Pirates land top pick in inaugural Draft Lottery

December 7th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- The Pirates’ brass occupied itself during the second day of the Winter Meetings on Tuesday. The organization reached agreements with a pair of free-agent relievers, then shifted its attention toward other matters. But as the MLB Draft Lottery was about to begin, general manager Ben Cherington asked the big question.

Is anyone nervous?

“As it got closer, we got more into it. You get a little nervous anxiety,” Cherington said. “Then, somebody tugged on my sleeve -- [director of baseball communications Patrick Kurish] -- to go downstairs. I still didn’t know exactly what that meant, but I figured it was a decent sign.”

A decent sign it was. Cherington was being summoned for one reason and one reason only: The Pirates had won Major League Baseball’s first Draft Lottery and will have the first overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft.

“Every once in a while, in this business, you get a break against you,” Cherington said. “And every once in a while, you get a break go for you. We got one tonight.”

This will be the sixth time that Pittsburgh will pick first, the most recent being Henry Davis -- the organization’s No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline -- in 2021. The Pirates have also selected Jeff King (1986), Kris Benson (1996), Bryan Bullington (2002) and Gerrit Cole (2011).

“Whether we’re picking one or three or five or seven or whatever it is, there’s a chance to get a really good player. But this does give us a little bit more of an advantage, and we’ve got to take advantage of that,” Cherington said.

The 2023 Draft will be the Pirates’ fourth consecutive opportunity to pick in the top 10, having selected No. 5 prospect Nick Gonzales with the seventh pick in '20, Davis with the first pick in '21 and No. 2 prospect Termarr Johnson with the fourth pick in '22. While Pittsburgh was happy to end up with the top prize of the night, Cherington expressed hope that its odds will be much slimmer -- if not nonexistent -- come next year’s lottery.

“I hope our odds are much lower,” Cherington said. “If our odds could be much lower and still get the lucky bounce, we’ll take the combination of those two things.”

The lottery format made for a bit of drama, as several teams picked higher or lower than their projected odds. The A’s, who were tied with the Pirates and Nationals for the best odds at getting the first selection, ended up getting the sixth pick. The Twins, by contrast, had the 13th-best odds at landing the first pick but received the fifth.

“I think we were all curious how it would go,” Cherington said. “Hopefully, it becomes an exciting part of the winter. Like everything else baseball does, I’m sure they’ll learn from this one and make some adjustments and try to make an event out of it.”

In the coming months, big boards and prospect rankings will come into shape. The list of top prospects that could headline the 2023 MLB Draft includes LSU outfielder Dylan Crews, Tennessee right-hander Chase Dollander and Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford. LSU right-hander Paul Skenes, Mississippi shortstop Jacob Gonzalez and high school outfielder Max Clark (Franklin Community High School in Indiana) could be in the mix as well. 

“I think there’s just so much time, and there’s so much more we have to learn about the group of players at the top for next year,” Cherington said. “You know, the generic answers. We’ll take the player we feel is the best player when we get there. And there’s a lot of time and a lot of people in that other room trying to figure that out over the next few months.”