Tonight is Major League Baseball’s draft, and for the third year in a row the Houston Astros will have the No. 1-overall pick.
This absurdity highlights the biggest flaw in baseball’s draft.
Since baseball draft picks will likely spend a few years in the minor leagues, teams do not immediately feel the impact of those picks, making it more likely that baseball’s worst teams will remain bad for several years.
What we see is a cycle in which one team tends to dominate the top of the draft for several straight years.
Those teams are “rewarded” with several top picks over several years, allowing them to horde cheap talent.
This is especially true for low-revenue clubs like the Astros who are less likely to spend money on impact free agents.
This quirk certainly helped the Tampa Bay Rays rise to the top of the American League when they turned a long stretch of horrifically bad baseball into early picks such as Evan Longoria and David Price, the core of their current team.
Since then, the Rays have not drafted nearly as well and the talent in the minor leagues is starting to dry up.
This also helped the Washington Nationals, who used the first pick in the 2009 draft on Stephen Strasburg. They won just 59 games that season giving them the first pick again in the next draft, a pick they used on Bryce Harper.
Those were two of the best prospects of the last 20 years and they ended up on the same team in back-to-back drafts.
Strasburg and Harper will also be paid $US6.1 million this year combined, or less than what the Kansas City Royals will pay free agent pitcher Jason Vargas this season ($7 million).
The draft should be used to help bad teams. The draft is also a mechanism that helps low-revenue clubs level the playing field a little bit with their high-revenue opponents.
But instead of distributing the best talent over several years among all the bad teams, the top prospects tend to cluster towards the one or two worst teams.
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