In case you missed it, the Astros, by virtue of losing their ninth straight game, clinched the first overall pick in 2014 MLB draft. Technically, they can still end up tied with the Marlins at 57-105 if they win the rest of their games and the Marlins lose out, but they’d own the tiebreaker by virtue of finishing with a worse record than the Marlins in 2012.
Which, of course they did. This will be their third straight year with the first overall pick.
Fortunately for the rest of the league, the Astros’ tanking hasn’t yet paid off as well as the Nationals’ back-to-back No. 1 overall picks when they landed Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. There are high hopes attached to shortstop Carlos Correa and right-hander Mark Appel, but neither was a slam-dunk No. 1 pick.
On the other hand, next year’s likely will be: N.C. State left-hander Carlos Rodon looks like the best draft prospect since Harper was picked in 2010.
And it hardly seems fair to the rest of the league that the Astros will get him as a reward for their efforts to assemble the game’s worst team. It’d be nice if some team that wasn’t necessarily trying to lose had a chance instead. That’s not a slam of the Astros — bottoming out was absolutely the right course for the organization. It’s just that MLB shouldn’t be so generous in rewarding them for it. A 10-team lottery in the NBA fashion (the worse teams get more ping-pong balls and such) seems like a better plan. Because even though the Astros’ run as the game’s worst team is just about over, teams bottoming out when they have little chance of contending is likely to become a more common occurrence.
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.