Thanks to a brutal September in which the Detroit Tigers went 6-24, they will have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft. The Tigers clinched the top overall pick on Sunday, when they lost to the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
This will be the second time the Tigers have had the No. 1 overall pick since the draft’s inception in 1965. Detroit infamously selected right-handed pitcher Matt Anderson first overall in 1997. Anderson pitched in parts of six seasons for the Tigers, but was one of the biggest busts in MLB draft history. He allowed a 4.89 ERA in 246 2⁄3 career innings with the Tigers, and finished with -0.5 WAR in his seven-year career.
Detroit obviously wants to nail their first pick, but the benefits of that No. 1 selection extend beyond the first round. The bonus pool slotting system installed in MLB’s previous collective bargaining agreement gives teams fixed slot amounts for each pick in the first 10 rounds of the draft. Teams can go above or below those bonus amounts to sign players, but there are harsh penalties for exceeding the total pool of money allotted for signing bonuses. The Minnesota Twins, who had the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, also had the largest bonus pool at over $14.1 million.
Most of that bonus pool money will go to the No. 1 overall pick. The slot amount for that selection was $7.77 million in 2017. However, no top overall pick has ever signed for the first slot amount in the few years that this new system has been in place. This saves the team money it can spend elsewhere in the draft to sign other players — usually high-upside prep stars who are considering going to college.
The San Francisco Giants finished even with the Tigers in the standings at 64-98. Thanks to Detroit’s 86-75 record in 2016 — just a half game worse than San Francisco’s 87-75 record — they own a tiebreaker over San Francisco, giving them the top overall pick.
To get the top overall pick, the Tigers had to lose in historical fashion. Their six wins in September (and October 1) are the fewest since the Baltimore Orioles went 5-20 in September 2008. By win percentage, Detroit’s September is the worst in baseball since 2002, when the Orioles went 4-24 (don’t laugh, the Tigers went 5-21 that month).
For now, let’s ignore the fact that the Tigers have the worst record in baseball. No. 1 pick, here we come!