The Boston Red Sox could benefit from a high draft pick in 2021.
With all the misery we’ve endured during this turbulent season, the real gut-punch to put a stamp on a forgettable 2020 would be if the Boston Red Sox don’t end up with a high draft pick to ease the pain. Based on recent reports, that probably won’t be an issue.
There had been some speculation that Major League Baseball could get creative with the 2021 draft order. The March agreement between the league and the Players’ Association dictates that commissioner Rob Manfred wields the power to determine the draft order in the event of a shortened 2020 season. Everything from combining the winning percentages from this year with 2019 results to picking names out of a hat was potentially on the table. You never know what to expect from Manfred.
Any solution other than the order being based on the 2020 standings would have been unfortunate for the Red Sox. Boston enters the day tied for the third-worst record in baseball and they own the tiebreaker over the Arizona Diamondbacks. It’s hard to envision a scenario where the Red Sox would pick higher than third if another method was used to determine the draft order.
Fortunately, it appears we don’t have to worry about that. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, MLB is “highly likely” to base the 2021 draft order on this year’s standings.
"“While MLB has yet to announce whether teams’ 2020 records will determine draft order, a source familiar with the league’s thinking said that the clause written into MLB’s March agreement with the players’ association that gave the league the right to determine draft order was a contingency in case the season was canceled well before records were indicative of much,” wrote Passan. “Even though 60 games doesn’t give the full picture of who’s really good and who isn’t, the source said it’s highly likely that the draft order will be determined by this year’s record.”"
The Red Sox only have six games remaining on the schedule. If they lose all six then they are essentially guaranteed a top-three draft pick, assuming that MLB doesn’t surprisingly pivot away from the plan that Passan reported.
The Texas Rangers are only a game behind the Red Sox in the standings so Boston could potentially move up to the No. 2 pick depending on how this week plays out. The Pittsburgh Pirates are in the drivers seat with a five-game “lead” over Boston in the race for the top overall pick. It’s far-fetched to envision the Pirates screwing up their shot for the top pick by winning at least five of their last six games.
Texas begins a two-game series with Arizona tonight. One of those teams has to win! The Red Sox have a chance to leap ahead of the Rangers for the No. 2 pick or put some distance between them and the Diamondbacks.
That’s assuming that the Red Sox continue to lose. The Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, and Washington Nationals are all within two games in the loss column of the 20-34 Red Sox. A mini-winning streak could quickly result in Boston falling outside of the top five.
That makes the three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles this week very interesting. The O’s got off to a surprising start but they’ve fallen back down to Earth. They enter this series only three games ahead of the Red Sox. Now that Baltimore is far out of the playoff race, if they manage to out-tank the Red Sox in this series then the O’s could potentially steal Boston’s spot for one of the top draft picks.
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The Red Sox wrap up the season with three games this weekend against the Atlanta Braves. The NL East-leading Braves should easily beat the floundering Red Sox. However, Atlanta currently has a four-game lead in their division so they are mostly playing for postseason positioning at this point. What if the Braves clinch their division and lock in their playoff seeding by the time they face the Red Sox? There very well could be a game or two at the end of the season where Atlanta has nothing to play for and could rest most of their starters.
Boston has done plenty of losing this year. The worst thing they could possibly do is to start winning now when a high draft pick is within their grasp.
The Red Sox farm system is thin on elite talent but a top pick in this draft changes that. Selecting anywhere in the top five potentially gives them a player who could soon be considered their top prospect, drastically altering the perception of their system. Whether it be a player they project to be a building block of their future or a trade chip to acquire an immediate upgrade, Boston could find a very valuable asset in this draft.
Just don’t screw it up by winning in the final week of the season. Now that we know that the draft order is likely to be determined based on this year’s standings, Boston has every incentive to finish this tank job so we can flush this season away and look forward to a brighter future with a high draft pick.