Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Everyone shut up about Kris Bryant

Note: I borrowed heavily from this piece I wrote back in April 2015 about Appel, Bryant and the 2013 draft. Also, please do note that I got an awful lot of help with some quotes and screencaps from Caleb Traylor.

Well Jon Heyman, you've done it again:
Kris Bryant's continuing deeds keep raising the question why the Astros didn't grab him with the No. 1 pick. "Kris Bryant and Buster Posey were probably two of the easiest picks for No. 1 of anyone in the last (decade)..." one rival exec notes. 

This is a remarkable piece of amnesia and revisionist history. Some background, if you will:

Thanks to their 55-107 record in 2012 - the 2nd of three straight 100-loss seasons, each of them more loss-y than the last - the Astros had the #1 overall pick in the draft. In retrospect the 2012 draft stands out as the best of the Luhnow era, with the Astros getting Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and future trade pieces Rio Ruiz, Brett Phillips in the first ten rounds, though that perspective can change based on what shakes out in later drafts whose players haven't significantly impacted the team.

2013 was the Astros' 2nd shot at the 1-1 pick. The Pirates had selected Appel with their 8th overall pick in the 2012 draft, but he had elected to go back to Stanford for his senior season, and another chance at that $5m+ signing bonus.

It was pretty clear before the draft that the Astros had "narrowed" their 2013 1-1 pick to Stanford's Mark Appel, University of San Diego's Kris Bryant, Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray, North Carolina's Colin Moran, and high schoolers Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier.

Keith Law said in April 2013 that the 1-2 would be Appel and Gray. Appel was still at the top of his board in June. Baseball America didn't have Bryant at the top of their board, either.

It should be noted that Baseball America's Aaron Fitt said he would take Kris Bryant over both Appel and Gray, simply because of Bryant's "special power bat." So you're the only one who gets to shout at the world about how dumb they are, Aaron Fitt. 

Then-beat writer Bryan Smith tweeted on May 22 that the pick was really between Appel and Gray, but that the Astros wouldn't actually decide on a pick until everybody got together in Houston. 

On May 30, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo wrote in a mock draft that there were "whispers regarding Bryant and Moran, but Gray is still the pick."

The day before the 2013 draft, Mayo wrote that Appel "had a better season as a senior and it seems likely he will hear his name called in one of the first few picks." However, Mayo wrote, "while there has been more buzz about Moran than Bryant in discussions regarding the top picks, in some ways it is Bryant who better fits the profile of a No. 1 overall pick."

Jim Callis' final mock draft the day before the 2013 draft had the Astros taking Jonathan Gray and the Cubs taking Appel.

Jon Heyman - the same one who allowed a rival exec to revise history - put Appel at the top of his very own rankings the day before the 2013 draft. Bryant was 2nd. 

Of course the Astros selected Appel. With the next pick, the Cubs selected Kris Bryant over Jonathan Gray, who went to the Rockies with the next selection. Noting "conventional wisdom," MLB.com's (former Chicago Tribune's) Phil Rogers said that Appel and Gray were expected to go 1-1 and 1-2, with uncertainty if Bryant would be selected ahead of Moran, Meadows, and Frazier.

Want to see Mark Appel's list of school records and achievements at Stanford?
Stanford Record Book - career strikeouts - 372 (1st)
• Stanford Record Book - career innings pitched - 377.2 (4th)
 Stanford Record Book - career wins - 28 (6th)
• Stanford Record Book - single-season strikeouts - 130 - 2013 (t-10th)
• Stanford Record Book - single-season strikeouts - 130 - 2012 (t-10th)
• 2013 First Team All-America (Louisville Slugger)
• 2013 Pac-12 Baseball Scholar-Athlete of the Year
• 2013 Dick Howser Trophy finalist
• 2013 Senior CLASS Award finalist
• 2013 Diamond Sports Pitcher of the Year semifinalist
• 2013 Golden Spikes Award semifinalist
• 2013 First Team All-Pac-12
• 2013 Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week (May 27)
• 2013 Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week (March 5)
• 2013 Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week (March 4)
• 2013 Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week (March 11)
• 2013 NCBWA National Pitcher of the Week (March 5)
• 2013 Baseball America Midseason Top Pitcher (April 4)
• 2013 MLB.com Top Prospect
• 2013 Preseason First Team All-America (Perfect Game)
• 2013 Preseason First Team All-America (Louisville Slugger)
• 2013 Preseason First Team All-America (NCBWA)
• 2013 Preseason First Team All-America (Baseball America)
• 2012 NCBWA Pitcher of the Year
• 2012 First Team All-America (Collegiate Baseball)
• 2012 First Team All-America (NCBWA)
• 2012 Second Team All-America (Baseball America)
• 2012 First Team All-Pac-12
• 2012 NCAA Stanford Regional Most Outstanding Player
• 2012 Golden Spikes Award finalist
• 2012 Dick Howser Trophy semifinalist

Rogers noted in an article about Bryant that Cubs Senior VP of Player Development Jason McLeod that the Cubs had serious questions about Bryant's ability to hit. But in a one-on-one meeting with Bryant, the Cubs were sold. McLeod:
By that point, we'd already met with Jon Gray and Mark Appel. We felt like Kris, of the three, was just someone who was probably the most equipped to step into this type of market and to handle the expectations of being the No. 2 overall pick.I

Still, Rogers at the time echoed "conventional wisdom:"
By skipping Appel last year, they wind up with Carlos Correa (who is a real stud) and Appel, a year older and more polished. Impressive.

Of course we can go back now and see that picking Bryant would have been more beneficial to the Astros than picking Appel was. But you can hardly call the Astros stupid for taking Appel. We're humans, and humans are dumb. Fans are dumber than regular humans, too. We look back and lament picking Nevin over Jeter. Jio Mier over Mike Trout. You can even lament the decision to pick Appel over Bryant. These things happen. They happen to a lot of teams. There will always be a player the (insert team) should have taken. But to say that that Kris Bryant was the easiest 1-1 pick since Buster Posey is laughable, at best. That "rival exec" is a moron.