The Astros have the first pick in Thursday’s MLB Draft. This is the third straight year and fifth time overall that the franchise has picked first. Here’s a quick look back at the history of Astros #1 overall picks.
Floyd Bannister, 1976
Bannister, a hard throwing left-handed pitcher at Arizona State University, was almost a consensus #1 pick back in our nation’s bicentennial year. The Sporting News College Player of the Year pitched in 14 minor league games down the stretch in ’76 and was on the Astros’ Opening Day roster the following season.
Bannister would spend only two seasons wearing the rainbow jersey. After going 11-18 with a 4.38 ERA in 53 games, Bannister was traded to the Seattle Mariners for shortstop Craig Reynolds. Reynolds, an All-Star in his first season with the Astros, would spend the final eleven years of his career in Houston.
Bannister would accumulate a 26.9 career WAR in 15 years in the majors. Bruce Hurst (34.8) is the only player picked in the first round of the ’76 draft to top Bannister in WAR. The real blunder came in round two when the Astros selected Philip Klimas. Detroit took Alan Trammell with the next pick.
Phil Nevin, 1992
Much like Bannister, Phil Nevin was a highly decorated college player that was believed to be very close to major league ready. The Astros decided to go with Nevin despite the insistence of scout Hal Newhouser to draft Michigan prep star Derek Jeter. The Nevin pick resulted in Newhouser’s resignation and lots of crying for Astros fans.
Nevin was a bust. He played only 18 games in an Astros uniform before being dealt to Detroit for reliever Mike Henneman. Nevin would enjoy some success later in his career as a member of the San Diego Padres, hitting 41 homers and earning All-Star honors in 2001.
Carlos Correa, 2012
Although he has yet to make his big league debut, most would consider the 2012 selection of 17-year old shortstop Carlos Correa a big win for the Astros organization. Not only did Houston get a supremely talented player, the club was also able to sign the youngster below slot value — thereby freeing up more money for subsequent 2012 draftees.
So far, Correa has lived up to the hype. Still only 19, Carlos is putting up outstanding numbers for the Lancaster JetHawks of the California League. In addition, his character and leadership qualities have drawn rave reviews. It’s obviously a little early to reach a conclusion on Correa, but, all signs are pointing to yes.
Mark Appel (Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports)
Mark Appel, 2013
After being drafted 8th overall in 2012 and refusing to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Appel returned to Stanford for his senior year. Another outstanding season put Appel atop many of the experts’ draft lists in 2013. The Astros selected the Houston native with the first pick and paid him a record $6.35 million signing bonus.
Last year’s top pick has had his share of troubles in 2014. Emergency appendectomy surgery in January got the year off to a bad start. Difficulty adjusting to the tandem pitching rotation employed in the Astros’ organization further complicated things for Appel. Pitching every four days (instead of once a week as he typically did in college) took a toll on Mark. Arm soreness and a dip in velocity forced Appel out of the California League and back to Extended Spring Training in Florida.
Appel returned to the JetHawks rotation last weekend — but with less than desirable results. Ten runs and ten hits (including 3 homers) in only 1 & 1/3 innings gave Astros fans more reasons for concern. The jury is certainly still out on Appel. Hopefully this is only a minor bump in the road and Mark will go on to have a long and productive career in an Astros uniform.
Who will the Astros select this time around? We will find out a few minutes after 6:00 p.m. on Thursday. Until then, we can only speculate… and dream.