In this week’s installment of Hot Take Tuesday, I’m going to have to go back on something I wrote a while back, something I really would rather not do. Normally, when you make a fiery take you stick by it, so please don’t question my credibility – I love the game of the hot take and fully respect it. At the same time, I think this take is just as hot as my prior one was, and with that one being so far out of question at this point, I think I have some justification for my decision.
So, you’re probably now wondering which prior hot take I’ve been referencing. That would be the one where I said the Orioles wouldn’t finish with a top-3 pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. This week, I’m going to assert that they will, in fact, finish with the coveted #1 pick that we all hoped they’d have locked up come October.
With Miami and Kansas City having done good work to get up to 51 and 53 wins, respectively, at the time I’m writing this, the race for the top pick in the draft is really just between the O’s and the lowly Detroit Tigers, whom I’d say most consider the worst team in baseball.
Right now, the Orioles trail the Tigers in this race by 3.5 games, as our birds sit at 46-97 while Detroit is 42-100. If you were a gambling fan, baseball betting against these squads at online sportsbooks like https://www.gamblerock.com could be an attractive option down the stretch.
What makes the last three weeks especially interesting in this chase is the fact that the two teams play each other in a four-game series at Comerica Park from September 13-16. In all likelihood, that series will be the difference. The O’s brass won’t say it, but I think we’ll all be pulling for the Birds to drop it.
With that in mind, though, the race will also depend greatly on how the two teams fare with the rest of their schedule. This is where I think the O’s are at a disadvantage. Outside their series with the Tigers, Baltimore has to battle through series against the Dodgers, Blue Jays, Mariners, Blue Jays (again), and the Red Sox. Overall, this is a pretty tough schedule with a few that could easily prove to be outright sweeps.
Meanwhile, the Tigers have to withstand series with the Yankees, Indians, White Sox, Twins, and White Sox (again). Considering the fact that three of these teams are some of the best in baseball, with the White Sox having superior talent to Detroit, as well, it might be hard for the O’s to contend with this, making their series in Motor City all the more important.
You’re now probably very confused as to how I can possibly make the argument that the Orioles will get the #1 pick. After all, the Tigers may have a tougher schedule against more motivated teams and the O’s have to overcome a deficit in the standings.
The reason simply lies on the fact that the call-ups that the Orioles have made for September make it easier for them to tank (and again, I don’t expect anybody to label it as tanking, even if that’s what it is). While the Orioles are offering players like Mason Williams a chance, the Tigers have had a largely static lineup in recent weeks. This sort of consistency offers them less flexibility when it comes to building the lineup.
That’s right, I’m straight up talking strategy here.
If Mike Elias and Brandon Hyde want to fully commit themselves to snagging that top pick in the draft, they have the ability to move their players around in a way that would cloud their true intentions, while the Tigers really don’t.
As a result of that, Tigers GM Al Avila and coach Ron Gardenhire – who have been around longer than the O’s regime and therefore may have less security in their positions – may find that making massive changes to “give new, inexperienced players a chance” would lead to severe scrutiny from the media.
I really have no doubt that no matter how they pose it, both the Tigers and Orioles will want to tank for the first pick in the 2020 draft. Unfortunately for Detroit, Baltimore has more players to experiment with and thus are in a better position to do it.
So, they will. And so they’ll end up selecting first come June 2020.