February 23, 2012; Melbourne, FL, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) signs autographs for fans after his workout at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE
To be a fly in the wall of Bobby Heck's office....
Yesterday afternoon I got into a brief Twitter discussion with Sean and Jesse from Crawfish Boxes, Brian from Climbing Tal's Hill and Steve, from somewhere. I forget. Our subject: the Astros first overall pick in the 2012 June Amateur Draft.
Mark Appel's had a good two starts for Stanford, giving up one run over both, striking out 10 his last time out. But people are still not wowed by him. Whispers are he's a safe pick. And this is maddening. Because we have to get this right. If only we had some prospect eight ball where we could peer into the future. And while we could curse having the number one pick and any additional pressure that comes with it, the Astros are in an enviable position, even if there is not an obvious standout, such as Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg.
As much as you can knock Bobby Heck and the scouting department they have zeroed in on 'their guy' for the Astros first round pick very early in the last two years. You only had to see their war room blow up when the Padres announced the Cory Spangenberg pick last year to know that George Springer had been their goal all along. You may not be enamoured either with Delino DeShields Jr. but they made a beeline straight to him in 2010.
Anyone getting Derek Jeter syndrome yet? Because we cannot worry that even though we pick who we think is the best guy those below him might eclipse what he achieves during his career. And this is not a perfect allegory because we have no idea if there will be a talent like Jeter available for years to come.
The most salient point made by Brian is that short-termism got us where we are now. We have to create a pipeline not draft all our prospects so that they get to the majors as quickly as possible.
The backdrop to this is Keith Law's draft board for 2012 with Byron Buxton leading the charge, with Appel at three. Now Law is one man and we do not have to agreee with his opinions even if we listen to them. And a hell of a lot could change in the next three months.
I have in my mind a pitcher, because the last thing I want to see happen is for the Astros to draft another center fielder/shortstop/catcher with their first pick, and I think others would agree with me. I do not have the evaluating skills to predict with any certainty where the Astros should direct their pick, so I'll leave that up to David, who picked George Springer minutes before the selection last year. But should they be limiting themselves to pitchers or be drafting the player with the most potential? A doozy for sure.
The only filip in all of this is that the Astros have two other picks in the top 50 (ish), with a selection in the supplemental round then the first selection in the second round. But with the 2012 draft not so deep as last year's, the scouting office might not be able to hit home runs on each, adding the new slotting rules into the bargain.
Then there is the idea floating on Twitter that the Astros could sign Jorge Soler, the Cuban outfielder, so there is less pressure on them to take a bat with the first pick. I was surprised as anyone else to see the Astros linked to Soler in a piece by the Chronicle's Zachary Levine, and enjoyed this further piece from the Caller Times on the 19-year-old.
"I have seen him before," Luhnow said, adding that he's been in contact with Soler's camp. "He's still not at the point where he's a free agent yet, but we're keeping tabs on him."
This is not the strongest declaration of interest that I have ever seen, but Jim Crane has gone on record to say if Jeff Luhnow comes to him with a proposition to spend money that makes sense, he would consider it. However, considering it might take around $30m to lock him up, that seems exorbitant amount just so the Astros don't feel guilty about taking a pitcher #1. Incidentally before Carlos Lee and Brett Myers are shooed off the roster, the Astros are on the hook to pay them a combined $32.5m. If the Astros do sign Soler, it should be because they think he is worth the money.
If you look at 2013 and what Crane will be spending, paying Soler that amount of money seems less crazy than other free agent options he might be presented with over the next few years. For a team that figures not to be competitive for the next two years, Soler represents an intriguing punt into the long grass.
And lastly, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe still cannot get over the shock that no team wanted Wandy Rodriguez. It is now a running joke that Cafardo includes Rodriguez in some way to his weekly notes. This time he states that teams will try to acquire Rodriguez in July and that the Astros are willing to absorb around half of his contract, which by that time would amount to about $15m of the $30m left.