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TCB Mailbag: The First But Not The Last

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As timmy mentioned the other day, we're starting a mailbag here at TCB to answer any of those lingering Astros questions you might have this year. You can send in your questions to thecrawfishboxesATgmail.com with your name and where you're from and we'll see if we can't get you into this space. I can't guarantee the answers will be worth anything, though...

First up this week:

How far would the Astros need to trade up for Bubba Starling?

-- Jeremy

Well, the problem with that is MLB doesn't allow trading in the draft. After a couple of high profile players back in the late 80's forced their way off teams (Pete Incaviglia, to name one), the commissioner's office abolished the ability of teams to trade picks. They also instituted a rule saying that a player can't be traded until a full year after he was drafted. That's why you'll see some trades in July, August or even over the winter with a Player To Be Named. That's sometimes a recently drafted player who can't be named until after that deadline has passed.

But, more specifically about Starling. Since I'm up here in Omaha, let's link tothis piece, filled with hyperbole about the young man. Reading that, you can definitely get a sense of why Starling could be a coup for the Astros. He's a pretty good pitcher and can hit the cover off the ball. Most mock drafts right now peg him as a pitcher in the draft, but I'm not sure if the Astros might switch him to the outfield.

Of course, he has to be available when the Astros are picking. Right now, that's up in the air. It helps the Astros that this draft class is one of the deeper ones in recent memory. College guys like TCU LHP Matt Purke (who I love), UCLA RHP Gerritt Cole, Texas RHP Taylor Jungmann and Vandy RHP Sonny Gray should go in the top 10 along with Oklahoma City high school right-handers Archie Bradley and Dylan Bundy. Then, you've also got Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon, who's wrists were seriously compared to Hank Aaron, and who could be a once-a-generation guy if not for that nasty ankle injury last summer. Add in one of timmy's favorites in South Carolina center fielder Jackie Bradley, and the field in the first 10 picks should be crowded.

There's also the little matter of signability. As that article above says, Starling signed a letter of intent to play football for Nebraska. If he forgoes signing with whichever team drafts him this June, he'll likely also play baseball for the Huskers next spring. That gives him a ton of leverage, meaning he will not be a cheap sign. Depending on how the first round shakes out, it's not unreasonable to think that if he signed, it would be for a couple million more than his next closest draftee.

The Astros only reluctantly go over slot, but they do. The 2008 draft saw them sign guys for significantly more than slot value at three or four spots. However, with the ownership situation in flux, who knows if the Astros will have the financial wherewithal to sign someone for the money that Starling should command.

The last caveat I'd have about drafting Starling is that he'd need to profile as a top 10 guy as a hitter before I'd be comfortable taking him. The draft is littered with too many stories of high-profile high school arms busting out quickly, losing the velocity that got them drafted in the first place. If Starling can truly be an impact bat, he'd be a great pick, but relying on him as a pitcher seems to be asking for too much risk.

On the bright side, most of the mock drafts I found quickly this morning showed Starling lasting until the 11th pick and slotting him to the Astros there. So, there is hope, but there is a lot of time between now and June. In the past three drafts, one thing Bobby Heck has proven is that you shouldn't trust any mock drafts done ever. He just doesn't draft for consensus and I guess we have to be okay with that.

We'll have more draft talk this season leading up to June, complete with player profiles and possible draft picks for Houston. Once the season gets rolling, expect a lot more talk like this.

Do you have tips for a new Astros fan?

--rwells87

Okay, I'm cheating a little on this one, since it was a FanPost and not a question into the mailbag. I haven't had much internet time this week to add my two cents, so I wanted to pull it out here. Some great responses on both the state of the team and ways to follow them, so I won't repeat it all.

I would just like to say that following the Astros through TCB should get you most of the way there. This spring, we'll do a breakdown of the roster, how each player might contribute and look at positional battles. During the season, we have threads going for each game so you can discuss the action as it happens. We'll do recaps after each game, looking for some thread of hope in each loss and celebrating the triumphs. As I mentioned above, we'll blow out our draft coverage for a second consecutive year as well as provide running reports on the minor leagues throughout the season.

Basically, if you've found TCB, you're one step closer to being a better Astros fan. I'll second the opinions about Astros Daily and Astros County. Farmstros also has lots of good stuff on the minor leagues. The twitter handles allphilla mentioned are also good, especially guys like Brian McTaggart, Zachary Levine and the irreplacable Alyson Footer.

Rooting for the Astros won't be easy, but at least there's some good, young talent here to give this team some spark. Good luck following this team. Once the Astros get into your blood, they're hard to get out.