Now that several years have passed since Ed Wade was the Astros' GM, we can begin to evaluate the success of the minor league drafts that were under his leadership.
The analysis of each draft here is based primarily on the results and potential results, and only remotely on the decision-making process at the time. In other words, we are using the advantage of hindsight to see how well the decisions have paid off.
An interesting question that is difficult to measure is: how much of the success (or lack thereof) of a specific player should be credited to Wade's original draft team, and how much should be credited to the coaches and player development crew (see for instance Christopher Lee's steps forward this year or Jordan Lyles' seemingly stalled progress in the last couple of years).
I am only counting as successes players that the Astros actually signed. I'm giving credit for a pick even if the player is no longer with the team. I will use WAR (wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference) as a rough summary of major league value so far.
Without further ado, here are evaluations and grades for the 2008-2011 drafts.
Jason Castro was a nice choice for the Astros at pick 10. With his breakout year this season he now has a total of 5.6 WAR for his career. Other college picks right after Castro were Justin Smoak, Jemile Weeks, Brett Wallace, David Cooper, and Ike Davis. Castro fares well in both current and anticipated future value when compared to that group.
Lyles has been a bit of a disappointment in the major leagues, after a strong and quick move through the minors. There is still hope that he will figure things out though. I'm optimistically grading this as a mild success, despite the current -2.7 WAR for his career.
Of the 2nd-5th rounders who signed, none really even came close to contributing at the MLB level - unless you still hold out hope for Seaton.
Shuck (0.9 WAR) had a solid year for the Angels. He could be a useful 4th outfielder for a few years, though his complete lack of power will be a major limitation for him.
Luis Cruz is a long-shot, but as a lefty he could sneak his way onto a major league roster at some point. Garcia has some potential to be a competent backup catcher, though his bat is not yet major league ready.
Overall grade: B, mostly on the strength of Castro.
The first five rounds have been a disaster - not much debate about that. I don't see much of a major league future for Mier, Meyer, or Nash. Other high school position players chosen in the first round after Mier were Nick Franklin, and of course, Mike Trout. Ouch.
Keuchel (-0.2 WAR) is the best hope moving forward. He took some steps in the right direction this year and may stick around as back-end starter or long-reliever for a few years. The three college hitters (Castro, Goebbert, Martinez) have very low ceilings at this point (and J.D. is -1.4 WAR after over 2 major league seasons). Hernandez is similar to Mier and Meyer - if all goes well, he could end up being a utility infielder with the major league club.
Overall grade: D. And that might be generous.
Deshields and Foltynewicz are top prospects who could really pay off as picks. Velasquez is beginning to enter the top-100 prospect conversation too. If just one of those three could become a major league regular, this would be a solid draft. Wates and Doran have a chance to make a small contribution at some point.
Some analysts thought that Deshields was an overdraft at the time, but looking back at the list, Deshields fares pretty well. Only Chris Sale, a college pitcher and thus in a much different category from Deshields, stands out as a great find later in the first round. If I recall correctly there was some thought/hope that the Astros would pick the other Sale - Josh. I'm glad we got Deshields instead.
Of the later picks, Pena could become a back-up catcher, though he has a ways to go. Sogard or Buchanan might emerge as a bullpen piece, though a number of other pitchers in the system are more promising. The other late round picks are even greater long-shots at this point.
Overall grade: B/B+.
Later picks: Brandon Meredith (6), Jonas Dufek (9), Matt Duffy (20), Chris Epps (45).
This draft is looking very strong at the top. Springer could be a cornerstone of the franchise moving forward. Houser and Lee are slow movers but showing signs of potential. If all goes well, Tropeano could be a middle of rotation or back of rotation starter.
Springer was picked before Jose Fernandez, but the Astros weren't really looking for a high school pitcher. Jungmann and Barnes were college pitchers that were possible picks for the Astros, but I don't remember Sonny Gray, another big breakout, being much on the radar at that time. There was a lot of talent in the first round that year, but I think we did well to pick Springer at that spot.
One of the later picks just might contribute at some point. Dufek in particular is a reliever to keep an eye on after a strong finish at Corpus this year.
Overall grade: B+/A-.
That makes 3 out of 4 pretty strong drafts, at least from how it looks right now. That's not bad for Wade and Heck and company.