Image credit: Philadelphia Phillies (Kevin D. Liles/Getty Images)
At 8:30 p.m. Eastern on Dec.6, MLB will conduct its first-ever draft lottery.
While most eyes will be focused on the 18 non-playoff teams with chances at the No. 1 overall pick—headlined by the 16.5% odds each of the Nationals, Athletics and Pirates have—the new system has also shifted the fortunes of clubs picking at the back of the first round.
The draft order for teams choosing in spots 19 to 30 is mostly set,* with a new system that combines postseason finish, revenue sharing status and regular season winning percentage instead of the old system which simply lined up teams in reverse order of finish the previous season.
Below is the current 2023 draft order for each postseason team, with what each club’s draft order would have been under the previous system and the net difference between the two in parentheses.
- Rays (19, no change)
- Blue Jays (24, +4 spots)
- Cardinals (25, +4)
- *Mets (27, +5)
- Mariners (22, -1)
- Guardians (23, -1)
- Braves (28, +3)
- *Dodgers (30, +4)
- Padres (21, -6)
- Yankees (26, -2)
- Phillies (20, -9)
- Astros (29, -1)
*Both the Dodgers (No. 26) and Mets (No. 22) could see their first-round picks drop by 10 spots if they exceed the $230 million luxury tax threshold by more than $40 million.
In 2021, a team like the Braves was able to sneak into the postseason with an 88-73 record that was the worst in the playoff field, win the World Series and still wind up with the 20th pick in the 2022 draft.
That won’t happen under the new draft rules set forth in the Collective Bargaining Agreement ratified last spring.
The 2022 equivalent of the Braves are the Phillies, who finished with the second-worst regular season record (87-75) among playoff clubs and then pushed to the World Series before ultimately falling to the Astros. Under the old system, the Phillies would have the 20th pick in the 2023 draft.
In the new system, they pick 29th.
The Phillies are the biggest “losers” of the new system—though you might be hard pressed to find anyone within a 100-mile radius of Philadelphia who feels particularly bad about it.
The Padres were the next team most impacted by this new rule, with a drop of six spots after entering the postseason with the third-worst record (89-73) but making it to the National League Championship Series against the Phillies.
At first glance, this might not seem like a huge deal. Going from pick 20 to 29 isn’t the same penalty as going from pick one to seven, for instance. It’s true that the talent drop off at the back of the first round is significantly less meaningful than the talent drop off at the top of the first round.
But it’s also true that what really matters—as ever—is the money.
Since the dawn of the bonus pool era, which began with the 2012 draft, the money that comes attached to draft picks based on their slot values is often more important than the picks themselves. This is what allows teams to get creative with their draft boards and maneuver talented players they otherwise couldn’t access to their picks further down the board.
So how does the total bonus pool money change? While we don’t know the precise slot values for the 2023 draft yet, we can make a reasonable estimate based on the 2022 slot values. In that way, we can see how significant the new system could be for teams like the Phillies and Padres.
We have to make a few assumptions to carry out this exercise: first, that the Dodgers and Mets won’t have their first-round picks fall 10 spots; and second, that each team that could potentially receive a compensation pick for free agents given qualifying offers will not get those picks.
Below is a chart that uses 2022 slot values to assign bonus pools under the current draft order system and the previous system. Postseason teams are displayed and ranked in order of most bonus pool dollars lost by the change in how draft order is determined:
|Team||Current System||Previous System||Difference|
So based on 2022 slot values, the new system would cause the Phillies to lose nearly $1.3 million in bonus pool money and the Padres to lose nearly $900,000. While proposed nine-figure free agent contracts this time of year might make these numbers feel insignificant, they carry significant value for acquiring talent.
For some player context from the 2022 draft:
- The Reds signed junior college third baseman Cam Collier—the No. 7 player on the BA 500—with the 18th overall pick for a bonus that was $1.3 million over slot.
- The Angels signed high school righthander Caden Dana (No. 76) in the 11th round for a bonus that drew $1.37 million from their bonus pool.
- The Giants signed East Carolina lefthander Carson Whisenhunt (No. 28) with the 66th pick in the second round to a bonus that was more than $800,000 over slot.
Meanwhile, teams that topped 100 wins in the regular season but fell short in the postseason—the Dodgers, Braves and Mets—will now have a bit more bonus pool money as a consolation prize.
Each of those teams will receive between roughly $380,000 and $700,000 in additional bonus pool money under the new system than they would have with the old. Players who signed for over-slot bonuses in that range in 2022 include prep outfielder Henry Bolte ($658,000) with the A’s, prep lefthander Brandon Barriera ($520,000) with the Blue Jays and prep righthander Seth Keller ($422,000) with the Braves.
Unless teams begin tanking after reaching the postseason—highly unlikely—the differences in pick order and bonus pool money the new system offers will likely remain just another small detail in an increasingly complex MLB draft system.
Still, baseball is often won on the margins, and these details matter. While the top six picks are certainly the focal point of the first-ever draft lottery, don’t forget about the implications of the new format for the teams picking in the final 12 spots.