Since retiring from TCB, I don't feel the need to be "creative" or "innovative" with my articles. At last, I can more shamelessly rip of the premise of other articles to suit my own purposes.
Where do the Astros pick?
Houston has the No. 2 overall pick and the No. 5 overall pick. They picked up the former as compensation for failing to sign No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken in 2014. Houston finished with the fourth-worst record in the majors last year, but because of that compensatory pick, they were bumped back to the fifth slot.
They also have the No. 37 pick, acquired from the Miami Marlins last summer in the Jarred Cosart trade. Houston picks at No. 46 overall (fourth pick in the second round) and then again at No. 79 (fourth in third round) before things even out and they pick fourth in each round from 4 through 40.
Houston will be the first team in draft history to hold two of the top five picks.
How much can the Astros spend?
Since 2012, the Rule 4 draft has had a spending cap. Teams are allotted a certain amount of money based on their draft positions. If they spend over this pool, they face escalating penalties, from a tax on the overage to a loss of draft picks.
This year, Houston has a record amount of money to spend, the most in the draft. According to MLB.com, the Astros can spend up to $17,289,200 on their picks in the top 10 rounds.
Each pick is given a slot amount, with pick 1-2 being worth $7.4 million and 1-5 worth $4.2 million. If the Astros fail to sign a player, they lose that money from their cap and could face penalties for exceeding the lowered number.
Players signed after round 10 who receive bonuses above $100,000 count toward the draft spending pool. Last year, Houston signed a pair of players to deals like this, including college second baseman Nick Tanielu.
What if they don't sign the No. 2 pick?
In the past, compensation picks for failing to sign drafted players were not protected. That meant if a team failed to sign a player the next time, they would lose that pick. That's what happened with the Washington Nationals in 2009 after they failed to sign Aaron Crow a year earlier. The Nats went with a safe pick at No. 10 overall, taking college reliever Drew Storen.
However, under the new collective bargaining agreement, this is no longer the case. Comp picks like the one the Astros have are protected for two years. Thus, if the Astros fail to reach an agreement with Alex Bregman or whoever they take at 1-2, they will get the third overall pick next summer.
This gives them some leverage to take a hard-to-sign player here, especially since the 2016 draft could be one for the ages.
How many rounds happen Monday?
The first two rounds will air on Monday night, beginning at 6 p.m. CST on MLB Network. That means Houston will make four picks on Monday before picking up with Rounds 3-10 on Tuesday and finishing with rounds 11-40 on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the draft will be live on MLB.com beginning at 12 p.m. CST. Day 3 will begin at 11 a.m. CST Wednesday.
Astros draft strategy
In 2012, the Astros set up a road map of sorts for how to take advantage of the new collective bargaining agreement's rules. Part of that was hiring David Stearns. The front office executive worked on the CBA when it was being drafted and understood its ins and outs.
That gave Houston the wherewithal to go get Lance McCullers in the comp round and Brett Phillips and Rio Ruiz in the middle rounds. Since then, many teams have copied this formula, with the Royals doing the same in 2013, taking Stephen F. Austin shortstop Hunter Dozier at No. 8 overall, so they could save enough to grab Sean Manaea, a potential 1-1 pick early in the draft process, in the compensatory round.
What that means is there's not a ton of marginal value here when many other teams have adopted the strategy. You could see the Astros sign a player for under slot at either the 1-2 or 1-5 picks, but it will be harder to nab a player that falls.
The exception here could be Daz Cameron, the prep outfielder from Georgia who we'll discuss in a bit. His stock is falling, with Keith Law dropping him entirely out of his most recent mock draft first round. If Cameron is available at 1-37 for Houston, it might behoove them to take someone like Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi at 1-5 and save some money for Cameron.
What's going on with Aiken and Nix?
Both players are eligible for the 2015 draft, but neither signed the release granting the Astros permission to redraft them. Brady Aiken underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this spring and there are questions about where he falls in this draft.
Nix, however, has pitched very well for IMG Academy and looks like a first-round pick after going in the fifth to the Astros last year.
Players who re-enter the draft after not signing have to give their previous team permission to redraft them. This is a common situation as many college players get picked in the late rounds and do not sign.
As we mentioned on Friday, Mac Marshall, another Astros draft pick from 2014 who didn't sign, is eligible for the 2015 draft and did sign his release to be redrafted.
What's Arizona doing?
That leaves us with, you know, the actual draft.
For the first time since 2011, Houston will have to wait to take its first player, as the Arizona Diamondbacks are on the clock.
Arizona is in a unique situation, with a completely new front office from last year. Newly minted Chief Baseball Officer Tony LaRussa brought in a new GM in former big league pitcher, coach and player's agent Dave Stewart. He also hired a new scouting director in Deric Ladnier.
The word is that Arizona has decided on who will be their top pick, but are not tipping their hands as to who that is. Most draft pundits believe it will be Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson, but there's a chance that the D'Backs go with a college pitcher (the preference of GM Stewart) or with a prep bat like catcher Tyler Stephenson.
Stephenson or Swanson could give the Snakes a deep discount at the spot to spread around the rest of the draft.
Look for news to leak out during the day Monday to where Arizona is leaning.
Why is Dansby Swanson going so high? Who else is in this draft? Luckily, your TCB writer friends have you covered. There are three top shortstops in this class. One is Vandy's Swanson, who should be gone by the time Houston picks.
Swanson has a great baseball body which he shows excellent control over, moving comfortably to either side of his body with smooth hips and great footwork. Swanson exhibits soft hands and has an exceptional throwing release. He looks extremely comfortable in the field at all times. An excellent shortstop, he is a virtual lock to stick at the position in the pros.
That leaves the Astros to decide between LSU middle infielder Alex Bregman and prep shortstop Brendan Rodgers. Here's our take on Bregman.
In what's shaping up to be one of the more upside-down tops of the draft in recent years (weak talent pool overall, limited college arms and even fewer prep arms), Alex Bregman and Vanderbilt's Dansby Swanson are duking it out for the first college bat to come off the board. Though Swanson is the consensus top collegiate bat available, I see Bregman as a bit closer to Swanson based on best overall player than others.
And here's what we had to say about Rodgers, who's considered the top talent in this draft:
Since very early in the pre-draft process, Rodgers has been considered one of the best prospects in the country. Solidly built with great functional strength and short area burst, Rodgers is the rare breed of player with the movement skills and fluidity to man shortstop and the strength and coordination to hit for average and power. Rodgers is the kind of player who makes everything look effortless- covering ground in a hurry at short and fielding the ball to either side of his body with ease
The prep bats
After those names, there are a few different prep bats who could be in play for the Astros. One is the brother of Astros outfielder Preston Tucker, a high school outfielder from Florida named Kyle Tucker. Here's what we had to say about him.
Long, lithe and projectable, the lefty-hitting Tucker is the kind of player you commonly hear referred to as a "scout's dream." A prototypical right fielder, Tucker's 175 pound frame already produces plenty of strength and more is sure to be on the way. His arm strength isn't typical of a right fielder yet, but his arm strength projects as above average to plus down the line.
The other is the aforementioned Daz Cameron, a prep outfielder from Georgia and the son of former big league All-Star Mike Cameron. Here's what we had to say about Daz:
His ceiling is a player who always is making an impact (even if he's struggling at the plate). He has shown patience in the past and he walked more often than he struck out at U-18 USA. That may not carry over, but a guy who can slash .290/.380/.440 and play a very good CF is worth the #5 pick. Oh, and he's supposedly willing to go under slot? Sign me up!
The college pitchers
Finally, Houston could go with any of three college arms at the top of this draft. Though some previous prominent names have slipped due to injury, the top of this class appears to be Vanderbilt right-hander Carson Fulmer, Illinois left-hander Tyler Jay and Cal-Santa Barbara right-hander Dillon Tate.
The best part about Fulmer is his mindset on the mound. He's competitive. He's a bulldog. He has a plan and attacks each hitter. In this sense he's the exact opposite of Mark Appel. He's not up there tossing fastballs and hoping for weak contact. Fulmer is up there tossing fastballs with a purpose. He's a lot like Sonny Gray in several ways.
Used as a reliever both on the US National Team and with the Illini, Jay is an athletic, 6'1", 175 lb. southpaw with at least two plus pitches. He employs an athletic, lower body delivery to zip fastballs into the strike zone in the mid 90s. Jay has been flat-out dominant as a reliever for the Illini, and is not just a one-inning pitcher, having thrown 49.1 innings in 23 appearances. He has posted an unreal 54/4 K/BB ratio and has allowed only 26 hits, an astounding 22 of which have been singles. With those peripherals, it's no surprise that Jay has a minuscule 0.73 ERA to go with them.
If you watch Dillon Tate on the mound in 2015, it is easy to see why he is considered one of the very best prospects in the country. Had you seen him as recently as last year, that would have been quite a stretch. Muscle-bound and supremely athletic, Tate is in the midst of his first college campaign as a starting pitcher, and has taken to the role as well as anyone could possibly expect.