Followers of the NBA or NHL are familiar with the concept of the Draft lottery that is about to debut in MLB.
But baseball’s lottery includes anti-tanking measures that go beyond anything we’ve seen in the other major professional sports.
MLB’s inaugural Draft lottery will be held at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT on Tuesday and will be broadcast live from the Winter Meetings in San Diego by MLB Network, with a live simulcast also streaming on MLB.com and in the MLB App. As in the weighted lottery systems used in professional basketball and hockey, the teams with the worst records from the previous season have the strongest probability of securing high picks.
The MLB Draft lottery, however, includes more first-round selections than the NBA or NHL lotteries and restricts how often clubs can receive a selection in the lottery. Not only is the team with the worst record from the previous season no longer guaranteed MLB’s top overall Draft pick the following year, but that team isn’t even guaranteed a spot in the top six.
Let’s go over all the mechanics of how the MLB Draft lottery, which was negotiated as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, works and how it compares to the other sports.
How many teams are included in the MLB Draft lottery?
The 18 non-postseason teams from 2022 will all be involved.
How many MLB Draft spots are determined by the lottery?
The first six spots of the first round will be determined. That’s the most of any major sport. The NBA lottery covers four spots, while the NHL covers two. The NFL does not hold a Draft lottery, so the team with the worst record always picks first.
In other words, the team with the worst record in MLB could wind up picking as late as seventh in the first round of the next year’s Draft.
What are each team’s odds of receiving the No. 1 overall pick?
The odds range from 16.5% for the teams with the three worst records to 0.2% for the team with the best record among non-playoff clubs. For 2022, it lays out as follows:
Why do the three worst teams all have the same percentage chance (16.5)?
To remove an incentive for a club to finish with the worst overall record.
This is a model that follows what the NBA recently instituted in its lottery. In the NHL, the odds for the teams with the worst records are, in order, 18.5%, 13.5% and 11.5%. So in hockey, this gives the team with the worst record a significantly higher probability of drafting first overall.
Are there any restrictions on which teams can participate in the lottery?
Yes. MLB’s system will have the most restrictions of the major sports and go further in reducing or preventing repeat winners.
Large-market teams (defined as teams that do not receive revenue sharing) are prohibited from receiving a selection in the lottery in consecutive years.
Small-market teams (revenue sharing recipients) are prohibited from receiving a selection in the lottery in three consecutive years.
Clubs that are ineligible to receive a lottery selection in future years due to these restrictions will be permitted to select no earlier than 10th overall.
Compare that to the NBA, which does not include any restrictions on the number of lottery selections a team can receive, or the NHL, which has lighter restrictions (a team cannot move up more than 10 spots, and a team cannot advance in the Draft order by winning the lottery draw more than twice in a five-year period).
How is the order for the rest of the MLB Draft determined?
After the first six spots, the remaining teams will draft in reverse order of their 2022 winning percentage. So if the Brewers don’t get one of the lottery picks, they would get the 18th overall pick. And if the Brewers “beat the odds” and end up with one of the top six selections, the Orioles (assuming they do not also defy the odds) would then slide down to No. 18.
In the second through 20th rounds, all non-postseason teams will choose in reverse order of their 2022 winning percentage.
And in all rounds of the Draft, postseason teams will choose in reverse order of their postseason finish (so, the Wild Card Series losers go first, followed by Division Series losers, followed by Championship Series losers, followed by the NL champion Phillies and, lastly, the World Series champion Astros). Within each of those postseason groups, teams are sorted by revenue-sharing status and then reverse order of winning percentage.
Will the Draft lottery results be independently audited?
Yes. PricewaterhouseCoopers will oversee the lottery.
When is the 2023 MLB Draft?
The Draft will take place next July in Seattle, as part of the All-Star Game festivities.
Which players are being targeted with the top picks?