Houston Astros Lock Down No. 1 Overall Pick for 2012, AL Trio Fights for No. 2
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Houston has a big-time problem.
With less than 35 regular-season games remaining, the Astros are staring the No. 1 overall pick in next year's MLB draft, right in the face. The closest team to them in the standings is 10 games back, or rather, 10 games better.
With a much weaker draft class to look forward to in 2012, it's going to benefit the teams picking near the top, who will have some easier decisions to make. As of right now, the top candidates appear to be Stanford RHP Mark Appel, Arizona State SS Deven Marrero, Texas A&M RHP Michael Wacha and high-school hurlers RHP Lance McCullers Jr. and RHP Lucas Giolito.
So, as I said before, with only a month's worth of games remaining, let's take a look at who's likely to be picking where next June.
10. Los Angeles Dodgers (60-69)
The Dodgers aren't going to be picking top-ten because of McCourt. They'll be picking top-ten because they're awful.
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As of today, August 26th, 2011, the Dodgers have a one-game lead over the Pirates for the final spot in the top 10 of next year's picking order.
Considering L.A. is the very definition of the term "cash strapped," it seems unlikely that they'll spend big, but since the upcoming 2012 draft appears to be pretty weak, they might be able to scrape by with a pretty cheap sign.
Like a few other teams on this list, the Dodgers are actually playing pretty well, winning three straight. If they keep this up, they could see their name replaced by Pittsburgh, who is much more familiar picking inside the top 10 than outside of it.
9. San Diego Padres (60-71)
Thanks to an influx of young talent, the Padres have had a bit of a renaissance the past few weeks.
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The Padres are a full-game worse than the Dodgers, although they too are working on playing their way out of the top 10, winning seven of their past 10 games.
Interestingly, the Padres are the only team of the bottom 15 squads in baseball who have a positive run differential, which means they might not be as bad as we all think.
The Padres are certainly consistent with their mediocrity, picking 10th overall this year and ninth in 2010.
8. Oakland Athletics (59-71)
Maybe it's time for Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill to take a stab at things in Oakland.
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Another half-game down the cellar is Oakland, whose situation on just about every front looks bleak.
It's amazing that Billy Beane has somehow kept his job, despite watching the team regress from last year and putting a team on the field that is sometimes painful to watch. Luckily, very few fans are attending their home games, so the torture has been kept to a regional minimum.
Like the Padres, the A's are playing a little bit better down the stretch, but it's going to take more than six wins in 10 games to right their ship.
7. Florida Marlins (58-72)
Comeback...maybe not such a good idea.
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For the first time since 2007, the Marlins have the basement of the National League East all to themselves. The team has notoriously been pretty good coming off of a last-place season, so there's some wishful thinking.
Still, that isn't going to keep them from picking in the top 10 for the first time since 2008, when they tabbed catcher Kyle Skipworth, who has since flamed out in Double-A.
The Marlins are one of the worst performing bottom-dwellers recently, winning just two of their past 10 games. They also have the second-worst home record in baseball (25-41), second to only Houston (23-42).
That new stadium can't open soon enough.
6. Chicago Cubs (57-74)
Maybe next year Mike
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The Cubs have gone from picking 31st in 2009, to 16th last year, to ninth this past June, to a potential top-five pick in 2012.
Mike Quade's team has played very well down the stretch, in fact posting the seventh-best record in baseball since August 1st, but sadly it hasn't been enough to get them out of, at best, a top-10 selection.
But if you're a Cubs fan you can at least take solace in the fact that the last time your team picked this early (2007), they walked away with a real winner, Josh Vitters.
Yeah, not really.
5. Seattle Mariners (56-73)
The M's have the most piece-meal roster in baseball, featuring Wily Mo Pena, Jamey Wright and Jack Wilson.
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The Mariners have been the very definition of "hot and cold" this year.
They posted the seventh-best record (15-11) in May, the eighth-worst (11-16) in June, a league-worst (6-20) in July, and back to an even .500 in August.
It all adds up to a very inconsistent team that deserves to be picking in the top-10 and potentially the top five, where they've done pretty well for themselves the past few seasons, picking up Dustin Ackley and Danny Hultzen.
In fact, the Mariners have picked five times in the top 11 since 2006.
4. Minnesota Twins (55-75)
It's hard to win too many games with your two best players (Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau) on the shelf.
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The Twins are fighting for a lot of things. First, they're trying to avoid the bottom of the barrel in the AL Central, where they're locked in a death-match with the Royals. Second, they're also trying to avoid their worst season since 2000.
And last, but not least, they're trying to avoid picking in the top five for the first time since 2001. From 1998 to 2001, they picked in the top six each season.
Still, that No. 1 overall pick back in 2001, Joe Mauer, worked out pretty well, so maybe they'll catch lightning again.
3. Kansas City Royals (54-77)
It's been a tough campaign for Jeff Francoeur and the rest of the baby Royals.
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It's no surprise that the Royals are looking at a top-five pick again.
They've turned over the big-league squad to the rookies this year, promoting 1B Eric Hosmer, 2B Johnny Giavotella, 3B Mike Moustakas, RHP Aaron Crow, RHP Jeremy Jeffress and LHP Danny Duffy. Not only has this brought down the average age of the squad to 25.8, but it has also increased the number in the loss column.
The days of the Royals picking this high should be coming to an end either this year or the next, as it looks like blue skies ahead.
2. Baltimore Orioles (51-77)
As I recall, it wasn't until Buck's second season with a team that he experienced success. Half seasons, like last year, don't count.
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There's no denying that the O's are having a terrible year, but for the second time in as many years they've actually put together a pretty strong finish, assuring them a spot outside of the top one.
Many felt that the hiring of Buck Showalter late last year ruined the O's chances to select Anthony Rendon with the first overall pick. But, as fate would have it, Rendon slipped all the way to sixth this June, two picks after Baltimore selected Dylan Bundy, where their cross-town rivals, the Nationals, scooped him up.
Despite their winning ways, the O's are still entrenched in a battle for the No. 2 spot and separated from Kansas City and Minnesota by three games.
1. Houston Astros (42-88)
It's been a once-in-a-franchise kind of year for Houston, who hasn't posted a winning % this low since 1975.
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Surprisingly, the Astros have never lost more than 97 games in a single season.
They've been nothing if a model of mediocrity throughout their history, but have blown that record to pieces this year. They're currently at 88 losses and 10 games ahead in the race for the No. 1 overall pick next year.
With three of the four teams trailing them riding winning streaks, including Baltimore (W4), it's likely that Houston has all but secured the top pick, leaving them with more than 10 months to decide who's worthy of their multi-million dollar bonus.