Sunday is the final day of the regular season around baseball (unless it isn’t, which we’ll get to in a second), and that means there’s going to be a lot of scoreboard watching. There’s going to be a little bit in the American League for seeding purposes, but for the most part the scoreboard watching will take place in the National League, where there are still four teams — the Cardinals, Brewers, Giants and Phillies — fighting for two open spots. If you’re interested in those scenarios, I’ll leave this here for you.
The Red Sox are obviously not in any sort of contention for a playoff spot, but that doesn’t mean the front office won’t be doing some scoreboard watching of their own. Although nothing has been made official regarding the method by which the league will determine the 2021 draft order, Jeff Passan of ESPN recently reported it was likely going to be based strictly on 2020 record. Baseball America had reported similarly a week or two before that, so unless and unless we hear otherwise, we’ll assume that’s going to be the case.
And with that assumption, the Red Sox are locked into their first top-five selection since 1967 regardless of what happens today. The Pirates have already clinched the top selection and the Rangers will select behind them, and beyond that things are still up in the air. The Red Sox are jockeying for position with the Tigers and Orioles, with those three still fighting for ordering in the three, four and five spots.
Now, before I get into specific scenarios, I should mention that things are a little more complicated because the Tigers season may not actually be done today. I mentioned the NL playoff race above, and the Tigers may be caught up in that. If the Brewers beat the Cardinals this afternoon and the Giants beat the Padres, the Tigers and Cardinals would play one or two games on Monday, depending on the results of the first game. The Tigers, for what it’s worth, can only lose one game on Monday because the Cardinals would only need one win to clinch a playoff spot. So, if St. Louis won the first game, there wouldn’t be a second. At least that is my understanding, but if we’re being honest all of these tiebreaker scenarios are absurdly confusing.
But, with that being said, let’s get back to the Red Sox and go through how they can pick at each of the three possible spots. I won’t let you peek too far behind the curtain, but I will just say I made this about a billion times harder than it had to be, so if you see a mistake please don’t hesitate to let me know. This is what I look like at the moment.
The Red Sox pick third if:
- They lose. There is no scenario in which they lose on Sunday and don’t pick third.
- They win, but the Tigers and Orioles also win.
The Red Sox pick fourth if:
- They win, and one of the Orioles and Tigers loses while the other wins.
- They win and both the Orioles and Tigers lose, but the Tigers then win both games on Monday.
The Red Sox pick fifth if:
- They win while both the Orioles and Tigers lose, and the Tigers either don’t play on Monday or lose at least one game that day.
The Red Sox play the Braves on Sunday while the Orioles play the Blue Jays and the Tigers play the Royals. Only the Blue Jays among those six clubs have anything of note to play for. If they win and the Yankees lose, Toronto gets to avoid a first round matchup against the Rays.