Pirates Business: Estimating the 2023 Draft Pool

To be honest, I’m always looking for something I can spreadsheet about, especially when it comes to baseball.

After the lockout last year, when the slot for the number one pick was reported, as well as how much the total pool was expected to be, I thought it would be fun to tackle an exercise I had never done before—estimating the draft pool.

It took a lot of perfecting over a few months, but when all was said and done, I ended up being a mere $1,400 off and estimating the Pittsburgh Pirates’ pool exactly—before they changed the slot values right at draft time to equal exactly $280 million that is.

So, when the playoffs were underway and I had nothing better to do during the downtime it represents for the Pirates, I decided to build it out again for 2023. Compiling all the available pertinent information, all that was left were the results of the lottery to have a good solid start.

Well, we all know how that turned out, so fresh off the Pirates’ big win, this seemed like a good time to explain where it looks like the Pirates—and the league—will sit when it comes to available draft pool funds next July.

For total transparency—I thought I was special, embarking on this mission months and months in advance. Well, maybe I was in October, but I had no idea MLB Pipeline had this information available until last week. When I checked my order against theirs, I had all but two picks correct—it turns out compensation picks for unsigned third round picks come at the end of the round, not the next numerical pick of the unsigned player—which I’ll take when it comes to around 315 spots.

Of course, the order can still change due to one player—Nathan Eovaldi—who did not sign their Qualifying Offer and is still on the market. That signing could add one pick after the fourth round; however, we don’t know how many picks the signing team would have to cede, as it depends on who makes the signing.

At this point, while the numbers could change a lot for teams involved in those signings—as well as trades of Competitive Balance Rounds A and B picks—they won’t change a lot for the Pirates, aside from moving up or down a few spots here and there.

In the most up-to-date version of my estimate, here is where I have the Pirates:

Team Pirates
Pick Sum of Slot
1        9,731,600
42        2,048,100
67        1,129,500
73            991,400
105            641,000
140            456,100
167            351,800
197            274,100
227            217,100
257            184,700
287            171,400
Grand Total      16,196,800


That covers the Pirates, but what about the rest of the league?

Team Pool
Pirates        16,196,800
Tigers        15,758,100
Nationals        14,511,700
Twins        14,342,700
Athletics        14,265,200
Reds        13,794,100
Mariners        13,169,200
Marlins        12,764,800
Royals        12,320,500
Rockies        11,902,400
Diamondbacks        11,076,300
Brewers        10,944,700
Rangers        10,861,700
Rays        10,803,000
Orioles        10,523,400
Giants          9,909,700
Red Sox          9,794,500
White Sox          9,064,300
Cubs          8,953,100
Guardians          8,730,800
Mets          8,490,200
Braves          8,337,200
Angels          8,317,400
Dodgers          7,328,800
Astros          6,743,800
Blue Jays          6,519,400
Cardinals          6,364,800
Padres          5,410,600
Yankees          5,293,200
Phillies          5,180,900

Compared to 2022, I increased the slot for each pick by 10%. This is based on a detail mentioned in The Athletic’s reporting (linked above):

The 2019 figure of $9.741 billion is the starting point, and once the sport exceeds that number, then growth calculations commence.

Rob Manfred himself said revenues will be approaching $11 billion for 2022, which would be an increase of nearly 13%. I decided to be a little more bearish, lowering my increase to 10%. While it may not be exact, I think it should at least illustrate nicely where teams are projecting, especially since no one is really doing that yet.

The $16,196,800 would have been the second highest pool last year, bested only by the Baltimore Orioles, who also had picks in the CompA and B rounds (after acquiring the CompB pick via trade), which explains the higher amount, even after the aforementioned increase.

For reference, when the Pirates had the first overall selection in 2021, their pool was almost $2 million lower, at $14,394,000.

If the team chooses to use it as they did in 2021, it’s the financial might that is the real asset. If they decide to sign their first pick at or around slot—as we saw in 2022—it’s harder to have substantial savings against slot in the lower rounds, meaning the results likely won’t be as bombastic across the entire draft, as 2021 was.

There’s a lot of time between now and then, as a strategy can become clearer when the best players available are more well defined.

One note of particular interest—at least to me—before we go. The Seattle Mariners, thanks in large part to their Prospect Promotion Incentive (PPI) pick—the first one ever—sit seventh in pool money despite not picking until twenty-two.

For reference, last year’s pool for the team picking at twenty-two ranked 24th.

This is obviously an example of the positive side of the designed system, and possibly something for other teams to keep in mind down the road. It was the only PPI pick awarded for 2023, but we could see more in the future if certain prospects succeed as hoped down the road.

Offseason Calendar Update

No updates here as of this week

Pirates Payroll Updates

—Yesterday evening, the Pirates seemingly shored up their hole at catcher, agreeing with Austin Hedges on a one-year, $5 million deal.

Hedges has 6.166 years of service, so he’ll be a free agent again come the end of the season.

My projection still only has one catcher on the major league roster—which I’ll have to remedy at some point—but for now, I optioned Canaan Smith-Njigba to make room on the active roster, while outrighting Ryan Vilade to make room on the Reserve List.

As a result, payroll went up $4,506,682 and eclipsed $60 million for the first time this offseason.

—For 2023, the payroll estimate stands at $61,167,066 for the Labor Relations Department, while it’s $77,583,733 for CBT purposes.

A longtime Pirates Prospects reader, Ethan has been covering payroll, transactions, and rules in-depth since 2018 and dabbling in these topics for as long as he can remember. He started writing about the Pirates at The Point of Pittsburgh before moving over to Pirates Prospects at the start of the 2019 season.

Always a lover of numbers and finding an answer, Ethan much prefers diving into these topics over what’s actually happening on the field. These under and often incorrectly covered topics are truly his passion, and he does his best to educate fans on subjects they may not always understand, but are important nonetheless.

When he’s not updating his beloved spreadsheets, Ethan works full-time as an accountant, while being a dad to two young daughters and watching too many movies and TV shows at night.

Support Pirates Prospects

Related articles

join the discussion

Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Shouldn’t the Pirates have back-to-back picks with the last pick in comp round B and the 1st pick in the 3rd round?

Last edited 1 month ago by pittsburghbob69

I’d be interested to hear Ethan’s and Anthony’s thoughts on the impact of this financial problem



Bringing back old friend connor joe for nick garcia? Not a huge fan

Wilbur Miller



Guessing they think they get back his 118wRC+ from 2021 but i was very intrigued with nick garcia, dont think its a worthwhile gamble

Wilbur Miller

It probably reflects in part them not being impressed with Garcia.


This might be a good year to trade for a competitive balance pick since this should be a deep draft, especially for college players.


I like this is idea

Wilbur Miller

I’m sold.


Especially since they just dumped garcia


Dollander, he’s gonna be the Pirate zoolander.


What’s the,difference between these 2 reports. What do they mean. Enlighten an old man..
For 2023, the payroll estimate stands at $61,167,066 for the Labor Relations Department, while it’s $77,583,733 for CBT purposes.


CBT calculates average annual value of contracts and adds in things like benefits, minor league contracts and pay-in to the pre-arb bonus pool. Labor Relations only calculates the major league salaries paid for the current year.

See here for the Pirates’ 2023 calculation: https://www.spotrac.com/mlb/pittsburgh-pirates/payroll/

Aside from the benefits, minors salaries and bonus pool, which add up to about $20M, you can see how the major league salary portion might differ quite a bit if you have multi-year contracts with escalating or de-escalating salaries or buy-outs. This will especially happen with extensions for pre-arb players like Fernando Tatis. Tatis will make $7M this year, but his CBT figure is over $21M because it’s part of a 14-year extension with a pro-rated signing bonus and salaries that climb to $36M starting in 2029. That’s one player with a $14M delta between CBT and LRD.



Next CBA someone needs to push for the tradability of draft picks.

Wilbur Miller

I’ve thought about this a little and I’m still puzzled what the objection to it is. If it’s fear of tanking getting worse, I don’t see it. The ability to get a draft pick back couldn’t possibly have led to the Pirates putting more farcical lineups on the field the last three years.


The Yankees don’t want to give the Rays more help in beating them. That’s all I’ve come up with. The Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, etc all pay Whole Foods prices because they can, while the Indians, A’s and Rays buy direct from the farm co-op. Right now there’s an acceptable equilibrium that restricts the amount of talent that can be acquired from the co-op. I’m sure the last thing the Yankees want is to make it easier to get MORE cheap talent you can use to beat their brains in. Even though it would be precisely the Yankees who trade the picks to acquire the trade deadline talent to fuel their playoff run.

If anyone has a simpler explanation, I’m all ears.

Wilbur Miller

That’s as good as I can do. I’ve thought for a long time that MLB has looked for ways to limit the ability of low-revenue teams to find cheap solutions. It restricted draft and int’l spending, it’s slashed the minors. The shift, which originated with the Rays, got banned. MLB’s overriding goal is to ensure that the Yankees and Dodgers always dominate baseball. So, yeah, if trading draft picks would add to the options for low-revenue teams, MLB would be against it.

Wilbur Miller

Now that you mention it, I vaguely remember some explanation from long ago that the deadbeat teams would just blow off their draft picks. So, baseball teams are just way stupider than football or basketball teams? I don’t think anybody in the Commissioner’s office has a clue.
Maybe the idea was that low-revenue teams wouldn’t want to pay draft bonuses? Time has shown otherwise, if it was that. Plus there’s the pool system.

Last edited 1 month ago by Wilbur Miller
Scam likely

Well you have to go under slot again?


Something tells me that whomever the Pirates select with the first pick will want at least slot money, which is quite a large sum.

Wilbur Miller

It’s a very talented pool at the top, so there may be much less room to maneuver financially.


I hope the,Pirates don’t grab a guy (although a good prospect) that will take less, so they save for over slot high-school and college players. With the 9million I want them to take the very best player. Get a, lineup changer.

Wilbur Miller

Yeah, this is priority one, for sure.


A high end college pitcher would be quite nice. It would be fun to get someone that could have a shot at debuting towards the end of 2024.

Wilbur Miller

I’m normally opposed to taking a pitcher early in round one, but Dollander sounds so impressive . . . .


We have pitchers. We lack first baseman and outfielders. So, that makes Crews the early favorite if the Pirates believe they can compete at about the time Crews appears on the cusp of the major leagues. We’re not supposed to draft for need, but Crews has dominated in D1 ball.


You don’t draft for need. You never do. And the Pirates aren’t exactly awash in pitching either. Having another potential high end guy on the mound wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.


So, in your opinion, the Pirates should not draft a player who the need even if that player is also worthy of that pick.


I’m saying the player itself is all that matters, not your system’s strengths or weaknesses. The minute you start factoring in your system needs/wants, the effort to be objective about the player is skewed. Because if you do that, it’s far too easier to talk yourself into a lesser player.
If they think Crews is clearly the best player, pick him. If they think Dollander is the best player, pick him.


They are related. Needs and draft slots are fixed right before the draft. The Pirates take Crews who is the best player, who they drafted because they need him. Both can be true at the same time. There are, therefore, cases in which teams can draft for need. Your rule, and not yours only, miss that point. The second issue is: more than one player can be legitimately selected with a pick. In that case, drafting for need would be acceptable because the draft team cannot discern the difference between two or more indescernables. The solution: pick for need.


I’m normally against it in the top 10 or so everything else being equal. He does look pretty damn good.

Share article

Pirates Prospects Daily

Latest articles

Pirates Prospects Weekly

MONDAY: First Pitch

TUESDAY: Article Drop


THURSDAY: Roundtable

FRIDAY: Discussion

SATURDAY: Pirates Winter Report

SUNDAY: Pirates Business

Latest comments

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x