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How does the MLB Draft lottery work? What you need to know ahead of Tuesday's inaugural drawing

Yahoo Sports 12/6/2022 Zach Crizer

The MLB Winter Meetings are always an offseason-defining burst of rumors, signings and trades, but this year, there’s a new event in the mix that has long-term implications. As part of the collective bargaining agreement that ended the lockout prior to the 2022 season, the league and the players’ union agreed to add a lottery system to set the top picks for July’s MLB Draft.

Designed to disincentivize tanking, the lottery will give each of the 18 teams that missed the playoffs a chance of getting one of the top six picks. Prior to this season, the draft order was set by reverse order of record — with the occasional addition or subtraction of compensation picks from unsigned selections or free agents — and was known pretty much the moment the regular season ended.

The lottery system will be familiar to fans of the NBA or NHL, leagues that also give all their non-playoff teams a chance at the top pick. Although more teams are involved, baseball mirrored one key element of the NBA’s setup: The teams with the three worst records all have the same chance at the No. 1 pick. This year, that means the Washington Nationals, Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates each have a 16.5% chance of landing the top overall selection.

The first drawing is set for Tuesday during the meetings in San Diego. And like the NBA’s version, fans can get a little jolt of offseason suspense by watching the reveal on TV.

When is the new MLB Draft lottery show?

MLB Network will air the draft lottery show live at 8:30 p.m. ET Tuesday. Greg Amsinger, Dan O’Dowd and Harold Reynolds will co-host.

The lottery reveal adds another entertainment element to the growing realm of prospect focus in baseball. The MLB Draft was moved back about a month starting in 2021 — from June to July — to coincide with All-Star Game festivities. The 2023 iteration will be held in Seattle.

What will the television show look like? Are there ping-pong balls? Are there envelopes?

One thing you might notice right away: there will be a new face representing MLB. 

Raul Ibañez, the longtime major-league outfielder who now serves as MLB’s senior vice president of on-field operations, will announce the results, not commissioner Rob Manfred. It’s a prominent, public-facing role for Ibañez, one of several former players MLB has brought into the league office in recent years. Rangers GM Chris Young inhabited a similar job before jumping to Texas.

The method of producing the order will be familiar to basketball and hockey fans. MLB is utilizing coded ping-pong balls, in the same vein as the systems used by the NBA and NHL. The actual drawing — it’s more complicated than having team logos pop up like Powerball numbers — will take place before the show under the watchful eyes of auditors, which is also how the NBA operates

MLB Network will then relay some footage as Ibañez announces the order of the picks. Front office personnel from each lottery team will be on site.

How many picks will the MLB Draft lottery decide?

The first six picks are determined by the lottery, and any of the 18 non-playoff teams could land one of those. That means the Nationals, who finished an MLB-worst 55-107, could pick as late as seventh. It’s a more extreme swing than is possible in the NBA, where the team with the worst record cannot pick lower than fourth.

Players in the NBA draft, of course, are far closer to contributing than MLB draftees. The difference between the first and seventh pick in baseball is significant but less so than in sports where it’s possible to identify and select a full-fledged star for the following season. Even when a can’t-miss prospect comes around, a la Bryce Harper, he is usually at least a year or two away from the majors on draft day.

Who has a chance at the first pick?

Here’s the full list of the 18 lottery teams and their odds of winning the No. 1 pick in the 2023 MLB Draft.

Nationals: 16.5%

Athletics: 16.5%

Pirates: 16.5%

Reds: 13.2%

Royals: 10.0%

Tigers: 7.5%

Rangers: 5.5%

Rockies: 3.9%

Marlins: 2.7%

Angels: 1.8%

Diamondbacks: 1.4%

Cubs: 1.1%

Twins: 0.9%

Red Sox: 0.8%

White Sox: 0.6%

Giants: 0.5%

Orioles: 0.4%

Brewers: 0.2%

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