Nationals settle for No. 2 pick after inaugural draft lottery

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SAN DIEGO – The worst record in baseball in 2022 wasn’t enough to get the Nationals the best pick in the draft in 2023. But it did at least get them the next-best pick.

The Nats learned tonight they will hold the No. 2 selection next summer after losing out to the Pirates in Major League Baseball’s inaugural draft lottery.

“I’m good. I’ll live with it,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “No. 2 is a high pick, and I’m very comfortable with it. We’re going to get a very good, impactful player.”

For decades, MLB guaranteed the No. 1 pick to the franchise that finished the previous season with the league’s worst record. That’s how the Nationals were able to draft Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper back-to-back in 2009 and 2010 after back-to-back 100-loss seasons. But amid complaints from players that teams were purposely tanking in search of the best draft position, MLB instituted a lottery for the first time this year.

The Nats, despite an major league-worst 55-107 record this season, wound up paying the price for that dramatic change. Though nobody had a better chance of winning the No. 1 pick, they were on equal footing with the Athletics (60-102) and Pirates (62-100), and even then they only had 16.5 percent odds. In fact, they actually had a better chance of emerging with the No. 7 pick (19 percent) than any other slot under the new system.

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On Strasburg's status and tonight's draft lottery

Stephen Strasburg throw blue wide

SAN DIEGO – The Nationals, as they made abundantly clear Monday, are in the market for a starting pitcher. They would love to acquire a proven arm who can make 30-plus starts next season and take pressure off the organization’s three projected young starters.

Those young starters – MacKenzie Gore, Cade Cavalli, Josiah Gray – all will open the season in the rotation, provided they’re all healthy. And manager Davey Martinez said Monday all three are healthy and will be full-go for spring training.

Martinez also said Patrick Corbin is part of the 2023 rotation, looking for a major bounce back after a dreadful 2022 season on the heels of a dreadful 2021 season.

So, in theory, that’s a five-man rotation right there, with the expected new addition joining the four holdovers.

What, though, about Stephen Strasburg? Is it even conceivable he’s part of the mix? For now, the Nationals are making no such proclamations. Neither are they ruling out the possibility, though.

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