Astros Draft Ramblings

Mike Stobe

Subber10 gives you a brief...err extended visit into this mind when he thinks about the 2013 Draft.

It seems so simple, the draft. It's just like schoolyard ball. You used to pick the fastest and the strongest and the one with the best arm. You left the little ones waiting for their names to be called. Yeah, you remember that red-headed, freckled kid who got picked last every time. It was so easy!

But, this isn't simple. There's projection and skill, risk with reward, signability and track records. It just goes on and on! That small, red-headed kid has grown up and is now the one some of us want. Yes, I'm talking about Clint Frazier.

See, back then, everything was boiled down to its most basic element. But one thing we have learned over the years is that nothing is that simple, and all of those basic decisions don't always pan out. Now, we understand that the draft is complex, filled with multiple factors and the decisions are that much more difficult.

So, bear with me as I allow you into my mind and share some of the things I've been pondering lately about the 2013 MLB Draft.

Topic 1: Oh, Sean Manaea. Our hopes were so alive with the 80 grade Not-Appel tool and your left-handedness. What happened to you? Your great showing in the Cape Cod League seems so long ago. But, I sit here pondering whether you're worth the shot of a 2.1 selection? Is Manaea the 40th best prospect in the draft class? I want to think so, but my mind keeps telling me no...but my body...MY BODY is telling....oh, sorry I must have drifted off into song for a second.

In all seriousness, where is the track record with Manaea? He was pretty good as a sophomore, but he faced poor competition. He wasn't drafted out of high school. He has a good frame but the stuff wasn't top notch. His mechanics are suspect at best.

Everything we all dreamed on was built out of a single summer. That sounds crazy right? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills! Don't get me wrong, he's still a good prospect. He can theoretically regain what he showed on the Cape, but what are the chances? What are the chances he falls to 2.1? Keith Law thinks it's possible. And, that's why I wonder if he's worth it. I just doubt he has the realistic upside.

Topic 2: Let's take a gander at what Justin Verlander is, in terms of stuff. The fastball, easily plus-plus. It had a value in 2012 of 13.76. That's just his four-seam fastball and his two-seam was 3.49. Then the curve was also plus-plus with 11.79 value. The changeup was above-average at 3.66 as well as the slider at 4.63.

Why bring up Verlander? Because Jonathan Gray is not Verlander-ish! (I'm not calling out any single person. I replied to a comment the other day and the individual wasn't actually saying he was so this isn't where this is coming from). It's the laziest and most inaccurate label you can pin on anyone. Just because he runs his fastball up to 100 like Verlander, doesn't make him Verlander-ish. Sure, Gray could have a plus-plus fastball. He could have a plus slider, you can even dream on a plus-plus slider (I'd call you crazy). Even if he does that. there is still a big difference between the two. That above-average changeup and the above-average second breaking ball. Gray doesn't have a curve and the changeup is at best an average pitch. That's what you'll dream on.

I won't get into Mark Appel as better Verlander-ish type, because it's an unfair comp still. I don't compare anyone to Verlander ... he's too good. Appel at least has the plus fastball, plus slider, and plus changeup. He's fiddled with a curve, but lacks separation from his slider, which has some slurviness.

Topic 3: What's the value of the floor in a high school prospect? You've seen our TCB staff e-mail exchanges, but you haven't seen mine and Anthony's. You still won't. I feel like Bugs Bunny saying "Aren't I a stinker?" But, I will clue you in on our most recent exchange. We discussed this one very recently, and we differ on it.

You draft a high school pitcher for his upside. Not his floor. Because his floor is that of a minor leaguer. Not much value in that. With a college player, a floor can be that of a quad-A player and that holds more value. There are college guys who come out, and you look at them and know they will at least spend at least a portion of multiple seasons in the majors. This is with early draft picks of course.

You can't say that with a high school pitcher. Even the highest of floors for a high schooler has significant risk. They may have the pure stuff of a major-leaguer, but the mentality that goes with it is so unreasonable for a high school kid to adopt. The control/command is huge, and learning to pitch is something you don't learn in high school. Understanding of the strike zone also doesn't exist in high school, and the skill to read breaking balls is undeveloped. Sure, there's some of all of that in high school, but nowhere near enough to evaluate with any degree of certainty.

So, I say, why value it at all? In the end it's the floor all the same of a minor leaguer. So, as I look at high schoolers, I'm highly concerned with their ceiling and what has to change for it to happen.

Topic 4: Is a weak draft worth getting cute? We've seen rumors about drafting a cheaper prospect to save money, Jonathan Gray and Colin Moran so we can save money for a signability risk later on. A. Gray's advisor is a former Scott Boras employee, so he's learned Boras' tricks. You think he'll work differently than Boras? But, not the point. B. Who for?

There just aren't any top 15 prospects who will need top 15 money to get at 2.1. This draft is very straight-forward. The signability risks are Kohl Stewart who won't drop that far because it looks like he'll go in the top 5. The others are projected to be drafted where they should be.

My point is that there really isn't a Lance McCullers or Rio Ruiz this year. If a player drops, it's because of his talent this year. This class is weak. And teams are going to get as much early talent as possible because talent will be in short supply later. Every pick is a drop off in talent that teams won't risk on an easier sign. The few rumored to be difficult signs are guys that if they're available at 2.1, they aren't anyone I'd risk the BPA at 1.1 to get. Kyle Serrano may be one of the hardest signs, and yeah, just draft somebody else. No offense, to Serrano. It's just I think there are comparable talents who won't carry a signability risk.

Topic 5: Have you ever been more prepared for the draft than this year? I know I haven't. I can't brag on the draft team enough this year. They've motivated me to put in more hard work in than ever. The quantity of the content is crazy this year. Hats off to these guys for doing everything I've asked of them and getting it done so quickly. And it's not just about volume. I would back the volume down if I felt we were sacrificing quality. But we aren't. The quality is top notch and every week I walk away more impressed with what they've done.

I mean it's not easy getting constant e-mails from me.

But, is it a bit disappointing that all this work has been put in for such a weak class? Not saying it's not worth it. It totally is. I just wish there was better talent this year.

Topic 6: Tim says that Jeff Luhnow trolled us all. Seriously! He brought Jim Crane along to see Colin Moran, and we all freaked out! We talked about this in the AMP last Sunday, but I wanted to put it in this format as well.

Our whole staff took a step back and decided it was time to revisit him as a 1.1 choice. Did our opinions of Moran change? Mine did some. But not to the extent that Luhnow's trolling lead me to believe it would. I stayed up until 1 a.m. watching Moran's game against North Carolina State, just trying to figure him out. It was one game and not the only thing I did to evaluate him with again. Fact is I put effort into it.

My point is how much weight do we put on rumors and what certain individuals do? Do we really consider that Crane saw Moran and nobody else? Do we consider that industry members think the Astros will save money with the first pick? Or, that Mark Appel in an Astros uniform would be a dream come true? Luhnow doesn't allow any true indications of their plans to leak. Jim Crane gives full control of baseball operations to Luhnow. Mark Appel clearly reconsiders his words that he knows Scott Boras wouldn't be happy with him saying. Do industry people really know the inner workings of the Astros? I mean, they're all in front of their computers not watching baseball anyway right? They're so different from everyone else in baseball if you listen to national media, so how can they understand what the Astros will do?

If you are still reading this, I applaud you. But this is what happens when I'm stuck on a couch with a laptop as my knee recovers from surgery (half joking of course).
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