Monday, July 21, 2014

The Astros' 1/1 problems

Carlos Correa, seen here hitting for the Quad Cities
River Bandits against the Cedar Rapids Kernels in 2013,
is currently shelved with a fractured leg.
The Houston Astros have had the first overall pick in each of the last three drafts. With the spectacular collapse of their negotiations with this year's 1/1 as the team indulged in apparent gamesmanship with its draft pool, it's worth looking at how they've fared with those picks so far.

2012: Carlos Correa.

This was a gamesmanship draft by the Astros. Correa wasn't expected to go that high; the consensus had Byron Buxton as the top talent and three college pitchers (Mark Appel, Kyle Zimmer and Kevin Gausman) as safer selections.

The Astros took Correa and signed him for considerably less than the Twins, who picked second, spent on Buxton. They then used their bonus pools savings to buy a pair of "tough signs," Lance McCullers Jr. and Rio Ruiz, out of their college commitments.

Two years later, Correa is a highly regarded prospect, albeit out for the remainder of the season with a fractured fibia near the right ankle. He's not as highly regarded as Buxton, however, and if the broken leg helps force him from shortstop to third base, his value will recede a bit more.

As for the gain downdraft, it's probable that the Twins did better with Jose Barrios than the Astros did with McCullers Jr.

Correa wasn't a bad selection by the Astros, but I think the industry would agree they'd have been better off taking Buxton.

2013: Mark Appel

When the Astros and Twins bypassed Appel in 2012, so did several other teams, and he slid to the Pirates at No. 8. Pittsburgh didn't have the bonus pool money to appease the college junior, and Appel returned to Stanford.

This time the Astros took him (over Jonathan Gray and Kris Bryant), and Appel signed.

He has been a disaster.

Appel was somewhat less than dominant for Quad Cities in the Midwest League last summer, but it had been a long collegiate season and he was shifting from pitching once a week for Stanford to a more frequent professional rotation. Nobody was concerned.

Moved up to high A Lancaster in the California League this year, Appel is 1-5, 10.80. Let me repeat that ERA: Ten-eighty. He's averaging a bit more than three innings a start, and he's allowed 69 hits in 38.1 innings.

Lancaster is a notoriously terrible place to pitch, but there is no sugarcoating those numbers. The Astros would have done better to take Bryant, certainly. At this point, they'd have done better taking anybody else. It's difficult to envision a four-year college pitcher doing this poorly in A ball and having a career.

2014: Brady Aiken.

Appel may not be what the Astros (and, to be fair, most everybody else) expected, but at least there's a chance he will contribute someday to the Astros. Aiken will assuredly not.

Whatever the specifics of the medical concerns, whatever the perceived risk, it is baffling that the Astros front office screwed up the negotiations this badly. And, of course, it wasn't just Aiken they lost, but Jacob Nix as well. I doubt that general manager Jeff Luhnow is in any real jeopardy over this, but there is a serious case to be made that this should a firing offense.

Houston will get the No. 2 pick next June in compensation for failing to sign Aiken. The Astros don't deserve it.

1 comment:

  1. Seems like the Twins have had some picks (Belcher and another player think he was Travis Lee) that they were unable to sign over the years...and the T wolves have had more than their share of draft woes - maybe the 'Stros are baseball's T wolves...but $$'s do seem to be the factor for them