The Astros’ Fortunate Mistake
By Bill Brown
Alex Bregman has become the most important player for the Astros in 2018. With injuries to Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer, Alexander David Bregman has risen to the head of the class. This is especially after playing a starring role in the postseason in 2017. And he really shouldn’t be in Houston.
A Boomerang Gift for the Astros
Bregman should have been drafted by another team in 2015, but the Astros made a huge mistake in 2014 and it boomeranged into the gift of a lifetime. They drafted lefthanded high school pitching star Brady Aiken of San Diego with their first overall pick of the 2014 draft.
Aiken dominated high school hitters. After Carlos Correa was their first overall pick in the 2012 draft, Aiken could have been part of the pipeline for the franchise to keep it among the elite in baseball.
But the condition of his elbow troubled the medical staff. He had agreed to terms on a 2015 contract, but the required physical set off alarm bells. The bonus offer was withdrawn by the Astros, and Aiken’s family and his agent were incensed. A lower bonus offer followed, but Aiken’s camp rebuffed all attempts to sign him. The Astros were ridiculed for failing to sign him and he started focusing on 2015.
Rarely does a team not sign the first player drafted, but the Astros were granted the second overall pick the next year as provided for in the rules. Arizona used the first choice in 2015 on shortstop Dansby Swanson, who was traded eventually to the Atlanta Braves. After the Astros selected Bregman with their compensation pick, Colorado took shortstop Brendan Rodgers. The Rangers then chose pitcher Dillon Tate. The Astros had the fifth pick as well, and Kyle Tucker became an Astro with that choice.
Bregman has Paid Off in Spades
His statistics are special; and when the season ends, he could be in select company by joining Houston Astros’ history. Bregman’s combination of batting average, home runs, RBI, runs, doubles and walks have caused him to shine. In his June Player of the Month rampage, he ripped 11 home runs and drove in 30 runs. He stretched his hitting streak to 12 games from June through early July, leading to his All-Star selection for the first time in his career. Bregman extended his brilliant run from the second half of 2017 to label him as a clutch performer who excels on the national stage.
And Aiken? Brady Aiken had Tommy John surgery in 2014 and did not pitch at all professionally in 2018 after going to spring training with Cleveland. As a professional in 2016-17, Aiken was 7-18 with a 5.05 ERA. In 178 innings, he walked 122. His highest minor league classification has been at Class A Lake County in the Midwest League.
Aiken and Bregman provide examples of the risk and reward involved in the draft. And with the paths their careers have taken, the Astros are clearly on the plus side of the outcomes.