Thinking about the draft as Houston gets geared up for the Dodgers...
1) Dark horse 1-1 candidate - We talked about this on the last podcast and we've discussed it here on the site a ton. I've been looking through draft content for profiles that'll start publishing soon. Because of that, I've been keeping an eye out on the candidates being talked about for 1-1.
On the podcast, I discussed my dislike of Mark Appel at the top and that's continuing. I don't like hearing things like "fastball is flat" or "delivery is slow and not deceptive" when talking about the top pick in the draft. Some might, but that's not my cup of tea.
I may be overselling a guy like Kevin Gausman, who has some concerns about his secondary stuff, but I definitely like him best of the three college pitchers at the top. There's a great feature on him in this week's Baseball America, revealing that's he's sort of a kook. Like he thought a lake on LSU's campus was connected to the Gulf of Mexico. Or like the fact he eats four mini powdered donuts after every inning he pitches. Kookiness wins you points in my book.
But, the more I've thought about it, the more I think Houston will go against those three. Reading about his upside and thinking about Houston's tendencies, I'm wondering if the Astros will make history and take Lucas Giolito with the top pick.
Now, the goal with the top pick is taking the best possible player, but there's also an element of reducing risk. Giolito will have plenty of skeptics because of his elbow injury, but he threw off flat ground the other day to good reviews. He's got great stuff, maybe better than any other pitcher in the draft, with three plus pitches already.
Add in the fact that Bobby Heck seems to prefer high school pitchers early in the draft and it makes sense that Houston would go off the consensus board a bit. Oh, not to mention that Giolito is a believer in a Trevor Bauer-esque long-toss regimen, and that Houston has recently started developing a long-toss program for their minor leaguers...
We don't know anything right now. There are whispers that Houston is leaning towards Appel and that's how most mock drafts are going. But, there's at least a chance the name called will be Giolito.
2) The road thing - Zachary Levine gets into it over at the Chronicle, but the basic gist is that Houston plays much, much worse on the road right now, doesn't hit home runs and has worse pitching. But, they've got a positive run differential and a positively great record and run differential in May.
Which is predictive of Houston's future success, especially this weekend against the Dodgers? Well, let's look at matchups. In Dodgers Stadium, pitching will have the edge, but Houston is also going up against Kershaw and Billingsley in Games 1 and 2, so don't expect a ton of runs.
In Colorado? Yeah, they may be able to make some hay there. Still, a 4-3 trip would have to be considered a pretty big success at this point. The pivotal game of the trip, to me, is Saturday night. We can expect Houston to be behind in the Kershaw start and have a big advantage against Chris Capuano. Split the doubleheader and Houston has a shot to take the final two in Denver, but so much momentum could be started with a tough, tough Bud Norris start on Saturday and a few key hits from the hot duo of Carlos Lee and Jed Lowrie.
We could also see the reverse happen, where Kershaw completely outclasses Lucas Harrell on Friday, Norris can't transition on Saturday and Houston gets into another road funk that sees them go 2-5 over this stretch.
That's why you should be circling that Saturday game on the calendar. That's the next mini-test for this team to see if they're for real.
3) Rob's Mailbag - Once again, I'm linking to Rob Neyer's latest video, because Mr. Neyer is awesome and everyone should watch it.