Astros have No. 1 pick locked up, but race for the bottom is crowded after that

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Houston has the worst record in baseball locked up for the second straight season, so the Astros can start deciding what to do with the No. 1 overall pick in next June’s draft.

Right now the Cubs own the second-worst record, but the race for the No. 2 pick is pretty crowded:

              W      L       GB
Astros       40     91     ----
Cubs         50     80     10.5
Twins        53     78     13.0
Rockies      53     76     14.0
Indians      55     76     15.0

Minnesota picked second this season and the Twins trail the Cubs by just 2.5 games for the right to do that again next year. However, the Indians are coming on pretty strong. In fact, since the All-Star break Houston (7-38) and Cleveland (11-35) are the only two teams with fewer than 15 wins or more than 30 losses.

Unfortunately for the Astros and everyone else listed above next year’s draft, much like this year’s draft, is considered a weak class in terms of elite-level talent and most early projections have Stanford right-hander Mark Appel as the top prospect available. Houston passed on Appel with the No. 1 pick in June and he tumbled all the way to Pittsburgh at No. 8 before turning down $3.8 million and going back to school.

Nathan Eovaldi to make 2018 debut for Rays soon

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Rays manager Kevin Cash said that pitcher Nathan Eovaldi will join the starting rotation on Monday or Tuesday to face the Athletics, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Eovaldi’s rehab outing with Triple-A Durham went well, even though he gave up eight runs in four innings.

Eovaldi, 28, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He had arthroscopic surgery in March to remove loose bodies in his elbow. It’s been a long road back. Knowing Eovaldi needed to recover from surgery, the Rays signed him to a one-year, $2 million contract in 2017 that included a $2 million club option for 2018 that they exercised last November.

When Eovaldi last pitched, he ranked among baseball’s hardest throwers, particularly among starters. He averaged 97.1 MPH on his fastball in 2016. Among starters who racked up at least 100 innings that season, only the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard had a higher average velocity (97.9 MPH). It remains to be seen if he still has that velocity after undergoing two procedures on his elbow.

The Rays will be glad to have Eovaldi back. The club has sustained injuries to Jake Faria, Yonny Chirinos, and Jose De Leon.