Why GM Jeff Luhnow Is Leading Houston Astros in the Right Direction
The last major connection from previous ownership was severed this weekend when Brad Mills was let go as manager of the Houston Astros. The team has officially become GM Jeff Luhnow's and if his first eight months on the job are any indication, they are in good hands.
Owner Jim Crane made it clear from his first press conference that this team was going to be built through the draft and player development, which plays to Luhnow's strengths. These are the top reasons why general manager Jeff Luhnow is leading this franchise in the right direction.
Sticking to a Plan
This past week Luhnow sent an email to Astros' season-ticket holders explaining their plan and his vision for the organization. This was great news to hear because changing the fortunes of this franchise won't happen overnight. With the worst record in Major League Baseball, management needed to reassure the fanbase that there is a plan.
Sticking to a plan of building through player development and the farm system takes time, and it's often easy to change course when your team is a punching bag for opposing teams, fans and sports media. The only thing worse the Astros could do right now is to scrap the plan prematurely and start over because of outside pressure.
Not Bringing in Old Veterans
The whole reason the Astros got in this mess was that for about five years after their World Series appearance, they neglected their farm system and tried to fill holes with aging veterans. Jason Jennings, Woody Williams, Carlos Lee, Miguel Tejada and Clint Barmes were brought in as quick fixes to try and get the team back to the playoffs.
As part of Luhnow's plan, these types of players will no longer be brought in to help the Astros scrape together a few more wins. He would rather see younger players get time at the major league level, take their bumps and hopefully speed up the development process.
Make Quality Trades When They Present Themselves
Many expected Jeff Luhnow to try and move some of the aging veterans like Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers and Carlos Lee this season, he didn't stop there. Since taking over, he's shown that he isn't afraid to pull the trigger on trades involving younger players like Mark Melancon, J.A. Happ and Chris Johnson.
Luhnow was able to flip Melancon, who has struggled in Boston, for Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland. Both have had injury problems, but also demonstrated they could be quality contributors on this team.
The J.A. Happ trade to Toronto may have been the best move to date for Luhnow. He was able to get five prospects along with a few other pieces for a starting pitcher who didn't really impress anyone since coming to Houston.
Finding Major League Talent in Latin America
This is an untapped resource that the Houston Astros haven't been able to capitalize on in years past and is one of Jeff Luhnow's strengths. While with the St. Louis Cardinals, Luhnow received a great deal of credit for finding quality major league players as well as top prospects in this area of the world.
Luhnow was in charge of the Cardinals' Latin America scouting and development since 2004, and this type of experience will be invaluable to the Astros as they try and rebuild their farm system. This may be one of the reasons why Luhnow was confident in drafting Carlos Correa with the first overall pick.
Building Through the Draft
If this plan that Jeff Luhnow has for the Astros is going to work, they need to be able to build through the draft. If Luhnow's track record is any indication, there is nothing to worry about in this area.
Since 2005 as one of the Cardinals lead guy when it came to the draft, Luhnow has drafted 24 players who would become future MLB players. This is the most by any major league organization over this time frame. Luhnow has demonstrated time and time again that he can evaluate players and develop them to be contributing members of a major league club.
Add in his confidence to make trades that he believes will help the organization—no matter who the player is as long as he is willing to stand behind his plan—the Houston Astros are on the right track with Jeff Luhnow at the helm.