Houston Astros: Why tanking isn’t the reason the Astros are so good right now

May 17, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) connects for a double in the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
May 17, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) connects for a double in the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

The Houston Astros are the best team in baseball despite pitchers in their starting rotation dropping like flies. With the draft today and the Astros no longer consistently getting the number one or number two pick, it’s possible fans fear a farm system drop off.

The Houston Astros, however, did not become the best team in baseball in 2017 just because of tanking.  You could even make the argument they’ve gotten lucky despite poor drafting during the dreary duldrums that was the 2011-2014 seasons.

So how much did those 100 loss seasons lead to the current team structure we have now?

Let’s list our most impactful players as well as ones that were traded for with prospects we acquired during the drafts from 2012-2015 (the drafts following those terrible seasons where we had high picks.)

That’s right. Only these four players were a result of the Astros tanking helping them get talented players.  It’s actually incredible the Astros are this good considering some of their draft whiffs and trades-gone-bad as well, which is a huge credit to the front office to make up for their mistakes.

Think about it. George Springer was drafted 11th in the first round of 2011 draft after a bad season, but not an intentional tank (the Astros went 76-86 in 2010, though they were sellers at the deadline.) So he’s not a piece from tanking, nor is a first round 11th slot pick a player you expect as much out of as a number one pick.

Cy Young award winner Dallas Keuchel you ask? He was a 7th round pick out of Arkansas who worked his tail off to be as good as he is. There aren’t many guys who throw low 90’s that can do what Keuchel has done. Heck, he was even the reason the Astros were so bad in 2012 and 2013, posting a 9-18 record over that span with a 5.27 and 5.15 ERA in each season respectively.

Keuchel’s hard work, not the Astros tanking, is why we have a Cy Young in our rotation.

Jose Altuve? The player who finished third in MVP voting last year and has had three consecutive 200 hit seasons. Oh well he was a highly sought after 5’5″ second baseman that everyone believed had the potential to be an all-star.

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Oh never mind. He was actually cut from the Astros tryout sessions in Venezuela because he was too short, showed up again despite that assessment and worked as hard as Keuchel to become the all-around threat that he is with his hitting, base stealing, and recently added power.

Now Correa was drafted number one overall after our first season of tanking in 2012, that’s true. But the next year the Astros drafted Mark Appel number one over the number two pick…sigh…Kris Bryant. Now Appel was part of a deal that helped the Astros get Ken Giles, so we can count that as tanking that helped us.

But also that’s the credit that must be given to the front office for taking that first pick whiff and turning it into something positive.

The same thing happened when the team drafted Brady Aiken number one overall in 2014. How mad were we all when they couldn’t sign him? Then it turned out, they were right to not sign him because of health issues that resulted in Tommy John surgery for the young pitcher.

Because of that decision, the team got the number two pick in the following draft and who did they pick up because of it? Alex Bregman. Again, they took a negative and made it a positive.

And lastly Lance McCullers Jr. was signed because the Astros went under slot value to sign Correa at number one and used that extra cash to go over slot value to sign McCullers Jr.  So acquiring McCullers Jr. was a result of tanking as well.

The fact of the matter is though, this team could be in dismal shape right now if it weren’t for the front office being able to maneuver around their missteps, including that disaster of a trade for Carlos Gomez (who would have thought Mike Fiers would be the more important piece in that deal?) and still make enough right decisions to correct their wrong ones.

Related Story: Astros need to restock pitching depth

While tanking obviously has helped the Astros, it’s certainly not the reason they are so good right now. They missed on two of their three number one selections in the drafts where they had that number one pick. They have made trades that REALLY didn’t pan out they way they thought they would. Yet here they are. The best team in baseball. Tanking was only a small part of that.