Baseball America posted a new mock draft on Thursday morning. The regular season in college ball is winding down, and some high school teams have already finished up their season. The draft is still almost two full months away though, so there is still time for movement at the top. The Pittsburgh Pirates will make the first overall selection when things start of July 9th.
BA went with LSU outfielder Dylan Crews for the first overall pick. That’s no surprise as he has been here either in mock drafts or rankings for almost everyone since before the season started. Two other recent mock drafts (here and here) also went with Crews.
Crews got off to a tremendous start this season, putting up a pace that was impossible to continue. We noted on Monday that he had a rough week last week, his first one of the season.
The mini-slump continued for Crews on Tuesday in the mid-week blowout of Northwestern State, where he went 0-for-2 with a walk. He’s still hitting .457/.607/.790 through 48 games. He was doing so well that his OPS dropped 87 points in the last four games, and he’s still nearly at a 1.400 mark.
The top of this mock draft looks very much like our weekly recap, where the eight guys we have been covering all year are listed in the #1-#7 and #9 spots. It’s an unusual draft (not in a bad way) where the top guys going into the draft all remained as the top players this late in the process.
Right now I think we can safely narrow the Pirates pick down to someone between Crews, LSU pitcher Paul Skenes, Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford and prep outfielders Walker Jenkins and Max Clark. All five have done better or as well as expected this year. Anyone else taken would be a lower tier of talent.
As a reminder, the Pirates have the highest draft bonus pool this year. With that in mind, we took a look at the strengths and weaknesses of this draft class.
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.
Skenes had another dominant performance last night, Crews not so much.
Fwiw, Dejan hinted very cryptically and annoyingly that they’re likely to take Skenes. (How do you pronounce that?). Some scout says he’d be in the Pirates’ rotation by August. I had to laugh. He’d spend August at Pirate City doing development work, waiting to make his FCL debut.
This would line up almost perfectly with Gerrit Cole in the Huntington rebuild.
Pitcher taken 1.1 in the fourth draft of the rebuild cycle, during the year in which the big club first showed a modest amount of success.
MAYBE August of ‘24, Cole was in the show the June after his first pro season after all. Couldn’t see it happening before then, though.
Well, we know super two is an absolute, so you’re pretty much counting backward from July/Aug of whatever year.
Heck he might not even see Altoona until July of 2024. I still see it as a coin flip between Crews and Skenes, with an outside chance of Jenkins or Langford. Definitely a good year to pick 1st, very little separation when it gets to the end of the first round.
Is dejan credible? I dont like his opinion pieces generally but unsure if he has inside info. Would agree laughable to think we would throw skenes into the rotation after taking time off post CBWS
I’ve seen none of these players play, so it’s impossible to have an ‘eyes-on’ opinion, only an opinion informed from reading other opinions. That said, it seems many prognosticators, including those among us Pirate Prospect commenters, seem to gravitate to Crews. So be it. I find this debate pointless. Remember, Henry Davis wasn’t supposed to be the best choice. Aren’t we glad we have him? Hopefully, whoever the Pirates choose will at least be an ultimate contributor in Pittsburgh in some capacity. It’s just good to have the 1st choice, so the Pirates can choose a player that, if successful, fits best.
You couldn’t trade Hank Davis AND Bubba Chandler for Marcelo Mayer right now if you wanted to.
Right now? 100 at bats into Mayer’s first season? Mayer seems to be a fine player, but two potentially fine players are better. Davis fits a need. Mayer would too, but Chandler is a bonus that might change the outcome. Even if he doesn’t two chances are better than one.
We’re nearly 650 plate appearances into Mayer’s career and he’s looked like a better hitter while being assured of being able to play a very difficult defensive position.
You never draft for need and even if you did, we’re not sure Hank can catch! I like Davis because hot damn, he looks like a fun player, but there is zero question that Mayer is a better prospect.
Mayer can actually play a premium defensive position and is about to be promoted to the same level as Hank…while being a full three years younger.
I agree that Davis will end up a “fine” player, and that Bubba still has a long shot to matching. But at 1.1 you should be shooting for a star.
The history of the major league draft has exactly *zero* examples of teams actually spreading their pool around and ending up with one, so I have an extremely hard time understanding how doing so increases a clubs chance of success.
I don’t even mean to re-litigate that draft, only to say I’m even more convinced they are better off just taking the dude they think has the highest upside and don’t fool themselves into believing “risk” is anywhere near clear enough to be a factor.
Are you proposing replacing Mayer for Oneal Cruz? I did write the “best player that fits.” Do you recall that Mike Trout was the 25th player selected in the 2009 MLB draft? That means 24 teams did not select him. I don’t really have any other arguments because there aren’t any. The draft is a crap shoot! That Mayer seems to be a fine player is irrelevant. Davis seems to be too, and Chandler might also be. The Pirates have the first choice of those few player considered best. Can they make a mistake? Yes, but they can also hit a ‘home run.’ We won’t know for a few years. By the way, catcher is a premium position, too.
Good lord willing, this is their last chance in a devastatingly long rebuild cycle to end up with a single star player.
Maybe that’s one of the college guys, and Crews certainly fits the mold, but I’m increasingly skeptical based on the awful recent history of top end college bats.
But… i want to
Skenes is my choice. I did not know he was a two-way player until ’23 and would be a 3rd round prospect at 1B! But he was my choice regardless of his bat. A sure bet TOR pitcher by next season.
Look, I like Skenes too. He looks like the real deal and personally I’d have no real issues if the Pirates draft him #1 , but the other guy is by virtually every report I can find even more special. Even those who tout Langford as being a great athlete and sure fire major leaguer wind up willingly conceding that they think Crews is better.
When you have scouts from other major league teams not drafting in the top 10 this year saying; “I don’t see how you (the Pirates) don’t take Dylan Crews. I know a lot of people think they’re going to cut a deal, but there hasn’t been a college bat like him in recent memory. He compares to Adley Rutschman from a performance standpoint.”
Someone please tell me how do pass on that guy?
The argument would be that Crews’ spot at 1.1 has as much to do with the general perception of “safety” when taking college bats as it does his own talent.
Walker Jenkins has higher upside and is a far better player than Crews was at similar ages.
If one were willing to look at the reality of what’s happened to Spencer Torkelson, Austin Martin, Nick Gonzales, Andrew Vaugh, JJ Bleday, Nick Madrigal, Joey Bart, Alec Bohm, Jeren Kendal, Pavin Smith, Nick Senzel, Corey Ray, and question the dogma behind just how “safe” these college bats end up being then maybe they’d have the balls to select the higher upside prospect instead.
Jenkins should be 1-1 IMO
I don’t know if I’d have the balls to do it, but i believe this in my gut.
Why do you (or James or whoever) think Jenkins should be 1-1? Genuinely curious on this. I’m certainly of the opinion I think I’d take him over Langford.
Re: Jenkins – he’s one of the best HS players from NC in the past 4 decades (others being Brien Taylor, MadBum, Josh Hamilton)
He’s about 6’4” likely to be 230 or 240 with all 5 tools at ~ 60
IMO that’s a tough player to pass on
Think of Jack Suwinski with a better hit tool
If the plan is to take the best player right now, then Crews is undeniably the dude.
If the plan is to project who the best player will be in the future, then Jenkins is more physical and is supposedly more advanced than Crews was at similar ages.
I don’t even know how you pick apart Crews, but if one were looking for the moonshot then Crews but bigger stronger and faster might do it.
Appreciate the response. I have nothing beyond a gut feeling on Crews that this just looks like a slightly taller Bregman. And can just mash, and is already doing so at a big level. I dunno, honestly I think 4-5 of these guys could be monster stars, so as long as it’s one of them I’m good with it. Not Clark though.
And that’s not even a comprehensive list! For fun, I went into the college ranks since 2013 for arms and bats. Arms listed first, then bats. All top ten picks.
2013: Appel, Jon Gray. Bryant, Colin Moran.
2014: Rodon, Nola, Freeland, Hoffman. Schwarber, Conforto.
2015: Tate, Jay, Fulmer. Bregman, Benintendi, Happ.
2016: Puk, Quantrill. Senzel, Ray, Collins.
2017: McKay, Wright. Smith, Haseley, Hiura.
2018: Mize. Bart, Bohm, Madrigal, India, Murray, Swaggerty.
2019: Lodolo. Rutschman, Vaughn, Bleday, Young, Bishop.
A bunch of these guys are still writing their story, but the recent trend has swung in favor of the arms a bit. By my count, the big hits with the arms are Rodon, Nola, and Wright. Solid workmanlike starters include Gray, Freeland, Quantrill, and likely Lodolo. The rest are either guys who were sidelined by injuries or just never progressed.
As far as the college bats, they were pretty much hits (heh) through 2015, and then it went to hell. All of the 2013-2015 college bats were plus regulars or better except for Moran. Of the 17 bats selected in the top 10 since 2016, only two (India and Rutschman) look like plus regulars or stars. And that doesn’t include the bad early returns of Nick G and Tork.
Double bonus: how many of the above listed players played for the Pgh organization?
At some point you have to question if the narrative has swung the bias of scouting opinion too far in one direction. Seems impossible to ignore at this point.
I like the guards current pitching philosophy, everyone these days seems like they can build their pitches in a lab and throw weighted balls and add a few mph, but control/command seems to be tougher to come by. Pitchers can seemingly be built
Thomas Harrington LFGGG
What’s his timetable for this year? Half in Bradenton and half in Greensboro?
That last paragraph is . . . scary.
As long as it’s a guy from LSU, I’m good.
My prediction: The Pirates must draft Crews because they would be so heavily criticized if the didn’t, It would be like to the Archer trade all over again.
But, alas these are the Pirates and you just know that Crews will end up being the bust of the century.
By busting the Pirates through the gate of mediocrity into the World Series and victory.
HA HA, just like their current winning streak.
I look at it as, would you rather draft Strasburg or Harper? Not saying either of them will live up to THAT comp, obviously it’s all TBD. I think I want Harper.
How about Cole vs. Harper? I would love either.
That’s a good comp too, I guess I’m jaded by Cole with his Pittsburgh time lol. Strasburg did have like 10 healthy years, that’s pretty solid despite how his career ended with injuries
Agree. Is Strasburg still on a roster? I remember Kerry Wood and Mark Pryor being of the same hype.
Harper – strasburg is hurt all the time
I think a better comparison is Machodo vs Taillon
I am convinced that had we had Machado at shortstop instead of Mercer, we would have a won the world series twice
That’s one of the main points to consider. Pitchers are fragile and even the very good ones like Strasberg are vulnerable to serious injuries to their arms often repeatedly.While you’re talking about Taillon, he should never have been picked second over Machado and everyone knew it at the time. He also two TJ surgeries before he made it to the majors. Hitters are move valuable and less prone to repeated serious injuries.
If Crews showed the slightest crack I’d jump on Skenes in a heartbeat but up to this point the former has done every bit you’d want. No lose! 😉
I’ve been thinking the same thing since the lottery and discussions on here began. I sway to Skenes they day they post his highlights. Then quickly snap back to Crews when I read his stats.
Its a no brainer for me- this team needs some impact bats that are close. I’m leaning Crews.
Any time I see “No brainer” I think of Ben saying that when they extended Shelton. Boy those were some good times a few weeks ago.
Will the pirates go over slot for Crews and how much are they willing to go over? I don’t think there is another player worth going over at 1-1. My guess Crews and the pirates won’t come to terms and they will pass and take Skenes or walker at between pick one and pick two money, or pick one of the high school outfielders at a big discount.
The Pirates went over slot for Termarr Johnson last year, so I expect they would. But, why would they have to go over slot for the #1 pick? If Crews or Skenes doesn’t sign, can they do better next year? I don’t think so.
Why would they go discount shopping? They have over $16million to spend and if recent history shows anything it’s that they’ll probably spend it all. What would they be saving the money for, some 3rd or 4th round pitcher who in all likelihood never gets beyond A ball? They did that two years ago because there were no players that stood out and Davis was at least as good as anyone. That is NOT the case this year when there are 4-5 guys head and shoulders above the rest with Crews clearly at the top. Spend the damn money and sign the best guy regardless of what it takes.
and what are you basing that guess upon?
I don’t see that happening. The Pirates have a very large bonus pool, as well as I don’t see Langford or Skenes giving any real significant discount anyways. Pirates can easily give Crews a record bonus, and still have half their bonus pool left.
There is significant risk in the player to demand over slot for 1-1. Let’s say Crews wants 500K over slot to sign. If that scares the Pirates away, now he is asking the Nats to go 1.2M over slot to get that same demand and Tigers at the third pick to go 1.7M over. Both those teams I am sure are like the Pirates and would want some funds to get later picks as well. Given the slot $ at 1-1 compared to 1-2, it is a real gamble to price yourself out of that pick as that team in reality has the most flexibility.
if a player does not sign, how does that work now with the new lottery?
I think as long as they’re offered an appropriate amount, the team would receive the pick right after in the following year. (Pirates have 1.1 they would receive 1.2 in 2024)
Crews or Skenes, I prefer the bat that’ll play every day but will be happy with either. Will Shim be starting out in the FCL?
Lotta really bold predictions for that top pick.
Pirates are going another LSU player first, Tre Morgan (signs for $1.5 million) they use the rest to sign over slot high-school pitcher’s (RHP 6’5″ or taller) cerca early Neil Huntington.
What Morgan lacks in power he makes up for with his hit tool and defense at first.
I mean, you are speaking to my heart bringing up Morgan. I kind of hope they draft him later on, cause I see him as a very advanced bat that could develop power late in pro ball. I also want LHP Sean Sullivan out of Wake Forest. That way the Pirates future rotation has a RH and LH Sean Sullivan.
Yep, same. He has a fantastic approach and doesn’t seem phased by lefty pitching. Him and Ke at the corners would be shut down D
I like Morgan as well, from the pick at 67 up, him or Sullivan would be great picks. Same thought on him developing power as well.
If you had added “with a downward plane” to the “RHP 6’5″ or taller”, I would have gotten the sarcasm without having to scroll down thru the rest of the messages…lol
I am on board
who are the names of these high school pitchers?
It’s tough to name them, most of the top rated RHP’s aren’t 6’5″ this year, might have to draft a couple tall lefties in stead or just target some college pitchers coming off Tommy John or just went through the surgery.
I’ll vote a firm NO on going that far down the draft board for 1-1. All you need to do is scan one draft from 7-8 years ago to realize that drafting the top rated players is risky enough but without a doubt gives you the best chance for a future major leaguer (not even a star). Go past even the top 10 players and it can become a waste land of (lack of) success and there is no team that is immune to that result. Could it work…sure… but the odds are significantly longer.
It was a joke, think back to the 2009 draft when we took a player in a position of need for a discount, used the savings on later high school pitchers. Just wanted to have a bold prediction.
My bad.. but I did get to pontificate! And oddly enough at the time I liked that strategy.
I did too, I think Brock Holt was the big success story from that draft though. I realized quality over quantity after that, not to say you don’t take a chance here and there on a high school pitcher.