In June of 2014, the Houston Astros were coming off a 51-111 2013 campaign. They also had a record of 25-35 as they directed their attention to the MLB Draft on June 5. The team was entering their third straight year of holding the first overall pick. They had taken shortstop Carlos Correa (good) and pitcher Mark Appel (not so good) the previous two years. Hopes were again high because hope was all Astros fans had at that point.
The consensus top prospect was high-school left-hander Brady Aiken. The pitcher was drawing comparisons to Clayton Kershaw and Andy Pettitte. Realizing his talent, the Astros did the smart thing and made Aiken the first high-school pitcher taken as the number one overall pick since 1991.
Two days later, they had already agreed on a deal worth $6.5 million. The agreement would be complete once Aiken passed his physical. It was at that time that it was revealed he had a smaller than average UCL. After that, the Astros’ offer went all the way down to $3.1 million, the minimum they could give. If Aiken didn’t accept that deal, the team would receive the second overall pick in the 2015 draft. The signing deadline came and went and the two sides did not agree to deal. That first-round produced Carlos Rodon, Kyle Schwarber, Aaron Nola, Michael Conforto and Trea Turner and Houston was left with nothing.
It was the best thing that could’ve happened the Astros.
In the 2015 draft, they made the most of the compensatory pick. They chose shortstop Alex Bregman. He rocketed through the system and made his MLB debut after just 146 games in the minors. In that time, he became the top overall prospect in the game. Last year, he hit 28 home runs and had 95 runs batted in between three levels. He will begin this year as the starting third baseman for the big league club and shows all the signs of becoming a star. He could be the difference in making the team a World Series contender.
Aiken was chosen by the Cleveland Indians 15 picks later in 2015 after having to undergo Tommy John surgery, which is what concerned the Astros all along. He has only thrown 46 1/3 innings since being drafted and only 22 1/3 of those have come above rookie ball. He had a 5.83 earned run average last year, although he showed signs of improvement by season’s end.
The left-hander is still ranked 63rd on MLB.com’s top 100 list. He still has the potential to reach the high ceiling that made him the top prospect in 2014. He’s only 20 years old and Indians are in no rush to promote him. Despite all of that, the Astros would trade Aiken for Bregman 100 times out of 100. Bregman’s production and potential have made the team and its fans forget about the debacle.
Dillon Healy is a Staff Writer for Outside Pitch MLB. You can follow him on Twitter here.