When the Houston Astros named Jeff Luhnow their GM in December of 2011, he brought a tremendous resume with him, highlighted by his strong performance as the Vice President of Scouting and Player Development for the St. Louis Cardinals from 2006 through his hiring with Houston. The first three Cardinals drafts overseen by Luhnow produced 24 future major leaguers, the most of any team during that period. Several players who made important contributions to the Cardinals’ victory in the 2011 World Series, including Jaime Garcia, Allen Craig, Jon Jay, and Lance Lynn, were drafted during Luhnow’s control of scouting for the Cardinals.
1/11/2012: Claimed Fernando Martinez off waivers from the New York Mets
1/2012: Signed Hector Corpas, Jack Cust, Chris Snyder, Zach Duke, Livan Hernandez, Jordan Kreke, Jordan Brown, Mike Hessman, Jair Fernandez, Rayderson Chevalier, Carlos Vasquez, and Tomas Lopez via free agency
3/14/2012: Signed Landon Powell via free agency
4/8/2012: Claimed Justin Maxwell off waivers from the New York Yankees
5/2012: Signed Armando Galarraga, Jarico Reynoso, Randy Cesar, Jean Carlos Cortorreal, Arturo Michelena, Harold Arauz, Elieser Hernandez, Juan Hernandez, Edwin Villarroel, and Erick Hurtado via free agency
6/2012: Signed Carlos Correa, Brady Rodgers, Andrew Aplin, Terrell Joyce, Brian Holmes, Joe Sclafani, Erick Gonzalez, Ricky Gingras, John Neely, M.P. Cokinos, Daniel Minor, Dan Gulbransen, Aaron West, Austin Elkins, Angel Ibanez, Christian Garcia, Jordan Jankowski, Michael Dimock, Travis Ballew, Joe Bircher, Kenny Long, Ryan Dineen, Marc Wik, Brett Phillips, Mike Hauschild, Michael Martinez, Lance McCullers, Rio Ruiz, Nolan Fontana, and Tyler Heineman, all draft picks and non-drafted free agents, as well as Hector Ambriz, Hector Roa, and Rauldison Rodriguez via free agency
7/2012: Signed Luis Payano, Kristian Trompiz, Victor Tavarez, Lance Day, Edwin Gomez, Gera Sanchez, and Jon Carnaham via free agency; Signed Preston Tucker and Jesus Castillo, draft picks and non-drafted free agents; Claimed Chuckie Fick off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals, Steve Pearce off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles, and Mark Hamburger off waivers from the San Diego Padres;
8/2012: Acquired Garrett Mock (Boston Red Sox), Chris Devenski (Chicago White Sox), and Tyler Greene (St. Louis Cardinals) for cash via trade; Signed Brian Sanches and Edgar Gonzalez via free agency; Traded Ben Francisco (Tampa Bay Rays for Theron Geith) and Steve Pearce (New York Yankees for cash)
9/2012: Claimed Brandon Laird off waivers from the New York Yankees
10/2012: Claimed Che-Hsuan Lin off waivers from the Boston Red Sox
11/2012: Claimed Sam Demel and Jake Elmore (Arizona Diamondbacks) and Philip Humber (Chicago White Sox) off of waivers; Signed Jose Valdez, Edgar Gonzalez, Trevor Crowe, and Sergio Escalona via free agency
12/2012: Claimed Josh Fields (Boston), Nate Freiman (San Diego), and Mickey Storey (New York Yankees) in the Rule V Draft; Traded Wilton Lopez to the Colorado Rockies for Alex White and Alex Gillingham; Signed Jose Veras via free agency
Then, the 2013 season got underway. A lot of moves here. Nothing really sticks out as fantastically brilliant outside of getting Justin Maxwell for a waiver claim and getting the Pittsburgh Pirates to take on Wandy Rodriguez‘s contract while getting a couple of solid-but-not-spectacular prospects in Grossman and Owens; however, the true value in what Luhnow has done has happened in the drafts the last two seasons.
In 2012, the Astros took Carlos Correa No.1 overall. While he was worthy of the pick and has performed very well, they were able to sign him below the recommended slot, allowing the club to draft and sign Lance McCullers at No.41 overall, a young, hard-throwing high school arm. The club seems to have several very good prospects in the system from the 2012 draft, but none have the potential impact that 2013 No.1 overall pick Mark Appel could bring to Houston.
The Astros signed Appel on Saturday for $6.35 million, roughly $1.44 million under slot. This will allow the Astros to possibly go over slot to sign later picks, such as college juniors Andrew Thurman and Kent Emanuel, additional college arms that could provide solid depth to the Astros’ system.
The Astros lost 213 games in 2011 and 2012 and their minor league system was in shambles. While some solid young players are finally reaching Minute Maid Park, it will take several more years of replenishing the system to create a team capable of contending in a strong, financially top-heavy AL West. Acquiring cheap, young talent will be the best way for the club to turn things around without mortgaging too much of the club’s financial future on long-term, free agent contracts. Look for moves involving Jose Veras, Bud Norris, and Carlos Pena as the trade deadline comes and goes in 2013, and while the returns may not be fantastic, it will be additional resources and bodies for a team in desperate need of talent and depth within the organization.
For the time being, these are the players to look forward to watching in Houston:
1) Mark Appel, RHP
2) Carlos Correa, SS
3) Jonathan Singleton, 1B
4) George Springer, OF
5) Jared Cosart, RHP
6) Delino DeShields, Jr., 2B
7) Lance McCullers, RHP
8) Mike Foltynewicz, RHP
9) Nolan Fontana, SS
10) Jonathan Villar, SS
11) Domingo Santana, OF
12) Asher Wojciechowski, RHP
13) Max Stassi, C
14) Kevin Comer, RHP
15) Nick Tropeano, RHP