Astros Draft Preview - Part One

I admit it.  I am obsessed with the draft.  To that end, I have collected a lot of data and information on the 2009 draft to try to narrow down the field of who we might pick in the first round on June 9 this year.

Over the next few days, I plan on discussing both historical draft data and the drafts that Bobby Heck has been a part of to get an overall sense of what this year's draft class feels like and what kinds of players Bobby Heck and his scouting team might gravitate toward. 

Right up front, I'd like to say that I'm not making any predictions or saying who we should draft based on any sort of scouting evaluations.  I'm using historical data and other organizations' prospect lists and evaluations and looking for patterns.  It's these patterns that, to me at least, are the most interesting thing, not the names that get thrown out at the end. 

Last year, the Astros had the 10th pick in the draft, and the internet showed a consensus Top 10 or 12 players, and I don't think anyone saw the Astros picking Castro.  This year, the Astros will have the 21st pick.  This will be even harder to predict than last year, since so much of what happens later in the draft is dependent on what happens in the first five, ten, fifteen slots and things like bonus demands.  Regardless, it's a fun way to both get to know more about the Astros organization and the potential major leaguers who could be first taking the field in about 3 or 4 years.

Click below for the first installment, discussing how this years first-round draft class compares to the draft classes of the past decade:

Positional Distribution

Here, we'll look at this year's crop of players and try to make some guesses based on past drafts. 

I collected the top 30 players who went in the first round from 1998 to 2008 to try to get a feel for how many pitchers get drafted, outfielders, etc.  I sorted them by position, and where players were drafted as two-way prospects, I categorized them as pitchers since it is probably more likely that the team tried that player at the riskier position first (this is a source of noise, I know, but for the time being, I'm just trying to paint in broad strokes).  There's often a lot of variation from year to year when you look at the distribution of specific positions.  But the distribution of qualities those players possess should be less noisy.   So to smooth out some year to year fluctuation, I grouped some of the positions together.  Players drafted as shortstops often end up as second basemen, and outfielders are generally treated as single category (with some special identification of center fielders on occasion), corner infield players are generally drafted for the same qualities (namely power), and regardless of which arm you pitch with, velocity, command, and stuff are still the deciding factors.  Here is my final tally: 

Position Group

Total Number Taken

Percentage of All Players Taken





50 LHP and 123 RHP




11 CF, 3 RF, 1 LF and 39 called simply  "OF"

Middle Infield



46 SS and 6 2B

Corner Infield



18 1B and 23 3B




It's a roughly even split between pitchers and position players, and the position players are distributed roughly in proportion to their prevalence on the field.  Essentially, in a round of 32 players, like we have this year (the Nationals and the Yankees get a do-over since they didn't sign their first-round picks last year), we should expect roughly 17 pitchers get taken, 5 outfielders, 4 middle infielders, 4 corner infielders, and 2 catchers. 

Now, of course, I recognize that there are some flaws with looking at the draft this way.  There will be yearly fluctuations around this 10-year average simply based on talent distribution, teams drafting based on need, and paradigm-shifts in drafting philosophies.  But I think it also gives us a good baseline to work from.

The general consensus floating around is that this year is a good year for pitching (particularly college pitching) and a not so good year for position players (especially since last year's first round was very bat-heavy). 

We can test this theory to some degree without having to wait for draft day, though.  has released its first Mock Draft of the year. We find that their projections include 20 pitchers, 1 middle infielder, 1 corner infielder, 8 outfielders, and 2 catchers.  So the consensus seems to be largely correct...a lot of pitchers going in the higher slots, with a dearth of bats, particularly infield bats 

Stay tuned for more draft stuff leading up to June 9th!