To start with, I actually did do a little prep for the draft. I didn’t think it was that much-I just did Baseball-Reference searches for the batters and pitchers with the most total WAR as an Astro, then dumped them into a single spreadsheet (along with years and positions played), along with a column for checking off when they were taken-but it wound up being more helpful than I realized.
The first five rounds were actually pretty straightforward: I just tried to build the best core that I could. I had a feeling that the players selected in the first five rounds would probably be an uncontentious group on the whole, and noticeably better than the next ten rounds, so the focus should just be on getting the best player I could in each of those picks, and determining my positional needs from there based on what I ended up with after those first few selections.
I knew, given my status as the fourth overall pick (we had a five-person snake order draft), that I would miss out on my chance for Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, and José Altuve. The next best player after those three isn’t as clear, but I knew I wanted to focus on players with both high peaks and long Astro careers when I could. By that standard, my top candidates were guys like Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, José Cruz, Jim Wynn, and César Cedeño. I would have been fine with any of them, but given that four of those five were outfielders, Oswalt seemed much harder to replace. Some pitchers in team history have had higher highs than him, or lasted longer, but no one has Oswalt beat on both fronts.
Thankfully, Brian’s strategy (as the fifth and sixth selections) worked well with my own. Taking both Verlander and Cole left all of my second choices in place. I went with Berkman, since his peak was slightly higher than Cruz’s, and because I figured there might be a bias toward more recent players. And with that, the next six picks responded to our run on starting pitchers, with everyone using at least one pick to take their ace. There was also a focus on newer stars, with Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa going, which was understandable, but I preferred to start with already-banked value with my first few picks, and I had figured there was no way they would drop to my third pick at #14 overall.
That left me with my pick of Cruz, Wynn, and Cedeño in the third round, which was easy. There was no reason for Brian to take both center fielders, so I took Cruz, and then Wynn after he took Cedeño in between.
I needed to refocus away from the outfield next time, so I picked Joe Morgan to bolster the infield (I hadn’t expected him to fall to the fifth round, so it was a nice surprise), then Don Wilson because I knew I needed to pick a strong number two starter before they were all gone following everyone else making their moves.
From that point on, there was less difference between the remaining options, so I developed a basic system: identify the two or three best players left at each needed position. If one of them was substantially better than the other two, take them with my next pick. If they were all pretty similar and I would be happy with any of them, I would wait for someone else to take one while I focused on the other areas in the meantime.
So, for instance, I determined that Ken Caminiti or Morgan Ensberg would be acceptable third basemen, so when Caminiti went off the board, I snapped up Ensberg. Hunter Pence and Rusty Staub were looking like the best DH options left at one point, so I grabbed Staub at the first chance once Pence was gone. Marwin González or Adam Everett at short? Everett was the first pick of the twelfth round, so I went with Marwin on my turn.
In the end, I think that I wound up pretty a fairly strong team all-around. It’s hard to get two upset about a top-to-bottom lineup like Morgan-Wynn-Cruz-Berkman-Staub-Ensberg-Gurriel-Marwin-Ashby, and I think a top three pitching staff of Oswalt-Wilson-Cuellar is sneaky-good. If nothing else, I don’t think anyone else is going to touch this outfield. The end result was:
Round 1 (#4 Overall): Roy Oswalt, SP
Round 2 (#7): Lance Berkman, LF
Round 3 (#14): José Cruz, RF
Round 4 (#17): Jim Wynn, CF
Round 5 (#24): Joe Morgan, 2B
Round 6 (#27): Don Wilson, SP
Round 7 (#34): Morgan Ensberg, 3B
Round 8 (#37): Mike Cuellar, SP
Round 9 (#44): Rusty Staub, DH/1B
Round 10 (#47): Octavio Dotel, Cl
Round 11 (#54): Yuli Gurriel, 1B/DH
Round 12 (#57): Marwin González, SS
Round 13 (#64): Alan Ashby, C
Round 14 (#67): Ken Forsch, P
Round 15 (#74): Wade Miller, P
As a bonus: I also got the Tequila Sunrise jerseys, in our bonus 16th round. My first choice, the modern day uniforms, were already off the table, so it was just a matter of determining my second choice. I’ve always been a fan of the classic ‘70s rainbow style, since they’re one of the more iconic designs in the game’s history, but it also helped the other options (the Colt .45s, the 90s Navy, and the 2000s Brick Red ) were less inspiring. Honestly, I’ve always found the ‘90s and ‘00s jerseys a little underwhelming and bland, and while the Colt .45s designs were more interesting than them, that era of the team is kind of just a footnote in the overall franchise history.