Houston Astros Rumors
Although it has been rumored that the Astros may draft North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran with the No. 1 overall pick, it's an unlikely scenario, according to Jim Callis of Baseball America. While Moran could be signed to an under-slot deal as the Astros did last year with top selection Carlos Correa, Moran lacks the legitimate No.1 talent of Correa. Callis argues that although skimping on their first round pick would allow the club to spend more in other parts of the draft, he does not think the talent in later rounds is worthy of large bonuses. Here is a look at some more news from June’s amateur draft..
- Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle tweets that Jonathan Gray tops the Astros draft board with fellow right-hander Mark Appel a close second. Sluggers Kris Bryant and Moran round out their current top four according to Smith.
- Front office personnel have to adapt to changes in the draft process, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. General Manager Jack Zduriencik of the Mariners and Rays Executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman have adjusted to new rules concerning spending, the ability to trade picks, and may soon have to navigate an international draft as well. Although an international draft will not place until at least 2015, Friedman is ready for that type of event, which in his opinion would alter “the game theory of the draft.”
- Gonzaga left-hander Marco Gonzales is a likely first-rounder, reports Terry Frei of the Denver Post. The Colorado native was selected by the Rockies in the 29th round in 2010, but has significantly improved his draft stock since then, likely falling somewhere between the Rockies' first two picks at No. 3 and No. 42.
Max Fogle contributed to this post.
Third baseman Colin Moran is shooting up draft boards and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com hears that he could even go first overall to the Astros. Could the UNC product jump past both Jonathan Gray and Mark Appel to be the top choice in the 2013 draft? Here's today's draft links..
- Senior scouting officials from the Astros met with Gray during the recent Big 12 Tournament, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports.
- Appel made the right call in not taking the Pirates' offer in 2012 and re-entering the draft this year, suggest sources of ESPN's Jason Churchill.
- The latest mock draft from Keith Law of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req'd) has Moran slated to go to the Astros. Law doesn't think Houston will make a formal decision on the pick until Thursday, but the buzz within the industry has them leaning towards Moran. The reasoning is that the third baseman's next-best alternative is to go No. 5 to Cleveland, where his slot value is less than $3.8MM. Because of that, the Astros could offer him about $4MM or so and know he'd accept it. The value of the No. 1 pick is $7.2MM, which would leave the Astros with enough to grab top talents who fall to picks 40 and 74. They could take Gray but they wouldn't pocket much by doing that and they're not on Clint Frazier or Kris Bryant. Appel doesn't seem to be one of their top two options either. Also noteworthy - Law's scenario has Gray falling to the Indians at No. 5.
- Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com's mock draft has Gray going No. 1 followed by Appel and Bryant. At No. 4, Mayo now has right-hander Kohl Stewart going to the Twins. Yesterday, Twins VP Mike Radcliff told Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN that he won't rule out Stewart due to his diabetes.
Carlos Correa of the Astros, Gerrit Cole of the Pirates, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals, and Tim Beckham of the Rays have the honor of being the last five players drafted first overall. Outfielder Byron Buxton was drafted after Correa last year by the Twins, yet was regarded as the draft's best player by both Baseball America and ESPN's Keith Law. BA and Law both had Correa second. 2012 marked the first draft with MLB's firm slot values, and the Astros were allotted $7.2MM to sign their first overall pick and $11.2MM in total.
In what Baseball America's Jim Callis described as "a perfect storm for Houston," Correa was "a legitimate top-of-the-draft talent" who nonetheless would have been expected to last until the sixth or seventh pick, which had slot values of $3MM and $3.25MM, respectively. Since the slot values are not firm for each pick but rather part of a team's pool for their first ten picks, the Astros were able to sign Correa for $2.4MM under slot (still worthwhile for him), and use the savings to draft and sign Lance McCullers, Jr. and Rio Ruiz to over-slot deals.
This year, Callis believes the top tier of the draft is limited to college pitchers Jonathan Gray and Mark Appel, and college third baseman Kris Bryant. In BA's mock draft Friday, Callis mentioned the Astros have narrowed their field to those three plus college third baseman Colin Moran and presumably high school outfielder Clint Frazier. BA and Law both see Gray and Appel as the draft's top two talents. The Astros probably wouldn't admit it if they take one of the position players instead, but if that happens, they will seemingly be employing last year's strategy again with their bonus pool money. That leads us to today's poll question:
Oklahoma pitcher Jonathan Gray's strong performance in the Big 12 conference tournament increased the likelihood that the Astros will pick him No. 1 overall, ESPN.com's Christopher Crawford writes (Insider-only). Crawford also quotes a scout who says that Indiana State's Sean Manaea -- thought to be a top pick before the season -- is "not a first-round prospect to me," and suggests Manaea may be best served by not signing and returning to school. Manaea was pulled from a recent start with shoulder tightness. Crawford's piece also contains details about Mark Appel and many of this draft class' top hitters. Here are more notes on the draft.
- Indiana high-schooler Trey Ball tops the list of two-way players available in this year's draft, Baseball America's Jim Callis says. Teams now prefer Ball as a pitcher, and it looks likely he'll be selected in the first 10 picks or so. Another two-way player is Cal State-Fullerton's Michael Lorenzen, who will be drafted as a center fielder, Callis says.
- If the Twins wish to avoid Scott Boras with the No. 4 overall pick in the upcoming draft, their best bets are high school pitcher Kohl Stewart or high school catcher Reese McGuire, ESPN1500's Darren Wolfson tweets. Stewart is being advised by Derek Braunecker and McGuire by Matt Sosnick, Wolfson says.
"Buzz is growing" that the Astros will take Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray (rather than, among others, Stanford pitcher Mark Appel) with the first overall pick in the upcoming draft, Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes. Gray was recently named the Most Outstanding Player in the Big 12 tournament, says Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). Here are more notes on the draft.
- Potential choices for the Pirates with the 9th and 14th picks in the draft include high school pitchers Kohl Stewart and Trey Ball, and college hitter D.J. Peterson, write Jason A. Churchill and Chris Crawford of ESPN.com (Insider-only). Many mock drafts have Stewart coming off the board before the Pirates pick at No. 9, but a high-upside arm like Stewart's would surely be tempting if it fell that far. Churchill and Crawford list their potential fits for other NL Central teams as well, so be sure to check that out.
- The top of this year's draft is thinner at the middle infield positions than in years past, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo writes. "It's about as weak as it's been in recent memory," says a scouting director. "It seems like we might not have one go off in the top 15 picks, which would be unusual. I think that speaks to the weakness of the class." California high school shortstop J.P. Crawford, Carl Crawford's nephew, is likely to be the middle infielder drafted first.
- The Wall Street Journal's Tim Marchman, meanwhile, asks whether Major League Baseball even ought to have a draft. Marchman suggests that the draft is "inefficient," (by which he means that the top talents are more difficult to identify than they are in, say, the NBA) and also "unjust" (by which he means that players can't just sign where they want). Marchman proposes simply scrapping the draft and making amateur player acquisition an open market, suggesting that would be the best way to "spread the talent around." It's hard to see how such a system would distribute talent evenly, however -- lower-payroll teams and teams in northern markets (most draft-eligible players come from the South and Southwest) would likely struggle to attract notable players.
In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe credits Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly for not avoiding difficult subjects. Mattingly has been less than thrilled with the club, which hasn't produced much despite its hefty price tag. “They wanted to make a big splash with the new ownership,” said an American League executive. “They wanted to show their fans they were going to spend the money and put what they thought was the best team on the field money could buy. Well, not so much. You can win with All-Star teams. The Yankees have won with one. But the mix has to be right.” As far as Cafardo is concerned, Mattingly doesn't deserve to be fired. Here's more from today's column..
- Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli has not heard from the club on an extension. Meanwhile, he has told his agent, Brian Grieper, that the environment around the team is even better than it was in Texas, which Napoli thought was great. Grieper said he’s open to talks, but “we’ll let it play out and show during the course of the season that Mike is healthy.”
- The combination of Elliot Johnson and Chris Getz at second base isn't getting it done for the Royals and they're on the lookout for help. It won't be easy, however, and with Miguel Tejada now 39, he wouldn’t seem to be the answer, either. The Royals knew coming into the season that they might struggle offensively at the position, and they have.
- Chris Bootcheck is having a resurgence at the Yankees’ Triple A affiliate, posting a 2.80 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. The Yankees haven’t called the right-hander up yet and he has a late-June opt-out. If he’s still pitching well, he would be in demand.
- If Reid Ryan's thinking is similar to his father's, then there might not be much room for a lot of statistics-driven analysis with the Astros under their new regime.
- Some have wondered if Roy Oswalt has lost the fire to pitch. He'll have four starts for the Rockies' Double-A affiliate to show that he's still got it and worthy of a callup to the big league roster.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo might make an intriguing free agent after the 2015 season, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal says in a recent video. Rizzo's friends tell Rosenthal that Rizzo is not afraid of leaving after 2015 if the team does not pay him well. The Nats exercised their 2014 option on Rizzo last month, and have another option for 2015. Earlier this week, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reported that the decision to exercise the 2014 option may have annoyed Rizzo, since the contract from which the option came was not especially lucrative. Under the 2014 option, Rizzo will be in the bottom third in GM pay, Kilgore noted. Here's more from Rosenthal.
- Rosenthal notes that Jose Altuve's recent decision to leave Scott Boras for his old agency, Octagon, is not necessarily an indication that Altuve will sign long-term with the Astros. There are currently no extension talks between the two sides, Rosenthal reports.
- If the Dodgers were to fire manager Don Mattingly, one problem would be that there are few obvious replacements, Rosenthal reports in another video. Neither Tony LaRussa nor Bobby Cox look like likely options, and members of Mattingly's staff like Davey Lopes, Trey Hillman and Tim Wallach aren't ideal. Still, Rosenthal says, the Dodgers will likely fire Mattingly anyway if the team doesn't improve, and the Dodgers have a rough schedule coming up.
Kevin Gausman, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 draft, made his Major League debut for the Orioles last night. In a poll on Wednesday, roughly 39 percent of MLBTR readers agreed that Michael Wacha of the Cardinals would be the next first-round pick from last year's draft to make the leap to the big leagues. There are less than two weeks until the 2013 draft, and we'll keep track of today's draft-related news here...
- The first mock draft from Jim Callis of Baseball America had the Astros taking Mark Appel No. 1 overall, but his newest version has the Astros taking Jonathan Gray. That leaves Appel to go to the Cubs at No. 2, but it's not clear right now who the Cubs would take between the two pitchers if Houston winds up taking a hitter instead.
- Callis views Sean Manaea as a complete wild card in this year's draft (Twitter link). He likens the Indiana State lefty to Lucas Giolito, who the Nationals drafted 16th overall last year. Like Giolito, Manaea was once considered a possible No. 1 overall selection, but injuries have caused his stock to fall and it's highly difficult to predict where he'll land.
- Prep catcher Reese McGuire will have to make a tough choice between attending college and going pro, but he's eager for the draft nonetheless, writes MLB.com's Doug Miller. While McGuire has a great opportunity to play ball at the University of San Diego, he might not be able to resist the pull of the majors if goes as high as he is projected to. MLB.com currently has the catcher going No. 11 to the Mets.
- McGuire isn't the only high school catcher who is drawing interest from clubs at the top of the draft, writes Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. Behind him are Jon Denney from Oklahoma and South Carolina's Nick Ciuffo.
MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo was asked on Twitter where high school outfielder Clint Frazier, whom many expect to go in the Top 10 of the MLB Draft, ranks in comparison to high school talents from previous drafts. Mayo notes that it's hard to ignore hindsight and view players in the same light as he did when they were amateurs, but he ranked Frazier as the eighth-best talent among 36 high school hitters selected in the first round dating back to 2009. Here's more on the draft...
- The Astros have six players on their draft board but Frazier looks to be edging out Austin Meadows, leaving them with Frazier, Mark Appel, Jonathan Gray, Kris Bryant and Colin Moran, according to Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle. Bryant and Frazier are seen as dark horses if the team decides Appel and Gray aren't worth the money they're asking. Should Scott Boras and Appel highball the Astros, money will become an issue. Smith notes that it's very close between Appel and Gray, adding that Gray has ties to the Astros and is open to negotiating (All links to Smith's Twitter account).
- Cubs president Theo Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer, top scouting/player development executive Jason McLeod and amateur scouting director Jaron Madison are currently in Oklahoma City to meet with Gray, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. The Cubs are still expected to take either Gray or Appel at No. 2 overall.
- Bill Kiser of MLB.com profiles prep right-hander Hunter Harvey, whose stock has risen enough that he's considered a likely first-rounder. Harvey is the son of former MLB closer Bryan Harvey, who saved an AL-best 46 saves in 1991 and made two All-Star teams. The younger Harvey has a 0.38 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 54 2/3 high school innings this season. Harvey, whose fastball sits in the mid-90s and has touched 97, also features a solid curveball. Mayo had him going 25th to the Giants in his mock draft, while John Sickels of Minorleagueball.com has him going 30th to the Rangers and ESPN's Keith Law (Insider req'd) has him at No. 24 to the Athletics.
Jose Altuve's fling with the Boras Corporation has ended. The Astros' second baseman recently left Boras and signed with Scott Pucino and Wil Polidor of Octagon, where he had been before, reported MLB.com's Brian McTaggart last night. Though Altuve was with Boras for about a year, the switch went under the radar.
"It's not our business," commented Astros GM Jeff Luhnow regarding his players' choice of agency. Asked last week about extending Altuve, Luhnow said, "We'll consider any opportunity to keep him here over the long haul." Boras clients rarely sign team-friendly extensions early in their careers. As far as I can tell, a Boras client has never signed a deal that bought out free agent years with less than two years of big league service, and the only such deal with a Boras client with less than three years was Carlos Gonzalez's precedent-setting contract in January 2011. Bottom line: the switch back to Octagon increases the chances of the Astros getting a deal done, if they're so inclined.
Altuve, 23, is hitting .327/.361/.430 in 180 plate appearances this season and is bidding to represent the Astros at the All-Star game for the second consecutive year. He'll have two years of Major League service time after the season. Alcides Escobar (four years, $10.5MM) and Cameron Maybin (five years, $25MM) may provide a few imperfect points of reference, having signed as low-power players with two-plus years of service. Altuve's resume should look better than those comps, given his strong batting averages and the potential pair of All-Star nods. Perhaps he can get around $30MM on a five-year deal. The Astros have some leverage, however, as home run and RBI power pays in arbitration, and that's not Altuve's game (though he could knock in 70 this year). Plus, he won't be arbitration eligible until after the 2014 season and is under team control through 2017, so there's no reason for Luhnow to make a player-friendly offer.