Chris Antonetti (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Cleveland Guardians have never picked at the top of the MLB draft. Cleveland had picked second on four occasions, most recently when they selected righthander Paul Shuey second overall in 1992. But Cleveland has never had the chance to take the first pick.
Now, thanks to the bouncing of a few ping pong balls in the second-ever MLB Draft Lottery and a provision in the collective bargaining agreement, Cleveland will pick first overall.
Of the 1,001 different ping pong ball combinations, Cleveland had only 18 winning combinations. As was true with every team with long odds in the lottery, they had a rooting interest in seeing high numbers pop up.
The first ping pong ball was an eight. Fifteen seconds later, the ping pong ball that climbed to the top was 14. The third ping pong ball was the 10.
Three ping pong balls, three high numbers. At this point, Cleveland’s odds of winning had gotten better, but they still were relatively slim. If the next ball was a one, the Kansas City Royals would get the first pick. If it was a two, the Rockies would pick first.
If it was a three, the drawing would be a null drawing and they would have to start over (more on that in a minute).
If it was a four, the Cardinals would pick first. A five, the Angels. A six, the Pirates. A seven would make the Guardians happy. But a nine would be the Giants’ lucky day, and an 11 would mean the Reds would pick first (more on this in a moment as well). The same was true with a 12.
So, with one ping pong ball to go, the team with the best odds were the Reds. It was a seven. Cleveland immediately moved from being slotted to pick 10th to having the first chance to pick a player in the 2024 MLB Draft, and all the financial advantages that provides in terms of an allotted signing bonus pool.
But while everything that described above is how the Guardians won the first pick, it was actually the second drawing. The Washington Nationals actually won the first pick, but because the CBA does not allow a revenue sharing payee to have lottery picks in back-to-back years, the Nationals were ineligible to have a top six pick. The Nationals selected outfielder Dylan Crews’ second overall in 2023.