If you haven't listened to our latest (and greatest) podcast to date, you're missing out. One of the topics we discussed in regards to the draft is what the Astros strategy could look like. They've used a few different approaches since Jeff Luhnow took office as the GM of the Astros but they are selecting from a very different position of the draft.
This is as simple of an approach as you can have with the draft. You draft the best-player available (BPA) that is signable. Plain and simple. Sure, later on after a few rounds when you have players grouped as opposed to heavily ranked, you can start selecting players that just fit into your current minor league rosters that you feel are the best of what you have. But, early on it's BPA.
The Astros used this in 2013 and 2014. With the Mark Appel draft there wasn't going to be much flexibility since Appel had Scott Boras in his corner. So, the rest of the draft played to that. Mostly picks expected to sign for around slot with some senior signs and potential minor discount with Appel to get some high school guys (Jacob Nottingham, Jason Martin, Austin Nicely). They had to do the same when they drafted Brady Aiken since he would have required near slot amount. The rest was filled with slot picks and some senior signs to get a few extra bucks to cover Jacob Nix's bonus. (Of course it all went down the drain).
This strategy is most likely to happen. The Astros don't have any compensation picks and there's a huge gap between their first pick (#17 overall) and their second pick (#61 overall). That's a lot of picks for every other team to blow up your strategy by selecting your draft steal.
Expect a slot type college player or high school player without over-slot bonus demands (the Lance McCullers and Daz Cameron's of the world). Those with high dollar demands likely won't be sought after by the Astros due to limited draft pool and the aforementioned large pick gap that makes it harder to save money elsewhere and get the other guy you want.
Eric Lauer, T.J. Zeuch, Cody Sedlock, and Will Craig all fit the college bill. Forrest Whitely doesn't appear to have big demands and is one of the reasons the Astros have been mentioned a few times in connection.
Royal Turn Around
A few years ago, the Royals employed their own interesting draft strategy where they reached for a guy they liked in order to sign him for less. That guy was Hunter Dozier. He was expected to go late in the first round and they popped him at number eight overall. Essentially, they had a pre-draft type of understanding where they would do that if he would accept less money. He did and they were able to draft and sign Sean Manaea who was an early candidate for first overall but fell because of injuries. Manaea was a risk to sign so they made sure to get the saving of the higher slot with the cheaper deal with Dozier as opposed to risk losing it all with Manaea.
The Astros would have a tough task in order to pull that off because of the pick gap. But, they could potentially pull it off.
Matt Thaiss and Chris Okey are likely late first round picks or comp round types. Or Bryan Reynolds who's also a late first round type or even compensation round. Pitcher's Dane Dunning could be a comp. round guy and Keegan Akin is seeing his stock rise into the second round. These guys could save a few bucks. for a Kyle Wentz who is not rumored to be a tough high school sign. Maybe, it saves enough money where you can wait to the second round on a type like Jesus Luzardo or Scott Moss. Both have big incentives to go to college or stay in college to raise their stock but could have a price.
High Risk-High Reward
I've already talked about Jesus Luzardo in the previous one but he had helium as a first rounder until Tommy John surgery. What if you roll the dice with him? You get a guy that could have been an early first round pick in the second half of the first. Not a bad deal. But, the injury carries way more risk. Maybe a Kyle Funkhouser who has seen his stock fall quite a bit. He looked a lot closer to his junior and sophomore levels of performance in May after looking awful early on. So, he has first round upside, but the price tag of faded star and senior sign. Saves you money later on for other signability risks.
Like I said, it gets fuzzy with anything other than the straight up method when you don't have a lot of flexibility from comp picks or from big bonus pools. Expect a straight up approach.