Pirates Win No. 1 Overall Pick In First MLB Draft Lottery

Image credit: (Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO—For the second time in three years, the Pirates will have the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

The Pirates won the first MLB Draft Lottery on Tuesday night, vaulting over two teams that had worse records last season to receive the coveted first overall pick.

The Pirates went 62-100 last season, tied for the third-worst record in MLB. They entered the lottery with a 16.5% chance of winning the top overall pick, tied with the Nationals and Athletics for the highest odds of any team.

“We’re very excited,” Pirates scouting director Joe Dellicarri said. “We got the opportunity before to be in this position. And with the highest regard, we’ll do everything we can (to) have a good process with a lot of good people and hopefully get an outcome as we did a couple of years ago when we had the opportunity.”

The 2023 draft will mark the sixth time in franchise history the Pirates have had the No. 1 overall pick. They last selected Louisville catcher Henry Davis with the top pick in 2021.

The Nationals, who had the worst record in MLB last year, received the second overall pick in the lottery. The Tigers received the third pick.

The Pirates would have had the third pick under the old system in which the draft order was determined by reverse order of the previous year’s standings. The two-spot rise has a chance to make a substantial difference for the franchise.

Players drafted No. 1 overall have accumulated 1,121.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) through the end of the 2022 season, as measured by Baseball-Reference. Players drafted third overall, comparatively, have accumulated just 642.1 WAR.

Three players drafted No. 1 overall have accumulated more than 80 career WAR—Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones and Ken Griffey Jr. No player drafted third overall has ever reached 80 career WAR, let alone surpassed it.

“To get another chance to do this at No. 1, it’ll be great,” DelliCarri said. “The guys would be excited, that’s what I was thinking when we got the pick. Our group will be excited.”

The A’s, who finished with the second-worst record, were the biggest losers of the lottery, falling to the sixth pick. The A’s have struggled mightily in the draft in recent years, with 2017 first-rounder Austin Beck and 2019 first-rounder Logan Davidson both performing so poorly they were left unprotected for the Rule 5 draft. The A’s also failed to sign 2018 first-rounder Kyler Murray, who went on to win a Heisman Trophy as Oklahoma’s quarterback and became the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

“We’re going to find a good player at six but yeah, I mean, obviously, you’re hoping to (have) ping pong (balls) bounced your way,” A’s assistant general manager Billy Owens said. “You’re picking top 10, you’re going to get a good player, but yeah, you’re hoping you’re gonna land on a seven.”

The top six picks of the draft were determined via the lottery. All 18 teams that did not make the postseason were eligible to receive the first overall selection.

The Twins were the biggest winners of the lottery. They would have picked 13th under the old draft system, but moved up to fifth.

“Any time you can jump into the top 10 in the draft you are beyond excited,” Twins scouting director Sean Johnson said. “I was telling everyone all week I had a weird feeling we were going to get into the top six, but that’s also the feeling that has led to massive casinos being built. It was a lot of fun.”

The Rangers were the other team that finished outside the top six record-wise last year to move into the lottery. They went 68-94, tied for the seventh-worst record, but received the fourth overall pick.

The Reds and Royals were the two teams that were in lottery position but fell out of the top six picks. The Reds will pick seventh and the Royals will pick eighth.

The full 2023 draft order can be found here.

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