could slot in at any of those four positions by 2017, just like a top 5 college draft pick is supposed to do.


  10. Corpus Christi with an 11:04 start time this AM. Kemp back at lead off, returning from his college grad. Correa not in the lineup.


  11. I’m not draft saavy. No way I have anything close to the information at my disposal that the experts have. But even the experts can screw up a draft. First off, our picks need to get signed this year. This is not the year to try and over finesse the system. Build credibility. Sign quality talent. I prefer to see college age guys at this point in time. We’re still not deep in several areas. And I’d sure like to finally see a couple of hard throwers in the system. We lack that at most all levels. And sign the best athletes. Guys with muiltiple tools. Sounds simple, but we don’t always get it right.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m with you on all of this. I don’t see the pitchers here in the top five. I see hitters!
      Then I see the Astros drafting college pitchers with upside in the next few picks, especially ones with heat or the potential for heat!


  12. Astros appear to be afraid of hard throwers. Maybe their computers show an unacceptable risk of injury or they haven’t felt like they have to time to wait for the control to develop or to put up with the higher walk rates that usually go along with the higher velocity. They traded away two hard throwers and passed on Rodon. Strom seems to favor and excel at the finesse approach to pitching. Maybe hard throwers don’t fit the Astros plan? This is not a criticism of Strom or Astros, just an observation.


  13. I’m fine with drafting a SS. Correa could end up at third. He could end up in CF. He could end up injured (I am sure Mets fans thought Jose Reyes would man SS in NY for 15 years). Take the best player available. If he makes his way through the system quickly, and you are staring at both of them, check our CF situation, the guy there now is a stellar defender, if not the best defender in the entire league, but he is an offensive bandaid.

    At worse, you draft Rodgers, and in 3 years he is that one big piece for a Matt Harvey type trade. Besides, from what I have read, it appears that it is expected that Rodgers will fill out enough to have to move to third – but of course the same thing was said of Correa.


  14. Rogers will be likely gone with the first pick.. I feel they will go with a college pitcher with the 2nd pick. With the 5th pick, with Luhnow, who knows.

    Of course, I’m still hurting over the Phil Nevin pick in 91. He had all the measurables, except for one thing: extreme immaturity, and the Yankees
    at #2 get a hall of famer.


  15. I don’t follow the possible draft picks. The reason is I don’t remember 5 years ago and certainly will not remember 5 years from now. On a philosophical front, I would prefer early picks on college players and later picks on high school players. It just gives one a better chance to win a lottery. Sort of like 1 in a million instead of 1 in 16 million. Too many Aiken, Mier, & Sapp types out there. Lets see what they can do against better competition.


  16. Keeping with the draft theme, I think that #37 pick is really important because if you are true to your scouting and your assessments by being true to your board, chances are one of your top 30 players could still be up there and you get to take him with the #37 pick, instead of hoping he is still there by the time your round 2 pick comes.
    So there is a real good chance you get 3 of the top 30 players on your board, or in other words, ten percent of the 30 best players in the draft.
    To me, this could be a great draft because
    A. The #1 player on your board could be there when 1.2 is picked.
    B. You may have a player you really like at 1.5 that could be had under slot, thus freeing up money for another guy like Nix was last year.
    C. You happen to get a surprise guy at #37 that you did not think would be there(think JA Reed here).
    D. Your fourth pick, high in the second round, might be that pitcher you coveted who had surgery but you can take a chance on him because you already have three fine players in your stable, and because of that. you feel his upside is worth the chance.


  17. Agree totally that you draft for value independent of current position. Dave Dombrowski has made his career as the Detroit Tigers GM by drafting power arms and flipping them for major league talent. Let’s see, there’s Andrew Miller (whom he flipped for Miguel Cabrera), and, um, let’s see, well, let’s just say that former Tiger draftees aren’t exactly dominating major league rosters.


  18. From what I’ve read, there is not that group of three-to-five guys that have separated themselves from the pack, but there’s a lot of talent that will go into the second and third round. I think that’s where Houston’s pool money can be an advantage. Sign those kids who other teams pass on because of signability issues, like the two guys we lost last year when we didn’t sign Aiken.

    I think Houston will get a lot of good value if Luhnow plays it smart. … Which I expect he will. This will be 2012 all over again, but maybe even better.

    College or high school, pick the best available.
    All things being equal, don’t pick a SS. But if the SS has a good hit tool and could be moved to 3B or maybe the outfield, draft him.
    There looks like a lot of very good pitchers in this top group. I’ve heard good things about the kid from Vandy.
    That No. 37 pick can be vital. That’s where you get the kid who was a hard commit to college but you overpay and take him away from his commitment.


  19. Got to watch the LSU- MISSU games on Sat., and I gotta say Bregman the short stop for LSU is AWESOME! There are at least 7 guys at LSU that will be entering this years draft…….and they have a few really good pitchers, but Bregman was a stand out in those games. I *hope* Luhnow learned from last years draft………high school kids don’t always get the best advice, ESPECIALLY from their Dad’s. I believe there will be a couple of other sleeper type pitchers that will go high in the draft.


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