HOUSTON -- Before taking questions from reporters during a press conference Friday afternoon at Minute Maid Park to update where the club stands in advance of next week's First-Year Player Draft, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told reporters not to ask which player his team is going to select with the No. 1 pick.
It's not that Luhnow and assistant general manager/scouting director Bobby Heck were trying to be coy, but the Astros still aren't sure themselves which player they're going to pick. Houston will get the Draft going by picking first Monday afternoon, and Luhnow said a decision probably won't be made until less than 24 hours earlier.
"We're still gathering more information," Luhnow said. "And I think we won't really have our final order until Sunday night."
Heck said earlier this week the Astros were considering five players for the No. 1 overall pick, a list that's believed to include Stanford pitcher Mark Appel, LSU pitcher Kevin Gausman, Florida catcher Mike Zunino, high school outfielder Byron Buxton of Georgia and Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa. Appel and Buxton are considered the most likely top two picks.
"For the Astros, in particular this year, the new ownership taking over last year and us having the first pick, this Draft is particularly important because it has an extra special meaning for us," Luhnow said.
Live coverage of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, at 5 p.m. CT on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
"We will be making a significant investment in this Draft," Luhnow said. "The Astros were not major players in free agency last year and it's unclear how much we'll play a factor this year. This will be one of the most significant investments we make in our future over the course of [those] three days as we draft and select players and hopefully sign them to become future Astros."
While he was in charge of the Draft while working for the Cardinals, Luhnow's track record favored college talent. He maintains the goal is to select players who will bring the highest potential return regardless of age. That's true for all of the Astros' 41 picks, not just as No. 1.
"All things being equal, if a player were to get to the big leagues two years sooner than other players, we would give that player the edge," Luhnow said. "If we feel like there's a younger player who has a higher probability of generating more Major League value, we will not stay away from that player in order to get something that will come here quicker."
In other words, when it comes to the No. 1 pick, age doesn't matter.
"As far as that first pick, it's a unique opportunity to get an MVP-caliber player, and we certainly don't want to compromise making the right decision by looking at age," Luhnow said.
All of the Astros field scouts came to Houston on Wednesday for the last of three pre-Draft workouts that was at Minute Maid Park and they will continue to pore over any information on potential Draft picks in great depth. They'll continue to hash things out throughout the week and perhaps even into Monday.
"You look back at the history of the Draft, and the first guy is not always the best player," Heck said. "As we walked through the process this spring, the number of players we circled with more intensity got smaller as the year went on. As a group, we've had 20 guys that are flying or driving around the country and convening the other night when we had a workout. It's fun for all of us to sit still for a few days and hear the excitement and talk about the players in great depth."
After the press conference was over, Luhnow and Heck disappeared back into their Draft headquarters inside Union Station to continue to sift through the information. It's the first time in 20 years they've picked No. 1 and they plan to capitalize.
"Obviously it's an exciting time," Heck said. "Organizational Christmas is a few days away, and we're excited to pick out our presents."