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Tank talk: Worst record won't guarantee Tigers No. 1 pick in 2021

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Roll over for Kumar? Not so fast.

The Tigers are returning home with (gasp!) a winning record (albeit, just 2-1) and a spot atop the American League Central Division, but most pundits still agree this is bound to be another rough year for Detroit. Vegas, generally, has them at 21-22 wins in 2020, among the worst odds in the game.

Vanderbilt's Kumar Rocker is expected to be the top pick in the 2021 MLB Draft.

That said, even if the Tigers were to lose the rest of their games, they're actually not guaranteed to have the No. 1 overall pick again in next summer's Major League Baseball Draft.

In a twist as part of the pandemic-shortened season, baseball could be looking at moving to a lottery system, at least for a year. (And we all know how well Detroit performs in lotteries. We're looking at you, Red Wings.)

As part of the March agreement between the players' union and the ownership, if the regular season is fewer than 81 games, the commissioner's office has the right to change how the 2021 MLB Draft order is determined.

The regular season is scheduled for 60 games.

Baseball has never had a lottery like the NBA or NHL, opting to operate its draft more like the NFL.

For the last 13 years, the No. 1 overall pick has gone to the team with the worst record in the previous season, regardless of league. Prior to that, the No. 1 picks alternated every year between the American League and National League.

The Tigers have had the No. 1 overall pick two of the last three years, taking Auburn right-hander Casey Mize in 2018 and Arizona State slugger Spencer Torkelson in June.

Next summer's No. 1 overall pick is widely expected to be Vanderbilt right-hander Kumar Rocker, the Most Outstanding Player of the 2019 College World Series. In a 2019 Super Regional game against Duke, he threw a no-hitter and struck out 19.

More: Tigers' Parker Meadows finding his swing, even with no minor-league season

MLB, under March's agreement with the players' union, also has the right to limit the 2021 MLB Draft to 20 rounds.

This June, the draft only was five rounds, and was held virtually because of COVID-19.

For his part, commissioner Rob Manfred hasn't committed to a draft structure for 2021. He's trying to get through 2020 first.

The last team to have consecutive No. 1 overall picks in MLB: the Houston Astros, who had the top choice three consecutive years, from 2012-14, and selected Carlos Correa, Mark Appel and Brady Aiken. The Washington Nationals went back-to-back in 2009-10, with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. The Tampa Bay Rays had two straight in 2007-08, with David Price and Tim Beckham.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984