Around four months ago, I had a preliminary look at the 2016 MLB draft. Unsurprisingly, lots has changed in the time that has since passed. Some of the players I had linked to the Houston Astros have seen their stocks plummet, whilst some have rocketed up mock-draft boards. The Astros will make their first selection in the first round with the 17th overall selection, and, from there, will be delving into their signing pool of just under $6 million.
Following that, the Astros hold the 60th overall pick (in the second round), and the 97th overall pick (in the third round). They will then select 21st in rounds four, through forty. Things have changed massively now that the Astros are, well, good. It'll be, therefore, extremely interesting to see how the Astros adjust to their new surroundings in the draft.
So, who can we expect the Astros to be targeting?
Concerning their first pick of the draft, there are a few names the Astros might be interested in. First, right handed pitcher: Kevin Gowdy. The high school arm has incredibly good command and control for his age. He has a fastball that, currently, sits at 88-92 miles per hour, and touches 94. There is, however, more room for velocity as his body fills out. A high school arm that is projectable and polished; a strong combination in the draft.
Cal Quantrill is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery, however, had it not been for the injury, the Astros would've had no chance at Quantrill ever reaching them. While the injury is far from ideal, it makes him an achievable target. He has an incredibly good changeup, a fastball that touches the high nineties, and two interesting breaking balls. He has everything you want from a pitcher in the draft, except, well, health.
Outfielder Will Benson is drawing Jason Heyward comparisons. With an already stacked farm system, the Astros could take a chance on this high-risk, high-ceiling high school bat. His hitting mechanics may need some work, but he already has plenty of patience at the plate, with plenty of projectable power as he grows into his frame. This draft class lacks superstars, but the extremely athletic Benson could well be a five-tool player.
Baseball America, in their mock draft, had this to say on the Astros' first pick:
Third baseman: Josh Lowe. Armed with a deep, rich farm system, the Astros can afford to take a chance on a risky high ceiling talent like Lowe. The Georgia prep star is an elite athlete with massive raw power, and he has shown upside on the mound, giving him fallback option if his bat doesn’t play at the highest levels.
Interestingly, the same Baseball America mock draft had Alec Hansen going to the Angels just one selection above the Astros. The right hander was seen as one of the four big arms that was set to headline the draft (alongside Jason Groome, A.J. Puk, and Riley Pint), but if he might fall as far as the 16th overall pick, we can all hope he falls one more to the Astros. Hansen struck out 94 batters in 82 innings pitched last season, thanks, by in large, to an electric fastball. If he develops his secondary offerings, he could be a dominant major league starter.
Daulton Jefferies is another exciting arm. The Baseball Draft Report, with the call:
Jefferies is a rock-solid future big league starting pitcher. I love Daulton Jefferies. An overly enthusiastic but well-meaning friend comped Jefferies to Chris Archer after seeing him this past summer. That’s…rich. It’s not entirely crazy, though. Velocity-wise, at his best, Jefferies can sit 90-94 and touch 97. He’s been more frequently in the 88-92 band this spring (94 peak). He’s also focused far more on his low- to mid-80s slider than his mid- to upper-70s curve. I thought both had the potential to be above-average breaking balls at the big league level, but I can’t blame him for going all-in on his potentially devastating slider. Then there’s the compact, athletic delivery and plus fastball command and above-average mid-80s change-up that flashes plus and…well, you can see why he’d get such a lofty comp. Lack of size or not, Jefferies has the kind of stuff that could make him a number two starter if everything goes his way developmentally. That’s big time. High ceiling + high floor = premium pitching prospect. I think Jefferies draft floor is where Walker Buehler landed last year.
If the Astros are looking to play it safe, Mickey Moniak could be the one for them. He makes excellent contact, and plays quality defense in centre field. For the second pick in the draft, relievers Zach Burdi, and Zach Johnson are both likely to be available, and are both tipped to be the first player from the draft class to subsequently reach the major leagues. It's unlikely, however, that the Astros go down that route, but names to look out for, nonetheless.
Somebody to watch in the second, or third round is catcher Logan Ice. He was always likely to get drafted as a result of his quality defensive skills. However, he looked like nothing more than a backup catcher with his bat failing to develop. Fast forward to the start of this season, however, and he might just hit his way into the upper rounds of the draft. So far this season, he sports an OBP of .484, and is slugging .667. Watch out for Logan Ice.
I've just thrown some names out there to stir some discussion, and speculation. Some guys that I really like. The Luhnow regime, however, so far, have had a slight inclination towards college guys, and pitchers with strong strikeout/walk ratios, and the same tendencies may well manifest themselves in the Astros' selections in the approaching draft. Stay tuned to the Crawfish Boxes for more draft coverage. Believe it or not, the draft is just over a month away.