Things to think about while we wait for the draft to kick off...
1) Rumors, rumors and not a drop to substantiate - There may not be a consensus in the Houston draft war room, but the draft cognoscenti seem to have come to an understanding that Houston is tabbing Appel.
After all, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus are signing the Buxton tune, but Keith Law's latest mock and Jim Bowden's anonymous source have them going for Mark Appel. So, hours before the draft, we still have no clue who the Astros are taking. Which would be fine in most seasons, but this year, they've got the first pick and can pretty much pick whoever they want. Can't make it easy on us humble bloggers, can you Houston?
The way Houston is keeping this ship so tight, I'd be shocked if anything leaked out today. I could imagine something happening with an advisor leaking things if Houston tries to talk about a deal, but I also imagine Houston knows that and is keeping things away from that stage to avoid anything getting out.
Plus, I'm not sure they've made a decision yet. Maybe they have by this morning, but we'll keep you updated as the day moves along.
My biggest hope is that this year's draft turns out like that one in 2010, where all three of the top three picks look like they could be stars. We all know about Bryce Harper, but Jameson Taillon and Manny Machado also look like impact players for a lot of years. If Correa, Appel and Buxton have that kind of upside, any of them would ultimately be fine with me.
2) International draft and Jorge Soler - Two notes on this. First of all, there will not be an international draft next season, but it appears there is one on the horizon. All the owners are behind it and it sounds like all that needs to happen is they come to an agreement with the players association.
What does that mean for international talent? I have no idea. Would it help or hurt Houston this season? I believe it would help them, since there is a cap on spending for this IFA period, but the players will likely be asking for most of that this time around, as they transition from the Wild West into something more controlled. If there was a draft? Talent could be picked up easier...I think.
There are still a ton of problems with the concept, like how long would a team hold a player's rights, etc. But, it seems things will be changing on the IFA front.
That makes the bidding for a guy like Jorge Soler, the Cuban who was recently ruled eligible to sign with teams by MLB. He's likely the last high-profile guy to sign a deal like this, assuming Cuba is included in the international draft. If it's not, that seems like a pretty big loophole, doesn't it?
Soler is a guy who's been on radars for a while, since it looked like he'd be coming to the States. Reports are mixed on his actual skill set, but it appears he'll be a good defender in center with very good power for the position, but a bat that might not hit for average. So, maybe Michael Bourn with less speed and more power?
Houston is reportedly in the mix to sign him, and we should find out pretty quickly where he's going.
3) Is No. 1 pick getting safer? - Zachary Levine has an excellent column in the Chronicle on Sunday, talking about potential No. 1 overall picks by looking into the past. He talks about the three Hall of Famers in A-Rod, Griffey and Chipper, but makes a great point that since 1990, the first picks have averaged WAR totals of 17.2.
Even guys like Pat Burrell and Darin Erstad put up respectable numbers for their teams. I'd say the problem lies in pitching, but in the past 10 years, the pitching has kind of outshone the position players, as guys like Tim Beckham, Delmon Young and Matt Bush have been somewhat disappointing compared to just two pitching disappointments in Luke Hochever and Bryan Bullington.
Interestingly, though, in each of those drafts I mentioned, there wasn't really clear No. 1 talent (with the exception of Young's draft). Rickie Weeks was right there with Young, but the high schooler had the edge among national pundits. In the Matt Bush draft, it was collegiate pitcher Justin Verlander who was the consensus guy, but the Padres went signability and saw it go horribly, horribly wrong.
So, there are no guarantees whichever way a team goes. If there's any consolation, its' that all but three picks since 1990 have made the majors. So, odds are that whoever Houston selects will play at Minute Maid Park someday.