Leading up to the 2012 draft, many wondered whether Houston would go with the talented college pitcher out of Stanford, Mark Appel, or the high school phenom Byron Buxton.
What nobody knew was that the Astros had another plan: Take a player many suspected would go a bit a lower in the draft (Carlos Correa_, sign him at a below market deal, and then use the savings to draft talented high school players who had dropped down draft boards for sign ability issues (Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz). When the dust cleared, the Astros ended up with three potential first round picks for the price of one. It was pure genius.
Almost as soon as the 2012 ended, fans and pros alike, tried to figure out how the Astros would try to beat the system the next time around with everyone now knowing their strategy.
Of course, predicting what this Astros front office will do is futile. They zig when others zag and the 2013 draft ended up being no exception.
Mark Appel: The Safe Bet
On June 6th, the Astros selected Mark Appel—the player they passed up in 2012—first overall. It was a surprising pick in the fact that the team this time went for the best player available instead of trying to re-incorporate the strategy used last year.
It’s hard to fault Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow and crew for this pick. Appel actually improved his stock this year by lowering his 2013 ERA to 2.12, hitting 130 Ks for a second straight time (in seventeen less innings than 2012), lowering his walks, batting average against, etc.
The two knocks against Appel are that he’s previously refused to sign with the team that drafted him (the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012) and his agent is the divisive Scott Boras. Appel, however, is a Houstonian and has expressed his desire in the past for playing for his hometown team. One tweet might just say it all:
I’m coming home, I’m coming home! Tell the world, I’m coming home! #GodIsGreat #Astros— Mark Appel (@MAppel26)
Ultimately, this looks to be a win-win situation. The team gets a bona fide front-line college starter in the system that’s weak on pitching. He’ll also be able to contribute at the major league level sooner rather than later. Appel gets what he wanted in 2012—to be drafted first overall—and will now be able to pitch in front of his hometown crowd.
A Shift in Strategy
The Appel pick seemingly set the tone for the rest of the draft: College domination.
The first round of 2012 June amateur draft saw thirteen college players taken in the first round. This time around, only fourteen high school players were taken in the first round.
The Astros drafted seven college players in the first ten rounds of the 2013 draft, so the next question is “why?” Did the organization feel the high school crop this year was exceptionally weak or the college class exceptionally strong? Did they feel a sense of urgency with too many top prospects in the lower levels of the minors, perhaps not ready to contribute soon enough? Did they think the Appel pick wouldn’t give them any financial flexibility to go after the high school players with sign ability issues? Houston’s scouting director, Mike Elias, offered that this draft “injected quite a bit of polish” as a sort of supplement to last year, but we may never know the real motivation for the team choosing this path.
Kemp Picks Raises Eyebrows
Delino DeShields Jr., Houston’s first overall pick in the 2010 amateur player draft, had a rough start to his amateur career before a breakout 101 steal season last year between Houston’s Low A and High A affiliates. Although he’s adjusting well at High A Lancaster in 2013, his progress is perhaps not where some thought he would be at this point.
Enter Tony Kemp, Houston’s fifth round selection in 2013. The 5’7, second-bagger has already been compared to a left-handed hitting Jose Altuve. Kemp was the SEC player of the year in 2013 and seems like the ideal top-of-the-order bat Houston has desperately needed. Kemp’s a junior, and that could make him a difficult sign, so there’s a chance Houston isn’t able to reach a deal. If Kemp does sign, he might start at Low A ball (similar to what the Astros did last year with Nolan Fontana). It’d be interesting to see what sort of effect this would have on DeShields. Will he continue to excel or wilt from the pressure?
Odds & Ends
That name sounds familiar. Cavan Biggio, son of Craig, was projected by some as a high second-round pick leading up to the draft. He fell precipitously down draft boards before finally being taken by the Phillies in the 29th round on Saturday. He’s a Notre Dame commit and Dad has been quoted as saying he’s “going to school.”
Kacy Clemens is now the second Clemens of Roger to be drafted by Houston, going 1037th overall. Unlike Koby, drafted by the Astros in 2005, Kacy follows in his father’s footsteps as a pitcher. He’s a commit to the University of Texas Austin, and might be another difficult sign, but was perhaps worth the lottery ticket pick this far down in the draft.
Speaking of the University of Texas Austin, the Astros drafted Nathan Thornhill in the twenty-fourth round (707th overall) over the weekend. I bring this up because Thornhill is the first player drafted by the Astros out of UT in nine years. (The last was Anthony Adler taken in the 46th round of the 2004 draft.)
Finally, the winner of the best name in the 2013 Astros draft class award goes to 857th overall selection, Arkansas pitcher Randall Fant.
There are three rules that I live by: never get less than twelve hours sleep; never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city; and never get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body. Now you stick to that, and everything else is cream cheese. — “Coach Finstock,” from “Teen Wolf”
We’re 10 days from opening day and, while battles are still being fought for some positions, most of the dust has cleared and players have begun to emerge as favorites for a coveted 25 man roster spot. Below, I have listed the players I believe will make the 2013 Astros team with a few short sentences as to why. I have also listed a few players at the bottom who will likely not make the team.
Above: Manny Sanguillen baseball card using a 1974 Topps template.
Happy birthday to three time all-star, Panamanian baseball great, & BBQ proprietor Manny Sanguillen! He turns 69 today.
Whenever I slid, I always dusted myself off. Because if you look like you’re safe, the umpire thinks you’re safe. If you slide and then look at it him like, ‘What is it?’ He’ll say, ‘You’re out!’ So looking safe is a big part of it. One time, I slid into second, Ozzie Guillen was covering the base. It was a real close play, but I just started wiping. The ump goes, ‘Safe! Safe!’ Ozzie yells, ‘Why?’ The ump says, ‘I don’t know!’ — Former Kansas City Royal Willie Wilson on the art of stealing bases, from “Grand Theft Baseball.”