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Could 2011 be the year we stop rationalizing the Astros' drafts?

I imagine this man would just like the Astros to make it easy on him and let him throw money at the problem. (via <a href="">Alyson Footer</a>)
I imagine this man would just like the Astros to make it easy on him and let him throw money at the problem. (via Alyson Footer)

The current MLB Rule IV draft isn't actually over, but tonight had me thinking about the 2011 draft. Following Stephen Strasburg's absolutely sterling debut via Twitter and the MLB At Bat, I could not help but look at that the standings thus far and foresee the possibility that the Astros could have a top three pick in an allegedly deep draft. Then a pregnant pause came over my mental ruminations of true top talent in our system: would it even matter?

I don't want to beat a dead horse, but can we name a pick made in the last few years that wasn't about some kind of signabilty/monetary concerns? Sure Ross Seaton was certainly given a posh-package to sign, but was it the kind of money that it takes to land sure thing talent?

I have said this before, and I will say it many, many times before my tenure here ends- I am not a prospector. Watching David and OremLK (not to mention the myriad of you who could speak with confidence and intelligence about amatuer players from all over the country) reminded me of this fact. After night one of the draft was over and I had watch the Astros pass over the sexier players of the draft (the ones on everyone's top 30 lists), Evan and I had conversation debating the relative merits putting stock in such dubiously imbued importance. In the end, we decided that the Astros scouts have spent more time following the players that were drafted by the Astros than the Keith Law's and Andy Sieler's of the world have (not to say they aren't incredibly valuable analysts). We also agreed that the positions the Astros were picking in were not the places where someone could clearly prove that Player X has a better probability of being a MLB player than Player Y. Thus, we decided to shrug our shoulders and defer judgement.

Next year may be a totatlly different story. The creativity with which Bobby Heck and his legions of scouts utilize to come up with picks to fit the Astros main criterion for prospects (chiefly lack of signing bonus demands) shouldn't be a factor if we froze the standings right now.  Let's push that one step forward and admit that things for the Astros season don't appear to be looking up and therefore, someone like Anthony Rendon could be a legitimate possibility for the Astros. Signing that kind of awe-inspiring talent takes $$—lots of them—and that's what has me worried.

Few players ever possess the same potential as Strasburg so clearly has in his less than a year old pro career. But several players seem to dazzle talent that will almost certainly turn in productive major league performance, rapidly. The Astros do not draft those players. Call it an emphasis on projectibility or signablility, Drayton McLane has yet to let loose his coffers and invest in a sure thing talent.  

Maybe it's just because the Astros haven't been as in as leveraged as a position as they are likely to be next year. One thing I am tired of is having to rationalize the Astros proclivity for not reaching for players that will cost them to reach for. In 2008 and 2009 I felt that it was Drayton having to be sold on the process. This year, I am willing to chock it up to being able to budget for all the top picks the Astros had.

Next year, though? Next year, what could there be left to rationalize?

Watching and reading the awe that Stephen Strasburg inspired has left me feeling uneasy. Does one start a career make? No. After all, no one had heard of Roy Oswalt when he was drafted. But at least the Nationals seasons of misery have been rewarded in the promise of Strasburg's right arm. I, however, can't shake the feeling that the Astros might turn in a dismal season this year and not be able to cash in on that misery in the form of a palpably-excitable prospect. Certainly not a Strasburgian-prospect, but someone whose debut would still pack the juicebox.

Then again, who knows? Maybe an Oswalt trade will usher in a new era of the Astros farm system and a high draft pick next year will net true blue chip talent. I am just not that bullish on it, though.



In case you've missed TCB's comprehensive draft coverage, fueled by David Coleman and OremLK, here's what you've missed: