SAN DIEGO — “First pick is unrealistic,” says Mike Fitzgerald, sunken into a couch with feet propped up by an ottoman in the Diamondbacks’ general manager suite. “Third pick is greedy. So we’re going four.
“Greed doesn’t get rewarded in this world,” he says.
“There is a process,” Mike Hazen adds. “We’re trying to show gratitude to the universe, and we think four is realistically not greedy.”
Fitzgerald is the Diamondbacks’ director of research and development, and is one of the most well-respected analytics minds in baseball. Hazen is the Diamondbacks’ general manager and had just been discussing the balance between StatCast data and scouting reports when evaluating infield defenders.
But ask them about the inaugural MLB draft lottery — happening Tuesday evening at the Winter Meetings — and they sound less like front office executives and more like sorcerers from some far-off world.
“Fitz is going to bring us good vibes,” Hazen said. “He’s the luckiest guy in our office.”
“I will wear a button down shirt,” Fitzgerald adds, “which I will separate if we get the first pick.”
“He wants to create a viral moment if we in fact get the first pick.”
Hazen and Fitzgerald would likely understand if you said they were crazy, but let’s not forget that baseball has a long tradition of superstition, a tradition that apparently trickles all the way to the upper layers of MLB front offices.
Everyone wants the No. 1 overall pick, and Hazen insists the Diamondbacks front office isn’t the only one dreaming about what could happen on Tuesday night.
“Look, every team that’s in the lottery is dreaming about hitting the lottery,” Hazen said. “Go into every single room that didn’t make the playoffs this year — they had the same discussions about getting the first pick.”
For the Diamondbacks, it would take a miracle. According to Tankathon.com, their chance of landing the elusive No. 1 overall pick in the draft is just 1.4 percent, the 11th-highest chance in baseball. Hazen is holding out hope: “So you’re telling me we have a chance?”
Landing the No. 11 pick is the most likely outcome for the Diamondbacks at 54.9 percent. They also have a 28.6 percent chance of falling to No. 12 and a combined 11 percent chance of moving up to picks No. 2 through No. 6.
The three teams with the worst records in 2022 — the Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Oakland Athletics — have the best chance at landing the No. 1 overall pick at 16.5 percent each.
The draft lottery is new to baseball this year, as part of Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement that was enacted in March. The primary goal of the lottery is to prevent tanking by removing the guarantee of a higher draft pick that has previously come with finishing lower in the standings. Hazen welcomes the change.
“It’s great. We’re hoping to move up at least six to seven spots in the draft,” he says, chuckling.
“I think it’s good for the game. I do. It’s got just a level of excitement around it. I think it’s interesting. We all talk about it.”
Major League Baseball will employ the same kind of ping-pong ball lottery machine seen in the NBA, and the lottery process and results will be broadcast live on MLB Network at 6:30 p.m. Arizona time.
Fitzgerald will be there, ready to rip his shirt should the Diamondbacks land the No. 1 overall pick.
“Hopefully,” he said, “I break every button.”
Follow Jesse Friedman on Twitter
Top photo: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports