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

Could Jonathan Gray be baseball's David Carr? - Jim Rogash

A little bit of everything in our final edition of the monthly discussion about who the Astros will select number one over. We cover everyone associated with the first selection, NFL comparisons and developmental staff.

This will be our final discussion on who the Astros will select number one with the first pick in the 2013 MLB Draft.


So with the draft heating up how are you feeling about either Jonathan Gray or Mark Appel? Those two seem to be the consensus top picks. I mean Jeff Luhnow would never ever, ever, ever, deviate from consensus right?....right?

Brooks:

I'm sold on Appel. 100% sold on him. I'm not anywhere near sold on Gray though. He has two pitches. I mean they are two really good pitches, but how many top of the rotation arms do you know of that have just two pitches? Sure he has a changeup but it's an average pitch at best, and we've several changeups that do very well in amateur ball and even low minors that grade out to be average and are in reality bad pitches.

Kris Bryant is the one we should be talking about as the second possibility, in my opinion.

Anthony:

My crisis of faith this morning notwithstanding, I feel very confident in Appel over Gray. To me, Gray is a distraction. If there's anyone else I'd be comfortable with, it would be Bryant or (maybe) even Frazier.

Chris:

Agreed re: Gray. If they are taking a pitcher, why wouldn't they take the best one? Oh, and Appel is a Houston guy. That's a marketing angle even this front office can't screw up. More fun to argue about Bryant, Frazier, or Moran vs. Appel.

Spencer:

Appel is the #1 prospect, I'm tempted to rank Kohl Stewart over Gray a bit these days, too. I haven't been the biggest Kohl fan in the past, but I've been watching more video of him and I am really coming around on him. I like Gray, but he's a one trick pony. I liked Kevin Gausman a lot and still do, but the fact of the matter is, you don't take a fastball at 1.1. You take a pitcher. Gausman can turn into a #2 with two pitches, I have no doubt, and Gray can do the same, but Appel can be an ace. Stewart can be an ace, too. I'm not sure that Gray can. Plus, I worry that his velocity is perishable since it comes primarily from arm speed which can decrease with age. Bryant is a legitimate candidate, but he's a punt. He's the Eric Fisher of this class, to continue with my NFL draft parallels. Appel is Dion Jordan, Gray is Jarvis Jones, and Stewart is Barkevious Mingo. Make of that what you will. For the record, I didn't consider Mingo a reach at 6 in the slightest.

So lets argue Bryan, Frazier and Moran vs. Appel. Frazier is the only up the middle guy correct?

Spencer:

Frazier may not be an up the middle guy but I think he has a shot. Frazier is my favorite of the three. He and Stewart are the main two that appeal to me over Appel, huge upside for both of them. They're the only two that have upside that matches Mark's.

Anthony:

Agreed on Frazier. As we discussed on the podcast, the fact that he's pretty much developed physically may actually be a positive in his case. We know what we're getting from him, physically. Whether or not that is a center fielder may be a matter of debate, but I believe he can play there. If he can't, we're still talking about a good corner outfield prospect.

And now we get sidetracked by NFL comparisons

Chris:

More like Bryant is Peyton Manning and Appel is Ryan Leaf. ;)

Anthony:

Matt Bush is Ryan Leaf. San Diego sports teams sure do know how to blow a #1 pick.

Spencer:

Tim Beckham is Akili Smith

Brooks:

C'mon give it a Houston Texans feel!

Jonathan Gray is David Carr!

Anthony:

At least we're in the era of football I followed.

Chris:

Actually, Brooks, I like that comp. Over-hyped guy with one or two tools.

Anthony:

And no offensive line.

Chris:

Some people find his mechanics to be pretty offensive.

Getting back on track

Robert G:

For me now, the discussion is down to 3. Appel, Bryant and Stewart.

AB, have you seen the story that ran on our local ABC13 on Kohl? I know you're in Cali, but maybe someone told you about it? In the story, a scout was interviewed (his name was not given), and his thoughts were given in the story. Among the things that he said was that Kohl Stewart was better RIGHT NOW, than ANY pitcher currently in college, and has a chance to be in the majors in as little as 2 YEARS! Blew me away......I hate the idea of anonymous scouts though.

Anthony:

I've been around enough scouts to know that they tend to get really effusive when they like a guy. Stewart's talent is legit. I just don't want it at first overall.

Yes, I would've missed on Clayton Kershaw. And to be honest, I would've been okay with it.

Curtis:

This has been said already but 1.1 comes down to Appel, Bryant and Gray in that order for me. I'm not down on Gray, in fact I think he can be a very dominant major league pitcher. But Appel is still the better choice. Longer track record of success and three pitches that can be dominant right now as opposed to Gray's two. Bryant is a guy I'd be happy with as well. I came thisclose to taking him in our mock 2.0 and I love the idea of a lineup of him and our other hitting prospects who are close to the majors. Frazier comes in as the darkhorse, I like him a lot but I simply prefer a college guy this year.

Sean:

I'll be honest. On draft day, I'd be happy with Appel, Bryant, Gray, or Frazier.

Curtis:

You could definitely talk me into all four of those guys.

Ryan:

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:7988727

Robert G:

I totally respect that. Here's the thing. Let's say the chance that Kohl Stewart ends up being Clayton Kershaw is 20 %. And the chance that Marc Appel ends up being Kershaw is 3 %. Is that a good enough reason to take the chance?

Very likable young man.

Chris:

No. Because Kohl Stewart has a 50% chance to not make the majors at all, historically speaking. And Appel has a 10% chance of not making the majors. That's more than an equalizer.

How much trust or how much do you factor in the Astros developmental staff when looking at potential draftees?

Brooks:

Like Anthony said, area scouts will say some very bold statements like that because it benefits them. They get a bonus for signing them if their organization drafts and signs them. They are also area scouts. When you have crosscheckers, scouting directors and GM's saying that, I'll take notice.

I'm with others that he's grown on me some, but I can't say I'm that high on him. There is absolutely no way that Kohl Stewart is a better current pitcher in this draft class. He very well could be when all is said and done, but right now? No way. He just hasn't had to face advanced hitters to know. I'm not saying he's not impressive, he's the top prep pitcher. He's just not Appel.

Tim, I don't know that it really factors in at all. Cause the argument goes either way. If the developmental staff sucks, you have to get the best talent in order to overcome poor development. If the team rocks, you get the best talent to get the most from them.

Anthony:

I'd also say that if the development team sucks, it doesn't matter who you get.

I don't have any reason at this point - beyond the word of a few team mouthpieces I respect, but who are ultimately team mouthpieces - to give the Astros a pass on player development. Yes, our farms are doing well. Yes, Luhnow has a great track record. I give them the benefit of the doubt, but not necessarily a pass yet. Not until his guys start filtering up and becoming successful Houston Astro major leaguers. Jury is still out.

In the more general sense but a development staff isn't as black and white as suck or not suck. I was referring to a coach that is good with pitcher or another coach that is good with hitters or another coach that is good with fielders. When you're looking at the flaws of a player do you consider what the Astros have in place and whether or not they would be able to fix that flaw.

Brooks:

My answer is still no to be honest. You consider that they'll have at least 3 or 4 minor league pitching coaches spread across every level they reach and a roving pitching instructor and a minor league pitching coordinator that all has affects on their development. One coach can't allow for you to influence one way or the other.

Anthony:

I think that any time you have to "fix" a prospect, it's a significant risk. How many times have we seen one thing get fixed, which causes another thing to break down entirely? Baseball players who are good enough to get to professional baseball have been playing for a long time. They've got thousands and thousands of hours put into their game. The most important part of "fixing" someone is instilling that muscle memory. Given the nomadic nature of minor league baseball, unfortunately, there frequently isn't enough time spent with one or two specific coaches to instill that muscle memory. It's a very dicey operation any time you undergo it.

I wanted to also go back and just say one more thing about Kohl Stewart, or about prep players in general. I say it a lot, but until a player struggles, fails, and comes back from adversity, you really don't know anything about that player. For pitchers, that doesn't necessarily mean that your stuff is "off" one night or another. It means that the hitters you're facing are better than your stuff. So many of these guys have been two or three steps ahead of their competition for years, and they really haven't come up against that wall. There's a steeper learning curve in college, and how a player overcomes that learning curve means a lot. We've witnessed Mark Appel do it, between last year and this year.

Of course, sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle. Sometimes, you get Clayton Kershaw - to whom no rules apply. Clayton Kershaw has never faced a hitter who is better than his stuff. The minor leagues were a joke to him. He got called up to the majors and struck out more than 8 guys per nine innings. But Clayton Kershaw is very much the exception, not the rule.

That's not to say that no prep pitcher is worth a draft choice. Just that it's a big, big challenge. And in my opinion, simply not worth the risk at 1-1.

Every draftee has flaws though. Albert Pujols had so many flaws he wasn't drafted until the 13th round.

Brooks:

Like Kershaw, Pujols is the exception not the rule.

You will always have examples of exceptions to every rule. That doesn't mean you can expect it. That's the risk/reward aspect of every prospect. Pujols made several grade jumps in his tools as well. You just don't expect that.

Anthony:

But when you start talking about projects, that's a different level. There are things every baseball player needs to learn. Skills they need to refine and develop. But I generally consider most teams to be pretty evenly adept at teaching those skills to draftees. Certainly, some have better track records than others - the Cardinals, for instance. But for the most part, I think development is development. You can gain a few wins, eliminate a few losses.

But when you need to lean highly on the development team for any given player, I think you're already behind the eight-ball.

Otherwise, the question is basically: How much do you factor in a player's ceiling? Because ultimately, the test of any development team is the ability to put players closer to their ceiling than other teams might have been able to. We all look at ceilings and try to evaluate how likely a player is to reach it. I can't say that how that player might reach his ceiling because of the Houston Astros coaches ever enters my thought process. Maybe it should, but even if it did, I'm not sure I can grade our guys out as anything more than average now, until further results are in.

But the draft never turns out that what. Guys drafted 1-10 hardly ever produce value in that order. Jason Heyward was drafted 14th in 2007 and has out produced everyone 2-13 at this point. Beau Mills drafted 13th hasn't even made it to the big leagues.

Brooks:

How much of that has to do with signability though? How much has to do with exposure? How much has to do with HS coaching?

You simple cannot look at a prospect and project for them to make more than a 1-2 grade jumps at most. Then, you can't look at a prospect facing pitchers that only throw fastballs and know if a HS hitter will be able to read breaking ball or changeup out of the hand.

There's no doubt that scouting/prospecting is a tough job and not perfect by any means. But, there are markers that you can see if you scout a player enough that you can feel comfortable with, but that's about it. If a prospect fails, I typically think it has more to do with the prospect not developing because of tools or a lack of ability to gain the skills necessary, not the developmental staffs. If you blame staffs for failures, you won't ever have one because very few excel.

Those same thirty developmental staff members that developed Pujols and Heyward have hundreds that failed. I think it's more the actual players talent.

Spencer:

The MLB draft is one where draft position definitely does NOT reflect leaguewide regard for the talent of the players at the time of the draft. There wasn't a single executive, scout, coach, anyone, even for the Pirates, that thought that Bryan Bullington was the best player in his draft class.

I will say one thing about the role of development. While I tend to agree that it's largely the player that is the biggest determinant of their own success, it does sort of perplex me that teams like the Rays develop star pitcher after star pitcher even from lower down in the draft, while the Orioles have been unable to develop anyone in a decade, despite having all the talent in the world on the mound- Adam Loewen, Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Matt Hobgood... Chris Tillman is the only recent success story. They finally look to have a couple gems in Gausman and Bundy, but man, it took a damn long time. I think there have to be some extenuating circumstances.

Clack:

The last I read about him, the scout who signed Albert Pujols was later fired by the Cardinals and was last seen stocking shelves at Wal Mart. I don't know what that says about scouting and developing players...except that maybe the Cardinals believed that they were just plain lucky with Pujols.

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