Baltimore Orioles

Orioles GM Mike Elias’ drafting efforts remain evident on Astros’ World Series roster

Mike Elias’ tenure as Orioles executive vice president/general manager is not yet a year old, so it’s logical that his fingerprints remain all over the Houston Astros roster that will take the field Tuesday night for Game 1 of the World Series against the Washington Nationals.

Elias served as a special assistant, amateur scouting director and assistant general manager during his seven-season stay in Houston, with many of his duties tied to the draft. Several of the Astros’ key pieces in this World Series trip — their second in three years after winning the title in 2017 — joined the organization through the draft, and even those who didn’t are in some way tied to players Elias had a hand in drafting.


Since joining the Orioles, Elias has been out to create an “elite talent pipeline” similar to the Astros’, which has produced several valuable major leaguers, prospects worthy of trading and two American League pennants in Houston.

Of the 25 players on the Astros’ World Series roster, 10 have a connection to Elias’ amateur scouting work, either through the draft or the players traded to acquire them.


Preceded Elias

Two of Houston’s most important position players were already in the organization before Elias followed general manager Jeff Luhnow from the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012. Second baseman José Altuve signed as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in 2007 and made his major league debut in 2011, a year before Luhnow and Elias joined the Astros. Altuve was the 2017 AL MVP and was this year’s AL Championship Series MVP, hitting a walk-off home run in Game 6 to eliminate the New York Yankees. Center fielder George Springer, the 2017 World Series MVP, was Houston’s first-round pick in 2011.

Through the draft

As a result of three consecutive 100-loss seasons from 2011-13 and a 92-loss campaign in 2014, the Astros made five top-five picks in the four drafts that followed each of those seasons, taking a position player with three of them. All three are on Houston’s World Series roster.

While in an advisory role, Elias championed the selection of shortstop Carlos Correa with the first overall pick in the 2012 draft. Houston also picked first in the next two drafts, and although neither of Elias’ top picks as the Astros’ amateur scouting director panned out on the field, each in a way contributed to the organization’s turnaround.

Because Houston failed to sign 2014 top pick Brady Aiken, it received the No. 2 overall selection in 2015 to go with the No. 5 pick the team earned with its on-field performance. The second pick netted third baseman Alex Bregman, a two-time All-Star heading toward his second straight top-five finish in MVP voting. The No. 5 pick was used to take outfielder Kyle Tucker, who posted a 30-30 season with Triple-A Round Rock this year and had an .857 OPS in 22 major league games.

Relief pitcher Josh James, a 34th-round pick in 2014, was also drafted under Elias.

Through trades

Elias’ primary focus during his Houston tenure was the draft, with international scouting duties added in 2017. His efforts in those areas helped fuel the Astros’ abilities to add talent through trades.

Right-hander Mark Appel, the first overall pick in 2013, retired before reaching the majors, but not before the Astros traded him and four others, including Elias-era draftee and eventual Orioles pitcher Tom Eshelman, to the Philadelphia Phillies for reliever Ken Giles. Giles was Houston’s closer in its 2017 championship season, posting a 2.30 ERA during the regular season but an 11.74 playoff ERA. Giles and two minor league pitchers were traded for current Astros closer Roberto Osuna during the 2018 season.

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Each of the Astros’ “big three” starting pitchers — Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke — were acquired using players taken in drafts during Elias’ tenure. Verlander, the 2017 ALCS MVP, joined Houston at that year’s Aug. 31 trade deadline, which no longer exists, with 2015 Competitive Balance Round A pick Daz Cameron and 2016 third-rounder Jake Rogers, as well as 2014 international signee Franklin Perez, going to the Detroit Tigers. The following offseason, Houston got Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates for a four-player package that included Jason Martin, an eighth-round pick in 2013. Even with Elias settled as the Orioles GM during the 2019 trade deadline, all four players the Astros traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks to get Greinke — 2018 first-round pick Seth Beer and 2017 draftees J.B. Bukauskas (first round), Corbin Martin (second round) and Josh Rojas (26th round) — were drafted while Elias oversaw Houston’s drafts.


A pair of fifth-round picks under Elias, 2013’s Tony Kemp and 2015’s Trent Thornton, were used to trade for catcher Martín Maldonado and infielder Aledmys Díaz, respectively.

Minimal ties

Elias’ efforts in Houston were tied to amateur and international scouting and player development, while he had less of a role executing trades and signing free agents. His work in player development, of course, could’ve benefited any of these players once they joined the Astros, though his role in acquiring them is less clear.

The nine players traded to land World Series roster members Brad Peacock, Jake Marisnick, Yordan Álvarez, Ryan Pressley and Chris Devenski were either drafted or signed before Elias headed those departments or were acquired via separate trades that didn’t involve Elias’ draftees.

Six members of Houston’s roster, Yuli Gurriel, Josh Reddick, Joe Smith, Héctor Rondón, Robinson Chirinos and Michael Brantley, were signed as free agents, with the latter two joining the Astros after Elias’ departure to Baltimore. Pitcher José Urquidy was an international signee while Elias was with the Astros, but not while he was overseeing international scouting.

Relief pitcher Will Harris came to Houston via a waiver claim from Arizona. Of the 101 players on the Championship Series rosters used by the Astros, Nationals, Yankees and Cardinals, only three came from waiver claims, compared to 10 members of Baltimore’s 40-man roster arriving through waivers.

That shows how far Elias has to go in building the Orioles into a franchise comparable to the Astros. But given the amount of talent he is at least partly responsible for in Houston and has already injected into the Orioles’ system, Baltimore can continue to look to the Astros and believe their success can be duplicated in some form at Camden Yards.