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Thoughts after 20 Full Rounds of the MLB Draft

Syndication: Tuscaloosa News Gary Cosby Jr. / USA TODAY NETWORK

This was the Astros’ fullest draft since 2019, which was a sneaky good draft with Korey Lee, Hunter Brown, and Colin Barber all chose in the first 5 rounds. The rest of the draft was pretty shaky, as the only name I recognize after round 10 is JC Correa.

Other writers have already begun to write informed profiles of these picks. This article merely intends to take a macro-view of the draft class, and indicate possible directions that Click intends to take the farm system.

First, it’s nice to infuse the system with talent. Last year the Astros didn’t pick until #87, and their next pick didn’t sign. In 2020 they picked #72. This year the had 3 picks inside the top 80, and got drafted two consensus top 50 guys, and another consensus top 100 HS player in the 11th round.

Second, Click probably doesn’t want the entire minor league system to stink from a competitive standpoint. The full-season minor league teams are collective 47 games under .500 so far. Not one has played at a .500 clip. Drew Gilbert was the leader of the #1 ranked team in college baseball. He’s a winner. 18 of the 20 picks were college guys, many of whom, after signing, will get assigned to full-season ball. So many farmhands struggled at A ball (look at Ty Whitaker’s slash line and at some of the walk totals at the A level). This draft indicates a massive infusion of talent, even if many of the picks won’t be viable prospects.

Third, the Astros took some big swings on their two HS guys, Ryan Clifford and Isaiah Jackson. Clifford is one of the best prep bats in the draft, and Jackson has an intriguing set of tools. It may not be realistic to expect both to sign, and if only one, Clifford has the pedigree. But if both somehow sign, it really transforms the potential of this draft class.

Fourth, 4-year seniors are clearly viewed as a buyers market (10 of 20 picks). COVID threw off the development for a lot of young players, and drafting an older, college senior generally means drafting stats over talent. A couple of these guys are legit grey beards. i.e., 5th year seniors (Sacco, 12th rd; McGowan, 17th rd), who’ve already turned 23 and are 1999 DOBs. Others are on the young side, like Dezenzo, the SS from Ohio St (12th round). Not all college seniors are the same in terms of talent and ceiling. But the value of a college senior is also in their negotiating position, which isn’t great. Note the signing bonuses, as they roll in, and the math is not hard to figure out. If they sign under slot, that means more money an go to rounds 11-20. They need to save money on these signings for Clifford and/or Jackson, since teams can’t spend above a certain level.

Fifth, not all college ball is the same. Guys from smaller conferences are more likely to spend time in instructs before heading out for full-season. In years past college players would go to one of two leagues (New York Penn, for the more advanced; Appy League, for the less so), and if they crushed it they would move to full-season A ball. Those leagues have been eliminated. Talented guys like Daniels and Melton will no doubt go to Fayetteville within a few days of signing. Depending on make up and the wear and tear of the season, esp. for pitchers, it’s worth watching the distribution. I’d expect Michael Knorr to pitch some part of August and September.

Sixth, one way to understand this draft in the big picture is like a downsized version of the 2012 draft, where the Astros got Correa and McCullers. Everyone at the time was excited about the success out of the gate with guys like Nolan Fontana, Andrew Aplin, Aaron West, Joe Sclafani, and Ty Heineman. I expect some of the 2022 draft class to turn heads with statistical performances over the next 15 months. No need to read too much into this. The chaff is separated from the wheat in Double-A, but at the very least the Astros have used their first full draft since 2019 to replenish and restock a bottom-5 farm system that has had far more disappointment than surprise this season in terms of on-field performance. Can’t wait to see them in the boxscores.