clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2019 MLB Draft Prep and the Astros

New, 9 comments

What lessons can be learned from how the Astros have built their ballclub?

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Carlos Correa. Jose Altuve. George Springer. Lance McCullers. Dallas Keuchel. Yuli Gurriel. Alex Bregman. All were signed to their initial affiliated contract by the Houston Astros. Some were from the draft. Some were from international waters. If you were to put together the excess value created from these names, you would have a whiff of why the Astros are looking so potent now. Even with a major misfire like Mark Appel, they still had plenty of other pieces with which to obtain Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole in trade. In short, this sort of ability to amass talent is why I pay so much attention to the draft.

“But, Altuve was an international signing. And tanking. And, and, and.”

Alex Bregman signed for a $5.9 million bonus. Which meant, as soon as he reached the big leagues, he was just about a bargain. This season, he was paid a touch under $600,000 for his time with the Astros. He’s been worth 12.7 bWAR for his career.

“But, he’s an outlier. Most prospects aren’t that good.”

Absolutely correct. The goal every June should be to improve as much as possible in the draft. Every July 2 international signing class should be intended to do the same. Underplaying either is absolutely foolish. Yet, baseball fans are often more familiar with the names in the football and basketball drafts than the June baseball draft.

“But, ESPN...”

... is obsessed with the other sports. This doesn’t mean you have to be. When a team drafts a player that reaches the parent club while succeeding, it helps with the finances. By helping the finances, they both make more expensive free agents more affordable, and make the financial structure more tempting to them. A veteran who wants a ring is unlikely to sign with a team needing to make trades to create spending room.

Whichever star or semi-star you talk about, they helped their team be more competitive when they were providing more value to the team, than they were being paid. For instance, if Bregman were putting up his seasonal numbers while being paid $50 million per, he’d still be useful. But at $600 K, that’s more money that can be spent on Cole or Verlander without the financial concern.

As much as you don’t want baseball to be a business, to those who make the decisions, baseball is just that. By doing well in the draft, it frees more salary to seek needs. The more salary misspent on bad seasons at free agency rates, the more the draft is needed to help out.

Many of you know far more about baseball than you represent. You can watch a hitter, and tell if he has a swing that ought to be sought out in the draft. Many of you are rather good at locating “red flag” deliveries, or bad defensive technique. If a decent number of you were to watch a few college games, you could likely tell, without much prompting, who the best player on the field is. Or which guy is hustling.

No, I’m not a scout. Likely, neither are you. However, if you take in a game (after a ramp-up period), your opinion would be perfectly useful in a discussion regarding the draft.

“You like the pitcher from TCU? That’s adorable. Cough cough, the guy from Duke is better.”

College games in February and March are of far more intrigue than MLB ones.

***

Today, I was running nose-first into a Yovani Gallardo versus Tyler Chatwood argument.

“Chatwood was terrible this year. They should have signed Gallardo.”

“Did you say that before the ink was dry?”

“No, I had no idea who Gallardo was.”

“So, you’re back-seat driving?”

... et cetera.

Discussions regarding information are much more useful before the fact. If you become a bit aware of four of the viable choices at 27 before the draft, discussions can be fun.

“Do you prefer Bryce Stott or Peter Toglia? And why?”

College games are covered. More than one person has an opinion. We can learn from each other. That’s what these articles are about. I want Bleed Cubbie Blue readers to be well educated on the draft. Not because of what I say, or because of what Keith Law has to say. I want you to be confident enough in your beliefs to call out someone when they’re full of it.

Just because the Cubs, Astros, Dodgers, Brewers, or Yankees are doing something, doesn’t make it right, smart, or wise. My pieces are about educating you to think better on your own about prospects and the draft. Prospects and the draft are intertwined. Otherwise, nowhere near as many teams would be tanking.

***

As Bregman is the cover today, I’ll talk a bit about his alma mater, the Louisiana State baseball team for this season. I know at least one of you gives the Bayou Bengals a special look. Here is a spotlight on the 2019 LSU Tigers.

Paul Mainieri runs the show in Baton Rouge. They scuffled to a 15-15 record in the elite Southeastern Conference last season. They were 39-27 overall. No LSU players were drafted in the first seven rounds. That like a van-full of unrelated kids driving by a McDonald’s and not screaming to stop. It doesn’t happen.

No LSU hitter had more than eight homers. Two of their four main starting pitchers had an ERA over 5.00. The Tigers aren’t listed on the D1 Baseball Top 25. However, the same source pegs them as the best recruiting class this cycle. While it won’t help their draft status in June, three top-end sounding pitchers arrive in Baton Rouge for this season.

Jaden Hill, Landon Marceaux, and Cole Henry look to bring the shine back to the Bayou soon, if not this season. In three years, at least one of those figure to be atop mock draft boards. To the extent that happens, they will be worth knowing about then, if not now.

As for what might make sense in the draft from LSU this time? Zach Hess, who was a sophomore-eligible that returned to school, figures to be a typical SEC Friday night ace. He fanned 107 in 92⅔ innings. Which is impressive, however he did it. However, if you know anything about the Braves, they draft hard-throwers. Even if they don’t sign on the dotted line. A.J. Labas and Ma’Khail Hilliard won’t be draft-eligible this time around, but should pitch well enough so the three freshmen can settle in.

Five LSU hitters had over 200 at bats in 2018. Their returnees are outfielders Zack Watson, Antoine Duplantis, and Daniel Cabrera. None had an OPS in 2018 below .824, with Cabrera at .930. In a rugged SEC, the Tigers could struggle some, again. However, if they have enough pitching depth, they could surprise.

One nice thing about tracking any SEC team is the quality of the opposition. If you track the Tigers in 2019, you’ll learn quite a bit about a very good baseball conference. And, if you’re tracking a team to educate yourself, LSU is a very reasonable choice. A lengthy string of “reasonable choices” put together a really good professional team in Houston.

The Tigers open on February 15th against Louisiana Monroe, and it appears all their games will be covered on radio, if nothing else.