The Cubs have been playing their best baseball of the season as we wind things down. They basically went on a tear right around the time of the managerial change in August with more quality starts from the pitching staff, better overall hitting and much better timely hitting. But I have been asking myself lately, is this a good thing? The Cubs draft spot for next year has moved down from 6th or 7th to at least 9th and could end up as low as 14th is they continue to win. I'm all for winning and can see the benefits of learning how to win on a young team like the Cubs. But if we could lose just enough to keep us in the top ten of next year's draft, I think that would be a definite benefit.
Just for perspective sake, I looked back at several drafts starting with the 2005 draft (which seems like the latest draft where all players can be effectively graded beyond just potential). These are the 6th & 7th picks vs. the 13th and 14th from those drafts;
6th & 7th - Ricky Romero & Troy Tulowitzki
13th & 14th - Brandon Snyder & Trevor Crowe
No contest in this draft, Tulowitzi is an All Star and Romero may very well be soon. Snyder had a cup of coffee and Crowe is a journeyman.
6th & 7th - Jeremy Sowers & Homer Bailey
13th & 14th - Bill Bray & Billy Butler
This is a much closer race than 2005. Homer Bailey looks like he could be a good major leaguer, as does Billy Butler. Sowers has played in the majors and may still develop a little more. Bray has had little impact in the majors. Very small advantage to the higher draft picks here.
6th & 7th - Ryan Harvey (by the Cubs!) and Nick Markakis
13th & 14th - Aaron Hill & Ryan Wagner
Harvey was a complete bust for the Cubs at #6 in 2003. But Markakis has been a solid major leaguer for the Orioles. Aaron Hill has also been solid for the Blue Jays and has made an all star team. Ryan Wagner also had a short but somewhat eventful career in the majors that was cut short by injury. Small advantage to the lower picks in this draft.
6th & 7th - Zack Greinke & Prince Fielder
13th & 14th - Khalil Greene & Russ Adams
Two superstars vs. a journeyman and a bust. This one is a rout by the higher draftees.
6th & 7th - Josh Karp & Chris Smith
13th & 14th - Casey Kotchman & Jake Gautreau
Blech! Not much to see here. The lower draftees get the better of this one based on the journeyman status of Kotchman, none of the others made any impact in the majors.
6th & 7th - Rocco Baldelli & Matt Harrington
13th & 14th - Shaun Boyd & Beau Hale
Baldelli was on the cusp of stardom, but could never quite get there. He was a decent major leaguer though. For anyone unfamiliar with Matt Harrington's story, you can read about it here. As for #13 & #14, the best thing I can come up with to say about them is, who?
Just based on these six drafts, it seems clear that you can get talent out side the top ten, but your odds go down significantly. And given the Cubs proclivity for making strange picks, I'd rather see them have an obvious pick staring them in the face next June. So I'll be rooting for some losses these last few games. Baseball gods, please forgive me!