The first ever MLB Draft Lottery will be held tonight at the Winter Meetings in San Diego at 8:30 p.m. ET on MLB Network. This is part of Baseball’s attempt at preventing tanking and increasing the parity around the league. I personally think being able to trade draft picks would prove to be more valuable, but I appreciate the effort by the MLB to motivate clubs to be competitive. For Nationals fans, here’s what you need to know:
Despite having the worst record in Major League Baseball, the Nationals only have a 16.5% chance at picking 1st overall. This is the same chance as the Oakland Athletics and the Pittsburgh Pirates. I wish the worst team in baseball at least had better odds than the second or third worst team, particularly for the Nationals sake, but I digress. The real kicker is, however, that the Nationals have a higher chance at picking 7th overall at 19% than they do 1st overall. The odds for every pick and every team can be found here.
This is notable for a couple reasons. First, the Nationals could be picking as low as 7th after finishing the season as the worst team in baseball due to the new MLB draft lottery system. This would be a major blow to their timely rebuild efforts as they would land a top prospect, but likely none of the big names at the top of the draft. Secondly, it is important to note that a Large Market and non-revenue sharing team, like the Nationals, cannot have a lottery pick in consecutive years, meaning the Nationals would not be allowed to pick in the top 6 in 2024 if they receive a top 6 pick in 2023. They would, however, be permitted to receive a lottery pick in 2024 if they fell to 7th in this year’s draft.
Let me be clear – we do not want the Nationals to pick 7th in this year’s draft. That would merely be a silver lining, but is by no means the goal or ideal outcome. We’re rooting for a top pick this year and we will settle for having the 7th pick or later next year.
All 18 of the non-postseason clubs have a chance to win the MLB draft lottery. That means even a team like the Milwaukee Brewers, who just missed the playoffs, could conceivably wind up with the top pick, although their odds are slim at 0.2%. After the lottery (top 6 picks), the draft continues in reverse winning percentage order, which is why the Nationals could be no lower than the 7th pick and the Brewers could be no higher than the 18th pick if neither team is selected in the lottery.
The MLB Draft is far from a certainty, but having a top pick or the top pick will certainly go a long way towards the rebuild efforts. In the grand scheme of things, 16.5% is not great odds, especially when two other clubs have the same odds. Anything in the top 3-4 would still be great for the Nationals, especially when you consider many of these smaller market teams like to go undersold at the top of the draft and “reach” on a player so they can save some money in the slot value to use for later in the draft (or pocket). So the Nationals could still wind up with a great prospect, like they did with Elijah Green last draft. But, of course, the best way to get a great prospect is to pick 1st overall. And keep in mind, the Nationals historically have done pretty well when selecting 1st overall… Just saying.