Todd Helton's career ended yesterday with Vin Scully behind the microphone. If you missed Scully's tribute to the ToddFather, make sure you watch this now (NSFW because you'll cry all over your keyboard, and that's an electrical hazard). Scully spoke of Helton's "grand career" and wished him a "wonderful life" after baseball.
In Helton's final inning, the words "wonderful life" bounced around in my head in more ways than one. Todd Helton has been one of the most successful people in history at the job he chose, a very public one at that, and he did so with a reputation of class that earned him respect league-wide. We all strive for such an accomplishment, for such a wonderful life.
But as the Helton-less Rockies era drew near, I also thought of the 1946 film "It's a Wonderful Life." That film deals with the "Butterfly Effect," a phenomenon also dealt with in more modern films like "The Butterfly Effect," the "Back to the Future" series and "Sliding Doors." One small change could cascade into huge changes in the future.
As Rex Brothers faced Nick Buss with the runners on second and third and one out in the ninth inning Sunday, the Rockies had a 48.3% chance of winning. If the Rockies lost, they would jump into a tie with Philadelphia for the 7th draft slot in 2014. If they held on and won, they'd fall into a four-way tie for the eighth slot.
Draft position ties are broken by 2012 record, so the Rockies would have won the tie-breaker against any team outside of Houston and the Chicago Cubs. So it was one draft slot up for grabs yesterday. The Rockies sent Todd Helton out a winner after two strikeouts from Rex Brothers, so Colorado settled into the #8 slot, the very slot Helton himself was drafted in back in 1995.
This very well might not change much of anything for the Rockies going forward, as most often, butterflies flapping their wings don't do much. But sometimes it does.
Back to baseball. First, the overall picture, from Baseball Reference:
- Of 49 players drafted 7th, 34 played in the majors (69%) for a total of 289.7 WAR, or 8.5 per major leaguer.
- Of 49 players drafted 8th, 29 played in the majors (59%) for a total of 236.7 WAR, or 8.2 per major leaguer.
|Year||Tm||Player Drafted 8th||Pos||WAR|
|1976||White Sox||Steve Trout||LHP||13.5|
So Todd Helton, who will likely miss the Hall of Fame, and Jay Bell. Nobody else above 20 WAR (or two Mike Trout seasons). As for 7th overall:
|Year||Tm||Player Drafted 7th||Pos||WAR|
|1989||White Sox||Frank Thomas||1B||73.6|
|1993||Red Sox||Trot Nixon||OF||21.2|
The Big Hurt is a definite Hall of Famer, while Tulowitzki and Kershaw have a solid chance to get there. Three other players broke the 20 WAR threshhold, so while the overall yield isn't changed dramatically from 8th the 7th, the 7th overall slot has a very clear top-heavy advantage.
We also do not know how the 2014 draft class will shake out. In 2013, there was a general consensus that there was a clear break after the top tier of players, a tier that consisted of three men. Colorado was fortunate to have the #3 pick and a guarantee of selecting from that group. The 2014 class is supposed to be deeper, and it is possible for a tier to end at 7 players, making even a smart selection a tougher one to make.
Maybe the Rockies end up with the 2014 version of Wade Townsend instead of Troy Tulowitzki. Yes, that example actually happened. The 2004 Rockies finished the season 1-9 while the Devil Rays surged with a 6-4 mark over the last ten games. That stretch vaulted the Rockies over the Devil Rays in the 2005 draft, thankfully.
Here are the ten teams who chose eighth after the best 7th overall picks left the board:
|Year||Tm||Player Drafted 7th||Pos||WAR||Next Player chosen||WAR|
|1989||White Sox||Frank Thomas||1B||73.6||Earl Cunningham (Cubs)||-|
|2006||Dodgers||Clayton Kershaw||LHP||33.1||Drew Stubbs (CIN)||7|
|2005||Rockies||Troy Tulowitzki||SS||32.3||Wade Townsend (TB)||-|
|2003||Orioles||Nick Markakis||OF||23.5||Paul Maholm (PIT)||12.5|
|2002||Brewers||Prince Fielder||1B||23.5||Scott Moore (DET)||-0.8|
|1993||Red Sox||Trot Nixon||OF||21.2||Kirk Presley (NYM)||-|
|1977||Angels||Richard Dotson||RHP||16.3||Brian Greer (SD)||-0.1|
|1990||Reds||Dan Wilson||C||13||Tim Costo (CLE)||-0.7|
|1998||Reds||Austin Kearns||OF||12.9||Felipe Lopez (TOR)||7.5|
|1965||Indians||Ray Fosse||C||12.9||John Wyatt (LA)||-|
Ouch. The Rockies might fall into one of those deficits just because Rex Brothers managed to hold on to a save in a meaningless game. Or it might mean nothing and this venture was a waste of time, not unlike 99% of the discussions we will have in the next five months about things that will never happen. Welcome to the offseason.
(PS: The Rockies draft 8th in 2014, just in case you missed it).