Springer pick - evaluating the Astros' BPPA strategy

The Astros appear to have nabbed the man they were after, judging from the excitement in the draft room right before the 11th pick. By most accounts 21 year-old outfielder George Springer is a rare athlete with star potential. He is the type of player one would hope for in a quality-rich draft.

Springer was arguably the best position player available (BPPA) when the Astros picked. I prefer him to the three position players who were drafted at 8, 9, and 10, and no position player drafted later in the round seems to surpass him either. The only possible exception, Josh Bell, was not drafted at all in the first round, since his signability is in doubt.

The question about the Springer pick is whether it was best to choose him over the many talented pitchers still available at that pick. Jungmann, Barnes, J. Bradley, and Gray were all listed as top 10 talent in various prospect lists, and they are all college pitchers with considerable polish and a chance to move through the minor leagues rather quickly. Was it a good move to choose the BPPA and not simply the BPA (Best Player Available)?

To answer that question, there are several factors to consider:

1) Some analysts (Jim Bowden - ESPN, Dave Cameron - Fangraphs) have argued recently that pitchers are such high risks that position players of similar talent make better picks in the first half of the first round. They base this claim more on anecdotal evidence than on detailed statistical analysis, but the reasoning (pitchers have a higher injury risk) seems sound enough.

2) The Astros current needs - pitching is high on the Astros' needs list. Lyles has succeeded, yes, but after that the ranks thin considerably. As the old adage says, you can never have too much pitching. The Astros risk having too little. Of course, at the same time, high-impact bats are also a need in the system, and Springer potentially fits this bill (see OremLK's positive take on Springer in his recent draft analysis).

3) What will be available later in the draft? It is a deep draft, so it is possible that the Astros could still pick up some strong pitching prospects, especially in rounds 2 or 3.

4) Comparing apples to oranges - even though Springer and the pitchers the Astros bypassed are all college players, they are not the same types of prospects. Many of the pitchers are expected to advance quickly, with a high probability of making a solid contribution in the majors, even though their ceilings are not incredibly high. That is probably why they all dropped into the teens on draft day. Springer, on the other hand, has a very high upside (not like Castro, Mier, and DeShields in recent drafts) but is thought to need plenty of time to refine his skills, especially his swing. In a sense, the Astros are swinging for the fences more with Springer, and I like that. It could be argued that one middle of the rotation pitcher will not change the shape of our organization as much as a potential star position player.

In the end, I think that the Astros made the right decision, as long as they pick up pitching in the next round or two.  While Springer may not have been the BPA, he was the BPPA, and perhaps that is exactly what the Astros need right now.

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