For the Braves, the race for next year’s No. 1 pick begins in earnest

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon applauds, Javier Baez (9 and Jon Lester (34), whose sacrifice bunt led to a score by Baez during a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Sunday, June, 12, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

The Braves just played these guys. The Reds aren’t as good. (AP Photo/John Amis)

The Atlanta Braves, who have baseball’s worst record, open a four-game series tonight against the Cincinnati Reds, who have the third-worst. (The other spot on this Bizarro World podium belongs to the Minnesota Twins.) Believe it or not, games such as these have meaning.

The Braves just picked Ian Anderson, a high school right-hander whom they like very much, with the No. 3 pick in the MLB draft. Had they held the No. 2 pick, they might have picked Nick Senzel, the Tennessee third baseman they also liked. (There’d have been your college hitter, folks.) Not saying they would have; just saying they’d have had that option.

As it was, Senzel went to the Reds, who stole the No. 2 pick by losing 14 of their final 15 games last September/October. The Braves, meanwhile, chose the absolute wrong moment to start winning again. Having gone 15-48 from July 8 through Sept. 18, they won 10 of their final 15 games. Had they won only five of those final 15, they’d have had the No. 1 overall pick in 2016.

If you’re a fan, you’d rather not see your team finish last, but finishing last has benefits. There’s no lottery in baseball. If you finish with the worst record, you’re locked into the No. 1 pick. If you’re rebuilding, you want the No. 1 pick. (And if you have MLB’s worst record, you’d better be rebuilding.)

As it stands, the Braves trail — or lead, depending on your perspective — the Twins by a game and the Reds by 5 1/2 games. FanGraphs’ projections have the Braves finishing 58-104 to the Reds’ 65-97 and the Twins’ 66-96, which is a fairly comfortable spread. But what if the Braves sweep the Reds? Then the lead’s down to 1 1/2 games and Katy bar the door, as it were.

Owing mostly to their home field, the Great American Bandbox, the Reds’ offensive numbers aren’t bad: They’re 16th among MLB teams in runs, 12th in homers and 14th in slugging percentage. (The Braves are last, last and last.) But the Reds — having divested themselves of Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman and seen Homer Bailey lost to a knee injury — are 30th in ERA, and their bullpen ERA of 6.48 is the worst in the majors by 1.57 over 29th-best Texas.

Given that the Braves could trade anybody save Freddie Freeman these next two months, it’s hard to imagine they’ll be much better over the final 100 games than they’ve been over the first 62. Then again, the Braves have played a bit better (9-16) under Brian Snitker than Fredi Gonzalez (9-28), and August/September could see the arrival of Dansby Swanson and/or Ozzie Albies and/or Rio Ruiz. And let’s face it: This being baseball, it’d be hard to do much worse than 18-44.

Granted, there’s also a real chance that the Redlegs could sell Jay Bruce, who has 14 homers — more than half as many as the Braves do as a team — and 44 RBIs, come July. But it’ll be harder to find a taker for Joey Votto and his contract, and Brandon Phillips’ value has cratered.

Put simply, neither of these teams has any reason to care much about its record any more. For them, the season is gone. The race, if that’s the proper word, for next June’s 1-1 pick will be fascinating, in the way that a horrible movie can be fascinating. (Think “Plan 9 from Outer Space.”)

Further reading: The Cubs show the Braves that it can be done.

Reader Comments 0

32 comments
DrPhill
DrPhill

And thanks to Liberty Media and the minions, Hart and Coppy, former Braves' fans have no reason to pay attention to or even consider attending Braves' games. Anyone who thinks this crowd will turn around next season or any season under the current management, is seriously delusional.

TideDawg
TideDawg

@DrPhill I have to disagree with you Dr. All it takes is a winner to put fans back in the seats.....regardless of any threats they make to boycott. All will be forgiven if this plan works out and no one will admit that they said they wouldn't come back. Fireworks put 30m plus fans in the seats. Fireworks on the field will do the same thing. As long as fans are complaining they're interested. When they stop complaining that's the time to worry. Management is't worried and Liberty Media couldn't care less.

patriotdog
patriotdog

Why, for pete's sake, would Freeman be thought of as not tradeable. He's as awful as anyone not named Aybar on the team. Not a single reason to keep him, and no way to get much for him thanks to the ridiculous contract that Wren gave him.

Good glove, average power and unable to beat the shift consistently.

Finally, this is a 100 loss team. Everybody is available, or should be.

TideDawg
TideDawg

I don't think Aaron Blair is going to make it. He's got the tools but uses them poorly. Let him finish the season in Gwinnett. 

ChoppinThroughLife
ChoppinThroughLife

@TideDawg Might not be a bad idea, but I think he'll be fine. You gotta take your lumps in the majors. This is where the men are separated from the boys. You have to make adjustments quickly and learn how to pitch. 

TideDawg
TideDawg

I wonder what all of these fans are going to say when the Braves start getting rid of Markakis, Piersynski, Flowers, Francouer, etc. All of these aging veterans and also rans are playing hard now trying to get traded to a winner like Kelly Johnson did. If you think the team is stripped now, wait until after the All Star break. 

DamonH
DamonH

When Snitker's record reaches the inevitable 9-28, do they then fire him as well? They're already going to set some nice records (total losses, fewest homers, home losses) why not add most intern managers fired in a single season?

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

John Hart is the worst thing that has happened in Braves history

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

This FO has lost the trust of the fans and why not -- look at the bozo picks they have made the last two drafts under this regime.  They will try to get a cheaper lesser player no matter where they pick

Kwajbraves
Kwajbraves

#1 draft pick is good if you have the right people selecting but the Braves FO is one the worst in baseball and will pick up the "higher upside" player meaning they will cheap out again.   

Kenny Powers
Kenny Powers

They will take another mid-round pitcher #1 overall and totally continue to neglect their offense.

tmndc
tmndc

The strategy is fine. The franchise had 'bad bones.' Needed to rebuild bottom up, especially given the salary constraints. The execution will take a while to sort out, but there have been some good and bad decisions. What bothers me most is Coppy's smugness and his 'damn you stupid fans' approach. Just a bit of humility and I would buy in whole heartedly. But the guy seems incapable of that--or, frankly, competence, when it comes to the pretty straight forward task of firing your manager. Apparently, the Braves way is to let the travel agents do it. Too bad. Would love to be fully committed behind this mess--seriously. I was there in the '80s and in '90 watching every one of Tommy Glavine's 17(or so) losses--but I cant shake the idea that the Braves wont truly succeed until Coppy is humbled in a real and affecting way. Not sure the Hector Olivera diasaster has registered on his humility register.  Rock and a hard place, but ultimately, Go Braves. I guess.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@tmndc  This will not work under Coppy -- three more yrs and he will be gone.  He is incompetent in most phases of the job especially PR that is why Hart has to do most of the talking.  I think Coppy's contract runs out in 19 -- 3 more yrs of 90 plus losses

Savga13
Savga13

Mark, this "rebuild" is hard to digest. My faith is very shallow in the current F/O being able to complete their stated goal. As great as Schuerholz was for the organization initially, he lost his mojo along the way (starting with trading away Wainwright for a 1 year rental, the Tex trade, etc.). And, he was signing off on Wren's trades and free agent signings.


The foundation of a good organization is there from winning seasons, championship runs and an off year here and there...see St.Louis Cardinals.  Even with the Cards just missing out on another trip to the World Series they still had more 1st rounds pics and a better draft than than the Braves.  So losing 110 games is not necessary to have a very good draft. It is what you do with draft pics that matter.


I still would not be surprised if Liberty Media's goal is to strip the major league roster down to the minimum payroll. Then, after a year in their new palace they place both the Braves and the surrounding "assests" on the market.  The Braves will ONLY become relevant again once Liberty Media sells!!

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Savga13: "So losing 110 games is not necessary to have a very good draft. It is what you do with draft pics that matter."

_______________

BINGO!

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Savga13

I think it is unlikely that Liberty media will divest themselves from the sweetheart deal they have in Cobb County.They have already referred to the Braves as just another piece in their Real Estate portfolio.Liberty has no incentive to put a winning team on the field, they will make millions even if the Braves are the worst team in baseball for another 10 years.Look for Hart/Coppy to unload every veteran they can at the trade deadline, and bring in younger cheaper prospects to fill out the roster. This might actually be a good thing ,the current roster including the veterans are playing at a .288 winning %, might as well let the younger players get experience they might even win more than the current roster. 

DawgNole
DawgNole

I still fail to see how getting a top draft choice by losing is any help at all to the Braves, simply because of their incredibly inept front office. 

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@DawgNole 

If Hart/Coppy were in charge in of the Braves front office in 1990 ,they would have drafted VanPopell instead of Chipper Jones with the #1 draft pick.

Kwajbraves
Kwajbraves

@Kenny Powers  According to Coppy they'd do a disservice to the team for not selecting the "player with the higher upside".  However, he neglected to tell that they passed up at least 4 player with greater upside so they could save a few bucks and sign more pitchers.  That guy is really the worst GM is baseball.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Kwajbraves

The worst GM in baseball?

Yup--and that's saying a mouthful after Wren.

Kwajbraves
Kwajbraves

@DawgNole @Kwajbraves  At least FW was trying to win and put together a few decent teams the only thing that Coppy has done is building an historically bad team that he tried "hard" to improved.  Yikes 

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

They told us before last season they would be fielding a competitive team in 2017. As far as I can tell they are still DE-constructing, and waiting on pitchers still a year or more away.

Kwajbraves
Kwajbraves

If Coppy's promises were crackers there wouldn't be a hungry person in the world. I think they are now "reassessing" their competitive window to 2019. 

DrTruth
DrTruth

So this is where John Schuerholz, John Hart and John Coppolella have guided major league baseball in Atlanta since the end of the 2014 season:

The best pitcher on the team is a Frank Wren holdover.  

The best position player on the team is a Frank Wren holdover.

The local sports desk is now writing in June about how it is a desirable goal to finish the season in Sept with the worst record in baseball.

We have not only entered Superman's Bizarro World.....We're building a primary residence there.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@DrTruth

Look for Julio to be gone at the trade deadline and if he rebounds at all in the next month ,Freddie may also be on the trading block. That would definitely end the Frank Wren era. And also insure a last place finish in 2016. I wonder which pitcher Hart/Coppy will choose with that #1 pick in 2017?Likely one they can sign for under the slotting for the #1 pick, always have to save cash to sign the #40 pick.

DrTruth
DrTruth

@Buschleaguer  Does it really matter who they pick at #1?  We're talking about high school arms here.  According to Braves Director of Scouting Brian Bridges:  "It takes 20 to get one."  If true, then that means 19 out of every 20 pitchers just selected in this draft won't make the major league.  It also means there's a chance that ALL 6 of the pitchers taken in the Braves' first 7 picks are a bust.  Draft picks, rehabs and other teams' prospect castoffs is a heck of a way to build an MLB team.  It's the Braves' Casino.  Place your bets.

There's just something inherently wrong about rooting for your MLB team to finish in last place when there are 100 games left out of a 162 game season.  It's troubling that so many Braves fans now accept this as normal.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@DrTruth

"Inherently wrong."

You certainly speak the truth on this one!

Kwajbraves
Kwajbraves

@DrTruth the valley of the shadow of death was meant to be walked not to establish residency and the Braves are building a Taj Mahal.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Mark ,

If the Braves had intended to draft a hitter in the first round ,several were available at pick#3.Their intention in the draft was clear take an under slotted pitcher at #3 and save enough pool money to over slot at #40 and #44 for more pitching. Hopefully at this year's trade deadline they will dump more veterans for some prospects or mlb players that will fill needs at catcher, 3B and at least one corner OF spot. At this point if garnering the 2017 # 1 draft pick is the goal, don't be surprised if all veterans on the Braves roster including Freeman are available to trade, after all Coppy has two arms, he can lose one.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

If the Braves sweep the Reds ,Commissioner Manfred better put on his Kenesaw Landis hat and fine the Reds for throwing games. This Braves team could not sweep a series from the 1963 Mets.

blevins1491
blevins1491

How incredibly sad.  Meanwhile, the man who has presided over this sordid mess is being inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame soon.  Be sure to take a bow for helping assemble the worst team in the history of baseball, Mr. Schuerholz.