Astros get reward tomorrow for being lousiest 2012 team
It seems almost ironic that the Houston Astros will nab the top amateur baseball player in the nation in the 2013 Major League draft tomorrow despite playing their best baseball in a couple of years right now.
Through Monday, the Astros have won six games in a row and are currently the hottest team in major league baseball.
Houston looks nothing like a rebuilding team with the major league’s lowest payroll at $21 million as the Astros are getting quality starts from their five-man rotation, holds and saves from the relief pitchers plus timely and good situational hitting from the offense.
Realistically however, in games through Monday at 21-37, they still are in line for 104 losses this season. But since May 15, the Astros are 11-7 and have won seven of ten games from the Los Angeles Angels, who feature a whopping $148 million payroll.
It was the first undefeated (6-0) road trip for the Astros since September 1999.
But the sad fact is that when the trading deadline rolls around at the end of July, many of the key players responsible for the current winning streak won’t be wearing a Houston Astros uniform any longer, falling victim to a trade for some young prospects to nurture in their talented farm system.
And because the Astros had the worst record in baseball last season, their reward is to choose who their organization believes is THE BEST amateur baseball player available through the 2013 draft that is set for tomorrow (Thursday). They also have $11.6 million to spend in the 10 rounds this year, the most in major league baseball.
The closer draft day comes, the more likely the Houston Astros will choose from a couple of hard-throwing collegiate pitchers or two hard-hitting third basemen, according to the team’s scouting department and the beat writers from the Houston Chronicle.
Observers from the Chronicle claim that this year’s players eligible for the draft lack the innate athleticism, long-term ceiling or positive shock value of recent No. 1 picks such as Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Josh Hamilton, Adrian Gonzalez, David Price, Justin Upton or Joe Mauer.
Many in the know predict the Astros will choose Stanford senior pitcher and Houston native Mark Appel or Oklahoma junior right-hander Jonathan Gray as their top overall pick.
Gray may even have a slight advantage because of a fastball that can reach triple-digits, a nasty slider that will improve with major-league instruction and an imposing 6-4, 239-pound frame. Both Gray and Appel have top of the starting rotation potential who could reach the major leagues before the 2014 season is complete.
The Astros also are considering San Diego junior third baseman Kris Bryant and North Carolina junior third baseman Colin Moran as possible No. 1 picks along with long-shot high school outfielder Clint Frazier of Loganville, Ga.
“We are focused on getting the best player available with the first pick,” said Mike Elias, the Astros director of amateur scouting to a Chronicle reporter last week. “We are absolutely trying to find the player who is going to be the most valuable to this organization in four, five, six or nine years’ time.”
Appel and Bryant are represented by renowned sports agent Scott Boras, who has a long history as a tough negotiator. Boras represented Appel last year and turned the Astros to draft young shortstop Carlos Correa, a Puerto Rico native for $4.8 million, which was significantly less than what Boras wanted for Appel last year.
Boras said he has had a couple of recent pre-draft conversations with Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and thinks highly of him and believes the organization is open to selecting the best player based on talent, not just monetary value.
The Astros have strong ties to Boras and a positive working relationship with the agent who represented Astros right-hander Lance McCullars, Jr., the No. 41 overall pick in the 2012 draft. Boras also represents veteran first baseman/designated hitter Carlos Pena and former Astros Tyler Greene and Rick Ankiel.
So if the Astros make Appel their No. 1 pick tomorrow, Boras says he’s ready to talk. Last year the Astros took Correa and passed on Appel, who was drafted at No. 8 by Pittsburgh, but went unsigned.
It must be remembered that only two other organizations—Washington and Tampa Bay—have had back-to-back first-round selections. The Nationals came one out away from advancing to the National League Championship Series last season, just two years after taking Strasburg in 2009 and Harper in 2010.
Perhaps the same thing could happen to our Houston Astros in the near future!!!
KWICKIES…Several former Penn State football players joined the family of the late (and great) coach Joe Paterno last week in a lawsuit against the NCAA seeking to overturn the landmark sanctions against the school for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. The lawsuit claims the NCAA and its top leadership overstepped the organization’s own rules in levying the four-year bowl ban, steep scholarship cuts and other penalties against the Nittany Lions’ football program.
Congrats to the Silsbee Tigers for coming back from an opening game loss to sweep a doubleheader Saturday from Diboll 3-0 and 5-4 and win the Class 3A Region III championship and earn a trip to Austin for the state finals in baseball. The Tigers will meet LaGrange today (Wed.) in the semifinal round at 4 p.m. at the University of Texas in Austin. We know our District 21-3A will be well-represented by Silsbee’s first appearance in the state tournament.
My grandkids’ alma mater Lufkin Hudson won another state championship in softball, beating Mineola 12-9 Saturday for the Class 3A state title. Actually, grand-daughter Ryan played softball but just finished her freshman year at North Texas University in Denton while her sophomore brother Logan played on the Hudson baseball team that was defeated by Diboll, who eventually lost in the Regional finals to Silsbee Saturday.
Houston St. Pius star pitcher Kohl Stewart is expected to be drafted tomorrow in the first round and has also committed to play both football and baseball at Texas A&M. Stewart threw for 8,803 yards in three seasons at St. Pius, surpassing the school record that at one point was held by Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak with 6,190 yards. Stewart will have to decide to either become a millionaire in baseball or ride the bench behind sophomore Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M. Under Major League rules, each club retains a drafted player’s rights until 10:59 p.m. Aug. 15, or until the player enters or returns to a four-year college on a full-time basis.
After 19 seasons Los Angeles Clippers seven-time All-Star Grant Hill announced his retirement from the NBA. Perhaps he’s not as familiar to Texas sports fans as his father Calvin, a Yale graduate, who was a three-time All-Pro running back for the Dallas Cowboys.
JUST BETWEEN US…Although West Brook and Ozen got all of the publicity, the other Beaumont school—the Central Jaguars—also held spring football practice last month and had their final spring game last Thursday in which the White defeated the Maroon 20-14 under new head coach and Orange native Toby Foreman. All of the five touchdowns were scored by either freshmen or sophomores, which means the former West Orange-Stark player and offensive coordinator will have an eager young team for the 2013 season. “I thought the kids competed well,” Foreman said after the game. “I’ve been here only three months, so to say those guys learned an entire system and no-huddle offense is pretty impressive.”