The 2013 MLB Draft: Who Will The Astros Select Number One - April Edition

Kyle Laferriere-US PRESSWIRE

Talking about the Astros potential first pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. Jonathan Gray is flying up draft boards around the country, but has he passed Mark Appel yet?

It's that time again. Lets talk about the draft and whether or not Gray has surpassed Mark Appel yet.

Sean:

Gray has surpassed Appel in hype, but he hasn't passed in him the rankings...yet. They're close, but Appel still has the slight edge...for now.

Curtis:

They're close...so close. If the draft were tomorrow, I would still prefer Appel. But I would also be happy if we went with Gray.

Brooks:

I'll agree it's close. I think a lot of the Gray hype has to do with the negative connotation surrounding Appel because he's a senior, a Boras client, and he didn't sign last year. So, what I'm saying is that I get the sense a lot of people are searching for somebody to be better than Appel.

I still like Appel better. Cleaner mechanics and the big thing for me is that Appel uses his legs so much more than Gray. Gray has a better fastball but his secondaries are a tier lower than Appel. And honestly, I think when you start comparing the fastballs between the two, your splitting hairs. Appel is a mid-90's pitcher and that puts him in the upper levels of starting pitchers. Is a few extra ticks over a mid-90s fastball that much more important? I contend that it's not.

Chris:

Bryant Bryant Bryant Bryant Bryant. That is all.

Spencer:

I'm sticking with Appel, too. The difference in secondary stuff is too great. I do think Gray should be the surefire #2 pick, though.

I see this draft as having a clear top six. I don't know if everyone has the same view, but I just think there's a dropoff after Appel, Gray, Bryant, Frazier, Meadows and Denney.

Sean:

I I had to pick between the two who's arm is more likely to break down I would pick Gray.

If you look at his release point it's very inconsistent and tends to fly open to the first base side.

Appel on the other hand, has a very nice and easy delivery that is repeatable. I agree with Brooks, of the two Appel has the better mechanics.

Is there anyone else in the first pick discussion or any dark horse candidates? Yes, Chris we know, Kris Bryant.

Spencer:

Frazier, in my opinion, should be in the discussion. If he'll sign for Correa money, he could be seriously considered.

Jordan:

Appel is still my guy, by a hair. I still have a few concerns with Appel, like him not dominating until his senior year, his occasionally flat fastball, and the amount of innings he's pitched. Not o mention Scott Boras.

Gray is making a strong push and I suspect him to be number one of a bunch of people's board in six weeks. He throws effortless gas, and if he becomes more consistent with his release point, he can be a legit number two.

No one else is in the discussion talent-wise. Any other pick would be financially-based.

Brooks:

I think Frazier could be in the discussion. But, I don't think he'll sign for Correa money. Correa is a very rare case and the cultural differences is what I think allowed for such a low bonus. Why else would Buxton get so much more than him?

Anthony:

I do think that there are alternatives - I mean, would any of us be REALLY surprised if Luhnow took a Meadows, Denney, or Crawford? That said, I think it would be a clear overdraft if it was any of them. No matter how it worked out, it would have the feeling of taking an inferior talent to save money. And Luhnow doesn't seem the type to save money just to save money; he looks for value.

Appel has question marks, but everyone comes with question marks. To me, Gray has more *and* they're significantly greater questions. Bryant is a stud and I sure wouldn't hate having him, but the college pitching class this year is just too good to pass up.

Spencer:

I'd be really pissed if Crawford was the pick, I can say that. I like Meadows but I can't make the argument for him at 1.1 either. I do have a massive mancrush on Jon Denney though.

Anthony:

I have a well-documented mancrush on Denney, as well. In fact, I'm not sure that he won't end up being the best player in this draft, albeit with significantly more development than the other 1-1 candidates will require.

Spencer:

I think he might be the best contact hitter I've seen at the C position since Joe Mauer.

Brooks:

Ok, so I've been saying $6.5M gets it done for Appel and Jim Callis recently said $6-6.5M. Now, thats factoring in both a decrease (not absence of) in leverage and what is appropriate for his talent level along with Boras being in his corner.

What about Gray? I haven't seen a whole lot of talk about his signing bonus range. He's signable for sure, but for how much? He has a little more leverage with him being a junior. He has a similar talent level. We have no clue who he's being advised by.

Anthony:

Ahh signability, my favorite topic. I definitely think Appel can be had for less than slot, and I think the 6-6.5 number is completely reasonable. Let's remember, too, how high slot is this year. Boras and Luhnow have a good working relationship, we don't know who Gray's advisor is (or, at least, I don't), and Appel doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who's going to try the independent league route - which isn't a very solid route under the new CBA, anyway; especially since Miami looks to be the #1 overall in 2014 and there isn't likely to be an overslot deal there, with Beede and Rodon coming down the pipeline.

I agree with Brooks' previous statement that everyone's trying to find someone who isn't Appel, rather than simply acknowledging that Appel is the best player in this draft at this time. The signability questions also play into that. No one knows what happened with Pittsburgh last year. There have been rumors of what was offered, but nothing's been confirmed. And besides, we don't know that it was even about the money.

If I have any concern with Appel, it's the mileage on his arm. Some of his pitch counts have been bothersome, but his mechanics are solid and I'm not scared enough that I don't think he should be the 1-1 pick.

Brooks:

Another thing we can discuss.

Roger Clemens has been sent out to scout potential draft picks. A fair assumption is that he's scouting pitchers, most notably Appel and Gray. Who would he like? He's also known for being very smart when it comes to mechanics (Appel). He's also a big guy and probably likes pitchers that would be similar to him (Gray).

Anthony:

To divert that a little bit - one thing that interested me most about that story is that Manaea's name was still there, as well. Do we think there's any legitimacy to his name still being included?

I wondered, at one point, if the Appel/Gray showdown was going to drive down the price of Frazier/Meadows, and I still do wonder that. Those two have leverage on their side, in that they can go to college and probably be just fine. But they're never going to improve on a 1-1 pick, so there's no real reason to think that they wouldn't sign, and be cheaper than either Appel or Gray. Does anyone have any thoughts on that?

As far as Clemens goes, I suspect he'd like both Appel and Gray. I'm not really sure what having him scout them does for anything. Elias and Luhnow are going to have their own ideas and Clemens is just another voice in the mix, I suppose, but at the end of the day unless he sees a giant red flag, I don't think there's too much to that.

Clack:

I tend to agree with what many of the others have said with respect to Appel's advantage over Gray. That's not to say that perhaps the Astros might find a reason to prefer Gray. We heard that Roger Clemens will scout some of the 1-1 pitcher possibilities. That may or may not be an important input to Luhnow. But it would be interesting to know how he would view Gray vs. Appel. I don't have any reason to expect Gray to be a cheaper signing than Appel. Would Gray sign more quickly? Without knowing more about his agent and his expectations, I can't assume he is an easier sign. Gray turned down an over slot bonus from the Yankees to take his chances on college giving him a better opportunity. He made good on that risk, and I doubt that he would give up a lot of money to be a low cost 1-1 signing.

Chris:

Here's what concerns me about that. The Astros have approximately $12 million to spend (including the 5% overage) on their first 10 picks. The Nationals do not have a 1st round pick, and they have about $3 million for picks in rounds 2 through 10 (9 picks). http://www.baseballamerica.com/draft/draft-bonus-pools-rise-8-2-percent/

By that, it could be argued that the value of the Astros' 1-1 pick is close to $9 million, the difference between the Astros 10 picks and the Nats' 9 picks. It shouldn't be a linear scale, but if I'm Scott Boras, I'm definitely using that logic to maximize Appel's bonus money. I'd be shocked and stunned if Appel signs for only $6.5 M because Boras just doesn't operate at a discount if he thinks he can use any stretch of an argument to earn even more for his client. I could see him holding up negotiations, using that $9 million number or something close to it as his arguing point, which would prevent the Astros from spreading the rest of their top 10 bonus money. Additionally, Boras could argue that Appel was clearly the top choice last season and should never have dropped in the first place (who would gainsay him?). Eventually, he would be talked down from the $9 mil, but not by a lot, and it could be pretty late by that point to allocate the leftover funds.

Anthony:

So let's say you're Scott Boras and I'm Jeff Luhnow. All I'm going to do to counteract that is point out that I can get Austin Meadows for under 7 and have fun talking to the Cubs. And honestly, if that is the case? Then it's a non-starter to begin with. I don't think Luhnow has any trouble letting Mark Appel and Scott Boras be someone else's problem.

Glenn:

Amen what Chris said. Timely signing seems crucial to a draft strategy, and THAT is the leverage Boras would try to use. I realize that Boras frequently has the best clients and sooner or later you're gonna have to deal with him, but never underestimate his ability to make the negotiating process utterly untenable.

Amen what Chris said. Timely signing seems crucial to a draft strategy, and THAT is the leverage Boras would try to use. I realize that Boras frequently has the best clients and sooner or later you're gonna have to deal with him, but never underestimate his ability to make the negotiating process utterly untenable.

Chris:

Once the pick is made, the pick is made. If I'm Scott Boras, I'm arguing that Appel is the best player in the draft and making no promises at all about what he'd sign for. If he goes 1-1, I'm demanding big money. If he goes after 5, I'm demanding every penny of the bonus pool that the team has, just like he did last year.

I don't buy that Boras/Appel have less leverage. They have all the leverage in the world. If they decide that Appel is not signing for less than a given dollar amount, then they don't have to sign. Obviously, Appel can't go back to school, but if he can go to the independent leagues for a season and sign as a free agent after that, he'd probably double what he could get as a draft bonus. Sure, it's risky and delays the paycheck for another season, but it's a viable option that they could take. The team has a lot less leverage because if they don't sign the player, they don't get anybody.

Brooks:

Appel wouldn't be able to sign as a free agent. He has to re-enter the draft.

Anthony:

Correct. He might, conceivably, play independent ball for two years, but by then he's almost definitely a non-entity.

"It wasn't Scott Boras' decision," Appel said of returning to Stanford. "He's my advisor. He laid it out in a way that made sense. It was a conscious decision. I knew what I was getting myself into."
Appel also isn't worried his decision will haunt him in this year's draft should he receive a less lucrative offer.
"It's not all about money for me," the former Monte Vista High-Danville star said. "There are a lot of things I value greater than money. Money means a lot to a lot of people. It seems like a social status. I'm not defined by how much I earn or will earn."

Maybe that's spin, but that's what Appel said in February.

And here's what Boras said in December:


"When you make decisions like that in the draft, they’re huge decisions," Boras said tonight during a huddle with reporters at the winter meetings. "There was no communication with us (before the draft). We would’ve been happy to have given them an advance (notice) that they could’ve used their pick in (another) way. We certainly would’ve let them know we didn’t have a fit there. These players have options when you have that kind of talent. That was an unfortunate event for all of us."

Boras said he had concerns about the Navy SEALs-styled training techniques used by the Pirates. "The health and safety of players — and I’m talking about great players because Pittsburgh drafts very high — is important," Boras said. "If you’re a parent or a ballplayer, you make an analysis of what’s going on in every organization, as far as what they’re doing and what they’re committed to doing to preserve and advance the interests of the player. I think when you go to practices that are untested and that are certainly not the norm, it’s going to raise a level of concern. You want to be fair with every team, with how you evaluate them. But the benefits and detriments certainly need to be looked at." Boras paused and smiled. "My understanding is they decided to do away with the K-rations," he said.

Chris:

"These players have options when you have that kind of talent." That's the line that makes me really worry about taking Appel with the first pick.

Anthony:

lol I knew you were going to isolate that line!

Chris:

When I read quotes by Boras, my mind translates it to, "Blah blah blah blah it wasn't enough money blah blah blah blah blah." The line I quoted in my previous email was the only honest thing in the quote. The rest was just spin. (I don't blame him for that either - it's his job, and he's the best at it). Turning down millions from the Pirates because of their practice habits? Really? How bout just work it into his contract that he doesn't do push-ups and wants steak to eat?

Anthony:

Okay, so let's say it's about money. Mark Appel turned down $3.8m from the Pirates. Now we jump to $9m?

Chris:

Oh yes, Gerritt Cole is a Boras client. So I'm not buying the stuff about the Pirates' draconian practice habits. :)

I don't think Appel is worth a $9 million bonus. All I'm saying is, if I'm Boras, that's the number I'm starting with because there is an argument (not one that is valid, but one I'd definitely use) that that's the worth of the Astros 1-1 pick, compared to other teams' 2-10 picks.

Robert G:

Double the draft bonus? You're saying he could go pitch for the Skeeters for a year and then demand and receive a 15 million dollar signing bonus? I don't think that's too likely.....

Anthony:

Gerrit Cole was also given $8m to sign under an entirely different draft structure. Gerrit Cole is also not Mark Appel. What one feels comfortable doing is not what another feels comfortable doing.

If you'd like to paint Scott Boras as a villain who's going to leave to the independent leagues and take his Appel with him, I can't stop you. But you might as well never draft anyone from California ever again.

Jeff Luhnow has no doubt already reached out to Boras and, without discussing money specifically, asked if there's a fit. Boras isn't going to hijack a team's entire draft strategy over one guy, and Jeff Luhnow isn't going to let it get hijacked. He'll happily let it be Jed Hoyer's problem.

If I'm Jeff Luhnow and Scott Boras throws nine at me, I just say I'm going to sign the rest of my picks and get back to you with a number once I know what's left over. Either I end up with another top pick or I get Appel at a reasonable number. I'm fine with either.

I don't think Boras is a villain. I think he's just very, very good at his job. And his job is to make the absolutely most money (and in the best situation) for the players he represents. I have trouble believing that $6.5 million will be the best Boras can get for Appel. I don't think he'll get $9 million either. But I'm willing to bet that if he goes 1-1, the real number will be closer to $9 than $6.

Chris:

I don't think Boras is a villain. I think he's just very, very good at his job. And his job is to make the absolutely most money (and in the best situation) for the players he represents. I have trouble believing that $6.5 million will be the best Boras can get for Appel. I don't think he'll get $9 million either. But I'm willing to bet that if he goes 1-1, the real number will be closer to $9 than $6.

Anthony:

I've got bad news for you. He advises a whole lot more clients than just Mark Appel.

Brooks:

"not one that is valid" That's the point. Luhnow knows that it's not valid. Boras knows it's not valid. He's a hard negotiator, but he's not stupid. He knows what a player is worth. He is very intelligent and understands the rules and how teams are affected by the rules. He also knows how teams value the age of a player in negotiations with amateur contracts. With every passing year, Appel is a little bit older and has a little bit more wear on his arm with less professional coaching. That alone is leverage. Boras knows that. Boras also know he has to re-enter the draft next year as a 23 year old is not good. Nobody is going to give him overslot. And, if he spurns another team, Appel is going to be passed again because teams won't want to deal with that next year. That is more leverage for the Astros.

Does Appel have options? Of course, all players have options. But, are they more attractive? Not at all. Appel is smart. Boras is smart. A 6.5M signing bonus is a win to them because they took the risk and went back to Stanford and came out on top.

Nobody said he doesn't have leverage. But his leverage is less than last year.

Chris:

I hope you guys are right. Lord knows the Astros could use a top-notch pitching prospect (do they have any at this point? I'd love to say McCullers, but he's sooooooo far away) to be mentioned in the same breath as guys like Cole, Bundy, Walker, etc. When's the last time the Astros had a guy like that? It's not worth really debating anymore since we're all pretty clear on our opinions on Appel's signing number. Just pencil me down as thinking he'll go closer to $7.5 or $8 million if the Astros take him first.

Brooks:

One more caveat to what he does: He gets those bonus' and contracts within reason of the club. He doesn't hamstring teams. He doesn't screw front offices over. The "reputation" of Boras has gotten more and more exaggerated every year. He typically gets the most money for a players talent level. If a players level of talent doesn't dictate a number he doesn't hold out for it. He's not Strasburg where he gets what he wants.

Anthony:

This is sort of the thing, too. We think Mark Appel is a known commodity because of what happened with Pittsburgh -- but all we know is that he turned down $3.8m. I would turn down $3.8, too. I suspect we all would. Whether or not it's about the money, that's not very much.

For all we know, Appel will end up being the advisor for all six guys the Astros are looking at (I honestly have no idea who advises whom, or where to get that information.) Sure, he could play the same game with all of them, but it's unlikely. We're putting it on Appel because he turned down the Pirates' measly offer, but we're not putting it on anyone else.

Chris:

I don't think I"d be happy if Appel advised all of the Astros' draft picks ;)

So....Kris Bryant? lol.

Brooks:

BINGO, Anthony!

Let's be honest, Appel is all but guaranteed to receive a higher bonus this year AND a chance to do it with a CWS ring.

If I'm Appel, I'm sleeping very well at night with my decision to go back to Stanford.

Do we know who Bryant's adviser is? =P

Anthony:

All I know is that Boras advises a lot of California kids, sooo...

Brooks:

Kris Bryant plays for a school in California right? =P

Chris:

According to LinkedIn, Kris Bryant actually IS an adviser. For the Social Security Administration.

I'm so confused.

Brooks:

I bet he has connections with Aaron West and his FBI friends.

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