Astros: Revisiting the 2014 amateur draft hits, misses
We take a look back at the Houston Astros picks in the 2014 amateur draft.
The 2014 draft was an interesting one for the Houston Astros. It was the third straight year in which they’d had the No. 1 overall pick, but the second straight time they whiffed on it. We’ll get to 2013 later, but this final time going first overall was not one to remember.
In fact, the Astros have gotten very little help at the major league level from this draft class. Many of their early round picks have reached the big leagues but they either failed to stick or did so with other teams. Once you get past the fifth round, it’s slim pickings.
The First Rounders
At first overall, the Astros selected high school left-hander Brady Aiken, who GM Jeff Luhnow touted as being the most advanced high school pitcher he’d ever seen. While the two sides appeared to agree on a $6.5 million signing bonus, the Astros found a concern with Aiken’s elbow, which resulted in them not coming to an agreement before the signing deadline.
Aiken prepared to re-enter the draft in 2015 but ended up undergoing Tommy John surgery in March, perhaps justifying the Astros concerns. He was still taken at No. 17 overall by the Indians, but his minor league career has been rocky. His 2017 season saw him post a 4.77 ERA in 132 innings in A-ball, but he walked more batters than he struck out. He missed all of 2018 and most of 2019, throwing just 0.2 innings last year and walking six of the nine hitters he faced.
Meanwhile, the Astros were given the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft as compensation for not signing Aiken. Considering they drafted Alex Bregman with that pick, I’d say the trade-off worked out pretty well. However, some of the players taken shortly after the club picked Aiken were Carlos Rodon, Kyle Schwarber, Aaron Nola, Michael Conforto and Trea Turner.
The Astros also had a supplemental pick coming in at No. 37 overall, which they used on outfielder Derek Fisher out of the University of Virginia. He was worth 0.5 WAR in parts of three major league seasons before being traded to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline in 2019. There weren’t any notable players drafted immediately following Fisher.
The Second through Fifth Rounds
Picking first in the second round, the Astros selected first baseman AJ Reed out of the University of Kentucky. He was supposed to be the first baseman of the future but provided just -1.0 WAR in parts of three seasons. He went to the White Sox on a waiver claim in July 2019 and recently retired.
In the third round, the club took third baseman J.D. Davis out of Cal State Fullerton. He gave the Astros -0.6 WAR in parts of two seasons before being traded to the Mets. He hit .307/.369/.527 with 22 homers for New York in 2019, totaling just 1.0 WAR thanks to poor defensive ratings. Interestingly, current Astros pitcher Cy Sneed was taken with the 11th pick in the third round by the Brewers. Immediately following Davis was second baseman Brian Anderson, who’s provided 6.7 WAR for the Marlins.
In the fourth round, the Astros selected right-hander Daniel Mengden out of Texas A&M and traded him to Oakland a little more than a year later in the Scott Kazmir deal. Mengden has made a total of 47 starts and nine relief appearances in four seasons, totaling a 4.68 ERA and 1.9 WAR. Also taken in the fourth round were pitchers Ryan Yarbrough and Jordan Montgomery.
In the fifth round, the Astros took high school right-hander Jacob Nix, but did not sign him. He would later be drafted in the third round in 2015 by the Padres. His only major league action is nine starts of 7.02-ERA ball in 2018. Going six picks later was Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins.
Late Round Gems
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While the team made five straight picks who’ve reached the majors (Fisher through Nix), only three of the Astros’ remaining 35 draft picks have made it to the show. One of those was 11th round pick Dean Deetz, who pitched 3.1 innings for the Astros in 2018 but has otherwise remained in the minors.
The other two picks who’ve reached have fared better. Outfielder Ramon Laureano, Deetz’s teammate at Northeast Oklahoma A&M College, was picked in the 16th round and then traded to Oakland in Nov. 2017 for pitcher Brandon Bailey, who’s yet to advance past Double-A.
Laureano was the everyday center fielder for the A’s in 2019, hitting .288/.340/.521 with 29 doubles, 24 homers and 13 steals. He’s provided 5.9 WAR over two seasons in Oakland, while Bailey is still a fair distance away from reaching the major leagues.
The last of the Astros picks to reach the majors is their 34th round pick, right-hander Josh James out of Western Oklahoma State College. He’s been worth 0.8 WAR in two major league seasons but has something of a bright future. He could turn out to be one of the team’s better late round picks in recent memory.
There are a couple of recognizable names who’ve not yet cracked the bigs. Catcher Jamie Ritchie was taken in the 13th round out of Belmont University, and infielder Nick Tanielu went in the 14th round from Washington State. Both have spent significant time at Triple-A and could yet make an impact in the majors.