It all comes down to this.
Within hours, we'll finally learn the answer to the question we've been asking since sometime in the middle of last season. Who will Houston take with the No. 1 pick?
We've heard rumors, we've heard reports, but Houston's front office has kept everything pretty tight-lipped. Keith Law called Jeff Luhnow recently and got pumped for more info than Luhnow gave up. That's how they're playing this thing, and it sounds like that's because there is no consensus guy at the top of this draft.
So, in the spirit of that, we'll not only break down the top guys who are in the running, but we'll also try to handicap the field a bit with the odds a certain guy will get picked.
Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford - 35 percent
I know, I know. I'm on record multiple times as not liking this pick. That doesn't mean I think it's not going to happen. With all the signals and rumors and projections linking him to Houston, it seems that Appel may just be that guy. And I'll have to get over it and start thinking of him as the best starting pitcher in the system (which he will be). I'll get over his flaws and start the countdown to when we see him in Houston.
Byron Buxton, OF, Georgia HS - 33 percent
You know all about him, why he's talented and why Houston should pick him. Will he supplant Appel for that top spot? Well, if we parse Jeff Luhnow's draft press conference carefully, he said Houston is looking for a MVP-type talent at that spot. Most MVPs aren't pitchers, which leads you to suspect it'll be a position guy. On the other hand, all this emphasis on stats and projections may hurt a high school guy, since they're historically less likely to pan out.
Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico - 12 percent
Where there is smoke, there must be fire. After a pre-draft workout really wowed Houston, Correa has seen his name popping up in this discussion. The polished, 17-year old shortstop may have to move to third eventuall, but it won't be soon. He also might have a better bat that Buxton, and he plays a more premium position. Is there time for him to overcome the top two names on this list?
Lucas Giolito, RHP, California HS - 10 percent
Everyone loves a dark horse. Seems Houston might as well, since Giolito was one of five names Keith Law pushed in his latest mock as guys Houston was considering. The righty is an interesting choice for many reasons, as he could turn out to be the best, highest-upsided pitcher in this draft, but his injury may have scared teams away. I almost get the sense that Houston would trade down a bit if they could to take him in a more reasonable spot...but trades aren't allowed in the MLB draft. Boo.
Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU - 4 percent
He's been named as one of the five in the running. I think this front office may view him as the safest college arm of the top three, and might go that way if they lean towards the polished guy who can make it to the big leagues quickly. Plus, he's a year younger than Appel, which makes a difference in the draft.
Mike Zunino, C, Florida - 4 percent
If you believe Houston will weight past performance more heavily in its evaluation, then Zunino is the guy. He's struggled some in SEC play, which is why he's fallen so far on this list. Still, the tools are all there for him to be an All-Star catcher if he pans out (b/c it doesn't take much of a bat to hit enough to be an AS).
Kyle Zimmer, RHP, San Francisco - 1 percent
A late season injury dropped his stock just enough to take him out of the running here. When he came back from a hamstring injury, his breaking stuff didn't have the same snap and his control suffered. That has made teams at the tippy top more wary of him. Still plenty of people who think he can be a front-line starter, though.
Albert Almora, OF, Florida HS - 1 percent
I don't expect Almora has even that much of a chance, but I do like him, specifically because I think he's got the best chance of being a very good position player for years to come. Buxton and Correa may have more upside, but I feel better about Almora. Which is why I'm not in a position to draft players, I guess.
Here's who the TCB crew thinks will go 1-1:
David - Buxton
Tim - Appel
Sean - Buxton
Subber - Correa
Busta - Appel
WTHB - Buxton
CRPerry - Buxton
conroestro - Appel
AstroBrit - Zimmer
clack - Appel