It's an honor no team wants, but at this point in the season, Detroit and Baltimore have few goals more meaningful than earning the top overall pick in next year's draft.
Each team has roughly 25 games left on their schedules, but the Tigers find themselves with a four-game “lead” for the "top" spot the 2020 MLB Draft, awarded to this season’s worst team.
Is one month enough time for the O’s to earn a second straight top overall pick? If so, it would go a long way toward their return to contention.
Not only would a league-worst record allow the Orioles their choice at the top of next year’s draft, but it would also likely give them the largest allotment of bonus pool money through the first ten rounds. This would allow them to take bigger swings at players considered tough signs, allowing the front office to prioritize talent over money.
So to break it all down, let’s take a look at the remaining series for each team.
Games remaining: 25
Series: at Rays, vs Rangers, vs Dodgers, at Tigers, vs Blue Jays, vs Mariners, at Blue Jays, at Red Sox
Combined opponent winning percentage: .470
This is a frontloaded September schedule. Both the Rays and Dodgers will be playing for the postseason, with Tampa Bay fighting for a spot and Los Angeles looking to solidify its top seed.
The back half of the schedule looks extremely easy, which could hurt the Orioles for next year’s draft. Only Boston has a chance of having something to play for among the final five series of the season, and even they enter the final month 5.5 games back in the AL Wild Card race.
Of course, one series stands out among all the rest: at Detroit, September 13-16. This four-game set will go a long, long way toward determining next year’s top draft pick.
Games remaining: 27
Series: at Royals, at Athletics, vs Yankees, vs Orioles, at Indians, vs White Sox, vs Twins, at White Sox
Combined opponent winning percentage: .498
The Tigers’ schedule looks significantly more difficult than the Orioles’, with four series against true American League contenders in the Yankees, Athletics, Indians and Twins. Plus, each of the three is very likely to have something to play for, with the Yankees currently tied with Houston for the top seed in the AL, the A’s one game out of the Wild Card, and the Indians and Twins locked in a tight battle with each other to avoid the Wild Card altogether by winning the AL Central.
Beyond that, the Tigers face their fellow NL Central bottom-dwellers in the White Sox and Royals, two teams against which Detroit has combined for a 13-15 record this season. That’s nearly a third of their win total this season, so it’s possible they even win another series or two down the stretch.
As mentioned above, however, the obvious standout series remains those four games against the Orioles. The Tigers’ run-differential of -270 is even worse than the Orioles’ -245, and with their “lead” have to be considered favorites right now. But the Orioles will partially control their own destiny thanks to the schedule makers.
The Tigers earned the top pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, and the Orioles had their turn in 2019. Now, the two franchises are pitted against one another in a race for their second top pick in the last three seasons, with the future of each organization at stake. It may not be for the postseason, but for two rebuilding teams in desperate need of more stars, it’s just as compelling of a race.
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