Many draft experts have speculated for weeks that the three players that the Houston Astros were deciding between for the top pick in tonight’s MLB Draft were Stanford’s Mark Appel, Oklahoma’s Jonathan Gray and North Carolina third basemen Colin Moran. Surprisingly, only one player from that list has reportedly made it to the final two players that the Astros are considering with the number one overall pick and their decision may shock you. According to a well-placed source close to National Scouting Director for Perfect Game USA David Rawnsley, the Astros have narrowed their decision down to either prep pitcher Kohl Stewart or Moran with their number one pick.
Interesting, well placed source just told me that Astros are down to Stewart or Moran.Kohl would certainly be a surprise.
— David Rawnsley (@DavidRawnsleyPG) June 6, 2013
Now you can question the source of this information as much as you want; but based off of the credibility of Rawnsley and the home-town angle of Stewart to the Astros, this report doesn’t surprise me one bit. Last year the Astros shocked the draft by selecting shortstop Carlos Correa number one overall when many thought the Astros would take Appel. Stewart’s hometown is Tomball, Texas which is considered part of the Houston metropolitan area and the Astros could be making this decision based on the strong upside of Stewart—who has as much upside and potential as any pitcher in the draft—and because it is surely to generate fan interest for a team that needs it.
As a pitcher, Stewart displays a mid-90s fastball and a mid-80s slider that has “plus pitch” written all over it. He’s been working on developing a low-80s curveball and a change-up as well, but both pitches are considered works in progress as of now.
The Minnesota Twins were in a similar situation in 2001 when they selected hometown kid Joe Mauer out of high school with the number one overall selection instead of polished college starting pitcher Mark Prior. Now obviously the selection of Mauer worked out extremely well for the Twins, but Stewart—if selected—could have the same type of impact and appeal to the fans of Houston that Mauer did in Minnesota. Mauer also had a football scholarship on the table from Florida State when he decided to sign with the Twins, as Stewart has a football scholarship on the table from Texas A&M that he is reportedly considering if he isn’t selected to a place he likes; so the comparisons can be easily made to the two players, but whether or not their ultimate situations will work out the same is yet to be determined.
Make no mistake about it, if Stewart is drafted first, there is no way he will go to Texas A&M. Stewart would be a great all-around pick for the Astros from an organizational stand point, but their potential decision raises the questions: is this risk going to be worth the reward? They will be leaving quite a bit of talent on the board if they choose the prep pitcher; but at the end of the day, the MLB Draft is such a gamble anyway, so why not take a chance?
The Astros have held the all of the chips in the draft the last two years and if last year was any indication, they have no problem with going all in.