I’m sure by now you know that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. They had there parade yesterday in Chicago and they’re estimating that 5 million people attended. When Theo Epstein took over the Cubs in October of 2011 he torn the team down and rebuilt it. I’m not sure how many people remember this, but the Houston Astros started their rebuilding process a season before the Cubs did. The Astros did make a playoff appearance in 2015. They beat the New York Yankees 3-0 in the wild card game and advanced to the ALDS. The Astros had a 2 games to 1 lead in that series, but eventually lost 3 games to 2 to the Kansas City Royals. The Astros stumbled a bit last season finishing 3rd in the AL West with a record of 84-78. Since both of these teams where on the same track I thought we’d take a look at how they ended up being built.
In the 2010 draft the Astros took Delino Deshields Jr. #8 overall. The Cubs who weren’t rebuilding yet took Hayden Simpson with the 16th pick. Deshields Jr. never played for the Astros as the Texas Rangers selected him in the 2014 Rule 5 draft. Simpson never pitched above high Class-A and was out of baseball after the 2013 season. The Cubs had the #9 pick in the 2011 draft and they took Javier Baez. This was not a Epstein draft pick as he didn’t take the team over until October. The Astros selected George Springer two picks after Baez at #11. Baez has had short stint with the Cubs in 2014 and 2015, but in 2016 he played in 142 games. He’s been called a super utility player by the Cubs as he played all 4 infield spot and 2 games in leftfield. Baez was also named the Co-MVP of the NLCS. Springer also debut in 2014 and finished 8th on Rookie of the Year voting. He lost time to injury in 2015, but came back to play in all 162 games last season. It looks like both teams found long term players in this draft. In 2012 the Astros had the 1st pick in the draft and they used it on shortstop Carlos Correa. With the 6th pick in the draft the Cubs selected Alberto Almora Jr. Correa is considered one of the if not the best young shortstop in baseball. He debuted in 2015 playing in 99 games and winning the Rookie of the Year award. Almora Jr. saw his first major league action in the 2016 season playing in 47 games. Almora Jr. was on the Cubs post season roster; so he’ll get a ring. Correa looks to be a star for a long time, but the book is still out on Almora Jr. In the 2013 draft the Astros had the 1st pick and the Cubs where right behind them at #2. The Astros used that 1st pick on pitcher Mark Appel while the Cubs went with Kris Bryant. Appel has yet to make it to the major league. In December of 2015 the Astros traded Appel to the Philadelphia Phillies as part of a 7-player deal that brought reliever Ken Giles back to Houston. Appel was injured last season making 8 starts for Lehigh Valley the Phillies Triple-A team. After the issues of when Bryant should be brought up ended he went on to play 15 games in 2015 and win the Rookie of the Year award. Bryant has been an All-Star in both of his major league season and has a chance to be named the 2016 MVP. The Astros where able to turn Appel into relief help that they needed, but when you pick a guy #1 you expect him to anchor your staff for years. Bryant on the other hand looks to be a long time fixture in the middle of the Cubs line up. In the 2014 draft the Astros again had the #1 pick in the draft and they went pitching again taking Brady Aiken. The Cubs selecting 4th in the draft surprised everyone with the selection of Kyle Schwarber. Aiken and the Astros where never able to agree to contract terms. There was some issues over Aiken’s arm and he did end up having Tommy John surgery. Aiken ended up re-entering the in 2015 where the Cleveland Indians picked him in the 1st round with the 17th pick. Schwarber spent about a year and a half in the minors before being brought up to DH in an inter-league series. He did so well that he never went back to the minors. Schwarber ended up playing in 69 games in 2015. He only played 2 regular season games in 2016 because of a knee injury, but he made it back to be the Cubs DH in the World Series. I understand that the Astros didn’t want to pay a injured pitcher top dollar, but why did they draft him with the 1st pick then. The Bottom line with Schwarber is he can hit. If the Cubs can find a position for him he can be a big time run producer for them. Since Houston was unable to sign Aiken they received a compensation at #2 and then had their own pick at #5. With the 2nd pick the Astros took Alex Bregman and then with the 5th pick they selected Kyle Tucker. The Cubs had the 9th pick in this draft and took Ian Happ. Bregman made his major league debut last season paying in 49 games. Tucker is still working his way through the Astros minor league system. He spent most of the season in Class-A, but was moved up to High Class-A at the end of the season. Happ is also working his way to the big leagues. Happ started last season in High Class-a, but was called up to Double-A. While the jury is still out on both Tucker and Happ; Bregman has shown that he can play at the major league level and it’s been reported that the Astros may try him as their everyday leftfielder next season. As the teams improve you’ll notice there draft positions get lower. In last seasons draft the Cubs didn’t have a 1st round pick as it went to the St. Louis Cardinals for the Cubs signing of John Lackey. The Astros where picking at #17 and they selected Forrest Whitley. Obviously Whitley’s career is just beginning as he’s pitched in just 8 Rookie League games. It will be a few years before we know how this draft pick worked out for Houston.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the Cubs didn’t select one pitcher with a 1st round pick. The Astros have taken three and two didn’t work out. Appel is now with the Phillies. Aiken never signed and is now with the Indians and Whitley was just drafted.
So how did the Cubs build their starting rotation? Jon Lester was signed as a free agent to a 6-year $155 million dollar deal with an option for a 7th year in 2014. Jake Arrieta was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles in a trade. John Lackey was signed as a free agent to a 2-year $32 million dollar deal before the 2016 season. Kyle Hendricks was acquired in a trade with the Texas Rangers and Jason Hammel was signed as a free agent to a 2-year $20 million dollar deal with an option for a 3rd year in 2014. Hammel has also factored in the Cubs success as he was part of the a trade that sent Hammel and Jeff Samardzjia to the Oakland A’s for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily. McKinney ended up being part of the deal with the New York Yankees that brought Aroldis Chapman.
It appears as though the question is do you draft pitching or do you sign pitching. Both have there draw backs. If you miss on a draft pick you get nothing out of that player, Now if you miss on a free agent signing paying a player big money who you’re not getting anything out of them. As teams try to rebuild; the Cincinnati Reds and the Milwaukee Brewers started rebuilding this past season it will be interesting to see if they go the draft route with pitchers or if they’ll invest in free agents. Since most leagues are copycat leagues you have to expect that teams will look to sign starting pitching. Of course signing the right starting pitching will be the key to teams success.
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