Tampa Bay, I love you, but we need to talk.
All you had to do was lose the final game of the season. After a season of disappointment, I certainly understand the desire to win one more game; to end the year on a good note.
And you did. You beat the Rangers.
But in a season already destined to end in terrible feelings for everyone not named Evan Longoria (killer season, we’ll talk about that at length soon enough), three other teams were vying for the No. 2 draft position next season.
Tampa Bay, you had one more loss than those other three teams. All you had to do was keep it that way, and the No. 2 draft slot was yours!
Alas, the Rays won, and the team fell from No. 2 to No. 4 next season.
Let me be clear, I am not for tanking as a long term organizational strategy. The Cubs and Astros might be good today because they gutted their franchises, but competitive baseball is far more entertaining on a daily basis. I appreciate the Rays’ desire to stay competitive in baseball’s toughest division.
But for one game, was it so much to ask? Just lose! Like you’d done 94 other times this season! Throw in the towel! Let Dana Eveland pitch some more! That .420 win percentage is nice and all, but 68-wins is less so!
67-wins, you draft No. 2 overall. 68-wins and we’re leapfrogged by Padres and Reds.
Here’s a breakdown of what previous seasons show as the difference between picking second and fourth:
No. 2 - SS Alex Bregman
No. 3 - SS Brendan Rodgers
No. 4 - RHP Dillon Tate
No. 2 - RHP Tyler Kolek
No. 3 - LHP Carlon Rondon
No. 4 - C Kyle Schwarber
No. 2 - 3B Kris Bryant
No. 3 - RHP Jon Gray
No. 4 - RHP Kohl Stewart
No. 2 - OF Byron Buxton
No. 3 - C Mike Zunino
No. 4 - RHP Kevin Gausmann
Over the past few seasons, the trend in baseball seems to be that if you can grab the best hitter available 2-4 then it’s a nice pick overall. The only bust thus far has been Tyler Kolek, in that he required Tommy John surgery this year, but in each scenario the ability to choose second is still preferable (even if you wouldn’t make the exact same choice).
In my opinion, you would rather have Buxton, you would rather have Bryant, you would rather have the ability to choose Schwarber instead of hoping he falls to you, and you would rather have Bregman.
The Rays should be in line to make a great selection any way you slice it, but the fact remains: No. 2 > No. 4.
Picking at the top of the draft will be helpful. As shown through some analysis by The Hardball Times, the odds of a top major league contributor in the first five selections is ~35%, and teams hit on an MLB caliber player more than half the time when picking in the first five spots.
However, when comparing the first two picks to the following draft selections, the dropoff in value is really a plummet.
You’d like to be one of those two diamonds in the top left corner. The fourth marker from the left is hovering just above the 4 WAR level, less than half the value of the second marker at ~10 WAR.
In other words, the Rays lost more than half their top draft pick’s value by winning Game 162.
It’s ok to be mad at the Rays for winning a game.
Just this once.