March 4, 2024

For the first time ever, the Cleveland Guardians will be selecting first in the MLB Amateur Draft this summer as they have been awarded the draft’s first overall pick. The decision came via MLB’s new draft lottery which is in its second year of existence, a product of 2022’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The lottery was held in Nashville, TN as part of baseball’s ongoing Winter Meetings.

The Guardians won this distinction despite their 2023 record giving them a mere 2% chance at the first pick. They had been slotted as the likely 9th pick. Cleveland technically won on the lottery’s second draw as the first drawing was won by the Washington Nationals, who based on the draft rules, had their top spot voided because they paid into revenue sharing in 2023 and therefore couldn’t have a top six pick in back-to-back years (Washington picked second in 2023).

The Cleveland front office will have the first crack at taking the best possible prospect from either the college or high school ranks. There is still a spring season to be played and there is a surefire phenom prospect that is considered head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd at this point in our timeline. Still, there are known prospects that could possibly be Cleveland’s future draftee such as:

West Virginia middle infielder JJ Wetherholt– a great (left-handed) hitter for average last season who began to swing for more power and played an above-average second base.

Wake Forest first baseman Nick Kurtz– a (left-handed) hitter who has shown prowess for hitting not just for contact but with power to all fields in college, at 6 foot 5 and 235 lbs, he is a big dude, but also athletic for his build.

Iowa right-handed pitcher Brody Brecht– a four-pitch pitcher with a deceptive three-quarters release and the ability to hit triple digits on his fastball and low 90s with his slider.

Even with the first overall pick, it will take savvy and due diligence from the Guardians to make the most of their draft choice. It must be acknowledged that 2024’s draft class is considered less talented than 2023. Additionally. first overall picks in baseball can be significantly different than America’s other major sports. Unlike football and basketball, where drafted players pretty much always become rookies at the top level from day one, it is rare for newly drafted players to play in MLB. Only 24 players have skipped the minor leagues entirely since the draft was instituted in 1965, and that includes all draft picks, not just first-overall picks.

Moreover, when looking back at history, receiving the first pick in baseball’s draft has been far from a sure thing. Twenty-six first-overall picks between 1965 and 2020 have become All-Stars, which is about half. Three are in the Hall of Fame- Harold Baines, Ken Griffey Jr. and Chipper Jones. Even with an overall imperfect record though, there are notable first overall picks in recent drafts. Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole, Carlos Correa, Dansby Swanson, Royce Lewis and Adley Rutschman were all first-overall picks in the 2010s.

MLB’s 20-round Amateur Draft will take place following the spring college and high school season in July, likely as part of baseball’s All-Star festivities in Texas.

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