The Pittsburgh Pirates entered September with the 3rd worst record in baseball. With the new CBA agreement establishing a lottery draft, here’s a look at the Pirates’ lottery odds
The Pittsburgh Pirates have had a top 5 pick in each of the last 2 drafts under Ben Cherington’s front office, including the no. 1 overall pick in 2021. This has allowed them to carry one of the largest bonus pools in the draft. Next year, however, the Pirates won’t simply be handed a top 5 pick.
With the new collective bargaining agreement, the MLB draft will feature a lottery system for the first 6 picks, similar to that of the NHL and NBA, though the MLB’s lottery covers more draft picks. Each of the 18 non-playoff teams will be entered into the lottery, with the non-lottery teams being sorted in reverse order of win percentage.
This means that even if the Pirates finish in the bottom-6 in records throughout baseball there’s a chance they’ll select outside of the top 6. The new draft rules also state that teams who receive revenue-sharing, like the Pirates, can only receive a lottery pick in back to back years. So if the Pirates draft in the top-6 in 2023 and 2024, they will be ineligible for the lottery in 2025. Lottery ineligible teams also cannot draft higher than 10th.
All these changes mean the Pirates will no longer tank for draft picks. Right?
Unfortunately that may not be so. Where their record is currently the Pirates lottery odds for the #1 pick are the highest. While there’s increased risk and uncertainty around the top of the draft, the top 3 picks all share the same odds at #1 with 16.5%. That number drops to 13.25% for the 4th worst record and 10% for the 5th worst record (see below).
Here is a full look at the Pirates lottery odds through the first 9 picks of the draft, per Tankathon:
1 – 16.5% 2 – 15.6% 3 – 14.5% 4 – 13.2% 5 – 11.6% 6 – 9.7% 7 – 13.7% 8 – 5.0% 9 – 0.3%
Rounds 2-20 will stay the same. Each round after the 1st will be based on reverse order of win percentage, i.e. the way the draft had been before the new CBA. This means that no matter where the Pirates pick in the first round if they have the 3rd worst record they’ll have the 3rd pick in rounds 2-20.
That being said it is entirely plausible to think that the Pirates are still tanking despite the addition of the lottery. With the third worst record they’ll have the highest chance at the #1 pick. Worst case scenario they’d draft 7th, assuming the two teams don’t fall out of the lottery as well, and then have the 3rd pick in every round after.
The downfall to this line of thinking, if this is how the Pirates are truly viewing the situation, is that there’s nothing really to stop them from repeating the process next year in what would be the final year they could receive a lottery pick. While one would hope that is not the case the Pirates have yet to show they’re ready to leave the cellar of the Major Leagues. Until then, we should fear the worst.