With just one week left until the MLB draft, no one knows who the Astros will select with the first overall pick. The Astros did a great job keeping their #1 pick quiet last year, and no one should expect to know who they will select until Bud Selig announces it next week. It seems like the Astros are down to just six players they may take. Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray are considered the top two players in the draft. If the Astros decide to forgo pitching, they may select Kris Bryant who is thought to be the third best player in the draft. The other three options are; Colin Moran, Clint Fraizer, and Austin Meadows.
With the first pick, the Astros have a few options. They can either pick the best player which is thought to be Mark Appel, or they can pick the best player that would save them the most money. Last year, Jeff Luhnow decided to take Carlos Correa, who was not considered the best player in the draft, though he was considered a top 5 pick. Most experts had the Astros taking Appel in 2012, but Luhnow decided that the savings in the later rounds would make it worthwhile to select Correa. By taking Correa, the Astros saved around $2.4 million dollars which they later spent on players such as Lance McCullers Jr. and Rio Ruiz. By not taking a player like Appel or Buxton last year, the Astros were able to add 3 top 10 prospects to the organization. McCullers was ranked in the 10-20 range by many experts but fell in the draft. Ruiz was also considered a first round talent but fell to the fourth round due to an injury.
So the Astros have a decision again this year. Will they go with the same strategy as last year that helped them add several top prospects to their farm system, or will they go best player available and hope to grab some good talent but at slot money? The Astros also have an option of combining the two. The consensus top two players in the draft are Appel and Gray, but Bryant is widely considered the third best player this year. The Astros slot amount is around $7.8 million, whereas the Rockies #3 selection is around $5.6 million. If the Astros could convince Kris Byrant that he will end up going #3 if the Astros take Appel (Cubs rumored to either take Appel or Gray), then the Astros could possibly strike a deal around the $5.6-$6 million range and save almost $2 million by selecting Bryant. It would be tough to strike a deal for a cheaper amount with either Appel or Gray because both should be getting around the slot area, and the Astros may be only able to save a few hundred thousand dollars.
If the Astros select based on BPA, expect them to take either Appel or Gray. Both had fantastic seasons and will likely be two of the top three picks in the draft whichever way it shakes up. The Astros know they won’t save much money on either, but both project to be frontline starters in the future. Appel is considered pretty much MLB-ready by most experts, and if the Astros select him, he could be on the roster by 2014 opening day. Here is what Dave Perkin of SI.com had to say about Appel;
"Scouts harbor a distinct weariness with Appel because it seems as if he’s been draft eligible forever. Yet he is the best candidate in this year’s draft to be the staff ace … Appel profiles as a lynchpin because he has the mechanics and the delivery of a workhorse who can command pitches and maintain velocity."
On the other hand, Gray would need a bit more time in the minors, but some people believe he has more upside. Here is what Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com had to say about Gray;
"The big right-hander has a plus plus fastball that has registered triple digits late in starts, leaving no doubt about his ability to maintain his velocity. His power slider has developed into a plus pitch as well, he’ll mix in an occasional curve and he’s shown an ability to throw a solid changeup, to boot."
It’s clear both these pitchers could be staff aces for a long time, and the Astros will have to decide if it’s worth it to pass on these talents to save money for other players in later rounds.
If the Astros decide to forgo pitching, and save just a bit of cash, expect the pick to be Kris Bryant. Here is what Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com had to say about Bryant;
"He has easy plus power, maybe more, with the ability to hit the ball out to all fields. He also has a plus arm, and while some feel he’ll have to move to first in the future, others feel he has the actions, arm and power bat to profile well at the hot corner."
With the first overall pick, most people expect one of these three off the board. However, one player not mentioned that has been getting a lot of hype over the last few weeks is Colin Moran. Here is what Jon Heyman of cbssports.com tweeted yesterday;
The idea behind taking Moran is that he could sign for way less money than any of the above three. In most MLB mock drafts, if Moran isn’t #1, he is projected to fall between 5-7. For those picks, the slot $ falls to anywhere from $3.2-$3.8 million. If the Astros feel highly enough about Colin Moran, they could go ahead and take him, and probably save close to $3-$4 million (sign him for around $4 million). Here is what Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com had to say about Moran;
"A big, strong left-handed-hitting third baseman, Moran has good projection to his frame, meaning he’s likely to grow into more power as he matures. He’s a polished hitter, one who stood out on the Cape this past summer, and he should be able to stay at the hot corner defensively."
The other two options at #1 are either Clint Frazier or Austin Meadows. Almost no one expects them to be taken at #1 overall, but it seems like they may still be in the running. Here is what Keith Law of ESPN.com had to say about Meadows;
"He has tremendous physical abilities, but maybe hasn’t translated all of that into on-field success. He has a very good left-handed swing that produces tremendous power, especially for an 18-year-old player … the biggest knock on Meadows this spring is that he tends to play the game with a somewhat lower level of energy than you’d like to see in an advanced high school prospect."
Here is what Baseball Prospectus’ Nick J. Faleris had to say about Frazier;
"Frazier has the best bat speed in the entire draft class and produces easy plus raw power in-game at the amateur level … with reps and pro instruction, Frazier’s is a profile that could produce a high average and 25 plus home runs a year, with plenty of additional doubles. He’s solid out of the box and runs the bases well."
So the Astros have options at #1. BPA (Appel or Gray)? Mix of the two (Bryant)? Save $ for later in the draft (Moran, Meadows, or Frazier).
My prediction: Jonathan Gray
Who do I want to be taken: Mark Appel
My Ranking: Appel, Gray, Bryant, Moran, Meadows, Frazier
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