Top pick Aiken has an elbow issue

Via Jon Heyman and Craig Calcaterra at Hardball Talk, No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken has an "elbow ligament issue" and the Astros are now trying to sign him to a discounted bonus.

Further proof: Rebuilding is difficult.

It's been a mixed year for the Astros. The positives:

  • Slightly better on-field major league product. They're on pace for 65 wins after going 51-111 last year.

  • The emergence of George Springer as a potential star.

  • Jose Altuve leads the AL with a .337 average and 38 steals. Remember, he's just 24, so if this improvement is for real, the Astros will have a top leadoff hitter for the foreseeable future (he's signed to a team-friendly deal through 2019).

  • Dallas Keuchel has had a breakout performance in the rotation.

  • Collin McHugh was claimed off the scrap heap and the Astros may have found a legitimate major league starter (3.28 ERA through 14 starts with solid peripherals).

  • Jarred Cosart has been OK, at least good enough that he looks like a back-end starter. The Astros may have hoped for more, but Keuchel, McHugh and Cosart at least provide a group to build a rotation around.

  • Top prospect Carlos Correa looked like one of the best players in the minors, hitting .325/.416/.510 as a 19-year-old in the California League.

  • They have the worst record in the majors -- which means they're in line for the first overall pick for the fourth year in a row. (Yes, in a twisted way that's good news.)

OK, now the bad ...

  • Correa broke his leg in late June and will miss the rest of the season.

  • Pitcher Mark Appel, the top overall pick in 2013, has been a complete disaster, with an 8.91 ERA at Class A, allowing 49 hits and eight home runs in 32.1 innings and spending time in extended spring training. Remember, this guy was drafted as a college senior because he was supposed to be a polished, major-league ready starter. He was selected over, among others, Kris Bryant, the second overall pick who has 30 home runs in the high minors. I was dubious about the Appel selection for one obvious reason: He didn't get that much better between his junior and senior seasons at Stanford and he was fairly hittable for a top college prospect. It's certainly too early to write him off, but unless there is some unknown injury issue he has bust potential. The Astros are going to spend many years second-guessing their decision to pass on Bryant.

  • Aiken's possible elbow issue.

  • Jonathan Singleton has hit .168 since his call-up with 46 strikeouts in 32 games. He's flashed that power potential and is young, but the strikeouts are a concern.

  • Jason Castro has failed to follow up his All-Star season with similar numbers.

  • Guys like Robbie Grossman and Jonathan Villar, potentially part of Houston's future, have been awful.

  • The organization was embarrassed by the information leak about its internal trade discussions.

So it's been a mixed year. The farm system is still deep but I don't see any of the club's other top prospects -- Michael Foltynewicz, Lance McCullers, Domingo Santana, Vincent Velasquez, Rio Ruiz -- having taken a big leap forward.

Springer recently made the cover of Sports Illustrated with the declaration "Your 2017 World Series Champs." As this season has proven, however, it's still hard to outsmart everyone else on your way to the top. You still need a lot of good luck along the way. The Astros may be great in 2017 ... or they may not. I don't think 2014 has answered questions about the Astros' future just yet.