Race To The Bottom

While the Twins and White Sox battle it out in the AL Central and the Phillies, Mets, Brewers and Astros all clawing for playoff spots in the senior circuit, there’s another race that isn’t getting as much attention … the race to the bottom. While the teams at the top get a chance at World Series glory, teams at the bottom get a chance at the first-overall pick in the draft with the frontrunner being San Diego State righthander Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg went 8-3, 1.57 with 133 strikeouts in 97 1/3 innings for the Aztecs this year, including a 23-strikeout performance against Utah on April 11. He followed up his dominant sophomore year by going 3-0, 1.06 with 48 strikeouts over 34 innings for the USA National collegiate team and then was the only amateur named to the US Olympic Team that won bronze medals in China. Let’s take a look at the teams with a shot at "winning" the first-overall pick:

Seattle Mariners (57-93)
In the midst of a six-game losing streak, the Mariners are currently 57-93 (.380) with  12 games left to play—two more at Kansas City, three at Oakland, four at home against the Angels and then a three-game series at home against Oakland to end the season. With third baseman Adrian Beltre out for the remainder of the season to undergo surgeries to repair thumb and shoulder injuries, Seattle’s offense is worse than usual. So far this season, the Mariners are 2-5 against the Royals, 4-11 against the Angels and 6-7 against the Athletics. With their first-round pick from this year (Georgia righthander Josh Fields) still unsigned, the Mariners could use a big draft to restock a system that lost five players in the Bedard deal. The Mariners have had four first-overall picks since joining the league in 1977. In 1979, they drafted Al Chambers, in 1981 they selected Mike Moore, Ken Griffey Jr. was picked in 1987 and Alex Rodriguez was their last first-overall choice in 1993.

San Diego Padres (58-94)
The Padres currently stand at 58-94 (.382) with 10 games left to play—mostly on the road. That could factor in to the equation, as San Diego has the fewest road wins in MLB (24). The Friars finish up tonight in Colorado then head to Washington for three games. After that, they cross the country to play the Dodgers in L.A. for three games and then finish the season at home with three games against the Pirates. During that time span, the Padres have two off days—the most of the three teams in the race to the bottom. The Padres have held the first-overall pick in the draft five times—tied with the Mets for the most ever—with the most recent being in 2004 when they selected the hometown Matt Bush over Scott Boras clients Jered Weaver and Stephen Drew. This time could be interesting as Strasburg, the consensus top talent, is both local and represented by the Scott Boras Corporation.

Washington Nationals (58-93)
The hottest team of the bunch, the Nats are currently on a two-game winning streak—their third-longest of the season. The Nationals are 58-93 (.384) on the season with 11 games remaining on the schedule. Their next two games are against the Mets before a critical three-game series against the Padres, which could easily eliminate one of the teams from the race to the bottom. The Nats are scheduled to face Johan Santana  on Thursday and Jake Peavy on Friday and end the season with a three game series in Philadelphia, who could still be playing for something. The Nationals are already guaranteed pick 9A in the draft after failing to sign Aaron Crow before the Aug. 15 deadline. Strasburg certainly won’t come cheaply, so the Nats will need to set aside a good chunk of change for what is sure to be an expensive first round. The Expos/Nationals have never had a first-overall pick in the draft. The highest selection they’ve had was in 1977 when they had the second-overall choice and drafted righthander Bill Gullickson.