Did the Astros get it right? Redrafting 2012 class

July 14th, 2022

The 2012 Draft was the first with bonus-pool rules that created strict allotments for spending in the first 10 rounds and the loss of at least a future first-round pick for any club that exceeded its pool by more than five percent. While signability had long played a part in the Draft process, teams now had to manage their money more carefully.

The Astros, who had the No. 1 selection for the first of three consecutive Drafts, had strong interest in Stanford right-hander Mark Appel but couldn't nail down parameters on what it might take to sign him. They pivoted to Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa and benefited when Correa's camp misread his market.

Before Correa agreed to sign with Houston for $4.8 million -- $2.4 million less than the assigned $7.2 million pick value at No. 1 -- he had consented to sign for $3.7 million with the Cubs if he got to them at No. 6. But he and his advisers apparently didn't realize that if the Astros had moved on from Correa, they would have taken Georgia prep outfielder Byron Buxton and the Twins would have popped Correa at No. 2.

Instead, Correa went No. 1 and Buxton went No. 2 -- the only instance in which the top two picks in the Draft played out just as they would have years later with the benefit of hindsight. That scenario might have materialized in 2001 (Joe Mauer, Mark Prior) if Prior had stayed healthy, and potentially could happen with 2015 (Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman) or 2019 (Adley Rutschman, Bobby Witt Jr.).

Our decade-later redraft of 2012's 31 first-round selections includes 10 actual first-rounders and nine supplemental first-rounders. The Astros, Cardinals, Mariners, Orioles and Twins tied for the lead with three retroactive first-rounders each, with Houston's trio (Correa, Lance McCullers Jr., Brett Phillips) standing out the most.

For the purposes of this redraft, we considered only players who turned pro in 2012. Swanson (38th round, Rockies) and Bregman (29th round, Red Sox) turned down late-round fliers and went 1-2 in the 2015 Draft. Vanderbilt landed three of the four best unsigned prospects in Swanson, Walker Buehler (14th round, Pirates) and Mike Yastrzemski (30th round, Mariners) and parlayed them into a College World Series championship in 2014 and a runner-up finish in 2015.

1. Astros: Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo, P.R.
Actual pick: Correa ($4.8 million bonus).

The first Puerto Rican ever selected No. 1 overall, Correa helped his cause with a legendary series of pre-Draft workouts, rocketing up Draft boards with his combination of power and athleticism. He won the 2017 World Series, three pennants, the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year award and a Gold Glove and made two All-Star Games before signing with the Twins as a free agent and joining Buxton last offseason.

While we're here, let's dispel the oft-repeated notion that signing Correa for $4.8 million allowed Houston to land McCullers for $2.5 million with its next choice. Had the Astros taken Buxton and paid him the $6 million he received from the Twins, they still could have afforded McCullers. Correa's $2.4 million discount off the sticker price for the No. 1 choice enabled Houston to pay Rio Ruiz $1.85 million as a fourth-rounder.

2. Twins: Byron Buxton, OF, Appling County HS, Baxley, Ga.
Actual pick: Buxton ($6 million).

The consensus top prospect and best athlete in the Draft, Buxton is one of the most electrifying players in the Majors -- when he can avoid the injured list. He finally got selected for his first All-Star Game, and the reason why he had to wait this long and why he owns only one Gold Glove is that he has played more than 87 games in a big league season just once. He's a threat to win an MVP award any year he can stay healthy.

3. Mariners: Corey Seager, SS, Northwest Cabarrus HS, Kannapolis, N.C.
Actual pick: Mike Zunino, C, Florida ($4 million). Seager: first round, No. 18, Dodgers ($2.35 million).

One of the best prep hitters in the 2012 class, Seager signed for $400,000 over slot value at No. 18 and proved a worthwhile investment. He has stayed at shortstop despite many scouts predicting he'd outgrow the position, earning 2016 National League Rookie of the Year accolades, All-Star and Silver Slugger honors in each of his first two full big league seasons and NLCS and World Series MVP hardware en route to a championship in 2020. He landed the largest free-agent deal of last offseason, a 10-year, $325 million contract with the Rangers.

The 2012 Golden Spikes Award winner as the top amateur player in the United States, Zunino has hit for power and provided solid defense while earning one All-Star Game berth in 10 seasons.

4. Orioles: Matt Olson, 1B, Parkview HS, Lilburn, Ga.
Actual pick: Kevin Gausman, RHP, Louisiana State ($4.32 million). Olson: supplemental first round, Athletics ($1,079,700).

A two-way star on a Parkview team that won the national high school title, Olson homered off Max Fried (the next retro first-rounder on this list) at the National High School Invitational. He's the fourth straight prep hitter atop this redraft, and he has far outperformed the two high school bats (Addison Russell, Daniel Robertson) the A's drafted ahead of him.

The Orioles did well in making Gausman the first pitcher selected, as he tops all 2012 draftees in wins (70), innings (1,265 1/3) and bWAR among pitchers (18.0).

5. Royals: Max Fried, LHP, Harvard-Westlake School, Studio City, Calif.
Actual pick: Kyle Zimmer, RHP, San Francisco ($3 million). Fried: first round, No. 7, Padres ($3 million).

Fried supplanted the injured Lucas Giolito (more on him in a moment) as the ace at Harvard-Westlake and went seventh overall to the Padres. Following Tommy John surgery in August 2014, he went to the Braves in the Justin Upton trade four months later. He has blossomed into one of the game's best starters since 2019 and won the clinching game of the 2021 World Series.

Zimmer made a name for himself by shutting out UCLA and No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole in the 2011 NCAA playoffs and had low mileage on his arm at San Francisco, which should have boded well for his health. But he signed for a reduced $3 million after a physical revealed bone chips in his elbow and dealt with constant and varied injuries starting in 2014. He spent parts of the last three seasons in Kansas City's bullpen before getting released last November and signing with the Reds.

6. Cubs: Kevin Gausman, RHP, Louisiana State
Actual pick: Albert Almora, OF, Mater Academy Charter HS, Hialeah Gardens, Fla. ($3.9 million). Gausman: first round, No. 4, Orioles ($4.32 million).

The four best college pitchers available were Appel, Gausman, Texas A&M right-hander Michael Wacha and Zimmer. The consensus preferred Appel and Zimmer to Gausman and Wacha, who both possessed advanced changeups but iffy breaking balls. The consensus proved wrong, as Gausman and Wacha have combined for 139 wins to Appel and Zimmer's five.

With their hopes for Correa dashed, the Cubs went with Almora, who had tied A.J. Hinch's record by playing on six U.S. national teams and came with a high floor. His glove turned out to be better than his bat, though he did score the winning run in the 2016 World Series.

7. Padres: Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake School, Studio City, Calif.
Actual pick: Fried ($3 million). Giolito: first round, No. 16, Nationals ($2,925,000).

Giolito's fastball reached 100 mph during the offseason, fueling talk that he could become the first high school right-hander ever to go No. 1 overall. An elbow injury in March and knowledge that he'd require Tommy John surgery ended those chances, but the Nationals weren't deterred and gave him the eighth-highest bonus in the Draft at No. 16. He had some ups and downs in Washington's system before going to the White Sox in a 2016 Winter Meetings trade for the Adam Eaton, and he has earned Cy Young Award votes in each of the last three seasons.

8. Pirates: José Berrios, RHP, Papa Juan XXIII HS, Bayamon, P.R.
Actual pick: Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford (didn't sign). Berrios: supplemental first round, Twins ($1.55 million).

This was a banner Draft for Puerto Rico with Correa making history at No. 1, Berrios and Jesmuel Valentín fitting in the supplemental round and Mariners third-rounder Edwin Díaz joining Correa and Berrios as two-time All-Stars. Berrios helped his cause with an April no-hitter against a team of Puerto Rican standouts that included Correa. He made the island's 2013 World Baseball Classic team at age 18 and reached Minnesota at 21.

The Pirates decided to take a shot at Appel, who continued to slide when teams couldn't get a handle on his asking price. They ultimately offered him $3.8 million ($900,000 over slot value) but he elected to return to Stanford and went No. 1 overall to the Astros in 2013. Signed for $6.35 million, he only showed flashes of dominance before getting shipped to the Phillies in a trade for Ken Giles in December 2015. He walked away from the game after the 2017 season but returned this year and made his big league debut two weeks ago.

9. Marlins: Marcus Stroman, RHP, Duke
Actual pick: Andrew Heaney, LHP, Oklahoma State ($2.6 million). Stroman: first round, No. 22, Blue Jays ($1.8 million).

Clubs had to reconcile Stroman's electric arm with his 5-foot-9 build, and while he lasted longer than he should have on talent, he still became Duke's first first-rounder ever. He debuted in Toronto not quite two years later and has been a steady starter ever since.

The best left-hander in the college crop, Heaney edged Stroman for the NCAA Division I strikeout lead with 140 in 118 1/3 innings. Negotiations got wacky, with the Marlins informing Heaney the day before the July 13 deadline that they weren't going to sign him, then reversing course the next day and paying him $2.6 million. He has been a serviceable back-of-the-rotation starter and is currently on the Dodgers' injured list.

10. Rockies: Josh Hader, LHP, Old Mill HS, Millersville, Md.
Actual pick: David Dahl, OF, Oak Mountain HS, Birmingham, Ala. ($2.6 million). Hader: 19th round, Orioles ($30,000).

Hader flew way under the radar as a Maryland prep left-hander with a mid-80s fastball, but Orioles area scout Dean Albany believed in him. After Hader pitched well in an all-star game in front of Baltimore GM Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter, the club signed him away from an Anne Arundel (Md.) CC commitment for $30,000. Both the Orioles (for Bud Norris) and the Astros (for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers) gave him up in regrettable trades, and he has become baseball's best closer with the Brewers while making the last four All-Star Games. He's the lowest pick (582nd overall) and signed for the second-lowest bonus in this redraft, outearning only Joey Wendle ($10,000 as a sixth-round senior sign).

Dahl overcame the loss of his spleen after an outfield collision in 2015 to arrive in Colorado the following season. He played in the 2019 All-Star Game but his production tumbled in the next two seasons, and the Brewers released him from their Triple-A roster earlier this week.

11. Athletics: Joey Gallo, 3B, Bishop Gorman HS, Las Vegas
Actual pick: Addison Russell, SS, Pace (Fla.) HS ($2,625,000). Gallo: supplemental first round, Rangers ($2.25 million).

12. Mets: Max Muncy, 1B, Baylor
Actual pick: Gavin Cecchini, SS, Barbe HS, Lake Charles, La. ($2.3 million). Muncy: fifth round, Athletics ($240,000).

13. White Sox: Chris Taylor, SS, Virginia
Actual pick: Courtney Hawkins, OF, Carroll HS, Corpus Christi, Texas ($2,475,000). Taylor: fifth round, Mariners ($500,000).

14. Reds: Jesse Winker, OF, Olympia HS, Orlando, Fla.
Actual pick: Nick Travieso, RHP, Archbishop McCarthy HS, Southwest Ranches, Fla. ($2 million). Winker: supplemental first round, Reds ($1 million).

15. Indians: Mitch Haniger, OF, Cal Poly
Actual pick: Tyler Naquin, OF, Texas A&M ($1.75 million). Haniger: supplemental first round, Brewers ($1.2 million).

16. Nationals: Joey Wendle, 2B, West Chester (Pa.)
Actual pick: Giolito ($2,925,000). Wendle: sixth round, Indians ($10,000).

17. Blue Jays: Alex Wood, LHP, Georgia
Actual pick: D.J. Davis, OF, Stone County HS, Wiggins, Miss. ($1.75 million). Wood: second round, Braves ($700,000).

18. Dodgers: Edwin Díaz, RHP, Caguas Military Academy, Gurabo, P.R.
Actual pick: Seager ($2.35 million). Diaz: third round, Mariners ($300,000).

19. Cardinals: Lance McCullers Jr., RHP, Jesuit HS, Tampa, Fla.
(from Angels as compensation for free agent Albert Pujols)

Actual pick: Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M ($1.9 million). McCullers: supplemental first round, Astros ($2.5 million).

20. Giants: Zach Eflin, RHP, Hagerty HS, Oviedo, Fla.
Actual pick: Chris Stratton, RHP, Mississippi State ($1.85 million). Eflin: supplemental first round, Padres ($1.2 million).

21. Braves: Mike Zunino, C, Florida
Actual pick: Lucas Sims, RHP, Brookwood HS, Snellville, Ga. ($1.65 million). Zunino: first round, No. 3, Mariners ($4 million).

22. Blue Jays: Christian Walker, 1B, South Carolina
(compensation for failure to sign 2011 first-rounder Tyler Beede)

Actual pick: Stroman ($1.8 million). Walker: fourth round, Orioles ($349,900).

23. Cardinals: Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M
Actual pick: James Ramsey, OF, Florida State ($1.6 million). Wacha: first round, No. 19, Cardinals ($1.9 million).

24. Red Sox: Paul Blackburn, RHP, Heritage HS, Menifee, Calif.
Actual pick: Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State ($2.05 million). Blackburn: supplemental first round, Cubs ($911,700).

25. Rays: Brett Phillips, OF, Seminole (Fla.) HS
Actual pick: Richie Shaffer, 3B, Clemson ($1.71 million). Phillips: sixth round, Astros ($300,000).

26. Diamondbacks: Patrick Wisdom, 3B, Saint Mary's
Actual pick: Stryker Trahan, C, Acadiana HS, Lafayette, La. ($1.7 million). Wisdom: supplemental first round, Cardinals ($678,790).

27. Brewers: Carson Kelly, 3B, Westview HS, Portland, Ore.
(from Tigers as compensation for free agent Prince Fielder)

Actual pick: Clint Coulter, C, Union HS, Camas, Wash. ($1,675,000). Kelly: second round, Cardinals ($1.6 million).

28. Brewers: Matt Duffy, SS, Long Beach State
Actual pick: Victor Roache, OF, Georgia Southern ($1,525,000). Duffy: 18th round, Giants ($50,000).

29. Rangers: Andrew Heaney, LHP, Oklahoma State
Actual pick: Lewis Brinson, OF, Coral Springs (Fla.) HS ($1,625,000). Heaney: first round, No. 9, Marlins ($2.6 million).

30. Yankees: Taylor Rogers, LHP, Kentucky
Actual pick: Ty Hensley, RHP, Santa Fe HS, Edmond, Okla. ($1.2 million). Rogers: 11th round, Twins ($100,000).

31. Red Sox: Ross Stripling, RHP, Texas A&M
(from Phillies as compensation for free agent Jonathan Papelbon)

Actual pick: Brian Johnson, LHP, Florida ($1,575,000). Stripling: fifth round, Dodgers ($130,000).