The Astros‘ draft strategy is taking shape, according to a report from Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Houston is expected to finalize its board and approach in a series of early-week front office sessions. Drellich’s piece is full of interesting information, quotes, and analysis, and is well worth a full read.
With the first overall choice, the Astros have narrowed their options to six players, all of whom will be familiar to those who have followed the recent prognostications of observers. The list includes two collegiate hurlers (Carlos Rodon and Aaron Nola), two prep arms (Tyler Kolek and Brady Aiken), and two high school position players (Alex Jackson and Nick Gordon).
While that grouping is not surprising, Drellich writes that the Astros could attempt to get an agreement from a player to a below-slot bonus with the first overall selection. Should that occur, Houston could aim to put more of its $13.36MM total pool into hard-to-sign later choices. The club also possesses the 37th and 42nd overall choices.
That strategy, of course, sounds similar to what the ‘Stros did in 2012, when they took Carlos Correa first overall (over Byron Buxton) and later drafted and inked players like Lance McCullers Jr. and Rio Ruiz. The gambit “worked perfectly a couple years ago,” said amateur scouting director Mike Elias.
It is not yet clear how Houston will proceed this time around. Elias says that this year’s deep class — unlike last year’s, which lacked “high school players that were first-round talents that might fall” — could allow such an approach. “We’re going to look at how to extract the most value from our draft board and from this draft,” he said. “And if we feel there is a lack of separation between two of the options and perhaps we feel we may be able to sign one of those options for less money to get some extra major league prospects because of it that we wouldn’t otherwise, we’re going to consider that.”
Of course, the final call will go to GM Jeff Luhnow. He acknowledged that, in theory, a lack of consensus on the top choice could be beneficial, at least “theoretically, if you were indifferent between two players, three players.” But the head baseball man also explained that the 2012 haul was driven by the fact that the team viewed Correa as the best player available, while industry consensus saw him as the fifth or sixth-best option. With this year’s top pick, Luhnow said that he intends to “take who we believe is the best player in the draft and then let the chips fall where they may.”