How the Astros are falling, and the Cubs thriving
Fast-forward to the 2017 World Series, as Sports Illustrated did. They predicted that the Astros would win the World Series over the Cubs. Now, obviously, a ton has to go right for just one of these teams to be in playoff contention. Each team has picked in the top 5 of the draft the last two years. It looks like 2015 will see those two teams up towards the top of the draft board again, as both teams could finish in last place again. These two teams have been often compared to each other during their respective rebuilds. The rebuild has been acquire minor league talent by drafting high and trading major league players for more minor league talent. For the Cubs that is looking pretty good. For the Astros, it is not working out so much.
Both the Cubs and the Astros ranked in the top 5 of farm systems in baseball at the beginning of the season, according to Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus. The top prospects on the lists for each team was Javier Baez for the Cubs and Carlos Correa for the Astros, both shortstops. Baez’s stats are known throughout Cub land. Through the first half, Baez has a .240/.305/.449 slash line in AAA Iowa with incredible bat speed and power that has led to 14 home runs so far this year. To go with those solid numbers, Baez also participated in the Future’s Game and got two at bats. One of which, off of Nationals top prospect Lucas Giolito, he took a curveball the other way for a home run. Correa, however, hasn’t had the luck that a top prospect usually has. The former number one overall pick was hitting .325/.416/.510 at High A Lancaster in 62 games. Unfortunately, the 19 year fractured his fibula in late June and has been lost for the season. Who knows in Correa will come back the same; regardless, he has lost a year of development.
In the 2013 MLB Draft, the Astros picked number 1 and the Cubs picked number 2. Houston selected a right handed pitcher from Stanford, Mark Appel. To follow, the Cubs selected a third baseman from San Diego University, Kris Bryant. Appel was the sought after top pick. He failed to sign with the Pirates the year before after being drafted 8th overall by Pittsburgh. The right hander had a decent start to his professional career in 2013, compiling a 3.79 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 10 starts that covered 38 innings. 2014 has been a complete disaster for Appel. The 2013 top pick has pitched all year in High A Lancaster. In 38.1 innings, the right hander has been shelled to the tune of a 10.80 ERA, 69 hits, and 49 runs (46 earned). In Appel’s last two starts, he has pitched a combined 6 innings while giving up 20 hits and 14 earned runs. On the other hand, Kris Bryant has flown through the Cubs system up to AAA Iowa. The third baseman has played 128 games and 463 at bats in his professional career and compiled a slash line of .343/.430/.698 to go with 40 homeruns and 113 RBIs. In 2014, Bryant has spent time in AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa while hitting .346/.444/.701 with 31 home runs and 81 RBIs. Keith Law of ESPN has ranked Kris Bryant the number 1 overall prospect in all of baseball in his midseason rankings.
Now in the 2014 MLB Draft, the Astros again picked number one overall and the Cubs picked 4th. While the Astros took the top talent available, high school lefty Brady Aiken, fears about his elbow have made negotiations between the two sides very tense. As the deadline for signing draft picks approaches, it is possible that the Astros lose Aiken, and possibly other picks that were signed with the savings they thought they would get by signing Aiken. It could turn into a complete mess with the Astros getting a compensation pick in next year’s draft. As for the Cubs fourth overall pick, Kyle Schwarber has made his way all the way up to High A Daytona in just 28 games. Through those 28 games and one game with Daytona, in which he went 0-2 with two walks, he has hit .400/484/.733 with 8 home runs and 9 doubles.
As the rebuilding efforts continue for both teams, the Cubs seem to have the upper hand. The Astros have been that Cinderella story earlier in the season with George Springer and Jonathan Singleton coming up and getting on Sports Illustrated, but that magic has faded as they have come back down to the second worst team in baseball. As for the Cubs, they would pick 5th in the draft next year. They probably have the top farm system in the game and the talent is close to the big leagues. The Astros on the other hand have talent, but it is in the lower minors. Sports Illustrated was correct with their pick of the Cubs to represent the NL in the 2017 World Series, but the Astros might be a few more years after that.