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Down on the Farm 3 Round Mock Draft — Astros picks

Writeups for four potential targets from a blogger/media mock.

Last week I participated in a three round mock draft with a group of other enthusiasts where we did our best to imitate the tendencies of the MLB clubs with our selections. Some prospects are still playing in summer leagues and there’s still some late movement on draft boards, but this should hopefully give a rough idea of the type of class the Astros might be able to pull in with their four selections in the first 103 picks.

Here were my writeups for each of my picks:

1.28 - Eric Brown, SS, Coastal Carolina

It feels like things line up nicely for the Astros to strike on a college bat in round one this year. There’s a strong list of data darlings available in this range and I considered a few others including Jud Fabian, Jordan Beck and Jacob Melton, but I think Brown stands out from the pack a bit. The Astros won’t be bothered much by his funky setup, and they surely value his elite performance- including contact numbers that can stand up next to those of Lee and Neto- very highly. Brown has standout pitch recognition and very good bat speed that helped him hit everything in sight during his college career, and he hit the ball quite hard to boot. If a bit more of the raw juice can be translated into over-the-fence pop, Brown could be a dynamic offensive threat. An athletic defender, he has a chance to stick at short and won’t slide very far down the defensive spectrum if he does end up elsewhere long term. I think he checks more or less all of Houston’s usual boxes and they’d be happy to see him still on the board here.

2.63 - Houston Astros - Spencer Jones, OF, Vanderbilt

Jones was in my round one mix as well, so it’s a pleasant surprise to see him available here. Listed at 6’7”, 225 lbs., Jones has some of the best top-end exit velo in the class, but is much more than just a slugging behemoth. Sporting shockingly good short-area explosion and some impressive long speed, he’s likely to get some real run in center field as a pro and has a legitimate chance to stick there. Even if he does end up needing to move, he also has a plus arm that would project very favorably in right. There’s significant swing and miss in his profile that isn’t going away, but his hitting skills looked tangibly improved in 2022, he’s young for his class, and with true double-plus raw power, his contact rate just needs to be adequate. The Astros have some experience with this type of hitter and should be drawn to Jones’ top-notch measureables.

3C.80 - Houston Astros - Tyler Locklear, 3B/1B, VCU

This year’s college bat crop aligns really nicely with the Astros’ draft preferences, so they’re going back to the well with their extra pick. Nobody should doubt Locklear’s power (he hit 36 homers across 116 games over the last two seasons with great exit velocity numbers, and posted an ISO of nearly .200 on the Cape), and he pairs it with a very patient approach and solid bat control. He’s most likely a 1B only guy long term, is right-handed, and older for the class, all of which contributes to him still being available at this stage, but he emphatically checks some key boxes and the Astros can give him a long look at the hot corner, where he may have a chance to be passable. Even if he does have to move, his easy plus raw power and OBP skills give him a chance to hit his way into the heart of a lineup once he has his sea legs in pro ball.

3.103 - Houston Astros - Cade Horton, RHP, Oklahoma

It took awhile for Horton to completely recover from Tommy John surgery, but his power breaking ball really started to pop down the stretch and he has been among the best pitchers in postseason play. He’s capable of touching 97 with the fastball, typically sitting in the low-to-mid 90s, but the biting mid-80s slider is the real main attraction here. Also a talented infielder and hitter, Horton’s athleticism is appealing and he uses a pretty simple delivery (albeit with some effort), portending continued improvement in the command department. He is very young for the college class at almost exactly 21 on draft day, but doesn’t appear to have a ton of physical development remaining, so bettering the tertiary offerings will be the other main avenue for improvement going forward. With enough progression in those areas, he could have a chance to start long term, but the fallback as a two pitch reliever looks like a strong one, and we’d be comfortable with that at this stage of the draft too. The Astros have shown a willingness to go after draft year risers and favor strong breaking stuff, so Horton feels like a solid fit here.

I will note that after I made my last selection, I was informed of Cade Horton’s high bonus demands (he’s seeking first round money, and from the sounds of it not late first round money), so I would’ve gone a different direction there, perhaps Florida’s Brandon Sproat, another college arm with big stuff. It wasn’t long ago that Horton fell to the late day two range on public side boards, but he has shot up in a hurry with his postseason heroics and while I buy the hype, I don’t think committing that much of their bonus pool to him fits the Astros’ MO.