Rounding Third: Astros are on the clock ... again

By The Sports NetworkJune 2, 2014 at 12:52 PM
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History will be made on Thursday when the Houston Astros make the top overall pick in the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft.

Unfortunately, it's not the type of history the Astros - or any team for that matter - would like to be associated with, as they will become the first team since the draft started back in 1965 to hold the top selection in three straight years.

The Astros have earned (is that the right word?) this dubious distinction by finishing with the worst record in baseball the last three seasons.

Not an ideal situation, but it is one that finally could be paying dividends.

As much as I may dislike the MLB Draft, I have to admit it does work. At least in the Astros' case. But then again, how hard is it to pick the top player available, year in and year out.

Anyway, a fourth consecutive No. 1 overall pick may not be in the offing for an Astros team that, at the moment anyway, is trending upward.

They are certainly not a playoff team and likely won't be this season, but the Astros head into action on Monday at 24-34, still the second-worst team in the American League and just a half-game in front of the Tampa Bay Rays.

But there are two teams in the National League - Chicago Cubs (20-34) and Arizona Diamondbacks (23-36) - who own worse records than the Astros. And it doesn't look like it's getting any better in those two towns.

Of course, nobody would be surprised if the Astros finish with the worst record in baseball even though they appear to be a team on the rise. And after what has been a miserable stretch, there is some hope. In fact, fans in Astros- land are excited again.

And that all has to do with young outfielder George Springer, who, for these purposes, we will refer to as Houston's first pick (11th overall) in the 2011 draft.

We all knew Springer was coming at some point this season and he arrived midway through the first month of the season. After a slow start, he has certainly started to live up to his billing.

Springer smashed 10 home runs in the month of May and is hitting .309 over his last 24 games with 24 RBI. He's about as close to a five-tool player as you are going to find this side of Mike Trout.

And he is just the tip of the iceberg for this downtrodden franchise.

The real gem is still sitting down in Single-A Lancaster. Shortstop Carlos Correa, the team's top overall pick two years ago, is perhaps the best prospect in baseball and has people in Houston salivating for his arrival. He's still only 19, but is hiting .320 with 48 RBI in 48 games this season.

The fact is, the Astros have as much talent in their farm system as any team in baseball. Unfortunately, that's what happens when you average 108 losses over the past three seasons.

But, yes, it does stink from a Houston perspective that they are picking first for a third straight season. There has to be some comfort knowing there is light at the end of the tunnel, though, right?.

The Astros really haven't given any indication which way they are leaning heading into Thursday. Most think it will come down to a choice between San Diego prep left-hander Brady Aiken and North Carolina State southpaw Carlos Rodon.

Aiken, who could become the first high school lefty to go in the top five since 2002, has been on scouts' radars for a while, but jumped to the top of most draft boards this spring thanks to a fastball that has reached 97 mph.

Rodon, meanwhile, is considered more of a sure bet, given the fact he's close to being major league-ready after pitching three years for the Wolfpack. Some have mentioned that he's the best college left-hander since David Price was the No. 1 overall pick of the Tampa Bay Rays out of Vanderbilt back in 2007.

Really nobody knows. That's why it's pointless to try to produce a mock draft. You can perhaps gauge who the top-10 picks ( are going to be, but after that, it's a free-for-all.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

Teams often pass on players because they know they won't be able to sign them, which is pathetic. MLB has actually put rules into place to kind of prevent that from happening, but it still does and it did last year with Toronto's first pick, Phil Bickford.

There probably are some draft geeks out there who will tell you they know for sure that California high schooler Alex Jackson is going to be a stud, but in reality, they have no idea.

The MLB Draft is the biggest crapshoot in all of sports.

You want some hard-hitting analysis, here you go: Whatever team you are asking about is going to take 20 pitchers, eight infielders, seven outfielders and a few catchers. And guess what? A player taken in the 20th round has just as good a chance of making it as a player in the first round.

Don't get me wrong, a good number of first-round picks pan out, and obviously more picks in the first 10 rounds make it than in the second 10 rounds. But the amount of late-round success present in baseball simply does not translate to other sports, and the comparison isn't even close.

Obviously, I understand the need for a draft, but the whole thing is a joke. And don't get me started on the charade of making it a made-for-television event.

Perhaps I'm a little jaded because I have to type 40 rounds worth of players, or 1,215 names to be precise, into our database.

Wake me when it is over.


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