Friday's Three Astros Things

Bob Levey

Talking about age and the draft, clubhouse culture and high school baseball national rankings..

Some things to talk about while I see how long I could go without writing anything and no one noticing. Seriously, great job lately on the site by everyone who is not me. Tim's March Madness is growing strong, the minor league guys' draft profiles are great, those major league previews are dropping regularly and now we have a beer guy. If I were George Costanza, I'd be going out on top right now...

1) Draft thoughts

A confluence of events got me thinking about this year's draft. First off, we had a recent email discussion about the 1-1 pick that should be dropping soon, which is not really a confluence so much as a big flashing neon sign telling me to think about it.

But, none of my thoughts had really solidified until I read this Richard Justice profile on Jeff Luhnow. It's excellent (Richie still has his fastball) with some insight into how Luhnow has built his front office. You know what stuck out immediately?

"My approach was that analytics has very little to do with it except for the fact you can study the market, understand what types of players have been successful. Are there common characteristics among those players that have been successful? Have they been signed at 16, 17, 18? Do they tend to be corner outfielders from the Dominican, shortstops from Venezuela?

That's Luhnow talking about how analytics influence scouting, obvs. Notice the focus on age?

Tie that back into the selection they made at the top of the 2012 draft. That one, too, took us by surprise. We assume the Astros drafted and signed Carlos Correa because he agreed to a lesser deal, which saved Houston enough money to sign McCullers, Ruiz, etc.

What if his age had a big part of that selection, too? We covered this last summer, but Correa is still younger than other top high school prospects headed into the 2013 draft. Kohl Stewart? Correa is younger. Clint Frazier? Correa is younger.

That has very obvious advantages. He's getting a year more of time in pro ball to learn how to become a productive major leaguer. He then gets to the majors at a younger age and provides more big league value for his team. He's got more time until his peak kicks in, too.

Age itself won't be a major deciding factor for picking one prospect over another, but it could be if there is a group of eight prospects grouped together at the top of a draft (like this one). How does that apply to this draft?

Well, let's take the cases of third baseman Trey Williams and high school outfielder Clint Frazier. Did you know that Williams, who was eligible for the 2012 draft and ended up at the College of the Canyons Junior College this season, is only half a year older than Frazier while playing at a higher competitive level. If the Astros are looking at those two prospects and they have the two rated similarly on tools, does Frazier's age take precedence or does Williams' age plus experience at a higher level?

Another good example of this is Austin Wilson, as seen through the profile of John Klima. You know my love of Klima's analysis, but I was really interested with his criticism of Wilson, specifically how he should have signed earlier and got into the Cardinals system.

The younger a team can get a player into its system, the faster it can get to work in correcting bad habits, developing good ones and teaching them how to excel as they move through the minors. With the changes in Houston's minor league system, I'd certainly be more excited about getting a very young player into the minors now rather than an older player like Wilson who has to unlearn some stuff or break some habits.

That's some of the biggest reasons why I'm not going to put Mark Appel at the top of my draft board any time soon. I'm also not crazy about Manaea, but for general reasons of not liking college pitchers. It's also why I've cooled on Frazier a little and moved Justin Williams up a bit, even with his scouting drawbacks (Justin is one of the youngest prospects in this high school class).

If Appel, Manaea, Stanek or any number of players prove themselves to be much better than the competition in the next few months, age won't matter. But, if they're all bunched together like they are now, our little bit of evidence suggests age will play a factor in Luhnow's decision.

2) Clubhouse culture

MLB.com is on a roll with articles lately, as Matthew Leach has a great one about the Tampa Bay Rays and how they're new market inefficiency is players with some baggage. Guys like Luke Scott or Yunel Escobar have depressed markets because of their off-the-field stuff. Doesn't faze Andrew Friedman.

"Over the last few years, we've definitely taken some calculated risks," Friedman said. "And we're much more comfortable taking them now than we probably were in '07, just having more of a developed culture. So we go through things very methodically in great detail. And there have been guys we have determined wouldn't necessarily fit in, and others that we feel like the reward far outweighs the risk. And those are the moves we've made or at least attempted to make."

Doesn't this give more significance to Bo Porter's comments on developing an Astros Way? And maybe explains why they didn't take more risks on signing free agents, raising the payroll this year with marginal players?

Maybe this team needed to establish its culture first before taking chances on Delmon Young's of the world. I like that theory a lot and it gives me more peace with how this offseason went down. Trust in the Astros Way.

3) TWHS gets national attention

I'm trying to keep this short, since my first item went way longer than I expected. At any rate, apparently one of the best high schools in the Houston area (a.k.a. my alma mater) is one of the top-ranked teams in the nation. Oh, and they just had two pitchers throw no-hitters in the past week:

Righthander Carter Hope, who is committed to Oklahoma State, took the hill for the first time in his high school career last week and no-hit Klein Collins High (Spring, Texas), a perennial power in the Houston area. Hope pitched a complete game, striking out nine and walking just one.

Against Houston's Clear Lake High on Feb. 26, lefty Ryan Burnett, a Texas Christian recruit, fired a no-hitter of his own.

It doesn't look like any of them are going to be great draft prospects, but it's cool to see a Houston high school getting some national attention.

If you know of any good stories going on in the prep ranks around Houston right now, let us know.

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