Reaction: Draft Day One

by: Evan Valenti (@EvanValenti)

The Houston Astros shocked the Major League Baseball world last night when they passed on both Mark Appel (RHP, Stanford) and Bryon Buxton (OF, Appling County HS) with the first-overall pick, and selected young Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa (Puerto Rico Baseball Academy). They followed that up by taking Lance McCullers Jr. (RHP, Jesuit HS) with their sandwich pick (41st overall).

And I love both picks.

Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, P.R.

I had read earlier in the day that Correa was shooting up draft boards, with rumors of him going possibly at number three overall to the Seattle Mariners. With more investigation, it became clear that he was in the mix with the Astros at number one. But the experts still thought it would come down to Buxton or Appel, with most leaning towards Appel. Instead, Houston selected the “toolsy” middle-infielder, who draws comparisons to Alex Rodriguez and Troy Tulowitzki (extremely high praise). He should be a relatively easy sign, with some thinking he will sign under-slot, which is a huge bonus.

Here’s the book on Correa (via Baseball Prospect Nation)

Carlos Correa, 6’3″-6’4″, 190 pounds

On-Base (Avg):          20/50
Power:                           30/60
Arm:                               50/60
Fielding:                      40/50
Speed:                           50/40 

Other experts and scouts think that Correa is a better hitter now and could end up at a 60 grade if he lives up to the hype. His power is clearly one of his biggest tools, hence the A-Rod and Tulo comparisons. His bat gets through the zone pretty quickly, but he will have to shorten his swing against professional pitchers. He has a knack for hitting the ball with power to all fields, which could turn into a plus-tool if he fills out the way people think he will (remember he is only 17-years old).

Defensively, he’s a wiz. He moves fluidly, has great range (despite his big frame), a plus arm, and great glove. Again, as he fills out his body, he might have to switch over to third base. But his glove is so good that it will play at the hot corner, so that should not be a concern.

Lance McCullers Jr., RHP, Jesuit HS, FL

McCullers slipped a lot if you look at Jim Callis’ big board of best player available (BPA). Callis had Lance ranked 13th overall, but McCullers had some signability issues attached to him. He has a strong commitment to Florida, but obviously could be signed for the right price. MLB.com and MLB Network’s Jonathan Mayo believed that a team with multiple picks last night would be the team to take the talented right hander. He was right (even though he guessed the Cardinals pretty much the entire show). The Astros can use the money they saved by drafting Correa over Appel (who’s price tag is rumored to be high) and give it to McCullers.

Below is the scouting report on McCullers (once again brought to you by Baseball Prospect Nation):

Lance McCullers Jr, 6’2″, 192 pounds

Fastball:               60/70
Curveball:           30/50
Slider:                   50/70
Change-up:        30/40
Control:               30/50  
Command:        20/40  

McCullers has great bloodlines. His father, Lance, was a big league pitcher for a couple different teams for seven years (Padres, Yankees Tigers, Rangers). He has great raw stuff that has the potential for a nasty four-pitch arsenal that features three plus, potentially plus-plus, pitches. His fastball sits in the mid-90’s and can touch 98-99 mph. Needs to work on consistent arm slot, but that can be corrected with good coaching. His breaking stuff needs work, but there’s room to have nasty off-speed pitches that can be thrown as an “out” pitch. With more work, McCullers could be one of the most talented arms taken in this year’s draft.

The Astros aimed high with these first two picks, which I have no problem with. Jeff Luhnow, Houston’s General Manager, believes Correa “has a chance to be a star” in the Majors no matter where he plays. They took a risk with McCullers, but I believe it will pay off. Houston could not have done much better on day one. I wonder what is in store for day two.

Go to tcvalleycats.com to participate in day-two’s live chat! Chat room starts at 12 p.m. on June 5.

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