Houston Astros Three-Round Mock Draft
Thanks to the crooked Cardinals, the Astros have additional picks within the first three rounds, and with it, additional slot allotments for these picks. This, of course, plays directly into Luhnow’s hands, as the Astros GM has routinely used the slot allotment system to the organization’s great advantage. In total, the Astros have a little over $9M in which to sign all of their draft picks which occur in the first ten rounds.
In many ways, with 12 picks to spread the money around on, Luhnow may find himself with one of his biggest challenges. But, unlike years past, the Astros are no longer in rebuild mode and their minor league teams are stocked with talent at every level. While certainly some positions are better stocked than others, the wonderful reality the Astros face is that they can truly take the best player available.
If one were to nitpick, one could look at the corner infield positions for a “need” and, as the saying goes, you can’t ever have enough pitching. Like last year with Forrest Whitley, my gut tells me that Luhnow may target a prep player early on if a player of interest —Baz, Pratto, Carlson, Hall, or Gore, for instance—slides to their first pick at 15. But, if he isn’t “in love” with one of these guys, I see Luhnow going heavy on college talent, primarily hitters early on.
So, with that said, let’s take a look at the Astros top five picks (15, 53, 56, 75, and 91) and see which players may be available:
Pick 1-15: Brent Rooker, 1B/OF, Mississippi State
THE SKINNY: Very few players are seeing their stock rise as quickly as Rooker is seeing his. A month ago, he was a third round pick. Today, I wouldn’t be entirely shocked to see him taken in the top-10. Rooker has had an outstanding season, slashing an outstanding .415/.519/.873, with 20 HR and 28 doubles. The 6’4″ first baseman has also stolen 18 bases in 23 attempts and, for a power hitter, has a very nice K/BB of 1.08 (40 BB/ 43 K). His athleticism has led some to think he could also slot into a corner outfield position, most likely in left.
WHY IT MAKES SENSE: Yes, the Astros have AJ Reed biding time in AAA and Gurriel locked up for a few more years, but Rooker is too enticing as a hitter to pass up and would make trading AJ Reed as part of a package for starting pitching a near certainty. The possibility of him being a multi-positional player is also an added bonus. His make-up is reportedly off the charts which is another quality Luhnow covets.
IF NOT ROOKER: I believe the Astros would love to see either of the Virginia teammates, 1B Pavin Smith or OF Adam Haseley, fall to them here, but that’s growing more and more unlikely by the day. RHP Shane Baz seems to be a Luhnow type pick, but the prep hurler is now seen as a top-10 pick as well.
Pick 2-53: Drew Ellis, 3B/1B, Louisville
THE SKINNY: This could be a money saver pick as Ellis is seen by some as unproven with a limited track record. Ellis was undrafted out of high school. But, he would also be taken here a round or two higher than he might otherwise, meaning a below slot deal could work and both sides be happy. Ellis, like Rooker, has seen his stock rise recently by having as impressive a season as anyone in the country. In 194 at-bats, Ellis has slashed .387/.481/.737 while hitting 16 homers. Ellis has a K/BB of 0.94 (52 BB / 48 K) and has the athleticism and skill set to play in the outfield and well as both corners on the infield.
WHY IT MAKES SENSE: Luhnow loves multi-positional players and Ellis, like Rooker above, could also transition to a corner outfield position. Beyond 2017, and with the possibility that Derek Fisher and/or Kyle Tucker could be traded, the Astros have few outfielders close to being ready for regular duty in a MLB lineup.
MLB COMP: Evan Longoria as I think Ellis sticks at third.
IF NOT ELLIS: It is a real possibility that the helium with Ellis’s draft stock will lead a team to take him earlier. If so, toolsy prep outfielder Garrett Mitchell is an intriguing possibility with considerable upside. But, he’s very raw and also has Type-1 Diabetes, which could result in him sliding even further. Wake Forest first baseman Gavin Sheets could also be a nice pick here, especially if the organization feels Rooker can shine in the outfield.
2-56: Luke Heimlich, LHP, Oregon St.
THE SKINNY: Sometimes avid baseball followers fall in love with a pitcher’s ability to overwhelm their opponent with dominating stuff. But, as any Astros fan has seen with Dallas Keuchel, more times than not a pitcher’s ability to control and command his pitches is what gets batters out. Heimlich in one of those guys. Statistically, he had a dominant year, posting a 0.71 ERA and 0.77 WHIP in 88.1 innings pitched. He also missed bats, striking out 99 while walking only 19. Heimlich is smallish, weighing about 185 on a 6’0″ frame, and with “average” stuff, needs to rely on his plus command for optimal results, which makes him somewhat of a risky pick here. But, there’s no denying the productivity. Upside is marginal if that. However, Heimlich’s superior command and control also give the lefty a high floor as a BOR starter and the high probability of him attaining it, an outcome you’ll take in a heartbeat.
WHY IT MAKES SENSE: The Astros system is loaded with talented arms, almost all of which are righties. If he flames out as a starter, he still has the three pitch mix that could be effective out of the bullpen as a middle reliever or situational lefty. But, I think he sticks as a starter and could be the quintessential quick riser.
MLB COMP: Dallas Braden
IF NOT HEIMLICH: What if—just, what if—UH’s LHP Seth Romero slides this far considering his many red flags and seemingly poor conditioning habits? Romero is a top-10 talent when on his best behavior but many teams have taken him off the board completely. Just a thought. LHP Daniel Tillo would be a project but at 6’5″ and 215lb, his projection is very intriguing.
CB ROUND B-75: Stuart Fairchild, OF, Wake Forest
THE SKINNY: Fairchild is another “helium guy” after a strong 2017 campaign and after showing steady improvement during his college career. A few weeks ago, Fairchild could have been seen as an overreach at pick 75. Now, he may go several spots before here. I personally have had eyed him for quite some time, primarily because he reminds me a lot of former Astros prospect Brett Phillips at the plate, though Fairchild does lack the cannon arm and overall speed of Phillips. Fairchild is the quintessential “ball player”, a guy that will leave everything on the field. This isn’t to say he’s just a grinder because the kid can play. This year, the 5’11” outfielder has slashed .354/.437/.626 and has hit 12 homers this year after hitting a combined 10 his first two years, signaling that he now just be tapping into some raw power. Fairchild also has some speed, swiping 14 bases in 18 attempts. He’s also willing to work counts but did see his K/BB fall from 1.08 in 2016 to 1.71 this year, probably due to his increased ability to drive the ball over the fence as his ISO improved from a meager .177 last year to .272 this year. Fairchild has an average arm that will play in centerfield but may eventually relegate him to left. His route efficiency is also average. He may drop to pick 75 due to concerns about his swing path and mechanics.
WHY IT MAKES SENSE: Again, the Astros have a plethora of borderline-fringy outfield prospects outside of Tucker, Fisher, and possibly Teo Hernandez. While some prospects show promise to become above average outfielders (Laureano, Ferguson, Wrenn, and Martin) the need to cast a larger net to strike gold in finding a future MLB regular outfielder seems a wise idea.
MLB COMP: A right-handed version of Kole Calhoun
IF NOT FAIRCHILD: Astros could really go any direction at this point and could even pull an Abraham Toro-Hernandez out of their hat like last year. Mississippi State OF Jake Mangum could make sense here as well, as does prep flamethrower Joe Perez, who would likely be an extensive 5-6 year project with enormous upside.
3-91: Glenn Otto, RHP, Rice University
THE SKINNY: At 6’4″ and weighing 225+, Otto has the body and demeanor to be an imposing presence on the bump. With borderline plus fastball and curveball offerings, he could develop into a MOR starter. So, why isn’t he projected to be drafted higher? Well, like many big guys, control and command suffer due to failure to repeat mechanics. Otto is also not considered a very athletic player. But, Otto possesses an arsenal that fits the Astros pitching philosophy. That is, a curveball with above average spin rates that works well in tandem with a fastball that plays up when he’s on his game. Unfortunately, Otto hasn’t been on his game much in 2017 and the Astros would be picking future upside over present production. In 2017, Otto has posted a 4.79 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP in 47 innings. He has managed 67 strikeouts and allowed only three homers. With some professional coaching and mechanical adjustments Otto has the potential to have a ceiling of a solid starter and a floor of 6th-7th inning reliever. The clay is there to be molded if the Astros are willing to gamble with what essentially is house money.
WHY IT MAKES SENSE: As stated above, you can never have enough pitching. While the Astros organization is stocked with legitimate MLB starting pitching prospects, the system is rather pedestrian in future bullpen arms that can generate swings and misses. I like Otto as a potential starter, and if drafted, I think the Astros will give him every opportunity to develop as one. But I also think he could develop into a likely MLB reliever and used in a role similar to how Will Harris is currently used.
MLB COMP: Michael Wacha
IF NOT OTTO: University of Texas RHP Morgan Cooper has a similar repertoire as Otto with less upside. If for whatever reason A&M RHP Corbin Martin lasts this long he’d be a steal here. The Astros seem to like drafting catchers somewhere in the top ten rounds, so, why not TCU’s Evan Skoug or UH’s Connor Wong?
**Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images**