Nats win Draft Lottery, but they'll pick 10th ... here's why

December 6th, 2023

NASHVILLE -- After drawing the Nos. 1 and 2 picks in the MLB Draft Lottery, the Nationals will make the No. 10 selection in the 2024 MLB Draft.

Wait, what’s that math?

No, you don’t need to double-check your calculations. Here is how a new lesson in Draft equations unfolded at the Winter Meetings.

The Nationals entered the Draft Lottery with the fifth-worst record in baseball (71-91), the year after selecting standout outfielder Dylan Crews with the second overall pick. But they are not eligible to pick higher than No. 10 in 2024, per the rule that “payor clubs” -- categorized as clubs that give vs. receive revenue-sharing dollars -- cannot be selected in back-to-back lotteries.

Washington’s 100 combinations, though, remained in the pool because removing them would have reshaped the odds. The asterisk was the Nats’ pick would be voided if drawn at ineligible spots.

As pool reporter JJ Cooper of Baseball America recounted, when the first combination was called, it was 3-9-11-13: the Nationals. The No. 1 overall pick ended up going to the Guardians, who had a 2% chance.

The result of the third drawing (pulled for the No. 2 pick) was 13-7-5-4: the Nationals, again. That pick also was voided. It went to the Reds, who entered the lottery with a 0.9 percent chance at No. 1.

So after garnering a top two overall pick three times in franchise history (2009, '10, '23), the Nats ended up there two times and no times -- at the same time.

“To me, these are the rules and let’s play by them,” general manager Mike Rizzo said Tuesday afternoon prior to the Draft Lottery. “We’re going to pick the best guy that we can at that pick. We’ve gone through the ebbs and flows of picking high in the Draft and then picking extremely low in the Draft for a long period of time. You have to adjust and adapt and pick the right players.”

MLB Pipeline’s Draft expert Jim Callis predicted LSU third baseman Tommy White at No. 10. With Nats’ No. 3 prospect Brady House projected to make his Major League debut in 2025, White could be a fit at the opposite infield corner. Callis wrote:

“Probably winds up at first base in the long run, so we’ve now drafted four first basemen in our top 10, which shows you how it's a little bit of an unusual Draft in that regard. Tommy White is another guy who isn’t just a masher. He can hit, [and] he hits for power. Transferred from NC State to LSU last year and helped win the national championship. Hit the game-winning home run in the semifinal game against Wake Forest. Hit .374 with 24 homers. Led Division I with 105 RBIs. I just think he’s going to hit.”

The Nationals have chosen at No. 10 once in team history (since 2005). In 2009, they drafted right-hander Drew Storen with a compensation pick. The club has drafted in the top 11 in the last three years: Crews (No. 2, 2023), outfielder Elijah Green (No. 5, '22) and House (No. 11, '21).