Andrew Luck, the San Diego Padres, and Major League Baseball


Let me say this first; I do not think sports teams outside the NBA tank games to increase their draft position. However, as Andrew Luck has helped prove, fans and analysts will discuss the topic with fervor. It’s usually an interesting hypothetical. If team X can get player Y in the draft, how much better can team X be? How bad does team X have to be to ensure they get player Y in the draft?

These are the questions we as fans kick around. As our teams start to disappoint, we look around, find the solution we think will work, then conjure up ways to make the solution a possibility. Except in baseball. We’ll talk about trades and free agency, but we never talk about tanking games to get the number one pick in the draft. That’s because baseball is incredibly difficult. Success on an amateur level does not always translate to success in the Majors. Success in the minor league system does not always translate either. This is a sport with so many different sets of rules and regulations* depending on the level a player is at, it would be foolish to lose for the sake of a specific draft pick.

*Little League through college uses aluminum bat, pitchers play the field, some minor league systems use a DH, some don’t, etc. 

The San Diego Padres often find themselves in a non-competitive position. While draft picks may help the team compete in the future, a team is guaranteed nothing by their picks. This is why you see teams like the Padres stockpile draft picks. It’s a game of odds. The more picks, the better the chance you get a Major League-caliber player.

Major League Baseball’s drafting system, signing bonuses rules, and level of difficulty is such that the draft can never be what it is in the NBA and NFL. Fans rarely know about college baseball players. Unlike the NBA and NFL, where amateurs play almost immediately, MLB forced a stepped system onto its players. Start in the lower levels with the goal of eventually getting to the Show.

That’s what’s great about baseball. It’s not like football. It’s not like basketball. It’s different in every way possible. So as the NFL season dies down, take solace in knowing no team in its right mind would tank games for picks in baseball. Let’s take a look at the Padres’ first round picks for the last ten years:

2002 – Khalil Greene
2003 – Tim Stauffer
2004 – Matt Bush
2005 – Cesar Carillo
2005 – Cesar Ramos
2006 – Matt Antonelli
2006 – Kyler Burke
2007 – Nick Schmidt
2007 – Kellen Kulbacki
2007 – Drew Cumberland
2007 – Mitch Canham
2007 – Cory Luebke
2007 – Danny Payne
2008 – Allan Dykstra
2008 – Jaff Decker
2009 – Donavan Tate
2010 – Karsten Whitson
2001 – Cory Spangernburg
2001 – Joe Ross
2011 – Michael Kelly
2011 – Brett Austin
2011 – Jace Peterson

This a list of players who may not be with the club anymore, had a cup of coffee at the big league level, never made the Show, or have found moderate success in the Majors.  Essentially, the draft is a roll of the dice.  It’s a necessary roll of the dice though. To think the draft is worthless, to allow other teams to work on drafting better while you focus on free agency alone, would be ill-advised. The diamonds in the rough, those players who break down the walls of adversity on their rise to the big league club, and succeed instantly from a young age are the reason teams get excited come draft time.  They are the reason a team is happy to get draft pick compensation for losing a free agent.

It’s clear the MLB draft is much different than other sports. Better?  Maybe, but the MLB draft clearly does not entice teams to tank their games toward the end of the season.