Why the Houston Astros Won the 2014 MLB Draft
As a degenerate, lifeless nerd, I spent the majority of Thursday, Friday and Saturday staring at MLB.com's Draft Tracker "watching" this season's first-year player draft. There were a bunch of times where I found myself saying (yes, out loud... to myself), "Wow, that's a really good pick." A good majority of those times, the team making the pick was the Houston Astros.
I realize that they have lost 324 games over the previous three seasons, never losing less than 106 over that span. But with guys like George Springer and Jon Singleton making their big league debuts this year, it's clear the organization is starting to right the ship. That continued with the draft.
Let's take a look at the first five selections the Astros made in this year's draft.
|Brady Aiken||HS||Cathedral Catholic HS||LHP|
|J.D. Davis||JR||Cal State-Fullerton||3B|
|Daniel Mengden||JR||Texas A&M||RPH|
Of those four selections, only Aiken was a high schooler. On Friday, I wrote about why high school prospects are riskier than collegiate ones. Based on a look at each of the 733 first-round draft picks from 1980-2000, only 58 percent of all high schooler first round picks make the majors compared to 75 percent of collegiate players. In addition, the average career WAR of a high school player taken in the first round over that time frame was 5.60 compared to a 7.95 mark for collegiate players.
There are a couple of reasons that study doesn't really kill my good vibe juices on the Astros. First, they still made four of their first five picks collegiate guys. Second, Aiken has proven himself against superb competition with his dominance with Team USA at the 18-and-under World Cup last year. It's still a bit of a concern because of the history, but that doesn't overshadow what Houston did the rest of the draft.
Fisher had a decent day Monday. First, he and his Cavaliers punched their tickets to Omaha by defeating Maryland in their super-regional. Then, he was named the next head coach of the Knicks. Brudduh is just stroking it at life right now.
When he's not winning bling and dropping buckets, you can usually find Fisher somewhere on the basepaths. Because he plays in the black hole of a pitcher's park known as Davenport Field, his stats at UVa aren't necessarily indicative of what he may produce at the next level. Instead, we'll look at his numbers from last summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League.
On the Cape, Fisher led the league in on-base percentage at a disgusting .453. The next highest was Gonzaga's Mitchell Gunsolus at .432. He never hit for a lot of power (zero home runs in the Cape and three this spring at Virginia), but the man is going to get on base for you on a regular basis. And your team will kill at pick-up basketball.
If you're a regular here at numberFire, you may have already read my slobbering over Reed. Believe me - in this case, it's justified.
On the season, Reed hit 23 bombs for the Wildcats while sporting a .336/.476/.735 slash on his way to being named Collegiate Baseball's Player of the Year. And the 'Stros got him after 41 other players had already been drafted. That's tasty.
Now on to my favorite pick for Houston - even more than Reed. If you can get J.D. Davis in the third round, you're doing something right.
If y'all haven't heard of J.D. Davis, let me drop some knowledge on you right quick. remember how I mentioned that Fisher led the Cape in on-base percentage? Davis was sixth in that category, but he also had a slugging percentage (.447) 64 points higher than Fisher's.
Let's go through some of Davis's accomplishments with those Chatham Anglers last summer. He finished second in the league's home run derby behind Skyler Ewing, who was drafted in the sixth round by the Giants. Davis was named the MVP for the East squad after going 2 for 2 with a home run and three runs batted in. He also blasted a pair of bombs in four playoffs games. One of those bombs was a grand slam late against Yarmouth-Durham, which inspired one of the greatest stare-then-bat-flips of all time. He followed all of this up by hitting .338/.419/.523 at Fullerton this spring, besting teammate and first-round pick Matt Chapman in each category. His 16 doubles and 6 home runs tied Chapman for the team lead in each category.
Oh, bee tee dubs, if this whole "hit baseball long way" thing doesn't work out for Davis (which I'd highly doubt), dude can chuck it, too. He has a fastball in the mid-90s, and a tight-breaking curveball that'll tie you up, tickle your kneecaps, and slap you in the brain. In his final two seasons with the Titans, Davis pitched a total of 43.1 innings, allowing 13 runs for a 2.68 ERA with 8.72 strikeouts per nine innings and 2.28 walks per nine to boot. He's going to do some big things, ya dig?
I'll admit I don't know a ton about Mengden. He had a great sophomore year, finishing with a 2.11 ERA through 16 starts over 110.2 innings. Then he stumbled a bit as a junior due to some back troubles, making him fall lower than he would have had he been draft-eligible after 2013. But I can tell you one thing definitely about this young man - he can grow facial hair like no other. Click this link. If you oblige, I promise you will see one of the greatest pieces of lip lettuce in the history of all things beautiful in this country. He may as well be wearing a bald eagle on his face because that baby screams "I love America." Peace be with you, Daniel Mengden. Peace be with you.
Let's recap. In five picks, the Astros got a left-handed phenom, a five-time NBA Champion, the best collegiate power-hitter in the draft, my favorite pick of 2014, and a mustache crafted by the gods. That's not too bad.
This is a team that's already on the rise. They have more wins than the Rays, Red Sox and Phillies, they're up to 14th in numberFire's Power Rankings, and they've got a bunch of exciting playerson their roster. This draft class will only make them even better. Within a matter of years, the Astros could very well go from punchline to perpetual contender.