Draft Sanctions Have Left The Astros At a Talent Deficit
Over seven seasons from 2013-2019, the Astros always had a top 10 farm system according to Baseball America’s organization talent rankings.
Now the Astros rank 29th in our midseason update, down from 26th coming into 2021. The Astros ranked 27th in 2020.
We often see teams that are consistently successful at the major league level slide down the talent rankings. It’s a natural life cycle. As teams trade prospects to help the MLB club and as those teams start picking at the back of the draft they often see their farm systems thin out. The White Sox's slide to 30th in the current talent rankings is a perfect example of this.
The Astros case is a little different. Like many contending teams, the Astros have traded away prospects to bolster the big league club. Most notably, the club traded 2017 first-round pick J.B. Bukauskas and second-round pick Corbin Martin as well as 2018 first-round pick Seth Beer in a trade that acquired righthander Zack Greinke from the Diamondbacks.
But in addition to trades and graduations, the effects of the team’s penalties for sign stealing have left a significant mark. In fact, they have left the Astros at a significant handicap to the rest of the league when it comes to talent acquisition.
As part of their penalties, the Astros were forced to forfeit their first- and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 MLB drafts. That has meant that Houston has brought in dramatically less top-end talent in recent years in the draft than other teams.
Houston is the only team without a top 30 overall pick from any of the past five drafts on any active minor league roster. In comparison, six other teams currently have five top 30 picks from those drafts currently playing in their farm system.
|Top 30 Picks|
|ORG||Top 30 |
|ORG||Top 30 |
|*Counts all players taken in top 30 picks overall of 2017-2021 drafts who were on active MiLB rosters as of Aug. 15, 2021|
Catcher Korey Lee, the Astros’ 2019 first-round pick (32nd overall) is the only first-round pick from the past five drafts on any Astros MiLB roster. He’s also the only top 50 pick currently playing for an Astros farm team. In comparison, the Reds, Rays and Pirates all have nine top 50 picks on active MiLB rosters.
|Top 50 Picks|
|ORG||Top 50||ORG||Top 50|
|*Counts all players taken in top 50 picks overall of 2017-2021 drafts who were on active MiLB rosters as of Aug. 15, 2021|
Now teams can miss on top picks and find gems in later rounds of the draft. But in a system where the amount teams can spend in the draft is strictly limited by MLB rules, losing top two-round picks also limits the amount of money a team can spend in the draft—the Astros currently have six draftees in the entirety of their minor league system who received $1 million or larger signing bonuses. The Reds, Orioles, Pirates, Royals and Tigers each had four players they signed from the 2021 draft with bonuses of $1 million or larger.
2021 Houston Astros Midseason Top 30 Prospects Update
Updating our Houston Astros rankings to include 2021 draft picks, risers, fallers and more.
It’s only when you expand the filter to look at players taken in the top 100 picks that the Astros climb out of the basement. There it’s the Mets who bring up the rear, although the Astros are tied for second-fewest with seven.
How did the Mets get here? They traded Pete Crow-Armstrong to the Cubs, Simeon Woods Richardson to the Blue Jays and Josh Wolf and Isaiah Greene to the Indians. In addition, Matt Allan has missed the entire 2021 season because of injury.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Rays have 20 top 100 picks from the past five drafts on active MiLB rosters. The Rays have had a number of extra picks over those five drafts, but it also added Shane Baz, Blake Hunt, Xavier Edwards and Logan Driscoll in trades. Cole Wilcox, another Rays trade acquisition, does not count because he’s currently on the injured list.
|Top 100 Picks|
|ORG||Top 100||ORG||Top 100|
|*Counts all players taken in top 100 picks overall of 2017-2021 drafts who were on active MiLB rosters as of Aug. 15, 2021|
The Astros have done well in developing international amateur signees, and excellent player development can help a team overcome drafting late. But the sanctions MLB handed down have left a mark, just as they were intended to.