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The Boston Red Sox entered Wednesday with one of Major League Baseball’s worst records. In a typical season, the Red Sox (or their front office, anyway) would be keeping an eye on the standings to see where they’d be picking in the next year (reportedly in July). This is, in myriad ways, an atypical season, including in one way that hasn’t been touched upon often: the draft order.

As part of the agreement with the 60-game season, commissioner Rob Manfred has the right to dictate how the draft order will be decided. Manfred hasn’t announced his decision, either to the teams or to the public. (MLB did not reply to multiple requests for clarification.) Front-office types who talked to CBS Sports are working under the assumption that next year’s draft order will be determined by more than just 2020 regular-season records. 

Rather, Manfred and the league could include teams’ 2019 records into the equation as well.

That’s notable for the Red Sox (and, to a lesser extent, the Los Angeles Angels) because it would lead to them having a later pick than they would have otherwise. 

To illustrate what we’re talking about, consider where the Red Sox would select under the following hypotheticals: if the league proceeded as normal, using the reverse standings from the 2020 season; if the league uses the average winning percentage of the 2019 and 2020 seasons; and if the league uses the cumulative winning percentage of those seasons:

  • Normal: 3rd
  • Average winning percentage: 7th
  • Cumulative winning percentage: 15th

Depending on MLB’s method, the Red Sox could be picking in the top three … or they could be picking in the middle of the first round. How’s that for a range?

The historical difference between those slots is pronounced. According to Baseball-Reference, No. 3 picks have accumulated nearly 200 more Wins Above Replacement than No. 7 picks, who, in turn, have accumulated 126 more Wins Above Replacement than No. 15 picks. Obviously there are always exceptions on a micro level — it’s possible the Red Sox would land the next Chase Utley regardless of where they pick — but the macro-level numbers support common sense about the average value of the spots in question.

As such, the Red Sox have a lot riding on every day between now and whenever Manfred makes his decision — and not just on the field. 

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