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Grading the Astros Draft, Pick by Pick

Now that the dust has settled and we've all chewed over the draft for the past few days, from the wailing and gnashing of teeth to the cheering and pumping of fists, let's take a look back at the Astros' picks in rounds 1 through 5 and grade 'em up. This is purely an opinion piece from a non-expert perspective, so take it with a grain of salt.

Remember that I'm grading the picks based on what we know right now, and not the players themselves or the results of the draft. We won't know how those turn out for years. That said, let's jump right in.

1 (8). Delino DeShields, 2B: C+. I hated this pick when the Astros first made it, but I've gradually come to terms with it and I think I'm okay with it now, in large part because DeShields will be converted to second base. DeShields has the upside to become a very good second baseman; his only below average tool is his arm, which doesn't matter much at 2B compared to the outfield. I only give this a C+ because it was an overdraft at number 8; there were more impressive prospects available, polished middle of the order type hitters or pitchers with true ace upside. Instead, the Astros took a raw leadoff hitter. DeShields' raw tools make it possible to dream on the second coming of Biggio, but in reality that kind of outcome is exceptionally unlikely. A more likely ceiling is "Jimmy Rollins as a second baseman", which is still a nice player, but DeShields' bust potential is simply too high for me to grade this pick higher.

1 (19). Mike Foltynewicz, RHP: A. This is one of those fist-pumping picks. I had "Folty" as the top pitcher on the board at 19 in a deep class for prep pitching, and I was quietly rooting for the Astros to get him over the last few days before the draft, which is when he really caught my eye (that's why I didn't do an article on him previously). I see him as having the upside to become a true no. 1 starter, since he already sits at 93-94mph with late life on his fastball and has two other pitches which grade out as above average to plus. His mechanics are nearly perfect, meaning he should develop good command and be less of an injury risk than many prep arms. All that, and he's a highly projectable 18-year old who should gain velocity and refine his secondary pitches as he matures? Wow.

1S. Michael Kvasnicka, 3B: C- (as a third baseman), B- (as a catcher). Like David, I'm skeptical about this one. It's the decision to make him a third baseman which really confuses me; there were many available prospects who profiled as better third basemen at this point in the draft, like Jedd Gyorko, Nick Castellanos, or Yordy Cabrera. It was the chance to stick at catcher which made Kvasnicka such an interesting prospect, as he doesn't profile to have the kind of power you typically want from a third baseman. Still, his good plate discipline should help his bat at the hot corner, and he does have a chance for above average (though probably not plus) power. His defense at third base may make or break this pick. If he winds up being a plus defender, that will help his stock a lot. If he's just average, there were a number of better prospects available. Overall, this is a fringe pick for me. I don't hate it, but I'm not entirely sold yet either.

2. Vincent Velasquez, RHP: B-. Velasquez strikes me as a pitcher with good upside, and I love that he already has a good changeup. If everything goes right in terms of his projection and development, he could evolve into a very solid starting pitcher. This pick was a bit out of left field for me, as there were some players I liked better here, but after reading up on Velasquez, I think he's a decent value. There is some risk here, but a high ceiling, too. This is a similar pick to Jordan Lyles, Ross Seaton, or Tanner Bushue, a guy who tops out as a no. 2 starter, but more likely as a middle rotation guy, with plenty of potential to bust if his velocity doesn't project the way scouts think it will.

3. Austin Wates, OF: B+. Wates is a great value here, as he was projected to go in the supplemental to second rounds. Yes, he's yet another outfielder whose best tool is his speed, but annoying as I might find that, I have to admit that he's also a very well-rounded prospect. He should get on base, provide value on the base paths and on defense, and could even hit for above average power. A fairly safe bet to become an above average regular at the MLB level is a nice pick in the third round.

4. Bobby Doran, RHP: D. I don't like this pick here. Doran is a big groundball pitcher without great stuff or very much upside. In the fourth round, I'd rather take a chance on a guy with upside and high bust potential than play it safe on a guy who profiles as a No. 5 starter at the big league level. There were some dinged-up high ceiling guys with injury question marks available here who I felt would have been better picks.

5. Ben Heath, C: A. I'm with David on this one. After reading up on him and watching a little video, I love this pick here. Heath quietly had a monster season in 2010 after not getting much playing time his two previous years. He's just the kind of player who could surprise everyone and turn into a top hitting prospect after not having been noticed much prior to the draft. The fact that he has a chance to stick at a premium position (catcher) makes him that much more interesting as a prospect.

...and one more: JaCoby Jones, SS: A+ (if he signs), N/A (if he doesn't). The Astros' 19th round pick made a splash. JaCoby Jones is a rounds 1-3 level talent who free-fell because of large signing bonus demands and a strong commitment to LSU. He's raw, but has huge upside, with the potential for five solid-average to plus tools in the future, including potential plus hit tool and plus power. He has a chance to stick at shortstop, but could move to second or third base or center field if he outgrows the position. The bad news is that he probably won't sign, but it sounds like the Astros are pursuing him hard with large signing bonus offers, so we can't be sure what's going to happen until the signing deadline in August.

How would you grade the Astros' picks in the first five rounds?