Mike Elias Talks About The Astros’ No. 1 Pick
When I wrote a First-Year Player Draft overview to tie in with the launch of MLBPipeline’s expansion/revision of our Draft Prospects list from 50 to 100, I spoke with Astros scouting director Mike Elias, whose club holds the No. 1 overall pick for the third straight year.
In the overview, I wrote that Elias said Houston had narrowed its pool of candidates for the top choice to seven players. He wouldn’t identify them, but it’s believed that Cathedral Catholic High (San Diego) left-hander Brady Aiken, North Carolina State lefty Carlos Rodon, Shepherd (Texas) High right-hander Tyler Kolek and East Carolina righty Jeff Hoffman — the first four players on our Top 100 list — are the front-runners. The Astros also are considering Rancho Bernardo High (San Diego) catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson and Louisiana State righthander Aaron Nola, and they’re monitoring North Carolina State shortstop Trea Turner and San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer.
I quoted Elias as saying he’s pleased with the options at the top of the draft:
“We’re definitely happy with the level of talent among the players we’re considering. It’s a good group. All of them are extraordinarily talented and a lot of them should be extremely valuable Major League players. But in terms of having a huge separation between the first and second pick, I don’t really feel that’s the case. We can go in a number of different directions and be happy with that pick.”
Though Elias had a few more interesting things to say about the Draft and the No. 1 choice, I didn’t have room to get into them all in the overview. So I’ll share a few more of them here.
On whether the process of scouting the No. 1 pick has been different in 2014 than in 2013, his first year as scouting director:
“It really hasn’t been. There were several pitchers to consider both of those years, and it’s rather pitcher-heavy this year. In terms of managing out time, it’s been very similar. We’ve basically maintained the same approach we’ve used the last three years, trying to get as many looks as possible, trying to spread the decision-makers out as much as possible. We do feel it’s best not to get too locked in or locked out on any one player in March or April.”
On the pressure that comes with having the top choice and the need to get it right after the Astros have finished with MLB’s worst record for three straight years:
“We’re not under any illusions about how important this pick and not just the first pick are. We’re treating all of the picks with the utmost importance. It’s not just pressure on us, but pressure on the players too. We’re evaluating who can handle it. We’re deploying all of our resources to get these picks right.”
On the multiple strategies open with the No. 1 selection. In 2012, Houston saved money by signing Carlos Correa for $4.8 million and spread it around to land supplemental first-rounder Lance McCullers Jr. for $2.5 million and fourth-rounder Rio Ruiz for $1.85 million. Last year, the Astros gave Mark Appel $6.35 million and didn’t pay out exorbitant bonuses in later rounds:
“Our assessment of the Draft class last year was that we didn’t feel like it was particularly deep. There weren’t obvious high school players with strong college commitments or who got hurt during the season or had a big [bonus] number. We had hard time seeing who those players were. The year before, we had a list and Lance and Rio were on it. We do have a feel for it and try to take that into account. Last year, [Sean] Manaea was the the big one and we were poised to consider him with our second pick but the Royals took him.
“I feel this is a much deeper Draft class. There’s a lot of high school pitchers and they can be unpredictable as to where they go in the Draft. This year, you might see more players with first-round talent not get selected in the first round. You might see some teams with resources strike later. We’re spending a lot of time on 1-1, and if we decided after watching guys for five months that we have a split camp, it’s possible that we could do that. But we’re not going to do it if it feels liek we’re trading off on talent at the No. 1 pick.”