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The Luhnow drafts: How to build a legacy


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.

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.

Questions:

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About Dan P

Dan Peschong is a full time engineer and a long time Astros lover from the days of Joe Morgan to the days of Jose Altuve.

63 comments on “The Luhnow drafts: How to build a legacy

  1. astrocolt45
    June 20, 2015

    Not to take anything away from JL, but him hiring Mike Elias may have been his best move yet. As one that has no idea how to separate a potential MLBer from a run of the mill good A ball player, someone has to be able to evaluate future progression. Whoever is doing this for the Astros (and has for past couple years) has a good handle on what is “Wheat” and what is “Chaff.”

    Like

    • Chip Bailey
      June 20, 2015

      AC45, so true. Luhnow will get the credit — and especially any blame — but he also knows and realizes I believe that he’s only as good as those with whom he surrounds himself. As the year and years progress, I’m guessing we’ll hear of the names and stories of some of the key people in the organization and how they’ve contributed to the success…

      Like

  2. Tim
    June 20, 2015

    My favorite player, after Correa, from the 2012 draft is Maverick Phillips with LMJ a close 2nd. The favorite in 2013 is Kemp, but Nottingham is making a name for himself at a position of need. In 2014 it is a bit tougher, but right now I will go with Mengden followed closely by Reed, Davis and Fisher.

    Like

  3. 1oldpro
    June 20, 2015

    My favorite player from 2012 after Correa has always been Tucker. The biggest reason for that is because he has always hit and always hit with power. His being drafted coincided with the changeover to the league and the DH and Tucker will make his mark as a DH I am sure. His splits are always steady and a DH has to have that to be famous. I hope he gets famous as a DH for us and not one of our rivals.
    Brett Phillips is my new favorite from that class and I think he will be an outfielder on our 2017 World series team.
    My favorite from 2013 was originally Appel, but now it is Kemp. He will beat people over the head with that bat until they wake up. Nottingham may turn out to be our biggest star from that draft class.
    My two favorites from the 2014 class are AJ Reed and Alex Bregman. That’s right, I said Bregman because he actually is our 1.1 pick from that class. Thank you, Brady Aiken for Alex Bregman.
    Next player up from 2012 class is really tough. I’m going to say Heineman anI don’t have a clue why, it’s just my gut.

    Like

  4. daveb
    June 20, 2015

    McCullers and Tucker are a toss up for me.

    Next up? Do you bring up Heineman if there is an injury, or do you bring up the guy hitting .180 already on the 40 man? Unfortunately, I still think our first guy up for the utility role is Villar, but I hope he gets pawned off on someone and the 40 man changes soon to include someone else or others. I think we have better talent than Marwin too. Course I’d give Sclafani a shot, but he’s a part time DH now, badly in need of a new organization to play for.

    Of the 2013 group, Kemp is the guy closest to having an impact. I worry about Appel being a bust. Nottingham certainly seems to be a standout right now, beyond hitting the heck out of the ball, he’s throwing out half the guys trying to run off him. I also like Cotton and Farris, both guys that seem to have a strike out pitch.

    2014 is a tough call. It’s tough until you see what happens when guys emerge from Lancaster. And that goes for bats and pitching.

    Like

  5. Roger
    June 20, 2015

    Gotta agree with OP on Tucker, Kemp & Heineman. It’s SO tough to pick good players. I can still recall the cover of the Sporting News featuring a picture of John Mayberry, and a few years later Floyd Bannister.

    Like

    • astrocolt45
      June 20, 2015

      Funny you should mention Mayberry. I watched a game in 1975 when he crushed 3 HRs off Fergie Jenkins. I would have sworn he would be in the HofF today. As a side note, Fergie and the Rangers still won the game and I believe current Rangers Mouth (Steve Busby) was the losing pitcher. In that old ballpark, the wind blew directly in from right field and made it most difficult for left hand hitters.

      Like

  6. Dan P
    June 20, 2015

    Lots of good thoughts there gents. I think daveb’s thoughts about Lancaster is so true. There have been a lot of high altitude heroes who struggled hitting at sea level, Teoscar Hernandez is the latest of those. And of course LMJ struggled at Lancaster though he was working on his change up. And our 1-1 Appel was awful at Lancaster.

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      June 20, 2015

      But the difference between Teoscar and Reed/Phillips/ Nottingham is that Teoscar has never hit .300 anywhere, just like Villar never did. The other three, plus Heineman and Kemp have a great history of hitting over .300+ in several minor leagues, as did Correa. That is a big difference, and so far, Springer, Correa and Tucker have had early success in the majors after being .300+ hitters in the minors.

      Like

  7. Dan P
    June 20, 2015

    I think the thing I like the most here is just how many different people you are impressed with. (OK , with whom you are impressed).
    LMJ
    Kemp
    Reed
    Nottingham
    Mengden
    Davis
    Tucker
    Phillips
    Bregman
    Fisher
    Heineman
    Sclafani
    Cotten
    Farris

    We know they won’t all make it but they don’t all need to make it if there is enough of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • daveb
      June 21, 2015

      Let’s face it. I’m the only guy going out on a limb and mentioning Cotton and Farris. Probably long shots. But they both put guys away. Ron Guidry was a pretty slight lefty that threw 95 with a very tricky breaking ball. Could Cotton become our Guidry?

      Like

  8. Dan P
    June 20, 2015

    The Astros screwed up and gave Keuchel a 2-0 lead. He was so discombobulated he has walked two runs in and gave up a home run. Not sure it is really him out there.

    Like

  9. Zanuda
    June 20, 2015

    Lot’s of K’s for the ‘Stros tonite. Kuechel looks to be off. Watching the game on root sports (mlb network). Don’t get to see them much here in NC.

    Like

    • Dan P
      June 20, 2015

      Yeah Zanuda – Keuchel is pitching like he is still in the Central Time zone or in the Twilight zone. Two homers. Four walks in one inning. Just not himself tonight.

      Like

  10. Tim
    June 20, 2015

    If they don’t rally to win this game the Astros A.L. road losing streak will stretch to 8.

    Like

  11. Dan P
    June 20, 2015

    It is one of those games where it just does nt feel like they are going to do it Tim.
    Had not thought of the AL road loss angle.

    Like

  12. pencil01
    June 20, 2015

    On a MLB level the only good thing about tonight so far is that the Angels and Rangers both lost.

    I’m most impressed by Kemp! When you can fly without wires and hit like he does he needs to be the next one up. Take Grossman off the 40.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Robert
      June 21, 2015

      I agree with pencil01 take Grossman off the 40. After that go ahead and take Villar off. I’d like to see Kemp before September anyway. It sounded like Keuchel couldn’t find any sort of rhythm tonight. Hoping we avoid the sweep tomorrow.

      Like

      • daveb
        June 21, 2015

        I know I won’t always agree with you new guys, but yes, let’s shake up that 40 man. I’m guessing that at some point soon, we’ll make a deal or two and create a couple or three openings in that roster. Welcome Pencil ( I hope that’s okay for short) and Robert.

        Watching Keuchel last night having a rough outing reminds me that we still need a solid starter added to the rotation, if only to take some pressure off him.

        Liked by 2 people

  13. 1oldpro
    June 21, 2015

    Straily with a well pitched game tonight for Fresno and a lot of guys had multiple hits. Aplin moved up to Fresno today, because Hoes went on the DL.
    Brian Holmes pitched very well for CC tonight. They also won 2-1.
    Lancaster lost 12-8 with Phillips and Reed going deep, but Lancaster pitchers gave up 16 hits and 12 walks. I’m not kidding.
    Martes pitched great for Quad Cities but lost 2-1. Wining run was unearned, because of an error by the worst fielder in the Astros organization, Christian Trompiz. his 20th of the year.
    David Paulino was totally lights out with 6 shutout innings and lots of K’s in a 4-0 TriCity win.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Becky
    June 21, 2015

    A.J. Reed hit his 18th. homerun tonight……..that kid does NOT belong in Lancaster.
    Who was that guy who stole Keuchel’s beard and walked in 2 runs tonight?
    Hinch got thrown outta the game tonight……that, and Keuchel’s unusual game
    sucked the air right out of the boys tonight.

    Like

  15. daveb
    June 21, 2015

    Sure, let’s get Reed to CC and find out if he’s for real now. Seems that a few umps are not yet ready to give Keuchel the Glavine strike zone. It’s a process.

    Like

    • Devin_
      June 21, 2015

      There were only a couple of balls that I thought should have been strikes. He didn’t have his best game, the Mariners didn’t chase too much, and the shift burned him as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Dan P
    June 21, 2015

    Keuchel was human tonight. His control was off and he was not getting the M’s to chase too often. After the 4 walks in the 2nd he made three mistakes for homers – though Cruz is so good, I think that was a decent pitch down to him and he hit it out.
    Nice to hear our rivals loss at the major league level and good to see so many great performances at the minor league levels.
    40 man possibilities:
    – Stassi off and Heineman on
    – Grossman or Villar off and Kemp on.
    – I was going to say Hoes, but the young man has been raking
    – Peacock to the 60 day if they don’t want to let anyone go
    I have heard that Lowrie was getting his cast off and was with the team for the first time since being put on the DL. I suppose it will take a while to get his strength back and ability to actually grip a bat. Then probably a two week rehab. Still a ways away.

    Like

    • Dan P
      June 21, 2015

      rivals lost….

      Like

    • SargeH
      June 21, 2015

      Television cameras and game commentators showed Lowrie was in the dugout in an earlier game this week and in uniform. I believe it was the first game in Colorado.

      Like

  17. Tim
    June 21, 2015

    In case anyone missed it last night our top 2 first basemen (Carter and Singleton) pulled off the golden sombrero last night. A.J. Reed needs to be promoted fast. 😅

    Like

  18. 1oldpro
    June 21, 2015

    Carter is the firs baseman in Houston, Singleton is the first baseman in AAA, Gregor is the first baseman in AA and Reed is the first baseman in High A.
    Promoting Reed does nothing to change our first base situation. He’s made the Cal League AS team, let him play. Give him 500 plate appearances there and by that time we will know if all the guys above him are going to stay or if someone will be traded and the 1B situation is worked out by the club. It is of no advantage to the club to prematurely advance one player and demote another when this all is on course anyway. There is absolutely nothing to gain by moving Reed to CC in June, rather than July. Nothing.

    Like

    • daveb
      June 21, 2015

      I’d like to see a trade happen to help free things up. I don’t think 500 PA’s are essential in A+. He’s already shown us what he can do there.

      Like

      • rj
        June 21, 2015

        daveb i agree that a trade pretty much has to happen by the deadline. it does not have to be a blockbuster type, but we really are starting to need to make room on the 40 man roster.

        Like

    • Tim
      June 21, 2015

      It was a tongue-in-cheek comment. Did you notice my smiley face? 😉

      Like

  19. drbill14
    June 21, 2015

    With all of the talk about taking Grossman and Villar off the 40 man one must remember that to take someone off the 40 without trading them they have to be Designated For Assignment like Dominguez was. We got ZERO from Milwaukee. Are Grossman and Villar so bad that we just want to give them away? I would not have been surprised if Dominguez had passed through waivers and we could have kept him but one of the other 29 MLB teams thought he had value. I guarantee that someone would snatch Villar and Grossman. Why just give them away? Are they that bad? There’s no compelling reason to put Kemp on the 40 man until we put him on the 25 man and bring him up to the big club.

    Like

  20. daveb
    June 21, 2015

    The compelling reason might come relatively soon if we realize that Kemp, or anyone else for that matter can make the big club better.

    Like

  21. Dan P
    June 21, 2015

    Dr bill I’m with you there. If Altuve was put on the DL I would move Peacock to the 60 day DL if I wanted Kemp instead of Villar – which I do.
    The problem with trading Villar or Grossman is I think it works better as part of a package – like Asher W and Villar than alone.

    Like

  22. daveb
    June 21, 2015

    As things get more crowded closer to the top, we’ll see a few more Dominguez type DFA’s. I’m sure Luhnow tried to trade him for something, but it just did not happen.

    Liked by 2 people

    • astrocolt45
      June 21, 2015

      Not exactly sure of the current rules, but I think the Astros would be “selling” guys like Matty D for $20-25,000 through the waiver wire. However I believe after July 31st trade deadline, each player traded has to first pass through waivers. And if you put someone on waivers and bring him back (rescind) you can not do it again this season. I would doubt there is much interest from other clubs for Grossman, Villar, nor several others. They MIGHT pay $25K, but that is probably all you can get because if claimed, he has to go onto their 40 man roster. So it is easy for me to scream “trade him” but it is not that easy if the other team has no interest.

      Like

  23. Dan P
    June 21, 2015

    A team looking at trading for Matt D had to look at the fact that he was probably the worst position starter in all of baseball in 2014.And then he did not show that he was learning or changing anything at AAA.So if there was interest they decided to see if they could pick him up for free.

    Liked by 1 person

    • astrocolt45
      June 21, 2015

      Just to tag on DanP – why would the Brewers take a flyer on Matty D? It might be because they have the final year of a contract with Aramis Ramirez and $14 Million producing a -.5 WAR. Then look at their AAA team and they have played 8 – 3B men this year with none doing any better than Matty D in Fresno. Two of them are 36 & 32 yrs. So he MIGHT be worth a flyer for them because he is so cheap. But they saw no need to “trade” because just about any infielder hitting the waiver wire will be better than what they have in the majors or minors.

      Like

  24. Becky
    June 21, 2015

    One of the reasons I keep saying Reed SHOULD be at Corpus sooner rather than later, these guys coming out of college the last couple of years are nearly MLB ready. These kids are WAAAY better that the draft classes we have seen in the last 5yrs. Look at Rodon…..3rd. win yesterday, that kid can PITCH. I’m tired of hearing “he’s really good, but (fill in the blank) is blocking him”. I’m ALL IN on the youth movement…….let ’em come up and see what they can do! If Luhnow wants to shine, he should bring up Kemp, if Altuve goes on DL with his ham strain. If Luhnow
    wants a revolt, bring up Villerror. Spit……spit…..spit.

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      June 21, 2015

      Respectfully, Preston Tucker and George Springer had a little more than two years in the minors. Reed was drafted last June. Tucker and Springer went through the minors in a very respectable time and when they got to the majors they made an impact and then dealt with adjustments. Right now clubs have found holes in Tucker’s swing. High fastballs and low changeups and they have found out that he finds it hard to lay off of them. He will have to adjust, and that is after TWO years of minor league adjusting.
      Throwing Reed into something in the majors is not doing him a favor. You have to give him a chance to learn to adjust to lots of better pitching. Right now he’s feasting on pitchers whom one or two out of ten will be major league pitchers. Being ALL IN on youth movement means giving your youth a chance to succeed with a plan to step them up and letting them conquer until they are ready. When they get to the majors, 9 out of ten pitchers will have better stuff than the pitchers Reed is now facing. If AJ Reed were Kris Bryant or Carlos Rodon he would not have lasted to the second round. Let’s be smart. Again, he’s hopefully going to be a first baseman on that 2017 Championship team.

      Like

  25. Becky
    June 21, 2015

    I’m not saying Kemp would replace Altuve, but he COULD replace Marwin.

    Like

  26. Dan P
    June 21, 2015

    I agree Becky – I am not sure what else they can learn about Villar.

    Like

  27. drbill14
    June 21, 2015

    The big obstacle for Kemp is that he apparently can’t play the left side of the infield thus limiting his utility player usefulness. What I might find intriguing would be to start him as a DH. What would be better for this offense; status quo thumping and striking out or plus OBP from the DH spot?

    Like

  28. astrocolt45
    June 21, 2015

    Becky/DanP/DrBill/Anyone?: Just curious. Who on the 40 man are you willing to take $20-35K to move?

    My answer would be up to 7 with NONE on the 25 man currently. Now I would only do 1 or 2 at a time, but I have given up hope on at least 5 of the 7.

    Like

    • Dan P
      June 21, 2015

      Hey hard to think of who to let go until you need to. For instance Hoes has a :348 BA .425 OBP .911 OPS – you shouldn’t give him away, but now might be a good time to trade him when he comes back.

      Like

    • 1oldpro
      June 21, 2015

      Cruz and Deduno.

      Like

  29. Becky
    June 21, 2015

    Hoes
    Grossman
    Villerror
    Peacock
    There’s four I can think of……

    Like

  30. Becky
    June 21, 2015

    It remains to be seen if they move Peacock to the 60 day DL, and Hoes is out probably on a 15 day DL.

    Like

    • astrocolt45
      June 21, 2015

      I just remember Chip writing a year ago about this roadblock/traffic jam coming. I would have thought it would occur on the 25 but it looks like this year – it is at the 40 man level. But it appears that some of these guys are not going to stay at AA/AAA for two full years. It is easy to give up on a guy that got promoted to AA and he did not pan out. But the decisions will be much, much tougher (we hope) next year.

      Like

  31. Becky
    June 21, 2015

    Rangers lost today and our guys are up 5 to 2 if they can hang on for the win..we go ahead 3 1/2 ahead!! Man..we need to win this game. Forgot to wish you guys a happy father’s day! I hope you were spoiled all day!

    Liked by 3 people

  32. drbill14
    June 21, 2015

    Good win today but McCullers and Velazquez could ruin our bullpen. I think it is fair to say that McCullers’ CG was a real outlier. Both of these kids have great stuff but facing big league hitters who can spoil their pitches must be frustrating them. McCullers’ CG was against the Orioles who are not known for their patience. Offenses that try to work counts and drive up pitch counts are going to give them fits. As lame as the tandem system seems to be it might be something to consider doing with these two, especially after Feldman comes back.

    Like

  33. Becky
    June 21, 2015

    drbill………I think Velasquez returns to either Corpus, or they promote him to Fresno when Feldman comes back (probably 2 more weeks) I have no problem with that. I think Velaquez has learned SOOO much about what it takes to pitch up with the big club. The M’s pulled a trick the Astros do often, and ran his pitch count up…WAAAY up in the first inning. I think it shows us a lot how he bounced back from that inning to go three more innings without giving up any runs. I’m sure Lloyd McClendon was shocked that our bull pen stopped them right there. Good win indeed, and one that was soooo needed!

    Like

  34. Becky
    June 21, 2015

    Peter Gammons says he’s hearing a Scott Kazmir to Houston rumor from several AL Gm’s. #Raisingmyeyebrowsthinkingwhowehavetogiveup.

    Like

  35. 1oldpro
    June 21, 2015

    Wow, Mark Appel! and Wojo, too. Both pitched great today.
    Both of them pitching better than they ever have. So encouraging!

    Like

  36. Dan P
    June 21, 2015

    Yeah we can’t have 4 and 5 inning starts over and over especially with McHugh and Keuchel struggling a bit.
    I agree that Velasquez will probably head down for more seasoning when someone is ready. Maybe Appel will be that someone.

    Like

  37. Tim
    June 22, 2015

    Counting players with 75+ ABs for the season Colby Rasmus has the 2nd highest OPS on the Astros behind Springer. Yes, he strikes out much (but who doesn’t on this team?), but he has been exactly, or even slightly better, than we expected. He has been adequate defensively and is hitting for power. We could be doing much worse than Colby Rasmus and, in fact, we are with Gattis and Carter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tim
      June 22, 2015

      It might be time to consider benching Gattis and giving Tucker the majority of starts at DH.

      Like

  38. Tim
    June 22, 2015

    Would anyone be open to the Astros trading for Adam LaRoche? He can platoon with Carter at 1B and he probably wouldn’t cost much. He has some power and has a decent OBP (.333). Thoughts?

    Like

    • Devin_
      June 22, 2015

      Carter .326 OBP, 12 HR, 35 RBI, 95 Ks in 230AB.
      LaRoche .333 OBP, 8HR, 25 RBI, 75Ks in 217AB.

      It would require a 40 man and 25 man spot being opened. At this point I’m not sure what he would bring beyond what Singleton might do.

      Like

  39. Dan P
    June 22, 2015

    Tim – a couple thoughts.
    – The Astros are 2nd in DH produced RBIs this season. Gattis is slumping lately, but I think I want a veteran there at least for a little while longer. They seem to have found a bit of a hole in Tucker’s swing – so I would like the young man to work through that a bit first.
    – LaRoche – he is hitting .221 BA/.333 OBP / .707 OPS w/ 8 HR and 25 RBIs
    – Carter – he is hitting .204 BA / .326 OBP / .726 OPS w/ 12 HR and 35 RBIs
    La Roche is owed about $6 million from now until the end of the season. I would rather apply that towards another starting pitcher. I don’t see LaRoche bringing that much to the table over Carter.

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      June 22, 2015

      Plus, I don’t see LaRoche as being much of a dancer.

      Like

    • Tim
      June 22, 2015

      I was looking at him against RHP, which he has all 8 HRs and a .772 OPS. I don’t think we can count on Singleton to produce these numbers and LaRoche is better defensively. We aren’t getting Ryan Howard, Joey Votto or Adrian Gonzalez so I was just looking for a LH 1B that wouldn’t break the bank.

      Like

  40. Dan P
    June 22, 2015

    OK – so let us look at both these guys against rightys
    LaRoche 165 ABs 8 HR 21 RBIs .230 BA / .360 OBP / .772 OPS
    Carter 143 ABs 8 HR 25 RBIs .203 BA / .326 OBP / .731 OPS

    And LaRoche can’t hit leftys at all while Carter can. So you are changing out Carter for someone who is more expensive who can hit rightys better, but with less power (per AB) and who is hopeless against leftys. I say – keep looking.

    Like

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