Finding themselves with the first overall selection in the MLB Draft for a record third year in a row, the Houston Astros may actually be at an advantage considering there is no clear-cut choice for that top pick. The team is working diligently to finalize their draft strategy, according to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle, and have reportedly narrowed their choices down to six players.
The 2014 MLB Draft begins on Thursday, at 7:00 PM EST.
Discussions will further take place during a meeting early in the week which will have quite a large attendance. All of the team’s amateur scouts, the front office and special assistants, and owner Jim Crane will be in attendance, reports Drellich, to come to a consensus decision on how they want to approach the top pick. Further meetings will take place before Thursday to discuss plans for the team’s next selections, including two more picks in the first 50 (numbers 37 and 42), and the remainder of the draft, which will span Friday (Rounds 3-10) and Saturday (Rounds 11-40).
This year’s draft class is widely viewed as being a pitching heavy mix. Four of the six players on Houston’s short list appear to be pitchers – two college arms (Carlos Rodon and Aaron Nola) and two high school arms (Tyler Kolek and Brady Aiken). High school catcher Alex Jackson and high school shortstop Nick Gordon are also in the mix. Each of the six have their respective pros and cons, leaving Houston with a decision that won’t come easily.
Cost ultimately is also going to play into considerations. With Major League Baseball clamping down on draft spending budgets over the first ten rounds, teams are no longer able to throw however much money they want at picks without facing potential penalties that could be handed down. Houston could work the system to their advantage here, pursuing a player who may not carry an outrageous bonus demand with the first overall pick in order to give themselves more flexibility for picks in later rounds – particularly with the chance that another quality selection could fall into their laps at either of those other two first day selections. The team utilized a similar approach in 2012, selecting Carlos Correa with the first pick knowing that they’d save enough to pursue Lance McCullers Jr. in the supplemental round.
Of course, there’s no way to know who might be available when after that first overall selection. The team’s goal will be on maximizing the value they can get, as Amateur Scouting Director Mike Elias tells Drellich:
We’re going to look at how to extract the most value from our draft board and from this draft. 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 we wouldn’t otherwise, we’re going to consider that. It’s hard to hang your hat on that, with the uncertainty of the draft and the uncertainties of the signability process.
Cost considerations aside, Houston’s focus will likely be on taking the best player available which could potentially be one of the two college arms. Correa and Mark Appel, the team’s first overall selection in 2013, are both at High-A Lancaster right now and could move to Double-A by year’s end. A college player will be far more likely to join them on a similar timeline to reach the Major Leagues, whereas a high school arm or bat will be a little slower along in their development.
Houston has started to put things together at the Major League level this season and there are waves of players rising through the minor leagues with the hope that they’ll all come together in the coming seasons to turn the Astros into a perennial contender. This year’s first overall pick will be viewed as a part of that wave, it’s merely a question of where he fits into those plans.