First pick will be a team effort for Astros
As Draft day looms, club weighing all options for selection
HOUSTON -- Astros owner Jim Crane quickly discarded the belief he will have the ultimate say which player his team will select with the No. 1 overall pick in Monday's First-Year Player Draft. That responsibility will rest in the hands of general manager Jeff Luhnow.
"I probably won't have the final say," Crane said. "We'll leave that to Jeff."
Luhnow, hired by Crane in December about a month after he took ownership of the club, says he won't have the final say, either. The message both were trying to get across is that the Astros are going to listen to as many different opinions as they can to make sure they identity the right player to take with the first pick -- a pick which could help turn around a franchise.
Luhnow, obviously, will carry plenty of weight in which player the Astros ultimately select, along with assistant general manager/scouting director Bobby Heck. Crane, meanwhile, wasn't sure he'd be in the Draft room on Monday and said he could simply be available via conference call. Team president and CEO George Postolos will also be involved in the process.
"As far as who makes the decision, the Astros make the decision," Luhnow said. "There are a number of voices that go into it. There's no one person. Bobby's the scouting director. He's obviously leading the process, but we are choosing as an organization and we're doing it with as much information as we can that's gathered from various places. It's an Astros decision, and hopefully something that will maximize the value of the Astros going forward."
Live coverage of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, at 5 p.m. CT on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Both Crane and Luhnow have said the Astros might not decide which player to take until Monday. However, they've narrowed their focus to five players, which are believed to be Stanford pitcher Mark Appel, LSU pitcher Kevin Gausman, Florida catcher Mike Zunino, high school outfielder Byron Buxton of Georgia and Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa.
"We've had a couple of meetings in regard to the strategy and what we're looking for," Crane said. "I think Jeff's been pretty clear that he'll get his group involved, including the field scouts [who will be in the Draft room], and they'll all come in and weigh all the information. They probably won't make decisions until the last hours or last minutes."
Crane, who has a baseball background as a successful college pitcher, said one of the reasons he brought Luhnow to Houston was his strong track record while he was in charge of the Draft for the Cardinals. His first three Drafts with the Cardinals (2005-07) produced 24 Major League players, which were more than any other club in that time frame.
That's what we're shooting for," he said. "That was one of the reasons we hired Jeff was his expertise in this area and needing that expertise to consistently have the Minor League system built up so we can be competitive year in and year out."
Another man who figures to have a heavy hand in Houston's Draft decisions is Sig Mejdal, the club's director of decision sciences. Mejdal and his analytical team assisted Luhnow with the Cardinals with data-driven analysis, information that's applies more to college players than high schoolers.
"It's stuff we've used in the past," Heck said. "The ability to apply the information from Sig and his team has definitely been stepped up and how we're able to use it is going to be much more useful. The information management side of it has been tremendous on this end, and we feel very comfortable with the stuff he's put together for us."
Astros' recent top picks
|2011||George Springer||CF||Class A Lancaster|
|2010||Delino DeShields Jr.||2B||Class A Lexington|
|2009||Jiovanni Mier||SS||Class A Lancaster|
|2008||Jason Castro||CF||Houston (MLB)|
|2007||Derek Dietrich*||3B||Did not sign|
All that's left now is coming to an agreement on the right player.
"This is an exciting time," Heck said. "The scouts have done a tremendous job covering these players, not only the first-rounders but all way through the Draft. I feel very good about the opportunity we have and the information we have."