We are three days away from the first round of the MLB draft. Unlike the past three years, the Astros are not on the clock right now. They have the second and fifth overall picks, along with a competitive balance pick they acquired from the Miami Marlins last summer.
That's a lot of draft capital to spend and gives the Astros a lot of options at the top of the draft. Let's review what we know and what we don't the weekend before the lottery.
It appears that Dansby Swanson will be the pick for the Diamondbacks at No. 1 overall. The big three of Keith Law, Jim Callis and Baseball America all have put Swanson at 1-1 in the past week, thanks to industry talk that the D'Backs have reached a deal with the Vanderbilt shortstop to sign under slot.
There's still a chance Arizona goes with another name here, including a couple prep outfielders who could give them an even bigger discount, but all indications are at the Vandy middle infielder will go No. 1.
That leaves the Astros in an interesting spot. While their draft board likely isn't finalized until they finish their all-hands meetings, there was a very good chance that Swanson was the top name on that board.
Most of the scenarios in this situation involve them grabbing another college bat at No. 2 in LSU middle infielder Alex Bregman and then going with a second bat at No. 5 in either prep outfielder Kyle Tucker or Daz Cameron. Klaw has this setup, while BA has the Astros grabbing Bregman and then taking Daz Cameron at 1-5.
Except, in the latest Baseball America mock by John Manuel, we get some interesting information on Arizona. Apparently, the decision-makers are split. GM Dave Stewart, a former All-Star pitcher, loves Carson Fulmer. Tony LaRussa, the new D'Backs guru, does not.
Now, though, it looks like Arizona could cut a deal with Georgia prep catcher Tyler Stephenson to go No. 1. He'd be the first prep catcher to go there since Joe Mauer in 2001.
In this scenario, Houston lands Swanson and could then go for Daz Cameron at 1-5. Of note is this line from Manuel:
If we're going with Swanson at No. 2, as we did this week, he makes more sense here than Alex Bregman, whom the Astros have been strongly linked to by other clubs.
We know how close the Astros keep their info. If other teams are the ones linking Houston to Bregman, don't believe it.
Pitching at 1-5
Callis lays out a scenario, though, where Houston picks up Vandy starter Carson Fulmer at No. 5 and then lands a falling Daz Cameron at No. 37. Since most drafts have Cameron as a top 10 pick, I find this unlikely. To be fair, though, Klaw has Cameron falling out of the first round entirely due to signability concerns.
I also find it unlikely because word is the Astros aren't all that enamored with Fulmer. Speaking of the right-hander, I'm on board with Kiley McDaniel's Black Swan theory. Some pitchers succeed despite their size or velocity and Fulmer seems a great candidate to do just that. Plus, he and Strom could make a very nice team.
McDaniel, by the way, has the Astros taking Brendan Rodgers at 1-2 and Tucker at 1-5. He also mentions that Bregman could go at 1-5 in this scenario if he gets past Texas.
There's a slim chance that Duke right-hander Mike Matuella could fall to the Astros at No. 37. His back trouble and Tommy John surgery have caused his stock to slip. He's a pretty polished pitcher, though, who understands the game well and could become an impact guy in that round.
From Klaw's mock draft, we get a rumor that could warm Subber10's heart. The Astros could grab Andrew Benitendi at No. 5 and save some money for an overpay in the sandwich round. Of course, if Cameron drops and they have a "deal" worked out with him, this makes sense.
Though none of these drafts talk about it specifically, you get the sense that teams more than ever are trying to lock in pre-draft deals with players before they draft them. With the draft caps, teams need to know how much money they have to spend and can't afford to guess on a player.
On the pitching front, Klaw has Dillon Tate as the first arm off his board at No. 4. That flies in the face of the last couple of weeks, where Tate slipped and Illini starting pitcher Tyler Jay emerged as a potential first arm off the board. He joins Fulmer and Tate as the top three arms who could go in the first ten picks.
As for prep shortstop Brendan Rodgers, plenty of draftniks have him as the best talent in the draft, yet he could slip to No. 3 or No. 4. Why is that? He hasn't blown away his competition this spring, so a team must be confident in its projections of him to take him. Sometimes, that works out but others, it doesn't. Byron Buxton and Tim Beckham stand on opposite sides of that debate.
The top prep pitcher in this class seems to be Kolby Allard. That's despite an injury for the left-hander, who's season was ended by a stress reaction in his back. He's just 17 and should bounce back, but he's a bit of a mystery here.
Of course, Brady Aiken is also in this draft and has raised some eyebrows throughout the industry with how he's handled his medical situation. Since the draft brouhaha with the Astros last year, Aiken's medical history has been a source of hot debate. That only got worse when the left-hander had Tommy John surgery earlier this year.
Turns out, Aiken has been allowing select teams to review his medicals with some pretty big stipulations. Only GM-and-above level people can request them, though these people can then release them to whoever they want in the organization.
Reports on these medicals are sketchy, with some saying his arm is better than they'd heard and most saying they had requested them but hadn't seen them yet. This could very well be a tactic Aiken's agent is taking from the NBA, where top draft picks withhold medical info strategically to maneuver themselves to a chosen team.
Whatever the situation, Aiken didn't appear to sign the form allowing the Astros to redraft him, following fellow 2014 draftee Jacob Nix. However, Mac Marshall chimed in last night to say he'd be happy to get drafted by the Astros. Any savings the team makes in undersigning Bregman or Benitendi could go to him in the second or third round.
Nix, BTW, is mocked in the 20's of this draft. Which is awesome. Thanks, Brady. Thanks to your elbow. No, I'm still not over last summer in any way. I'm still mad at everyone.
Hopefully, though, Monday will allay that anger. Heck, maybe Arizona will do something dumb and grab Jay at 1-1, putting Swanson on a silver platter for the Astros. A man can dream.