Would You like a 2012 Draft Do-Over?

Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE

Whenever there's a discussion in the TCB email, it grows into more than that. Here is our ramblings from Buxton vs. Correa to how statistics should be used for evaluation.

Not the whole draft, just that 1.1 pick in which the Astros drafted Carlos Correa over the likes of Byron Buxton, Mike Zunino, and Kevin Gausman. Those are the two prospects that seem to be creating the most buzz surrounding the results of the draft and have at least a few Astros fans questioning Jeff Luhnow and former Scouting Director, Bobby Heck's decision to trump consensus and take Correa.

This was a topic that I was planning on covering this coming Sunday on The AMP with Anthony and Tim, but after a thirty email discussion among the TCB staff, I had to put it into article form. By no mean, do any of us indicate that Correa is a bust or not a good prospect. But, it does create for good discussion as we approach the 2013 draft and look back on 2012.

Note: Order of emails based on content and relevance to the specific topic, not order at which emails were written.

CRPerry13

I still am excited to see what Carlos Correa can do...but with Buxton raking, Zunino already in AAA (though struggling), and Kevin Gausman starting for Baltimore tomorrow....it kinda sucks we have to wait a zillion years to see if Correa pans out.

Tim

Still have to wait to see if Buxton pans out...

Brooks

Correa is 9 months younger and making a larger step in competition than Buxton (outside of last season) as well as handling some injuries. He still has a .373 wOBA while being one of the youngest players in low-A and playing a more premium position than Buxton. I've got no concerns.

CRPerry13

I'm not concerned either. I just said it's a bummer to see all 3 of the guys taken behind him having so much quick success.

Tim

Jeter didn't have his first .800 OPS season until the age of 20. Even if he continues to struggle it doesn't necessarily mean the Astros made the wrong pick.

AGirlintheSouth

And let's not forget that the right pick on Monday can be the wrong pick by Wednesday. This isn't a science, it's an art. There are no guarantees.

With that said, patience with a teenager goes a LONG way. He's still changing physically with great regularity and every time it does he has to make adjustments.

I don't worry about a guy figuring it out in low-A. I worry about a guy who never figures it and and can't get to AA.

Sean

Just to be clear. I'm not saying the Astros made a bad pick or the wrong pick with Correa. I still think Correa was a great pick for the Astros.

Your always going to have scrutiny when you take a lower floor/higher ceiling guy. We all knew that Zunino and Gausman would fly through the minors. The fact that Gausman is up is a sign that the Orioles are exploring every avenue prior to the trade market.

Clack

It’s impossible to draw conclusions on 160 PA of a player’s first appearance in A-ball. Certainly the performance is encouraging for Correa and Buxton, given their age. But the stats are less predictive at this point than the subjective scouting impressions. I happened to look at Bubba Starling’s minor league stats, since he was compared by some as similar to Buxton, as a high school prospect, before the draft last year. Starling was in EST his first year, had an .856 OPS last year in rookie ball, and in 140 or so PA in A ball (Lexington) this year, has a .215, .284, .356, .639 slash line. I was surprised that a writer at Royals Review already placed him on the "1st round bust" list. It seems a little early to say that, doesn’t it? That said, it may not help people’s perception that the Royals are pulling him off of the team to see if can get LASIK surgery. That follows a B-Pro scouting report that Starling lacks the automatic pitching recognition skills of players who were primarily high school baseball players rather than multi-sport stars. Nothing to this point...just another example of prospect uncertainty.

Brooks

Starling was a huge risk coming out of HS and Tim and I got to see him last year in our trip to Greeneville. He's a freak athlete but he looks bad at the plate. He just can't seem to recognize a pitch to save his life

kyuss94

And his swing is an absolute train wreck.

Clack

Would you prefer the George Springer pick to Starling, even though Starling went higher? At this point, I would rather have Springer in the Astros’ oganization (though I could be proven wrong five years from now).

kyuss94

To me it's an absolute no brainer that Springer is a better prospect right now.

There are some really good points that have been made at this point during the discussion and it's been made clear that nobody is holding anything against the pick or Correa himself. In fact, it brought home the idea that there is risk with young prospects as shown by a prospect like Bubba Starling, and that one season is just not enough information to draw any conclusions.

However, the discussion did switch gears and into a more applicable talk to the Astros current situation.

CRPerry13

I think Correa was a great pick too. But Gausman is an argument for Appel this season, the way I see it.

Note: Chris is on record as saying this. It's not a fabrication!

Tim

I don't think the Astros would rush Appel through the minors to make his debut next year.

Brooks

Is letting a ML ready pitcher like Appel pitch in the majors next year rushing him? He's one of the most advanced pitchers to come out of the draft in recent years. I'd say he's easily more advanced than Stephen Strasburg was (he's not as good as Strasburg, don't get that confused).

Anthony Boyer

I think Chris was just bemoaning the "fun" factor, and I agree with him. Whether or not it's best for the organization, it's still fun to have guys flying through the ranks. With Correa, Lance McCullers, and Rui Ruiz all being different kinds of "a long way to go," it would be nice to get a college guy into the system this year.

CRPerry13

Yes, Anthony, exactly. I also think the way the upper minors are starting to look, a good fast-moving college player (whether it be Appel or Bryant) would reach the Astros around the same time as guys like Foltynewicz, Tropeano, Villar, and Springer, and Singleton. Back to relevance and excitement that much quicker.

I think this is the real root of the discussion as the draft draws near. Is there value in early returns? What impact does the rebuilding timeline have on the draft strategy. I don't think it does, but it is something worth discussing.

Brooks

I've been battling with that argument since the last draft. People keep making the argument that a HS prospect fits the rebuild better. How? A college guy reaches the same time as the next wave of big prospects (like you said with Singleton, Springer, Folty, and Trope). Instead, a HS prospect reaches after Correa/LMJ/Ruiz and when players like Singleton/Folty, Springer ect are beginning to be arbitration eligible and starting to get expensive.

Kyuss94

I still think Correa was the best prospect in that draft class. Baltimore didn't have to wait a long time to see Manny Machado rake, and Correa is just as good a prospect as he was, Correa was just younger when drafted

Now, the conversation turns to evaluation of statistics across various levels. This is a very gray area in prospect evaluation as everyone puts a little bit different weight on statistics. For example, Tim is very stats heavy and I'm heavier on scouting in the low minors and amateur prospecting. So, at what point do stats become relevant?

wgr56

Two things:


1) I love the Correa pick and I'm not bummed at all about Buxton. One other thing about the two that hasn't been mentioned -- and I'm not even sure how significant it is -- but Correa seems more likely to become a face-of-the-franchise type of player. From the very first day, he came across as intelligent and polished … a young man who's not afraid of the spotlight. His interview was a stark contrast to Buxton. I think both will be good players, but Correa has "presence" that you can't teach.

2) Concerning minor league numbers, I also agree that you can't get too high or low about statistics in the low minors. But it makes no sense to me why it seems perfectly acceptable to draft baseball players based on the type of season they are having as high school or college seniors. Either the numbers matter or they don't, and I can't understand how you can have it both ways.

Anthony Boyer

It never makes sense to draft anyone based on high school numbers, and I'm not sure anyone has ever done that in the history of the MLB Draft.


College numbers are a littttlllle different, but not much. They're about as important as A-Ball numbers, actually. We like to talk about college statistics, but ultimately (and Chris and I have discussed this privately in some depth), they're not really any more relevant than A-Ball numbers. That said, there are some indicators of success, even in college numbers. But they're not things that are likely to show up on the box score. Ultimately, though, so much at this level is about scouting, not about stats.

One different I will point out between college and A-Ball is that in college, kids are often playing baseball. They're competing to win games. In A-Ball, many of them are breaking down their game and focusing on certain aspects of it. Stripping themselves down and rebuilding. So it's actually probably a less telling level, statistically, than college.

Clack

My point was mainly about small sample size (though the SSS is compounded by the low level); almost anything can happen in 160 PA. I don’t know of many of the prospect people around here who rely on high school stats. I’m not a prospect guru, like others here, but I don’t pay much attention to high school stats. College stats may mean a little more, because the sample size may be larger and the competition is better. Figuring out how the level of college competition translates to professional ball must be a bitch. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the Astros’ front office has data that attempts to makes the adjustments for college stats.

Brooks

College stats have some weight, and i'm not sure I agree they are as valuable as low-A stats. You have a very large amount of variance in college, as illustrated by the number of home runs that Bryant has hit off of freshman. I saw a college pitcher throw in the low 80's with a fastball the other night...and he wasn't a knuckle baller. You don't even see that in the low minors.

College stats are an indicator of the type of player they can potentially be. However, you have to analyze the stats on a much deeper level than you can with low minor or other minor league stats which can be taken more at face value.

For example, there are college pitchers who rack up tons of strikeouts with one pitch. That doesn't mean they will be a front line starter. Look at Tommy Shirley and all the strikeouts he got a few years back at Tri-City with a fastball. That's more common in college. You have to consider the pitchers repertoire, control, command, and level of competition to determine the relevance of the numbers. Then for hitters, you have to consider swing path, discipline, quality of batters around him because college coaches actually do pitch around hitters, and quality of competition. Not all college stats, even the same stats are created equal like they are in pro ball.

Anthony Boyer

By that same token, I was doing my Adam Plutko draft profile. Like his former UCLA rotation-mate, Trevor Bauer, Plutko pitches up in the zone and tries to induce flyballs. What's particularly interesting about that is that that is a tactic which seems to work well in amateur ball. I came across this study in my research: http://www.drivelinebaseball.com/2012/05/14/locating-up-in-the-zone-better-for-amateurrecreational-pitchers/


It plays into something I talk about a lot, which is the lack of elite infield defense in the low minors and college ball. Whereas major league hitters will get more flyballs out of the park than college hitters, major league infielders will also convert more groundballs into outs than college infielders.

What I meant when I compared college to A-ball was this... it's anecdotal, but I remember watching a very young Homer Bailey pitch in Dayton. He was highly-touted at the time, but he got absolutely shelled. He threw a curveball, it got hit a long way, and he threw another curveball, which got hit hard. Then he threw a changeup, which also got drilled.

I talked to his pitching coach after the game, who told me, basically: "We know his fastball works. His fastball gets people out. That's not going to work in the major leagues. He needs to develop his offspeed stuff."

That's what I mean when I say that they're not always straight-up playing baseball in the low minors. They're often focusing on one very small part of their game at a time.

There are a lot of different points of view throughout this discussion, but it brings to light a lot of information that is very relevant to not only prospect evaluation in the present, but also the draft. This is a major focus for the Astros right now during their rebuilding years and something that requires attention.

I don't think we ever really answered in a straight forward way if we would take Zunino, Appel, Gausman, or Buxton over Correa, but I think it's presumable that none of us would at this point. There's just no where near enough information to do so at this point.

But, given everything we just laid out, does your thinking change on how to approach the draft? Does it make you want the college player more than the high upside prospect so you can have the "fun" factor? Do you use collegiate statistics to determine if a prospect is worth their weight in salt?

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