By The Baseball Beginnings Guy
July 24, 2010
I didn’t hear too much about the Houston Astros draft, which immediately makes me believe that they scouted for themselves instead of letting the publications scout for them. What I see is a pretty solid group of players.
DRAFT STRATEGY: This was very clearly a best-player-remaining-on-the-board draft, which flat out tells you that it’s a scout’s draft. When you see clubs going for diversity within the early rounds, in terms of position players and pitching, it usually signals an overall effort to get the best guys left and to create the most organizational depth. First-rounder Delino DeShields Jr. is an obvious choice. You go into a player like this for the speed and defense, you trust his hands and bat speed, and you’ll take whatever power he gives you. Staying with a high school pick with the second pick, Houston went for a big prep arm, 6-4 right-hander Mike Foltynewicz, a big Midwestern inning-eating Ox. I tend to like the horse right-handers because I think you need durable depth. I have had two looks at Minnesota’s Mike Kvasnicka and love him. He was officially drafted as a catcher, where his home run power could separate itself more than it might at first, third, left or right. Kvasnicka can throw – I’ve seen the infields – but I expect the power production will be what gets him there. I loved Austin Wates when I saw him on the Cape in 2009. Still do, can’t wait till he gets to me in the Cal League. The Astros also looked for some college pitching depth from Bobby Doran of Texas Tech and Jake Buchanan from NC State.
RISK/REWARD: Vincent Velasquez was in the conversation with the best high school arms in Southern California heading into the spring, but an illness sapped much of his strength and he fell to the second round after pitchers like Covey, Tago, Walker and Sanchez. No doubt Velasquez has a big arm and a ceiling when he’s right, but he also has a ride to play locally at Cal State Fullerton, where he can take Christian Colon’s old job. Defensively, I’ve also liked Velasquez’s actions at short – very soft hands for a tall kid, very good hands and feet, bends for balls, very agile, body for the position at the big league level. I’m not yet ready to say that the bat wouldn’t be there for him if he tried. The only thing about the two-way guys that make it tricky is if a team signs them and has them start at the thing that doesn’t move them along. Stay tuned.
A GOOD GET IF YOU CAN SIGN HIM: Right-hander Adam Plutko comes from a family where education is cherished. He has a commitment to UCLA, and he easily profiles for them. The last time I saw Plutko, he was 90-91, and I wanted to see where he was the next time. I think you can expect some projection and improvement with this guy and college might be the best developmental fit for a player like this. Infielder Jacoby Jones is another good prep bat with extension, power, and projection.
GUYS WHO MIGHT SURPRISE: Buchanan obviously pitched well on the Cape in 2009, but the guy I want to watch is Doran, a husky 6-6 workhorse from Texas Tech who might rise quickly as bullpen help. I tend to think Houston likes the big body right-handers, Oswalt not withstanding.
IF I HAD MY PICK: You can tell I like this draft when I like DeShields, Wates and Kvasnicka. I even like the sounds of Foltynewicz, though I have not seen him. I’m honest – I don’t write in detail about guys we haven’t seen for ourselves – otherwise it’s all wanna-be stuff. Of the players that I saw the most of, I would have to go for Wates, given my history of liking the power-speed-athletic model in my outfielders.
SUMMARY: Very few teams show me the ability to understand how to build a balanced draft. I believe the way to do this is to look for the best player first, and then try to see how the best guys left fit your organizational needs. What the Heck, they have a clue.
OLD SCHOOL SCOUTING GRADE: B