The D-backs have lost six straight games, and that’s not even their longest losing streak this month. But the ugly four-game set in Colorado had a silver lining: the team leapfrogged the Rockies in the race to the bottom, and now lead in the sweepstakes for the first overall draft pick. Going into Thursday’s opener at Coors Field, the D-backs ranked third in that race at 62-90, with a better record than the Rangers (59-92) and Rockies (61-91). Not so any longer; at 62-94, the D-backs now have the worst record in baseball.

The D-backs are a half-game behind the Rangers now, but Arizona has another advantage: if they end up tied with Texas, it’ll be the D-backs that will pick first, because the Rangers had a superior record in 2013. And it’s really just down to those two teams, although the Twins could get back in the race if they lose all three games of their upcoming set with the D-backs. Ceding four games to the Rockies effectively eliminated them from contention for the top pick; three games ahead of the D-backs with six to play, the Rockies might need to lose all of their remaining games to have a legitimate shot.

Being in line to get the first overall pick looms even larger because of Houston’s failure to sign Brady Aiken this year. Houston will get the pick after the pick they lost (meaning, the second overall pick in 2015), which means that if the Rangers tie the D-backs but lose out on the tiebreaker, they’ll sink from first to third.

Slot values under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement help to increase the importance of top picks. The values for 2015 won’t be determined until the beginning of April, but the values for each slot drop precipitously from #1 to #5, with distribution a lot more even after that. Last season, the #1 pick had an allotment of over $7.9M, while the #3 pick was allotted just over $5.7M. That’s a swing of more than two million dollars, enough money to, say, pluck an extra player with high bonus demands in Round 2 (if the D-backs used the first pick to sign someone under slot, a likelihood given the lack of a clear standout amateur prospect right now).

Anything can happen in baseball on a given day, and nearly anything is possible with just a week left in the season. If the D-backs sweep the Twins this week (they aren’t very good) and then win 2 of 3 over the weekend at home versus St. Louis (who will be getting ready for the postseason), they could find themselves picking fifth overall in June, instead of first. Nothing is guaranteed in the draft, but picking first instead of fifth has real value. You couldn’t blame Arizona for, say, not putting out its very best players for the duration of the season. Heck, they could even just continue to hit Mark Trumbo cleanup.

Purposefully tanking a baseball game is distasteful, and you won’t ever hear me advocating for it. But leaving pitchers in to see if they can battle out of tough innings? Especially fine right now. Putting men like Didi Gregorius and Tuffy Gosewisch and Jake Lamb near the top of the lineup, to give them a few extra at bats? Very reasonable. Not causing four commercial breaks in an inning by calling in a string of matchup relievers? Sign me up.

Anything can happen in baseball on a given day, and there’s still fun to be had by watching the game. But I think at this point, I’d be more disappointed in a 67-85 season that saw the D-backs pick fifth than in a 64-98 season that saw them pick first, even though that would give the D-backs their second-worst record in franchise history.

On to the links:

  • READ THIS: From Eno Sarris at FanGraphs, an excellent piece on Chase Anderson‘s two changeups. Essentially, by pronating his hand more, he can give the changeup more movement — it all has to do with whether or not he might need a called strike. Sarris has absolutely mastered the art of blending player comments with the type of analysis we expect from FanGraphs (and that we strive for here). The results are frequently fantastic, and this piece on Anderson is perfect. It’s why we read about baseball. I can watch Anderson pitch so much more intelligently now. Also — huge thrill to have Sarris link back to our work. Huge thrill.
  • Like Sarris, David Laurila of FanGraphs is a card-carrying member of the BBWAA, and how Laurila has managed to tease out such excellent information from his interviewees, I’ll never know. Laurila’s interview with former D-backs skipper Buck Showalter is one of his best, in my opinion. Reading Showalter’s words, how could you not want that guy as your manager? I’m happy for him, as he’s built a winner in his fourth city now, but in this case, he’s actually been at the helm to enjoy it. Read the whole thing, but I wanted to bring your attention to two tidbits in particular: 1) his comments about how everyone should be open to all kinds of information, and 2) this: “There are a lot of things you may not be able to do, but we can out-opportunity some teams for guys like Steve Pearce. We can give them an opportunity to be more than how the industry may perceive them.” That was with respect to how the Orioles aren’t poor, but they’re not the Yankees, either. Well, the D-backs aren’t poor. They did a pretty great job this season of trying out and finding value in Ender Inciarte, David Peralta, Chase Anderson, and maybe even (swallows hard) Tuffy Gosewisch. But the Orioles have shown that this can be done in contending seasons, as well.
  • Nick Piecoro reported that the D-backs would send “scouting director Ray Montgomery, special assistant Craig Shipley and scout John Vander Wal” to the Dominican Republic showcase of Yasmany Tomas, which was to take place yesterday. Tomas was also due to do a private showcase for the Phillies yesterday. I’m glad the organization did such a solid job of keeping themselves covered here. I’m not sure Tomas is a great bet, and at the very least, it seems fair to say that whatever contract he signs will not be as good a deal as some of the recent Cuban signings. But, just reading tea leaves, it has seemed pretty obvious to me that Tomas would be a very good fit for what the D-backs want and where they are right now. If he’s the exact type of player they want, they have a better chance of getting a good return on investment with Tomas than via trade or regular free agency.
  • Side note: I’ve been very annoyed by the fact that two variant spellings of Tomas’s first name have been used by a wide variety of outlets. Jesse Sanchez of spent some time with Tomas in the Dominican (here are some great photos), and confirmed with Tomas’s people that the proper spelling is Yasmany. That settles it for me.

  • Learned a lot from this FanGraphs evaluation of top D-backs prospects by Kiley McDaniel, and it’s well worth a full read, all the way through. I’m disappointed but not surprised by the news that Archie Bradley‘s star has fallen, impressed by the news about #3 (in more ways than one) Aaron Blair, and I’m very excited by the write-up of Braden Shipley. D-backs fans have been here before and seen it not work to plan, but things could really be looking up, depending in part on what happens with Patrick Corbin and in what direction Wade Miley begins to move. 2015 is not looking so hot, but in 2016, the D-backs rotation could be well above average. And that’s without an acquisition from outside the organization.
  • Daniel Hudson got shut down for the season, but in this case, that’s probably a good thing. Huddy did prove what he set out to prove. The only questions now are about what his innings limit should be in 2015, and whether he should be used in the bullpen. I’m still in the camp of having Hudson start the season with kid gloves as a reliever (but none of this consecutive days bull), and seeing if a conversion to the rotation made sense midyear. As noted in this space before, that’s not necessarily a good fit for a team that will probably add Archie Bradley and Patrick Corbin during the season (June in both cases?), but these things have a way of working themselves out.
  • At Snake Pit, Xipooo posted an interesting poll with a very solid write-up. The question: was the trade for Addison Reed worth it? I won’t ruin the results of the poll (go vote!), but although Reed has been far from lights out, I think the D-backs more or less got what they thought they were getting. Judging the trade in hindsight, it looks pretty good for the D-backs (ubi es Matt Davidson?). At the time, our reaction was slightly positive (me, and Jeff). We also thought that the move might make the Trumbo trade worse, since the fact that Martin Prado would be playing third base helped make the Reed trade a reasonable move for Arizona. Far from a blunder, unless the installation of Reed prevented some other move — and I don’t see what that would have been.
  • Missed this last week: Thomas Lynch of Venom Strikes calling for the D-backs to sign A.J. Pollock (#ActionJacksonPollock) to an extension. Great thought with some original thinking, and with few D-backs players playing games in October, I would think one of the first tasks for the new GM would be to examine every young player on the roster in the light of possible extensions. Then you come up with some extension candidates and your thresholds at which extensions don’t make sense, and reach out to agents. Some could bite. There are several players for whom an extension would make sense for the D-backs; in each case, it’s a question of dollars. Sure, there’s Paul Goldschmidt, but also, there’s the fantastic Josh Collmenter extension (we thought that was “great”  and “breathtakingly friendly to the club” even before he emerged as a strong rotation contributor). The recent news that revenue will lead the team to rachet payroll down to $100M is a big sign that the payroll could fluctuate quite a lot in the next few years. Having a little more cost certainty wouldn’t hurt; there are only a few arbitration cases this year, but in 2016 there will be more, and in 2017 it could get crazy.
  • Please, please, please consider filling out Tom Tango’s 2014 Scouting Report if you regularly watch D-backs players in the field. This is a tremendous resource, as we look to supplement advanced fielding statistics with our thoughts about individual players’ individual fielding strengths. As you can imagine, though, some fan bases report more than others, and before we made a thrust via Twitter last week, the D-backs had the fewest ballots. Not so anymore, but any more would be helpful. Thanks!

4 Responses to Roundup: D-backs in Line for First Draft Pick; Should They Tank?

  1. Truxton says:

    Yes, they should play to win the right to draft first this year. The emotional “fight to the end” philosophy makes no sense now. However I do understand the main stream media promoting fight until the last man dies at Stalingrad strategy Hitler so effectively used. It is un everything to them, un sportsman like, un manly, un teamly, etc. Years ago I made a rare phone call after a Cardinals loss to some radio talking head “experts”. This is back when they were playing so poorly. I proposed the play for number 1 pick strategy and the 2 idiots on the line castigated me for not being a fan, and not understanding football and not respecting their brilliant banter, etc.. Had Cardinals ownership and/or management listened, Andrew Luck would be the Cards starting quarterback today, of course that assumes the brain trust would have chosen him rather than RG III. So I ask you now, would you rather have Andrew Luck today or that season’s 8 and 8 record? The Dbacks may not get an Andrew Luck but with the great scouts they have working under Montgomery I am willing to bet they can find a starting pitcher. To effectively pull this off Gibby needs to shine. He should rest any player with a batting average over .240. On every 2 strike count he should give the take sign. When or if Trumbo or Montero get on, he should surprise the opponents by having them attempt to steal a base. He should start Cahill in every game thru the end of the season. He should use Reed as the reliever for Cahill and save the rest of the staff for next season. Both of those guys have plenty lift in them so why not? Such a strategy would surprise no one, other than Cahill and Reed, who has watched this year of really gritty ball. While 100 losses are lost for 2014 there is still the 99 or even 98 loss level that can be reached. Once it is all said and done, the Dback’s 2014 campaign that is, all we have to do is wait for LaRussa’s G.M. pick and the choice of an on field manager that the 2 of them come up with. After that he draft will be a no brainer. Hasta.

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