The Houston Astros, under new owner Jim Crane, are trying to rebuild a team that lost over 100 games last season. Very much removed from the World Series runner-up Astros of 2005, the current team is full of young, unproven players who will eventually lead the team back to the playoffs...well, in theory.
Former GM Ed Wade did his best over the last few seasons to make the Astros younger, trade high-payroll players, and acquire young and promising prospects. Now it is Crane and new GM Jeff Luhnow's turn to take those players and an A+ 2012 draft class and turn Houston back into a baseball city. Here's a look at some moves that were made in the hope that that will happen.
Mitchell Traver is a phenomenal high school pitcher out of the Houston area who is a near lock to go to college at Texas Christian University. That is not good news for the Astros, but the pick would be a great one if Traver did want to sign with his hometown big league club. Nothing would really be wasted by the Astros if they chose Traver with their 39th round pick—it would actually be a huge steal, considering MLB.com has him as the #89 overall draft prospect.
Long put up some ridiculous number in his time at Illinois State, including setting the school record for saves in a season with 13 in 2012, and saves in a career, with 28. As a junior he posted a .92 ERA in 39 innings and had career totals of 183 innings in 96 appearances with a 2.50 ERA and 187 K's. This kind of arm can help solidify the Astros bullpen in a few years.
The 1st Team All-Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher could still use some refining, but it is clear that he has the talent, skill, and size to succeed. At 6'04'' 220lbs, Bircher is a good size lefty who average a little over a strikeout per inning this past season and a 2.70 ERA. In a league that requires teams to have left handed bullpen pitchers, he is a nice addition to the farm system.
Minor is a fantastic pick for the Astros in the middle of the draft. Each major league team has six teams in their farm system, so there are a lot of a pitchers needed. At Texas A&M Corpus Christi last season, Minor struck out 110 batters in an impressive 110 innings (great practice for future starting in a full 162 game season). He also compiled a 10-3 record and 2.20 ERA including four complete games. That kind of stamina is a great sign for young arms destined for the Show.
Some people may be wondering why the Astros would take a SS in the 3rd round just after taking a SS with the number one overall pick. One reason might be for them to compete with and make each other better. Another and even more bright reason for the future, would be both Correra and Fontana being studs and moving Fontana to play 2B alongside the Astros' number one. Either way this was a great pick for a team that needs middle infield help for the future.
Along with the shortstop position, the Astros have had many suitors yet little production from 3B since Morgan Ensberg's near-MVP season in 2005. The Astros drafted Ruiz in the 5th round, hopefully pulling him away from his commitment to USC and thus putting a solid left-handed bat into the farm system. Fighting through an injury last season also probably cost him to slide in the draft, but the upside for a 5th rounder is well worth it, especially given where the Astros are currently.
Pitching was a must for the Houston Astros in this year's draft, as the starting pitching the last few years has been sub-par and most of the bright spots are very young. Those young pitchers need some competition within the organization, and Rodgers is going to be the kind of person to give it to them. The 82nd best draft prospect on MLB.com is also coming back home to the Houston area after playing his high school ball at Lamar Consolidated High School in nearby Rosenberg, Texas.
Taken in the 16th round of last years draft by the Rockies, Tucker not only improved his draft stock, but also led the Florida Gators to the #1 overall ranking at the end of the regular season leading into the NCAA Division I tournament. This left-handed hitter can crush the ball and it's amazing that he fell all the way to #219 in the draft, considering his great season and MLB.com ranking him the 88th best player in the draft.
McCullers was a huge pick by the Astros in the 2nd round and a steal by most experts' accounts, who had him as a Top 20 talent in the draft. This HS senior has a fastball that reaches the upper 90's and the RHP has also added some nasty breaking stuff to his arsenal. He also comes from a good bloodline, as his dad Lance McCullers pitched in the big leagues for seven seasons.
Correa was rated as the top infielder in the entire draft, which is why it is not surprising that the Astros took him with the #1 overall pick on Monday night's first round. He has all the tools and the size to be a great major league shortstop, which is rare when considering the pool of 18 year old players. At a lean 6'4, he also has some time to grow into his body a little more and add some power in the future, which all Astros fans hope is very soon.