A recent New York Times article was entitled “Of All Teams to Hack, Why the Astros?” Most of the speculation wound around Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow, and the Times article highlighted a rather amazing statistic. Luhnow had oversight over the Cardinals’ draft starting in 2005 and in the three drafts between 2005 and 2007, the St. Louis drafted 24 players who made the majors by 2011, more than any other team in the majors.
Getting an average of eight players from three drafts in a row who make the majors may seem like what is expected from the draft. It isn’t. Looking back at the Houston Astros drafts in the decade before Luhnow arrived quickly gives light to that myth. It may seem like a bold statement, but it is quite possible that the Astros will benefit more from Luhnow’s first draft in 2012 than they did from the 10 previous drafts between 2002 and 2011. It is not a slam dunk, but the fact that it is even in the conversation as a possibility is a powerful reminder of what came before and what hopefully is happening now.
2012 Draft. As has been discussed ad infinitum, Luhnow and his staff took a bold risk in the front end of this draft by taking the seeming less sure talent, but easily signable Carlos Correa first and then hooked the supposedly unsignable Lance McCullers Jr. with the overall #41 pick. Correa, McCullers and sixth rounder Preston Tucker all have made the majors already, all have made positive WAR impacts on the club and all seem to be at least long-term major leaguers and potentially stars. Also in that draft class and yet to be heard from are players like young slugger Brett Phillips, next catcher up Tyler Heineman and top lefty Brian Holmes, who are all making noise as they move up the ranks. Outfielder Andrew Aplin, shortstop Nolan Fontana, utility man Joe Sclafani, and pitchers Mike Hauschild, Jordan Jankowski and Brady Rodgers are all at or have been at AAA and could under the right circumstances see time with the Astros or possibly other major league teams.
Drafts 2002 to 2011. Here is a list of Astros’ draftees from those years who played for the Astros and have a cumulative WAR above 1.0. By comparison Correa and McCullers both have WARs of 0.9 after a few weeks in the majors.
- George Springer (WAR 4.3): first round 2011
- Dallas Keuchel (8.6): seventh round 2009
- J.D. Martinez (4.1): 20th round 2009
- Enrique Hernandez (1.9): sixth round 2009
- Jason Castro (8.8): first round 2009
- Bud Norris (4.7): sixth round 2006
- Brian Bogusevic (2.0): first round 2005
- Brandon Barnes (2.6): sixth round 2005
- Hunter Pence (27.1): second round 2004
- Troy Patton (3.5): ninth round 2004
Obviously, Pence, Springer, Keuchel, Norris and Castro are the ones of these who spent significant time with the Astros. The others were traded early on in their careers (Hernandez, Barnes and Patton) or released (Martinez and Bogusevic) and have more success elsewhere. There were other players like Drew Stubbs and Scott Feldman who were drafted and never signed with the Astros and made a splash elsewhere and then there is Ben Zobrist with a career WAR of 36.5 who was traded before he made the big club.
It is easy to fault the front office for the problems with the 2014 draft, but stepping back it is easy to see the transformation of this club from one plugging holes with has-beens to one filling it with top-notch youngsters. The development of that minor league flow has a foundation and that foundation is a potentially super 2012 draft.
- Who do you like best from that 2012 draft after Correa?
- Who do you think will be the next player up from that draft?
- Who do you like best from the 2013 draft? http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/?query_type=franch_year&team_ID=HOU&year_ID=2013&draft_type=junreg&
- The 2014 draft? http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/?query_type=franch_year&team_ID=HOU&year_ID=2014&draft_type=junreg&