Given the state of the Astros' organization, I don't think the importance of this June's draft can be overstated. The final draft positions are almost set and as it stands the Astros will have three first round draft choices (8th, 19th, 33rd) and five of the first 100. Given the makeup of the current big-league roster and the dearth of the minor league prospects, the success of this draft could help determine whether the Astros will be a team prime for yearly contention by the middle of the decade or whether they will be destined for an 2000 Orioles'-like lost decade. Hyperbole aside, I thought it might be fun (and a worthwhile escape if the season takes an expected turn for the worse) to look at, and track, potential draft picks.
We're 4 months away from the draft and given the volatile nature of prospects it's too early to get a stable view of where prospects will stand on draftday. Things can and will change, but we do know who will likely be in the mix for the team's picks. There has already been a number of mocks draft and player ranking that give us a general idea of the industry's view of these prospects.
Andy Sieter, over at mlbbonusbaby.com, has already had two mock drafts. In the first one in October he had the Astros taking Zack Cox (3b U. Arkansas) with the number 8 pick. In the second mock back in January he had the Astros going to Levon Washington (OF Chipola Junior College) at 8, Kevin Gausman (RHP High School Colorado) at 19, and DeAndre Smelter (RHP High School Georgia) at 33. Here is what he has to say about Cox and Washington.
"8. Houston Astros – LeVon Washington, OF, Chipola JC (FL) – Washington’s another player on the rise, as he’s got early first-round potential in both center field and at second base. He’s still got a great bat and excellent speed, and there’s thought that he could be a dominant leadoff hitter in a relatively short period of time when compared to other bats so young. He’s still got the Boras factor, but the word is that his asking price wasn’t ridiculous at all when the Rays failed to sign him in August. Their mistake. Previously: #14."
"8. Houston Astros – Zack Cox, 3B, Arkansas – Cox is the best draft-eligible sophomore in the 2010 class, and he’s arguably the best overall hitter in the entire class. A lefty in the box, he’s got plus power and hit tools, but he’s lacking a bit in the pitch recognition and plate discipline departments. The big question he’ll look to answer in the spring is whether he can stick at third base, as some see him as a first baseman with hard hands and below-average third base range. His arm is a plus, so I’d give him every chance to play at third as long as he’s hitting."
Jonathan Mayo over at mlb.com recently released his top 20 draft prospects.
1. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, LSU
2. Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Ole Miss
3. James Taillon, RHP, The Woodlands (HS), TX
4. Bryce Harper, C, College of Southern Nevada
5. Dylan Covey, RHP, Maranatha HS, Calif.
6. Chris Sale, LHP, Florida Gulf Coast University
7. Jesse Hahn, RHP, Virginia Tech
8. Zack Cox, 3B, Arkansas
9. Manny Machado, SS, Miami Brito HS, FLA
10. Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Cook County HS, Ga.
11. James Paxton, LHP, Kentucky
12. Deck McGuire, RHP, Georgia Tech
13. A.J. Cole, RHP, Oviedo HS, Fla.
14. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Grandview HS, Col.
15. Brandon Workman, RHP, Texas
16. LeVon Washington, 2B, Chipola JC, Fla.
17. Micah Gibbs, C, LSU
18. Stetson Allie, RHP, Olmstead Falls HS, Ohio
19. Christian Colon, SS, Cal State Fullerton
20. Yordy Cabrera, SS, Lakeland HS, Fla.
PGcrosschecker has the following top ten:
|1||Bryce Harper||C||Fr.||L-R||6-3||205||Southern Nevada||Las Vegas, Nev.||Never drafted||10/16/1992|
|2||Anthony Ranaudo||RHP||Jr.||R-R||6-7||230||Louisiana State||Jackson, N.J.||Rangers ’07 (11)||9/9/1989|
|3||Jameson Taillon||RHP||Sr.||R-R||6-6||225||The Woodlands||The Woodlands, Texas||Rice||11/18/1991|
|4||Drew Pomeranz||LHP||Jr.||R-L||6-5||235||Mississippi||Collierville, Tenn.||Rangers ’07 (12)||11/22/1988|
|5||A.J. Cole||RHP||Sr.||R-R||6-5||190||Oviedo||Winter Springs, Fla.||Miami||1/5/1992|
|6||Jesse Hahn||RHP||Jr.||R-R||6-5||190||Virginia Tech||Groton, Conn.||Never drafted||7/30/1989|
|7||Karsten Whitson||RHP||Sr.||R-R||6-4||190||Chipley||Chipley, Fla.||Florida||8/25/1991|
|8||Dylan Covey||RHP||Sr.||R-R||6-2||195||Maranatha||Pasadena, Calif.||San Diego||8/14/1991|
|9||Chris Sale||LHP||Jr.||L-L||6-5||175||Florida Gulf Coast||Lakeland, Fla.||Rockies ’07 (21)||3/30/1989|
|10||Brandon Workman||RHP||Jr.||R-R||6-5||220||Texas||Bowie, Texas||Phillies ’07 (3)||8/13/1988|
1. Bryce Harper, C, College of Southern Nevada
2. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, LSU
3. James Taillon, RHP, The Woodlands (HS), TX
4. Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Ole Miss
5. AJ Cole, RHP,Winter Springs(HS), Fla.
6.Jesse Hahn, RHP, Virginia Tech
7. Karsten Whitson RHP,Chipley (HS), Fla.
8. Dylan Covey, RHP, Maranatha HS, Calif.
9. Chris Sale, LHP, Florida Gulf Coast University
10. Brandon Workman, RHP, Texas
A couple thoughts about the current draft projections.
1. Unlike last year there doesn't appear to be a sure-fire number one pick. Right now Bryce Harper would be the consensus first pick, but it's no guarantee that he'll be there in 4 months. He'll get plenty of exposure the next few months on the juco circuit. It will be his to lose, but if he struggles I wouldn't be surpised to see the Nationals go with someone like Taillon. Harper's bonus demands may also cause him to slip. He has a lot of leverage and I forsee it taking 10-15 million to sign him.
2. There are not a lot of position players projected in the top half of the first round. Outside of Harper, Christian Colon (ss/2b Cal-Fullerton) and Zack Cox (3b) are college players with potential to be top ten picks. The rest of the top ten will probably be dominated by college and prep pitching.
3. I would say that right now. Harper, Tallion, Ranaudo, and Pomeranz are thought of as consensus top five picks. Harper and Ranaudo have hired Boras to represent them, so they might be the best candidates to drop because of bonus demands.
1. If a Harper, Ranaudo or Tallion drop to the 8th pick because of bonus demands, how will the Astros react? Will Heck have the green-light to spend 3-8 million if it means getting the best player available? Will the Astros pick a Boras client after the Beltran negotiations?
2. In the past two drafts Heck has gone with signable and need-based position player picks in the first round (ie. Castro over Smoak and then Mier in 09) and followed that up with projectable under the radar hs pitchers in the following rounds (Lyles and Buchue). I think it points out that signablity and organizational need have played a big role in their draft picks the last two years. What does that mean for this year?
3. Will the Astros overdraft someone safe and signable due to the cost of having three first round picks?
Someone players that, imo, fit the organization drafting philosophy who may be available when the Astros pick.
Zack Cox 3b Arkansas: power-hitting college corner infielder. Fills an organizational need and may be seen as a relatively safe pick with a low-floor. The cons are that he may cost more to sign due to being a draft-eligible sophmore and he has some contact problems that he'll need to improve(~27 K rate his freshman year).
Christian Colon SS Cal-Fullerton: Seen by some as the top college position player in the draft. Likely won't cost over slot and is seen as a relative safe pick due to a low floor projection. Plays the same position as Mier, but could move to 2b to fill that organizational need. Cons: coming off a leg injury this offseason and doesn't have the upside of some of the players who will be drafted around him.
Brandon Workman RHP Texas: Like this pick a lot more at 19 than 8 right now. Local college kid with good fastball curveball combo. Like the other college players above, he will be advanced due to playing big time college ball. Won't break the bank to sign him. Cons: Lack of a third pitch and questionable mechanics.
(Not so) Fun Fact: in 2007 the Astros lost their first two draft picks due to FA signings and then failed to sign 3 of their first 6 picks that year. Those three unsigned players will be draft eligible and are all looking like early round picks, with Bettis (rhp texas tech) and Eibner projected as first-round picks. What if...