The race for the No. 1 pick has four strong contenders in the final week of the major league season and most of them are strangers to the bottom of the standings.
The Giants enter Monday with the majors' worst record at 61-95; if the season ended today, the Giants would select first overall in the 2018 draft. San Francisco has never owned the No. 1 overall pick since the MLB draft's inception in 1965.
The Giants are far from alone at the bottom, however. Both the Phillies (62-94) and fast-falling Tigers (62-94) sit a game "back" in the race for the No. 1 pick. The White Sox (63-92) are still in the hunt with six games to play for others and seven left for the Sox. The only other teams still in contention for the first pick are the Reds (66-90) and Mets (66-89).
It's the second straight year where a team entered the year seeing itself as a contender and wound up challenging for the No. 1 overall pick. In 2016, the Twins were coming off an 83-win season but cratered to 59 wins and the No. 1 overall pick in 2017. Similarly, the Giants had the best record in baseball at the halfway point in 2016 before a second-half fade (30-42) that has deepened in the '17 season, exacerbated by injuries (chief among them to Madison Bumgarner) and an aging lineup.
Meanwhile, the Tigers have just four wins in September—since trading Justin Verlander to the Astros—and have ridden a seven-game losing streak to challenge the Giants for the bottom spot. Detroit, outscored 39-12 in a weekend home sweep against the Twins, already has announced that manager Brad Ausmus will not be brought back and has entered a full rebuild, and could add the No. 1 overall pick to the rebuilding efforts. Detroit has picked No. 1 overall only once in its history, in 1997, when it selected Rice righthander Matt Anderson with the top pick.
However, when Detroit and San Francisco have picked highly, they've had success historically. The Tigers snagged Verlander with the No. 2 pick in 2004 and Tony Clark (currently the head of the MLB Players Association) at No. 2 in 1990. The Giants have picked No. 2 overall only once, in 1985, when they took first baseman Will Clark; a year later, picked third overall, they hit paydirt again with third baseman Matt Williams. Their last single-digit pick overall came in 2009 when they took righthander Zack Wheeler at No. 6. The year before, current scouting director John Barr kicked off his first draft with the Giants by taking Buster Posey fifth overall.
The Phillies picked first overall just a year ago in 2016, selecting outfielder Mickey Moniak, who had a modest first full season in 2017. They also picked No. 1 overall in 1998, selecting Pat Burrell. The Phillies have won three series this month, including taking three-of-four from the Dodgers earlier in the week.
The White Sox, who have won four series in September with series losses only to the best teams in the American League (Cleveland and Houston), haven't picked No. 1 overall since 1977, when they did well with outfielder Harold Baines, who not only had his number retired by the franchise but who also signed for just $40,000. Chicago also drafted No. 1 overall with catcher Danny Goodwin in 1971; the cash-strapped franchise failed to sign Goodwin, the first of three instances where the top overall pick didn't sign.
Their most recent top-five selection came in 2014, when they took lefthander Carlos Rodon out of North Carolina State with the third overall pick.