Race to the Top (of the 2014 Draft)

In Commentary And Analysis, Major League Baseball by aisle42488 Comments

Race to top header

Welcome back to the 3rd installment of OV's annual Race to the Top series! This has become an extremely fun tradition where we flip the stadings upside down, reverse wins and losses and track the Cubs "progress" towards achieving the top draft pick in the next draft! We sure do know how to have fun around here!

In previous years, we put the standings somewhere on the blog itself and tried to keep it updated daily.  I think those of you who were around last year remember that we failed colossally in that endeavor, so we've scaled back our goals for this year.  Going forward, we'll post the updated standings each Monday and try to highlight any interesting tidbits (if any) from the week.

So here we go:

Race to top - 8-25-13

The last I had bothered to check prior to this morning, the Cubs had been in real danger of dropping out of the top ten picks. They were actually playing kind of well and their run differential compared favorably to the teams right around them in the standings. Well, that's all pretty much been shot to hell and they are about to crash back into a top three pick. If they had managed to lose even a couple to the White Sox this year, they'd even be in a decent position to challenge Miami for a back-to-back 2nd draft pick finish. (Nobody is catching Houston.)

Meanwhile, I found it interesting that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Los Angeles, California and their roughly eleventy billion dollars owed to Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols are looking at a protected pick, as are the defending World Series champions, the San Francisco Giants, and the Rant Sports pre-season pick as World Series contenders, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Other factoids of note:

  • The Cubs must finish 7-25 to improve on their 101 loss season of last year.
  • They must finish 8-24 to avoid 100 losses.
  • They will finish 13-19 if they maintain their .423 winning percentage pace.
  • They must finish 26-6 to finish .500.

Looks like it's going to be a fun race down to the wire to see who drafts after the Astros pick Carlos Rodon!

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Comments

  1. SVB

    I think the header would be just as good with Linus sledding down the hill. Or Linus and Charlie rolling down with snow gear flying after a sled wipe out.

    /artistic consultant

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  2. Kyle

    I have to admit, they are doing a better job shooting up the reverse standings in the second half than I thought they’d be able to manage. The complicity of Starlin Castro and (to a lesser degree) Anthony Rizzo has helped.

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  3. Author
    Aisle424

    @ Nate:

    I honestly think this is the last year of plain tanking. This coming off-season may look similar to the last two, but the acquisitions may be sought for more than just trade fodder.

    At some point, the team has to start knowing what it’s like to win and that may mean a middling year or two. The bullpen will still be an issue because they won’t spend on it and I’m not sure who will contribute from the system by next year.

    They seem able to find decent value on the waiver wire with regularity, plus I think Baez may make it difficult to keep taking it slow with him and Bryant may be banging down the door to the majors as well. The finish to 2014 could be actual fun and not contrived fun like this Race to the Top bullshit.

    *returns MB’s rose-colored glasses*

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  4. Author
    Aisle424

    @ josh:

    They’ll be truly competitive when at least two of the guys in the minors come up and start making significant contributions, and the pitching holds together.

    A lineup like this doesn’t look too bad:

    2B Valbuena/ (right-handed Valbuena)
    LF Castro
    1B Rizzo
    SS Baez
    3B Bryant
    CF Lake
    RF Schierholtz/(equivalent of Scott Hairston)
    C Castillo/Navarro

    There’s a lot of assumptions made here and it doesn’t factor in a potential arrival of Soler or Almora to the outfield that would eventually push Castro back to 2B, but this illustrates that even two additional bats from the system makes this lineup a heck of a lot stronger and able to support a pitching staff that has been impressive under the first two years of the Superfriends when left intact.

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  5. Suburban kid

    I recall a lot of bitching last off-season about the Navarro contract being totally uncalled for.

    Has he been worth his contract?

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  6. Myles

    I’m pretty sure I’m just a Rays fan for the rest of this season. Not that I think Epstein is doing a bad job or anything, but I just wonder what the Cubs would be like had Andrew Friedman been lured out of Tampa Bay to work his wonders. I don’t think the team would be much different, but I know I’d be more confident, founded or not.

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  7. sychophant

    okay

    maybe this is far fetched – I agree that 2014 should be at least tolerable – 2015 begins the competitive teams
    But
    Wouldn’t it make sense to run at Choo or Elsbury this off-season while they have a protected pick in the draft?

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  8. josh

    @ Myles:
    I know what you mean. I think I would have preferred Freidman overall. Maybe Billy Beane. That guy is some kind of magic wizard man. He spends like $10 and has a team with a legit chance at the Wild Card if not the Division.

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  9. sitrick

    I want the Cubs to build a strong organization. I certainly don’t have a problem with drafting well and getting as much talent in the minor leagues as possible, even knowing that some (or even many) of those guys will never make it. If anyone here claims my position denies this, you are simply wrong.

    (dying laughing)

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  10. sitrick

    All I am saying is that the “parallel tracks” Theo Epstein once spoke of, can and should be done; it shouldn’t be just lip service. I believe you can do both — put together a good organization, and try to win at the big-league level every year. This doesn’t mean wasting money on someone like Josh Hamilton — the Angels will be paying for that and the Albert Pujols deal for many, many years. Of course I don’t want to do that, and if you think that’s what I believe, you’re still wrong.

    Maybe Robinson Cano isn’t the right answer, right now, either, although I submit that he’s at least worth thinking about. If you think I’m saying “Go back to the Jim Hendry junk-food highs,” you’re wrong, yet again.

    Al really wants everyone to know that they’re wrong.

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  11. wpbc

    @ sitrick:

    dude has finally come to grips with the cubs never winning. now he needs to come to grips with the reality that his life won’t change one iota if they win. what a fucking idiot.

    the guy should be in therapy. that was not the writing of a stable person.

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  12. Suburban kid

    Alvin wrote:

    Please note! This post is going to be quite long. Pull up a chair, if you aren’t in one, and settle in for a while.

    Oh no…

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  13. wpbc

    Suburban kid wrote:

    Alvin wrote:

    Please note! This post is going to be quite long. Pull up a chair, if you aren’t in one, and settle in for a while.

    Oh no…

    when al types this, he should just walk away and sniff more glue.

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  14. Suburban kid

    Alvin wrote:

    Even though Carmella was alive when the Cubs won their last World Series, as a small girl in Italy, she likely knew nothing of them at the time

    Oh I don’t know, I wouldn’t assume that Al. You never know.

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  15. uncle dave

    “Ms. Snodgrass, get Jay-Z on line 1 and tell him it’s about Cano. Al Yellon has discovered his mortality. We don’t have a minute to spare!”

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  16. Kyle

    @ Nate:

    I wouldn’t say they out-right tanked this year. I thought they did a pretty good job of trying to put together a competitive team on a budget. Then we had some early pitching injuries (with pitching depth being our biggest weakness) and a bit of general poor luck.

    Once those two took them out of it, they did a stellar job of stripping to the team down for losing, but they weren’t outright tanking from day 1.

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  17. Suburban kid

    Alvin wrote:

    In my view, putting teams full of DFA guys and waiver-wire pickups and never-were minor-leaguers who have a couple of hot weeks in the major leagues on the field at Wrigley is disrespectful to the paying customer. To that, you’ll likely say, “Just stop buying season tickets, then.” Beyond the fact that this is not an option for me, for many reasons that I have explained here on multiple occasions

    Oh, my bad. I didn’t realize you were required to spend the equivalent of two average annual salaries in China every year on your Wrigley bench segment.. Carry on.

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  18. Suburban kid

    I like how Al completely ignored the bit he quoted from Buster Olney about renovation costs impacting spending this off season. Revenues are down, and they have huge capital expenditures coming up. That stuff affects a real business’s budget. Maybe when it’s only a small hidden chunk of conglomerate like the Tribune, and capex is limited to the cost of a few nets to catch concrete lumps, you can get away with a nine figure FA contract after a couple of shitty years.

    It’s like the recent talk over whether or not the Cubs had become “cheap” by trying to save a couple million on DeJesus. That money is already spent on a section of jumbotron.

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  19. Suburban kid

    And his argument about TV rights seems stoopid. Networks will not be bidding based on this year’s ratings. These rights come around once every 15 years or so. You don’t sign a 15 year deal based on one year of data. Idiot.

    It would seem to me they are making less than they should off TV because of the Tribune. And that they are in a position to increase their revenues from this source. Which means more money for baseball, once that shit gets done. Idiot.

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  20. wpbc

    uncle dave wrote:

    “Ms. Snodgrass, get Jay-Z on line 1 and tell him it’s about Cano. Al Yellon has discovered his mortality. We don’t have a minute to spare!”

    oh the humanity!

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  21. Suburban kid

    wpbc wrote:

    @ sitrick:
    he needs to come to grips with the reality that his life won’t change one iota if they win.

    That could be catastrophic. Once he realizes it, a few weeks after the series is over, I predict very dark clouds begin to circle over Alvin’s head.

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  22. wpbc

    @ Suburban kid:

    honestly, we are dealing with a child here. a late 50’s child.

    with all of the problems in the world and in chicago specifically, what get’s this guys panties in a bunch: the cubs being bad at baseball. i’m sorry but someone needs to get out of the bleachers and reasses his priorities.

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  23. wpbc

    i have a six year old that lives and breathes baseball all summer. even at his young age, he has a much healthier view of the cubs than the 50-something child sitting in the lf bleachers does.

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  24. sitrick

    My favorite part of the Yellon “that’s not an option” comment; if it’s necessary to his business (SBN blogger) to have season Cubs tickets, then they’re a tax deductible business expense, no? And thus he has absolutely no right to complain about the people who don’t generate income by wasting away their years eating bolonga sandwiches and hating coleslaw in bleachers?

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  25. aaronb

    @ Suburban kid:

    The renovation excuse is bunk. They are most likely 2 years away from spending dollar 1 on any renovations.

    My issue with what seems to be happening on these boards is this…Anyone who wants ownership to spend some money. Instantly becomes some kind of pariah. Why should the Cubs have to rebuild like the Royals?

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  26. dmick89

    @ aaronb:
    This. Spend some money. You’re going to have to at some point and it may as well start now.

    I said it before, but at some point the Cubs are either going to have to start trying to win some games or create an alternative league called the Future’s League.

    I do think we’ll see a pretty good signing this offseason and I also think we’ll see the front office use their prospects to acquire a player via trade.

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  27. Berselius

    @ aaronb:

    They shouldn’t. The problem is that their cupboard was absolutely bare. The goal all along has been to rebuild like the Red Sox have done for the past decade, signing stars and developing guys like Ellsbury, Pedroia, Lester, etc, and keeping them around. You need both. But if you’re starting from nothing this is how it’s gotta be done.

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  28. Berselius

    That said I’d love to see them spend some money this offseason too. They’re going to go hard after Choo and/or Ellsbury (I think Ellsbury is who they’ll target), and I would love to see them in on Cano.

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  29. sitrick

    Dear Jeff,

    See Matt Harvey? Shocking, huh? Almost like an elbow can get blown out at any time. Well, just wanted to say hey. If you feel like talking contract extension at any point, you’ve got our number. Oh, and congrats on almost getting your ERA back under four!

    Kisses,
    Jed and Theo

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  30. sitrick

    I don’t have a problem with spending money; I do have a problem with gigantic contracts for guys over thirty. I would much rather throw the Cubs’ financial weight around by overbidding for supplemental role 5 and 6 guys on shorter contracts than paying 200+ mil deals to role 7 players just about to hit their decline. I want the organization developing its own role 7 and 8 players and tossing big money in that direction to keep them through their prime.

    It seems to me that in the current environment you win consistently in 2013 through player development and avoiding albatross contracts. Maybe that changes when the full weight of teams getting new TV contracts comes into play and star players start passing up extensions for free agency (if Kershaw by some miracle doesn’t sign an extension, by all means, throw him all of the money), but for now, I just don’t think throwing financial weight around on gigantic contracts is a successful strategy.

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  31. dmick89

    @ Berselius:
    I don’t that it’s “how it’s gotta be done.” It’s one way of doing it, but there isn’t one way of rebuilding an organization.

    If you can sign stars and develop guys like Ellsbury, Pedroia, Lester, then I’m not sure what the Cubs have done is even the most effective way of rebuilding.

    In order to maintain being competitive, you’ve got to develop and spend money. Teams who rebuild choose to do just one to save money. There was nothing stopping Thoyer when they took over from developing stars and spending. The team would have been better, more enjoyable to watch and all of that. They just chose to focus on developing talent and saved money at the same time.

    I get what they did. I wasn’t against it and I’m still not. Saving money in a business when you’re not going to contend makes sense. At the same time, I do think it gives fans a valid reason to complain.

    Obviously a higher pick in the draft gives you a better chance to get a better player. Being able to acquire and even develop talent when you have those picks isn’t really impressive when you think about it. They should be doing that. What makes a good GM is being able to contend and develop talent. We know Theo is a good GM and has been able to do this. I’m fairly confident he could have rebuild the Cubs minor league system while still also spending money and being better at the MLB level.

    Would they be legitimate contenders sooner? Probably, but not by much. Then again, maybe you get a prospect like Mike Trout.

    I do think aaron is right in that a large segment of Cubs fans doesn’t like to debate this. Theo and company are right and people who say otherwise are idiots. This is one of many reasons why I like this place so much.

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  32. dmick89

    @ sitrick:
    Agreed. Spend money in a smart way. I’d be OK if the Cubs never signed anyone to that kind of contract even though the evidence still shows that huge contracts work out about as well as other ones. The difference is that when they don’t, you can be fucked.

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  33. sitrick

    For all the mocking of him that Myles and I have done lately, not including tonight, Mike Olt has a .406 OBP over his last ten and a 6:6 K:BB rate. He has 2 more walks tonight, so that’s up to 8:6.

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  34. dmick89

    @ sitrick:
    Hopefully that’s the start of something, but I’ve sure lost a lot of hope for this guy. He was a reclamation project when the Cubs got him, but it wasn’t going too smoothly. I don’t expect it ever will, but still worth the chance to see if the Cubs could get something out of him.

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  35. sitrick

    @ dmick89:
    I know one of the major prospect hounds (I think maybe Badler, but it might have been Callis) said they still believed Olt was an everyday contributor eventually — maybe a role 5 instead of a role 6 now, but still valuable — and that he just needs to get out of this lost year and start fresh next season. If he can catch some momentum in this last week or so and take some confidence into a september callup, that could do a lot to improve my optimism about him. If nothing else, he could be a trade asset this winter if he can go on a september tear and keep himself in some top 50 rankings.

    I hope he works out, because if he can even hit enough to be a role 5 guy, an infield of Olt, Rejuvinated Castro/Alcantara, Baez, and Rizzo is the core of a contender and a potential black hole for ground balls.

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  36. dmick89

    Pretty sure Alcantara is a 2nd baseman at this point. He’s played half his games away from SS this year. I’m really hoping Baez can stick at SS. They could move to Castro to CF. I think it’s more likely we see Baez move to 3rd, Olt to one of the corner OF spots (RF maybe since he has such a strong arm) and Alcantara stick at 2nd.

    If Castro can figure out how to hit a baseball again, an infield of Baez, Castro, Alcantara and Rizzo has some pretty good potential.

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  37. sitrick

    Yoanner Negrin tossing a gem in Des Moines tonight too. 1 run, 2 outs away from the CG, 6 Ks.

    @ dmick89:
    You think Alcantara’s move is reflective of them giving up on him at short and not just Baez’s development taking precedent? I’ve only heard things about clumsy footwork at short, nothing else terribly bad.

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  38. Suburban kid

    aaronb wrote:

    @ Suburban kid:
    The renovation excuse is bunk. They are most likely 2 years away from spending dollar 1 on any renovations.

    Really? I thought they were starting in October, but I haven’t paid too close of attention.

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  39. Suburban kid

    dmick89 wrote:

    I get what they did. I wasn’t against it and I’m still not. Saving money in a business when you’re not going to contend makes sense. At the same time, I do think it gives fans a valid reason to complain.

    Again with the cheapskate interpretation. I’m not making “excuses” when I point out they have other costs they didn’t used to have, impacting their ability to spend at the moment. These include renovation ($500M if and when it starts–but a project that big is going to have significant pre-build costs), development of facilities in DR, and let’s not forget the portion of the baseball budget redirected from the active roster to the farm system.

    I don’t think this is permanent – the first two are capital expenditures so one-off costs – but I do think it’s possible payroll is being kept down in the short term because of those costs.

    I don’t think the Cubs shouldn’t spend, and wanting to sign Robinson Cano isn’t what makes Alvin a pariah. But spending/budget decisions don’t happen in a vacuum — external and temporary factors do have an impact.

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  40. Suburban kid

    @ sitrick:
    That reminds me, I haven’t even broached the Braun issue with my Brewer-fan brother. I remember a couple years ago saying how much I disliked him, and my brother was genuinely surprised, saying Ryan was a “great guy”.

    If you and your gf ever get hitched/have a family, I think Scooter would make a lovely name for either a boy or a girl.

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  41. sitrick

    @ Suburban kid:
    (dying laughing)

    She took the Braun thing really, really hard. She’s not so great at separating public personas from the likely reality of professional athletes mostly being scumbags. She bought Braun’s story about the collector fucking up in a major way, and how Braun’s scientist buddies had recreated the sample corruption or some crap. She was always talking about how good he was for the community and how good a guy he seemed like. And now she’s sorta crushed. Even now she believes the letter that it was just the one time to come back from an injury. The naivete is kind of adorable.

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  42. EnricoPallazzo

    wow, braun’s letter of “apology” claimed that it was a one-time thing? that somehow makes him ten times more of a piece of shit in my opinion. he must not have a lot of respect for the intelligence level of his fans.

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  43. Suburban kid

    sitrick wrote:

    She’s not so great at separating public personas from the likely reality of professional athletes mostly being scumbags.

    Neither am I. But not being in the Wisconsin area, I wasn’t exposed to Braun the Good Guy. I knew him as a guy that punished the Cubs on the field and seemed to enjoy it (of course, why wouldn’t he?). That’s why I dislike him.

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  44. Suburban kid

    Of course, people aren’t black/white/good/bad, even rich baseball men. I don’t think Carlos Zambrano is a bad guy that we used to think was a good guy, for example. And I don’t think his teammates/management view of him changed only because of performance. He strikes me as one of those people you love but who is shitty to you. That’s very common in real life, so why not baseball. Braun is likely the same.

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  45. sitrick

    Suburban kid wrote:

    Of course, people aren’t black/white/good/bad, even rich baseball men. I don’t think Carlos Zambrano is a bad guy that we used to think was a good guy, for example. And I don’t think his teammates/management view of him changed only because of performance. He strikes me as one of those people you love but who is shitty to you. That’s very common in real life, so why not baseball. Braun is likely the same.

    I think I tend to assume most athletes are shitty people just because hyper-competitive people tend to be shitty people, in my experience, and there’s nobody more hyper-competitive than a professional athlete. I don’t know enough about any individual to presume whether or not he’s a good or a bad guy. I liked Zambrano not because I thought he was a good guy or wanted to hang out with him, but because I enjoyed his public persona and the way he pitched. Every now and again you see someone who legitimately seems like a good guy (Kerry Wood, for example, or Santo), but I feel like most of the time even the guys that seem like good people just turn out like Chipper Jones.

    This is maybe reflective of my own personal cynicism though. I tend to assume most people are shitty, (dying laughing).

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  46. Berselius

    EnricoPallazzo wrote:

    wow, braun’s letter of “apology” claimed that it was a one-time thing? that somehow makes him ten times more of a piece of shit in my opinion. he must not have a lot of respect for the intelligence level of his fans.

    FWIW, I wouldn’t be surprised that if he admitted to more use than that MLB would have grounds for more suspensions.

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  47. Berselius

    sitrick wrote:

    but I feel like most of the time even the guys that seem like good people just turn out like Chipper Jones.

    FWIW, I’ve always thought Chipper was a douchebag, even during the brief period of my misguided youth that I was a casual Braves fan.

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