Late Thursday, news came out that pitcher Brady Aiken has apparently struggled with injury issues early in his post-High School career, and left his first start after only twelve pitches.
Last season, the Astros infamously did not come to an agreement with first-overall draft pick Aiken. The following few weeks included some ugly rhetoric, including harsh words from Aiken's adviser, MLB agent Casey Close, and silence from the Astros on the matter other than mentions of medical concerns stemming from Aiken's post-draft physical. Subsequent leaks from yet-unnamed sources claimed that Aiken's MRI revealed an "abnormally small" Ulnar Collateral Ligament in his pitching arm.
After his physical, the Astros' reportedly lowered their bonus offer to Aiken to the minimum allowable that would still allow them to receive a compensation pick, number two overall, in the 2015 draft if Aiken elected not to sign. And then, at the last minute, the Astros reportedly upped their offer to around $5 million, for reasons never explained. Complicating fan reaction, the failure to sign Aiken to an under-slot deal affected negotiations with the Astros' 5th-round draftee who failed to sign, RHP Jacob Nix, which led to a grievance filing against the club that was eventually settled with an unconfirmed "six-figure" settlement.
Subsequently, the Astros have received, and until Thursday were still receiving, vilification from some segments of the media and the fans. Others, a smaller group, derided Aiken, his parents (who were vocal on the matter), his adviser Close, and even Nix for demanding a bonus higher than recommended value for his draft slot.
Aiken, presumably ineligible to play for an NCAA school due to his involvement with a player agent, enrolled in IMG post-graduate sports academy, to showcase his talents in advance of the 2015 draft. Many draft pundits, including MLB.com, projected Aiken to be a top-5 draft talent, even as high as top-2, despite the rumblings of medical issues surrounding his arm.
And now, not even one full inning after Aiken and his family refused to accept a $5M bonus as the number one overall pick in the 2014 draft, he is apparently experiencing injury issues.
So far, it has not been reported that the injury issues affecting him in recent bullpen sessions and now in his first start are related to his elbow, or even his pitching arm.
Edit: yes it has. Sorry for that error - CP
Even if the injury turns out to be UCL-related, it does not necessarily mean that the Astros were correct in their assessment and handling of the 2014 draft. And if the injury turns out to be nothing at all, or were they not related to his arm (they are, reportedly), it does not necessarily mean that the Astros were incorrect in pursuing a course of action that will lead them to the number 2 overall pick in 2015. But nonetheless, reports on Aiken's health are inextricably tied to the Astros and to the tenure of GM Jeff Luhnow.
Nobody should want Aiken to suffer injury simply to vindicate the Astros. There is nothing good about this story one way or the other. The best scenario is that Aiken swiftly finds health and has a long and successful career, and that the Astros use their compensation pick to sign a player who will become a keystone player for their franchise. Hopefully, that outcome is still possible for both parties.