Our weekly spotlight of 2023 draft prospects began with a closer look at LSU outfielder Dylan Crews, who many people have as the top prospect in this draft class. We then moved on to Chase Dollander, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Tennessee.
Our third profile article looked at high school outfielder Walker Jenkins. That was followed by LSU pitcher Paul Skenes. Our fifth profile was high school outfielder Max Clark, whose season opened that same day as the article was posted. The last profile was Wyatt Langford, the power-hitting Florida outfielder. Here’s our draft preview article in case you missed it.
We still have just over ten weeks until the Pittsburgh Pirates make the first overall pick in the 2023 draft. We are just short of the mid-way point of our draft coverage. One thing seems certain at this point, change is not inevitable.
Baseball America just released their updated draft prospect rankings. The top eight spots are the eight players I chose to cover here on week one. After I finished writing this article, MLB Pipeline released their updated top 150 draft prospects, with the same eight players in the top eight spots.
Before I go patting myself on the back, I’ll note that I picked the players after reading scouting reports from all of the major sites (BA was included), then deciding that they were the only players at that moment with a chance to go first overall. That chance ranged from great (Dylan Crews) down to minuscule (see below).
The actual plan was to add anyone who made a move up during the regular season. My article two weeks ago here looked at an updated prospect rankings list, as well as some players I considered adding here at the start. I decided not to add anyone then. This list from BA obviously cements that decision. I don’t see a mystery player making a late jump to first overall possibilities.
With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at the BA list, with my thoughts after each player.
Dylan Crews is ranked #1 to the surprise of no one. He has shown exactly why he has been ranked #1 overall. Most Pirates fans want him. Most sources consider him to be the top choice. He’s seeing very little to hit, but he’s always on it when he gets those pitches.
Paul Skenes is ranked #2, as most of you could guess. He has established that he is the best pitcher in this draft class. Last week we looked at the risk and results of college pitchers taken first overall.
Wyatt Langford is ranked #3 here. This is where the Crews pick gets interesting. Some people consider Langford to have the better overall tools and slightly higher upside. The difference right now between the two is more stats related than potential. I’m not willing to rule him out as the #1 pick.
Walker Jenkins at #4 and Max Clark at #5 are in the same boat together. High upside high school hitters, who aren’t seeing much to hit. You’ve seen our Monday highlights here. People are covering their games and not sharing videos because who wants to see four walks? The lack of decent pitching hurts their chances to move up, but that’s not to say they won’t play somewhere against better pitchers between their HS season and the draft.
Chase Dollander was getting some #1 mentions before the year, but his results have been very average. His stuff is better than his stats, which is why he’s still ranked #6. It’s also why he was ahead of Skenes to start the year. Dollander’s first overall chances seem gone, especially with that risk/results talk linked above.
Jacob Wilson #7 and Jacob Gonzalez #8 have basically been in these spots for the year. I’d be lying if I said being Jack Wilson’s son didn’t help Wilson get on my list, but I saw a path to that #1 spot. He’s nearly impossible to strike out, and he provides above average defense at shortstop. He had tools and values you couldn’t find elsewhere. If he showed a little more power, then he could have made the move.
I also wasn’t assuming Crews would just be amazing all year, leaving room for the top players to fall, making it easier for Wilson to move up.
Gonzalez was the last player I decided to add, and he was fringe. I actually included him because someone had mentioned him as a player I should follow on the site. Like Wilson, all I needed to see was a path to that minuscule chance. A slow start and a recent down week hasn’t helped his case.
While I won’t say I could make a strong case for the order of Clark/Jenkins on this list, I will say that I agree with BAs rankings here. As I noted two weeks ago, I stopped doing bios for everyone because I didn’t see Wilson or Gonzalez as #1 possibilities anymore, though I also said that decision could change. It hasn’t, but I’ll keep them in our Monday recap.
A lot can happen in ten weeks, even if nothing has really happened so far.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
Who makes the list of 2023 overshot overpay for our later round picks?
Perhaps Crews stays at 1-1 from wire to wire
If he slumps for a week or two then Jenkins should be in the conversation
Reasons Crews is 1-1 right now:
A competent front office does not make draft decisions based on any of these reasons.
In a Top 100 mini update article this week at Fanfraphs, Eric Longenhagen referred to Crews as a once in a blue moon prospect along the lines of Adley R. Based on that assessment, I think that Crews is the pick. No reason to get cute with Langford or Skenes.
I heard Crews being call: the Trout of college baseball.
Agreed. There’s no point in the too-cute strategy here. Even if you think you have a few guys you could grab later by saving that slot money, it’s a guessing game as to whether another team didn’t spot them, too.
The #1 pick this season already was a gift from the baseball gods. Don’t incur their anger by forsaking Crews.
Yeah, the Pirates were extremely luck to get the 1st pick in this draft. Just like pens getting Crosby.
Don’t over think, Pirates, take Crews
I was gonna mention Crosby/Fluery, but years of hockey discussions have taught me that the Pens getting those picks can be very triggering to some folks.
John, great coverage as usual. I love the intro & other profiles but I assume it’s Crews, Skenes, or a complete revolt. Too early to get a sense of viable picks at 42 & 67 I assume?
I think Crews is #1 , but there are still scouts out there who prefer the tools of Langford. Are those Pirates scouts? We don’t know. You can look at Skenes and Dollander for how two months can change everything, but there are still people who will like the potential upside of Dollander because he has a track record of success prior to a month ago. Couldn’t that flip in a month again if they went in different directions to finish the year?
So I’d love to commit to saying they will take Crews, but there are people who scout for a living who would go elsewhere.
I have not been paying attention to lower picks, just slightly lower guys to make sure no one has made a move
Tools are only useful if you know how to use them. When I see baseball people comparing Crews’ tools to those of Mike Trout and see comments by those who should know such as “Crews is the total package and the argument can be made he’s the best projection college bat since Bryce Harper” I have ask why the Pirates would seriously consider anyone else especially the way Crews consistently uses his tools.
Pitchers are too risky and there’s no one else even close to Crews as a hitter. He has to be the pick unless something dramatic happens over the next few weeks or the Pirates go discount shopping.