The Astros are on the clock for the 1-1 pick in the 2012 draft. They have a new owner and a new General Manager, with both looking to put their imprint on the team. According to Jim Callis of Baseball America (subscription needed), the Astros’ scouts are imploring the front office to draft super-tooled-up high school outfielder Byron Buxton. The front office is looking for more immediate help to the ML team and are strongly linked to Stanford right-handed pitcher Mark Appel.
This scenario is eerily similar to one on display 10 years ago when the Pirates were picking 1-1 in the 2002 draft. As most of you remember, the Pirates’ scouts and some of the front office were pushing for high school shortstop B.J. Upton, while the new Pirate General Manager (a young up and comer named Dave Littlefield) wanted someone who could help the major league team sooner. The pick ended up being Brian Bullington, who Littlefield promptly announced at the news conference would be a “solid #3 pitcher for us”. I was watching it on the local news at the time and my head nearly exploded.
Much like in 2002, there are no standout players to select at the top of the draft here in 2012. No Strasburg or Harper. Or even a clear-cut tier of top players like in 2011 with Cole, Bundy, Bauer, and Hultzen (among others in what is shaping up to be a fantastic draft class to follow). Further complicating things, Buxton and Appel are probably much closer in talent level than Bullington and Upton were in 2002.
Houston is off to a surprisingly decent start in 2012, with a 22-23 record going into play on Saturday. However, they are a team that seems ripe for a mid to late-season fade, due to the presence of many young players on the team. Couple that with the fact that their GM Jeff Luhnow will trade Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, and/or Carlos Lee as soon as he gets a decent deal that he likes. The Astros are a rebuilding team and should be getting the best available player at 1-1, not the one that can help them soonest. Next year, the Astros start play in the American League West, home to a current juggernaut known as the Texas Rangers. The Mariners are on the verge of having a fantastic young rotation, the Angels will spend their way out of their current malaise, and the A’s….well, maybe they’ll move to San Jose and get a real team one day. The Astros need to keep building up their talent base and will be no better than 3rd or 4th in that division for the forseeable future.
As long-suffering Pirate fans, we’re all well aware how the decision to draft Bullington over Upton turned out. Hopefully the Astro faithful won’t be lamenting the career trajectories of Appel and Buxton one day, as well.