Day two is in the books and the Astros have made their picks in rounds three through ten. They walked away with two pitchers and six positions players, and even created a bit of a storyline with two pairs of college teammates.
The two pitchers selected were the first and last selections of the day for the Astros, and are both left-handed. Kent Emanuel was first and, was drafted out of North Carolina in the third round. The second was Austin Nicely, who is out of Stotswood HS in Virginia. Emanuel profiles as a back-of-the rotation starter with very average stuff, but his stuff plays up because he knows how to pitch and has good command. Nicely is a raw pitcher who missed most of the showcase circuits last year with a back injury, but has good projection.
The first pair of college teammates is Vanderbilt's Conrad Gregor and Tony Kemp who were selected in back-to-back rounds in the fourth and fifth, respectively. They have positive walk/strikeout ratios, with Gregor having the better of the two along with the potential of average power despite not showing it yet. He plays first, but could possibly move to a corner outfield spot. Kemp is a short and well-built second baseman with exciting speed but no power. He can be electric defensively and on the basepaths.
The second set is University of North Carolina's Emanuel and catcher Brian Holberton (9th round). We already discussed Emanuel. Holberton was actually the backup catcher and played a lot of outfield. He was second on the team in home runs behind Colin Moran with 10, and also drew more walks than strikeouts. He has a good profile from college ranks and has some tools behind the plate.
The Astros selected a high school catcher in the 6th round and he may have the most upside of all the picks on day two. Jacob Nottingham has the potential for power and is a great athlete. He was offered a chance to play tight end at Arizona and to play baseball at Oklahoma. He's raw, but his athleticism and strength allow us to dream that he can become an above-average catcher as his ceiling.
The Astros also drafted two center fielders, both project to be very good out there with speed to burn. The first was 7th-rounder James Ramsay, who is one of the better college center fielders defensively. He also draws plenty of walks and rarely strikes out. He has shown a knack for hitting for average. The other is a high school prospect that was selected in the 8th round. That's Jason Martin, who has loads of speed and instincts to be a threat on the base paths and an asset in center. He's raw and needs work, but the tools and the beginnings of a good approach at the plate.
I'll be the first to say that this wasn't an exciting day. Nottingham and Nicely are the most exciting for me. But, I think this is a group that we'll all become fans of in the coming weeks because they all possess baseball skills. The college guys will draw walks and strike out very little. Even the high school picks show that ability to an extent. We all love Andrew Aplin and Nolan Fontana, but we weren't excited about them when their names were first called. Now we are about them, and I expect this will happen with the new kids as well.
It's very easy to look at this group and call it a high floor/low ceiling group, but I would argue with that. I think Nottingham, Martin, and Nicely have some better upside but are larger risks. Astros amateur scouting director Mike Elias told Brian T. Smith, beat reporter for the Houston Chronicle, that they intentionally went after college players to inject some polish into the system, supplementing the more raw draft class of 2012.
We knew this draft wasn't strong to begin with and it is being reflected a bit right now in day two. There are still some high upside guys remaining who could go early on day three.
I think we also see the Astros playing the draft a bit more safely. It's obvious they don't have the financial fleixbility they had last year and it's still uncertain how much of their draft-pool money they will have left over, if any. If they have just $500,000 in space but need $1 million to sign a certain draft choice, they risk losing the money if the draftee won't sign. However, beginning with 11th round, the rules change, so, the Astros could target a higher upside guy and have the money to sign them, which is exactly the approach we saw with Hunter Virant last year. If they sign great, if they don't, no harm done.
Day three could be interesting.