The Boston Red Sox own the 14th pick in the 2023 Major League Baseball Draft.
But they almost landed the No. 1 overall selection.
MLB conducted its first-ever draft lottery Tuesday at the winter meetings in San Diego. The top six picks were determined via the lottery, which the Pittsburgh Pirates won, followed by (in order) the Washington Nationals, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins and Oakland Athletics.
Boston had just a 0.8% chance of landing the first pick, and instead will choose 14th because the remaining non-playoff teams in the lottery that didn’t end up in the top six will pick in the first round based on reverse order of their 2022 records. Yet, with how the pingpong balls bounced Tuesday, there evidently was some unforeseen drama that nearly resulted in an upset of epic proportions.
Baseball America’s JJ Cooper was the designated pool reporter for the MLB lottery and therefore witnessed the drawing in person.
“The balls were then allowed to rotate for 15 seconds, before a button was pressed,” Cooper wrote of the process. “That opened the top of the hopper. Every 15 seconds, the button was pressed again, until four balls had been collected. That four-digit code was then checked against a list of all 1,001 possible four-digit combinations. The first ball was 11, the second was eight, the third was 10.”
OK, so how does this apply to the Red Sox?
Well, according to Cooper, that 11-8-10 code combination ensured many teams, including the Red Sox, still had a chance at the No. 1 pick. It wasn’t until the fourth and final ball that Boston’s fate was sealed.
“With no number under eight among the first three, many of the teams with lower odds remained in play,” Cooper wrote. “If the final ball had been the 13 or 14, the Red Sox would have picked first.”
Instead, the final ball was a two, solidifying Pittsburgh’s standing atop the draft board. The Pirates, who had the third-worst record in MLB in 2022, entered the lottery tied with the Nationals and the Athletics for the best odds of winning, with a 16.5% chance.
The Red Sox had the No. 24 overall pick in 2022, which they used to select shortstop Mikey Romero. In 2021, Boston owned the No. 4 pick — its highest since 1967 — and scooped up shortstop Marcelo Mayer, widely considered the best player in the draft and now the Red Sox’s top prospect.