Guardians win Draft Lottery, will have top pick for 1st time

December 6th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- For the first time in club history, the Guardians will have the first pick of the MLB Draft.

Cleveland president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti was in shock as he sat on the MLB Network stage on Tuesday night after learning that his organization won the 2024 Draft Lottery at the Winter Meetings. This news was the last thing he thought he’d learn when he woke up that morning.

“It’s a fun opportunity. Not one that we’ve had,” Antonetti said. “The first time ever top pick, and in the last 20 years we’ve only picked in the top five [twice] and the top 10 [four] times. So this isn’t a place we’re familiar with.”

The Guardians were given just a 2 percent chance to win the first overall pick. If you’re unfamiliar with how they were selected, let’s recap Major League Baseball’s lottery system.

For the second year, the lottery has determined the order in which teams select in the MLB Draft. This year, 17 of the 18 non-playoff teams were added into the mix to potentially take the first-pick honors. Teams with lower winning percentages were given higher odds of getting pulled. The Guardians had the ninth-best chance of landing the No. 1 pick at just 2 percent. The odds for the A’s, Rockies and Royals were the highest at 18.3%.

The Reds went from 0.9 percent chance to landing the No. 2 pick.

The odds of Cleveland receiving the top overall pick and Cincinnati getting the No. 2 pick were approximately 5,000 to 1 (0.02%).

“[The lottery] certainly gives us an opportunity we otherwise wouldn’t have had in the other system,” Antonetti said. “The only way to do this in the other system is to have a really, really tough year where you’re the worst record in baseball. I’d much rather get it this way.”

Two and a half hours before the announcement, each lottery-eligible team sends a representative into the drawing room. The Guardians sent Ethan Purser, who was recently promoted to Cleveland's scouting director, to try to turn luck in their favor, but they knew it was more than a long shot.

Until the lottery aired on MLB Network at 5:30 p.m. ET, Purser had to stay in the room with the other representatives and no cell phones to prevent the news from leaking. The Guardians turned their focus elsewhere, assuming they wouldn’t have a chance at a top pick. But they started to get wind that they might have a chance just before the drawing was set to air. Suddenly, excitement started to build.

Antonetti stood backstage at the lottery event, hoping that his team was the last one called. When he heard the news, he hustled out in front of the cameras and hugged Guardians Minor League field coordinator John McDonald, who was on stage as the team’s representative behind its podium. As he joined the MLB Network analysts to talk about his reaction, he couldn’t stop beaming from ear to ear.

“It’s a new, fun challenge for us that we’ll look forward to tackling together,” Antonetti said. “Johnny Mac and Ethan are our good luck charms.”

The Guardians have owned the No. 2 pick five times in club history: 1992 (Paul Shuey), 1988 (Mark Lewis), 1986 (Greg Swindell), 1972 (Rick Manning) and 1970 (Steve Dunning). And when they finally have their first No. 1 pick in 2024, they don’t expect their strategy to change from what it’s been over the past few years.

“Yes, we do have the No. 1 pick, and that’s super exciting,” Guardians senior vice president of scouting Paul Gillispie told’s Jonathan Mayo on the MLB Pipeline podcast. “But we’re just trying to take the best players that we possibly can. The Draft is eight months away, and we’re going to spend all of our time getting to know all the players as best as we possibly can so when it’s our turn to pick, we’re ready.”

The Guardians’ unexpected selection continues a successful trend for Cleveland sports teams in draft lotteries. The Cavaliers have won the NBA Draft Lottery three times, including the second-biggest upset in league history in 2014, when they landed the top pick (Andrew Wiggins) despite just a 1.7 percent chance to win it. They also won it in 2013 (Anthony Bennett) and 2003, a franchise-altering moment that led to drafting Akron, Ohio, native LeBron James.

The Cavs also selected No. 1 in 2011 (Kyrie Irving), acquiring the pick from the Clippers, who actually won the lottery, in a previous trade.

Sure, the first Draft pick comes with more financial obligations for any organization. But this time, money won’t stand in the way of the Guardians acquiring special talent. 

“That is a welcome expense,” Antonetti said with a grin.