Thursday, May 29, 2014

Astros County Roundtable: May 28

We at AC have decided to give any readers out there small a window into the inner-workings of the AC offices.  Once a week, we meet in the AC Boardroom, get Betty and Cynthia to hold all calls, and discuss pressing issues, such as where Hunter Pence's scooter could be, and which is the best brand of nose-hair trimmer.  We sometimes even get to talking about the Pressing Issue of the Week.  The results of the discussion for this week are below.

The Pressing Issue:  Who would you take at 1:1, and what overall strategy do you expect to see in the draft??

BatGuy:  I pay almost no attention to draft prospects. Too much changes too fast and at best all I could to is regurgitate what the experts say.

For overall strategy, thoug, I'm a big proponent of taking the best player available, regardless of position. Given that developmental paths are so different from one player to the next, drafting for perceived needs too often leads to reaching on guys. It's better to have a logjam of good prospects at one position than to have a team full of mediocre guys who fit whatever position was open.

Masked:  I am with BatGuy.  With most of the prospects and players in the minors, we at least have access to quite a lot of objective statistical information from sites like Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs.  At least with guys who have been in the minors, we have about (guessing here) 20% of the information that the teams have.

With pre-draft players, we have close to 0%.  Some college or high-school stats may help, but the level of competition varies hugely.  Much of the pre-draft stuff is based on scouting (which isn't, for obvious reasons, widely circulated) and conversations with families and advisers (again, not widely shared).  So, from our perspective, it is a crap-shoot.

I note that for most of 2013, the 1-1 was clearly Carlos Rodon, but now executives have stated that there may not even be a $6 million player in the draft (although who knows what axe is being ground with that quote).  So, I am guessing, with that in mind, the Astros try and save on the first pick, and hope that Jeff Hoffman or Erick Fedde (two recent TJ victims) drop to the compensation round.  Although that seems like a long-shot.

The other overall strategy that I think the Astros will employ is bucking the trend, and going with a high school pitcher.  Either Brady Aiken or Tyler Kolek fits that bill.  The reason is that I think the Astros internal timeline is to complete in the latter-half of 2015, with an eye to the 2016 seasons onward.  They have a lot of older pitchers to grant a look prior to then.  I doubt they will have much room in the rotation prior to that, purely as they are trying to work out who sticks, and who doesn't.  Cosart has good upside, Oberholtzer has been effective, Keuchel and McHugh are dominating, and the next 12-14 months are going to be dedicated to work out who is who.  Just below the majors are guys like Owens, Buchanan, Folty, Clemens, Tropeano, White, Wojo, Doran, Martinez and so forth.  Below them are Appel, Velasquez and a bunch of others.  So adding a College arm into that mix increases the potential for some talent to go walking, because the Astros don't have time to assess whether they can play or not.

But who knows.  We know nothing, and I am happy to admit that my opinion is merely an uneducated guess.

(Not Hank):  As far as who gets popped number 1, my gut is telling me Brady Aiken, but I wouldn't be shocked with Rodon. Anyone else would surprise me. As far as strategy, I think that depends on number 1. If it's Rodon, they'll probably need to pull some money from the pool elsewhere, which would lead to lower ceiling higher floor college guys. I think they can find value there. If they get a discount number 1, maybe with Kolek or Alex Jackson, they might get more creative a lá 2012. Either way, the compensation round pick will be extraordinarily valuable, either to get their guy 1.1 or spread that value around.

Cockroach:  I will likewise claim NO expertise in the field of draft analytics, so I'd be very worried if the Astros left to me the decision of who should go 1-1. That said, I know who I would LIKE to see at 1-1, which is still Carlos Rodon. For purely non-expert-y reasons, I'm terrified that the only other HS pitchers ever taken 1-1 are David Clyde and Brien Taylor, neither of whom exactly turned out well. Even the track record on college pitchers taken 1-1 is far more depressing than inspiring, which is why I was iffy on Mark Appel last year (and in 2012) until The Real Experts™ convinced me that there was not a suitably strong non-pitcher option in last year's class. Those same Experts™ have yet to convince me that a suitably strong non-pitcher prospect exists in this year's class either, so I say ride the horse that brung ya and stick with Rodon. At the very least, I'd hate to pass on Rodon and see him wearing some other team's uniform when he turns into the monster that everyone expected last year.

For overall strategy, I expect more of the same that we've seen the last two years: high-OBP hitters, high-GB% pitchers, and being unafraid to take a chance on guys that may slip down the board due to other clubs' concerns.

So there you have it.... who the frick knows!!