MINNEAPOLIS -- The Tigers spent last year on the cusp of a postseason berth before falling just short. Thanks to a big hit from an old nemesis, they'll begin their rebuild with the first pick in the 2018 Draft.
Sunday's 5-1 loss to the Twins, combined with the Giants' 5-4 victory over the Padres, left Detroit and San Francisco tied for the worst record in the Majors at 64-98. With the previous season's record as the tiebreaker, Detroit -- a half-game worse than the Giants in 2016 thanks to a September rainout that wasn't made up -- will pick first next June.
Five years after Pablo Sandoval led the Giants and tormented the Tigers with a three-homer game to open their 2012 World Series in San Francisco, he essentially powered Detroit to the top pick. His walk-off homer sent the Giants to victory on Sunday as Tigers general manager Al Avila and assistant GM David Chadd watched on their computers from Target Field.
It marks the second time the Tigers have held the top pick. Detroit used the top selection in 1997 on a lanky Rice University pitcher named Matt Anderson, who pitched in 257 games as a reliever -- including a 22-save season for the Tigers in 2001 -- but was derailed by injuries and was out of the organization after the '04 season. His minus-0.5 Wins Above Replacement is the lowest of any top overall pick since 1985, according to Baseball Reference.
The last time the Tigers had a top-five pick, they used the second overall selection in 2004 on Old Dominion University's Justin Verlander. Avila was the Tigers' assistant GM and scouted Verlander. He was also the Marlins' scouting director when they drafted Adrian Gonzalez with the first overall pick in '00. Now, Avila is the Tigers' GM overseeing the rebuilding process.
"Every Draft is different," Avila said.
The Tigers have traditionally been an organization that selects the best player available rather than targeting particular areas. Whichever way they go, it'll be an opportunity for the Tigers to add to their stock of prospects after a slew of trades the last couple months replenished a farm system that has depth in pitching but little elite offensive talent.
"From the [Trade] Deadline on, it's been very productive as far as restocking the farm system, and a pretty good jump-start," Avila said. "I wish we were at the end already, but right now I think we're on a good path."
In essence, the pick is a further jump in the process for the Tigers, who stood 16 games under .500 at the end of August before a 6-24 September record sent them down the standings but up the Draft order.
"It's a bad feeling, not a good feeling," Avila said, "but you have to snap out of it and move forward. And we're at that point right now where it's kind of exciting. It's almost like a death: You mourn and then you come out of it, and now you're ready to live again.
"Right now, my staff, the scouts, we're very excited about a brand-new opportunity to revive the organization."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.