Astros Draft Preview - Part Three: Pitching Preferences

This is part 3 of my Astros draft preview.  Below the jump, we look at the kinds of pitchers taken by both the Brewers and the Astros during Bobby Heck's time in those teams' scouting departments. 

Doesn't Take College Pitching Early

If we look at the players taken by the Brewers from 2000 to 2007, we begin to see their dislike for taking college pitchers early in the draft.  In 2000, 2001, and 2002, the Brewers took their first college pitcher with the 81st, 88th, and 79th overall picks, respectively.  This equates to roughly a late second-round, early third-round pick.  In these "early years", they didn't much care for taking a college pitcher with an early pick.  But after that, this dislike became even more pronounced.  Here's where their first college pitcher picks fell in subsequent drafts:


First College Pitcher (overall)











 It's pretty clear that in Bobby Heck's time with the Brewers that the team did not like to draft college pitchers very highly.  This aversion did not necessarily extend to high school pitchers, though.  They took Mark Rogers, Jeremy Jeffress, and Mike Jones with their first-round picks in 2004 (5th overall), 2006 (16th overall), and 2001 (12th overall).  Further, they took high-schoolers Yovani Gallardo with the 46th overall pick in 2004 and Will Inman with the 85th overall pick in 2005. 

This tendency appears to have carried over to the Astros as well.  Despite drafting high school pitchers in the 1st and 3rd supplemental rounds, they didn't draft a college pitcher until pick number 152 in the 5th round (Dave Duncan, LHP). 

This is partly a wise strategy, at least according to Victor Wang over at The Hardball Times.  Wang looked at the picks from 1-100, and split them into college and high school hitters and pitchers.  He then looked at the average Wins Above Bench (WAB) during the 6 cost-controlled years in the majors.  He did this for three tiers of picks:  1-30, 31-70, and 71-100 overall.  What he found was that in picks 1-30, hitters (both college and high school) provided roughly 50% more value than college pitchers and over twice as much value as high-school pitchers.  But after that 30th pick, the values fall off the table.  In the middle tier all achieve roughly the same amount of value, with college hitters maintaining a slight edge.  Beyond the 70th pick, college hitters approach replacement player value, with college pitchers and high school hitters maintaining decent value. 

The optimal draft strategy, from Victor Wang's research, would be to take a hitter in the first round, whether college or high school, and to stock up on pitching thereafter.  One interesting result from Wang's research was that, at every stage, college pitching provided more value than high school pitching.  The difference was marginal in the later two tiers, but still, college pitching gave more value. 

One possible explanation for the Brewers'/Heck's early high school pitching picks could be that they prefer their higher-dollar draft bonus pitchers to go through the organization's pitching program at an earlier age.  That way, they don't pick up bad habits in college or put their arm health at risk on a competitive college club.  Of course that explanation is just speculation.  But it may provide an interesting question to ask the next time JdJO does an online chat with someone from the scouting department.                

Possibly Prefers Righties Early

There's a running joke on baseball boards that if you throw with your left hand, there are 30 teams that are willing to let you try pitching from their mound.  But it doesn't appear that the Brewers/Heck like to take left-handed pitchers early in the draft.  The last time the Brewers/Heck took a lefty in the first 100 overall picks was Dane Artman with the 81st overall pick back in 2000.  Since then, they've taken 9 RHP in the top 100 picks.  Given that the ratio of first round righties to first round lefties from all teams has been roughly 2.5 to 1 over the last decade, the Brewers/Heck early righty choices may be statistically significant.

Who Fits the Profile?

What does this mean for this year's draft?  I went through and picked out a handful of high-school righties that may be around when the Astros get their pick:

Mychal Givens - A shortstop who recently converted to pitching, throws hard (tops out at around 94 mph), but since he's new to pitching, he still needs polish.
Garrett Gould - a guy who's just now getting noticed, so there's little scouting available on him.  6'4", 190-200 lbs.  Fastball in the low-90's, and he's reportedly got a changeup and a huge curveball.
Matt Hobgood - a big-bodied power pitcher with a lively fastball and an excellent curve.  Has a high ceiling but will need to develop a third pitch to reach his full potential in the rotation.
Madison Younginer - Fastball in the mid- to upper-90's, though his secondary stuff isn't nearly as good (leading many to think he's a bullpen arm).  Reportedly wants more than slot money.