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3 Teams More Deserving Of The No. 1 Pick Than The Pirates

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By Sean Millerick

More likely than not, baseball fans awoke on Wednesday to the news that the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft has been awarded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, with the Washington Nationals, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins and Oakland A’s rounding out the Top 6 picks.

Yawn.

Do you know what really would be something though? If a team, or at least a fanbase, that really deserved the good fortune of a high pick ended up with one.

Now, purely by virtue of being unbearable to watch in 2022, those three teams absolutely earned the right to draft first overall. Really earned it. Frankly, the Nationals were so bad they might deserve two Top 3 picks. 

Then again … they all chose to be that putrid, didn’t they? In the first year of this new system, a draft lottery meant to discourage blatant tanking, plenty of teams still set out to do exactly that. Especially this bunch. For that reason alone, seeing some tankers punished by ping pong balls in Year 1 of the new order would be a huge win for baseball fans.

Furthermore, all three of these teams have at least one major strike against them for the universe gifting them the right to draft the next wunderkind prospect.

The Nationals? Didn’t pay up to keep Bryce Harper. Traded Trea Turner. Didn’t pay up for, and ultimately traded, Juan Soto. Plus, fans have seen the Nats pick the super prospect before. They got Harper. They got Stephen Strasburg. So no new storylines here -- just a reward for denying their fans a chance to watch one of the best hitters ever. Twice.

The A’s? Gutted the roster, completely stripping away a young playoff-caliber core. Fans were so fed up they basically boycotted the team’s games in 2022. More broadly though, on the diamond, this organization has had a lot of good runs. Brad Pitt even played their current vice president and longtime general manager in a movie. They’ve won for most of the century, with four straight winning seasons prior to last year when, again, they chose to be horrible.

The Pirates? Well, they’re always the Pirates, with four winning seasons since 1992. Perpetually underspending. Just this week they made news with a lowball offer for their current top player, Bryan Reynolds, who is now reportedly requesting a trade. This year is the third straight year they’ve ended up with a Top 5 pick. That is quite an impressive run of futility … except for the fact they made six straight Top 5 picks from 2006-2011, the last of which was a No. 1 overall selection of Gerrit Cole. Who they traded.

Nope, just not deserving.

But if there was real justice in the universe? Well, in that case, the team picking first overall in 2023 would be the Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins, or Los Angeles Angels.

Why the Rockies? Admittedly, it’s been a bit of a case study in how not to run a front office lately. Yet they have had big names and have issued big contracts. It just never seems to really click for them, despite a solid fan base and a beautiful ballpark. What’s more, did you know they have never had the first pick? There aren’t many teams you can say that about. 

More refreshingly, it has been five years since they’ve even had a Top 5 selection. Again, they try, or at least end up being scrappy enough to keep things mildly interesting. They could use the lift. Maybe not more than they could use multiple pitchers who can pitch at high altitude … but it would be fun to see them get the chance to get an elite talent.

The Marlins? Penny pinchers for sure, and a lot of their problems are of their own making. Despite that, you have to give them this -- they can really develop pitching. Indeed, despite losing flashy prospect Max Meyer to Tommy John surgery last season, they still arguably boast the deepest arsenal of starting pitching talent in the Majors. The problem is, to borrow from the great Crash Davis in Bull Durham, they “couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a [redacted] boat.” 

Between previous draft whiffs, low payroll, and poor free agent choices in 2022, they are in dire need of offensive help. Plus, you’d be hard pressed to find a fanbase that feels more snakebitten. Ending up with the unquestioned top hitter available next July could be just the turning point this franchise is looking for and help them make some noise in the uber-competitive National League East.

Lastly, the Angels, who at first glance make for a curious choice. They spend. They have superstars. They’re reasonably competitive consistently. However, even with over a decade of production from one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game in Mike Trout, and five years of production from the greatest athlete to ever play the game in Shohei Ohtani, they have nothing to show for it in terms of championship hardware. Trout has been to the playoffs just once in his illustrious career. 

Time and again, the Angels have tried and failed to surround Trout with enough to give him a real shot. And in terms of homegrown talent to help him out? The Angels have never done that -- a player 50 percent as good as Ohtani would still be the best “rookie” to ever play alongside Trout.

Any one of these teams would have been far more deserving of the No. 1 pick in 2023. Unfortunately, it looks as if cheaters of their fans will continue to prosper.

Sean Millerick is a diehard Miami Marlins fan but still finds cause for hope every Spring Training. He currently writes for @CallToThePen. You can find him on Twitter @miasportsminute.

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