The 2013 MLB Draft is set to begin June 6th and we're going to try and provide at least one or two things per week between now and then.
The Astros had the first pick in the 2012 MLB Draft and they again have the top pick. Last year, Mark Appel was rated by some as the top draft prospect. He's rated by nearly everyone as the top draft prospect this year. A year ago the Astros tried, prior to the draft, to negotiate an under-slot contract with Appel and failed. They chose Carlos Correa instead, paid him considerably less than slot and then picked at least two other players in the top 10 who they paid more than slot.
It was an interesting way to approach the first draft in which the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement had a clear impact. Prior to 2012, slot values were merely a suggestion. Bud Selig and other would come up with these values, pass them around and if a team went over slot, they'd just flash the team a mean look. They couldn't do anything about it. It was beautiful and it was the Cubs best path for success sooner rather than later.
What was once beautiful turned a nasty shitstained color once the CBA was signed.
I liked seeing what the Astros did. If it's something they continued to do, we could directly compare different draft strategies. The question is, though, was this strategy the result of the lack of a clear top draft prospect or was it something Jeff Luhnow and company set out to do from the very beginning? Would they do the same thing in future drafts that didn't have a clear cut number 1? This draft doesn't have one player that is far and away the best. There are a couple in Appel and Jonathan Gray who the experts say have separated themselves a bit from the rest.
I don't know and I doubt any Astros fans know either. It's literally anybody's guess.
If it was the Astros strategy from the start, maybe the performance of those they drafted would help shed some light on whether or not they would do it again. One year isn't enough. Jeff Luhnow is a very smart general manager and wouldn't let one year change a strategy. That's particularly true when you consider the sample sizes involved in those involved.
This is just an undiscredited blog throwing out wild ass guesses so I have no problem trying to come up with one based on just a year. I wouldn't be willing to reach any conclusions based on it, but it can't hurt discussing it. The most relevant thing to whether or not they continue with such a strategy would be how they performed, though as I said, one year of data is not nearly enough. Anyway…
Carlos Correa was surprisingly the number 1 pick last year. The Astros paid him about $3 million under slot. He was a very good talent. He was good enough that some thought the Cubs would take him if he was still available. Some even said he was the best high school talent in the draft, which also included Albert Almora. Correa was only 17 at the time of the draft, which is pretty young. He's only in his age 18 season right now and to this point, has only been OK.
This season he has been outstanding with nearly a .400 wOBA. The numbers may not be what you'd expect from a top pick, but he's in a full season league at the age of 18, which is impressive enough. And he's hitting the crap out of the ball. The Astros would have to be very happy with their pick at this point.
At 41st overall, the Astros went with Lance McCullers who was a top 15 talent. He fell due to demands and was even at one point the highest rated player in the 2012 draft. At just 19, and with very limited information as far as stats go, he's shown pretty good control and a high strikeout rate. He's made only 2 starts and had 3 appearances so far this year, but is also in a full season league (Class A).
With the 129th pick the Astros drafted Rio Ruiz and paid him well above slot. McCullers and Ruiz were the two they wanted when they went cheap with Correa. They got them both. Ruiz was very good in rookie league last season and then struggled in low A. He hasn't made his debut this season so he's either injured or the Astros are holding him back in extended spring training.
What to make of this? I don't know. The Cubs went pretty much by the book last year at the draft. They didn't really go over slot for anyone and didn't underpay anyone. At least not by much. Their draft was considerably different than the Astros with regards to how they spent their available money in the first 10 rounds.
Albert Almora has yet to make his debut this season, but for the most part, that's true of a lot of the Cubs top 10 picks from last year. I don't know what this means either. If this was a consistent difference between strategies then we might have something, but over one year, it's probably nothing.
There also might be another thing to consider. I have no idea how the pre-draft negotiations went between Appel and his agent, Scott Boras, and the Astros. If Appel was clearly the best prospect available, it probably isn't an issue, but with Jonathan Gray also available, the Astros may instead to deal solely with him and his agent. To the best of my Googling knowledge, Gray does not appear to have Boras as his agent.
This could potentially make the decision simpler for the Astros.