The Major League Baseball draft lottery was instituted, in large part, because of teams like the turn-of-the-decade Orioles, who invested little in their big league roster over successive seasons, suffered a bevy of losses and received early draft picks.
But after Baltimore unexpectedly finished with the second best record of any non-playoff team in 2022, the club went relatively unaffected by the new draft ordering format. The Orioles were not among the six teams selected in Tuesday’s inaugural draft lottery and will pick 17th in 2023′s first round.
It ends a streak of four straight top-five selections, including two No. 1 overall picks, for Baltimore. The Orioles lost at least 108 games three times from 2018 to 2021, with a 25-35 record in the shortened 2020 season the only exception. The 2022 season was projected to be a continuation of those struggles, but after the promotion of catcher Adley Rutschman — the sport’s top prospect and the first overall pick in the 2019 draft — the Orioles won about 55% of their games and finished 83-79, three games out of playoff position.
Still, the Orioles entered this week’s winter meetings with a chance at another early pick thanks to the lottery, instituted as part of the league’s new collective bargaining agreement to give each of the 18 teams that miss the postseason a shot at one of the first six picks. Baltimore had a 3.3% chance of being chosen in the lottery, including 0.4% odds of receiving their third No. 1 pick in five years. Instead, the Orioles will make their latest first-round selection since 2017, when they took left-handed pitcher DL Hall 21st overall.
In 2022, the 17th pick had a slot value of about $3.8 million, about $5 million below the slot the Orioles got for the first overall pick they spent on Oklahoma high school shortstop Jackson Holliday. Baltimore will likely finish in the middle of the league in total bonus pool, as it will also make a pick in the Competitive Balance Round B after the draft’s second round and receive a compensatory pick before the fourth round for not signing 2022 third-round selection Nolan McLean. The club would lose its third draft pick if it signs a free agent who rejected a qualifying offer, which executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said Monday is “not going to make us turn away from anybody.” Carlos Rodón, Chris Bassitt and Nathan Eovaldi are the remaining free-agent starting pitchers, Baltimore’s top offseason priority, who would cost the team a draft pick.
The most successful 17th overall picks in draft history, based on Baseball Reference’s version of wins above replacement, are right-hander Roy Halladay (Toronto in 1995), left-hander Cole Hamels (Philadelphia in 2002) and outfielder Gary Matthews (San Francisco in 1968). Elias oversaw amateur drafts for the Houston Astros when they selected Texas high school right-hander Forrest Whitley with the 17th pick in 2016. Including Whitley, seven of the past eight players chosen in that spot have yet to reach the majors, while none of the past nine appeared in the big leagues in 2022.
With each of their previous four first-round picks — all of which came under Elias and director of draft operations Brad Ciolek — the Orioles have selected position players. Between Rutschman and Holliday, they selected corner outfielder Heston Kjerstad second overall in 2020 and center fielder Colton Cowser with 2021′s fifth pick.
This story will be updated.