Pirates Draft Prospects: There’s a Clear Top Five Group in the 2023 Draft Class

With just over two months until the 2023 draft class, there is still time for changes to be made at the top, but things have remained rather consistent throughout this whole process.

Recent mock drafts and prospect rankings have shown that there is a clear top five in this draft class. Depending on who you ask, there are either 1-2 tiers of players among those top five, and even the cutoff for that split isn’t agreed upon.

Jim Callis from MLB Pipeline was recently asked if this is the best 1-5 since the 2011 class, which was a very strong class at the top. He noted that each of the players would be candidates to go first overall in many years.

Keith Law has an article that basically says the same thing for the top two outfielders in the class.

It’s a great year to be picking top five in this class. As Law mentions, the fact that players are rated so high gives you a chance to negotiate with them against themselves. The bonus slots takes away some of that leverage, but if you’re to get a great player with either pick, is there something wrong with wanting to have more available to maximize your bonus pool elsewhere?

We have seen LSU outfielder Dylan Crews go #1 in almost every single prospect ranking and mock draft so far. Part of that consistency is that he was the #1 player going into the process, and he has been hitting an an unreal clip until this past week.

LSU pitcher Paul Skenes wasn’t rated as the top pitcher going into this process, but he wasn’t far behind. He has been the unreal pitcher version of Crews by racking up strikeouts all season, while minimizing base runners. Even his down starts this year were just down in comparison to his early dominance. 

Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford had similar overall tools as Crews. A somewhat slow start (for him) and an injury mid-season has kept him from possibly competing with Crews for that top spot. Let’s face it, if you have two players who comp well in the same conference, their performance in that conference will hold some weight. Langford has been catching up though.

High school outfielders Max Clark and Walker Jenkins are very similar beyond the age/position comparison. Both were rated high coming into the year. Both did well when they were able to swing the bat, but they also both walked a ton. Most pitchers weren’t willing to challenge them. That makes it very difficult to raise their profile ahead of college players seeing more game action and many more chances to swing the bat.

We still have 58 days until the draft starts, and plenty can happen during that time. I think we are at the point where we can say that the Pittsburgh Pirates should be using that first overall pick on one of these five players.

The fact that Langford and Crews are both proving once again that they can hit the top current college pitchers, while also showing off the tools that made them top prospects, should give them an advantage over the two high school outfielders.

You would be getting a high upside bat with any of the four players. You’re getting more certainty with Crews and Langford due to higher floors. While they aren’t always seeing great pitching in college, they are seeing better pitching consistently. If you can minimize the risk without minimizing the potential reward, it seems like an easy decision. 

That’s obviously not knocks on Jenkins and Clark, as you can only do so much by watching pitches in your limited playing time.

The potential risk might come into play when considering whether or not to take Skenes with that top pick. Let’s not forget that Chase Dollander was in that #2 spot to start the season. He wasn’t there due to results alone. He was there for the pitches/pitching he brought to the table. Dollander has dropped in the rankings a bit, but nothing in line with what his stats would suggest.

We are talking just two months between Dollander as the top pitcher and Skenes as easily the top pitcher in this class. That’s the same amount of time that is left before the draft starts on July 9th. Things can still change.

Pitching is volatile, and many of the top college pitchers don’t reach their potential in the majors. Injury is more of a concern at the position. However, if a team wants to go for a pitcher with the top overall pick this year, Skenes is your man. There isn’t a second option that makes sense.

This is a great year to be picking first overall. You have your choice of five players with #1 overall qualities. Whoever is the person deciding the fifth overall pick this year just needs to wait for the top four teams to make the decision for them. That’s the easiest job in the world right now.

The Pirates have a difficult decision, but it’s also one that they can get “wrong” and still have it turn out great…as long as they don’t stray from the top five players.

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.

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This team needs impact bats more than anything. They stumble into pitching at a much higher rate than hitting. Plus, while there is a risk with everyone, the hitter is a lower risk than the pitcher. Crews all the way……


Hate to be a negative nancy but after all the trades, prospects, drafts and all, this year’s minor league injuries, strikeout totals, regressions, and then the Pirate mirage in April before an epic collapse… I’m about to the point of caring less who this organization gets. It will all turn out bad in the end.

How in the world did April happen? Was it the alignment of the stars or something? Maybe I should start betting on how soon their draft pick will be injured or their skills proven to be unworthy of major league talent. I don’t know how much more I can follow all this.


No you don’t


Skenes pitched another gem last night—13 Ks in a 7-inning complete game.


Pirates.com state media keeps hyping Skenes so he’s likely the pick.


Hurston Waldrep is the next pitcher after Skenes and probably has the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the draft. Skenes is the safest, highest floor, along with some projection still but everything Waldrep throws is elite. It’s just an elite arm talent.

There was a good article I just read about this the other day. It’s how NYY, Dodgers, Cleveland, Seattle, etc. are landing elite pitching prospects later in the draft. Guys like Stone, Nastrini, Emmet Sheehan, Nick Frasso(trade with Toronto), Bryce Miller, Byran Woo, Bibee, Cody Morris, Waldichuk, Wesneski, Will Warren, Fitts, etc. They are going after elite arm talent, with a high variance but have good metrics, underlying stats with limited or so-so results.


I’d argue Noble Meyer has the higher ceiling. Unless, we’re just talking about college pitching


Lol. It’s not even close. Waldrep has elite everything. Four(4) pitches that all have elite metrics and are “data darlings”.

Meyer had good stuff for a prep kid but a lot more projection involved. The stuff isn’t really close at this point.

But I’m not completely familiar with all the prep kids as I am with the college arms. Just what I’ve read and some highlight clips. Really few are though. There might be 10-20 guys in the US that know these prep kids really well.

Either way, Meyer and White are for sure the two best prep arms from what I’ve seen and read. And some think White is the best prep arm for the ‘23 draft. It’s really close from what I’ve seen and read.

But neither have the upside or ceiling of Waldrep. Waldrep has DeGrom/Strider upside if everything clicks.

And like I said in my other response, this isn’t just my opinion. It’s a pretty common take among college baseball enthusiasts or draft scouts/experts.

Last edited 18 days ago by pittsburghbob69

Considering that Skenes profiles similar to David Price, I have a hard time believing anyone like Waldrep has a higher ceiling.


Waldrep stuff, data/metrics are all superior. Just less control. Best arm talent in 2023 draft. Not just my opinion either.

Skenes’ appeal and ranking comes from his polish and “floor”. Not much projection left. He’s as close to a finished product and top of the rotation SP sure thing the draft has seen in years. That’s his appeal. Waldrep has Degrom/Strider upside if everything clicks. Again, not just my opinion.

Last edited 18 days ago by pittsburghbob69

You keep saying “not just my opinion” with Waldrep. So…who else says that then? The article you linked is clearly different pitchers, not Waldrep.


Pick acouple. Again, most college baseball enthusiasts or draft scouts/experts have this or a similar opinion.

Anyone who follows college baseball and the MLB draft/MLB draft prospects knows is alot closer than you would think. And Waldrep’s pitches all grade out to above average to elite.














Edit** and I can post 10-40 more with similar thoughts if u want.

Last edited 17 days ago by pittsburghbob69

I don’t think Twitter highlights count as evidence of anything other than that he’s a very good first round arm. Can’t anyone else post similar clips of Skenes or Lowder or any other first round arm slaying college bats?
Second, McRae is the only one who comes out and says he thinks he’s got more ceiling than Skenes. Which…ok. What’s the likelihood he reaches that ceiling? Waldrep sounds like he has some fairly significant issues with control, and it’s worse this year than his first two years. He has a bigger likelihood of being a knockout pen arm than an ace.
I agree that his stuff looks really good. But I don’t think you can get entranced by that and ignore his results (which aren’t great).

Last edited 17 days ago by ArkyWags

Those are pretty much the most respected draft “experts”, college baseball guys on twitter. I tend to think it does matter and their opinion matters. They are the BA, prospects live, baseball prospectus, etc. draft “experts”/writers.

You asked for for other’s opinions championing the same thing and I gave it to u.

Right, I think you don’t understand “ceiling”. Read the article. The “high variance” of pitchers like Strider, Bryce Miller, DeGrom, etc. is the same as Waldrep.

Skenes’ “floor” and polish is unmatched. He is the safest bet to become a frontline SP in short order the draft has seen in years.

But Waldrep’s “ceiling” is higher. He has elite everything. He has a full repertoire/arsenal of secondaries that grade out to above average or plus to even elite/plus-plus. If everything clicks, (which is a way higher variance than Skenes clicking or busting) he can become one of the top pitchers in baseballl.

See Strider, Degrom, Burnes upside/ceiling/comps. Skenes comps out as a safer, Gerrit Cole, Bieber, Waighnwright type comp.

Last edited 16 days ago by pittsburghbob69

I’m aware that they’re all legit scouts and experts from the respected outlets. But other than McRae, none of them are saying that Waldrep has a higher ceiling than Skenes, not in those links. Also that best pitcher in the country tweet by McRae? From late February, before Skenes went whole hog on the SEC.

I know what ceiling is and understand it. What I think you’re ignoring or choosing to ignore, is the likelihood of Waldrep getting to that ceiling. How attainable is it? What’s the chance that Waldrep ends up as Strider? Maybe 5-10%? Waldrep has major issues throwing strikes, so he doesn’t have “elite” everything across the board.

You can throw those names out there as Waldrep’s ceiling, but even though you mentioned his high variance, I think you’re still underrating it. In general, I’m not a fan of player comps for the very reason you’re using them. It’s unrealistic.


Here’s a good thread of people overestimated Skenes floor and his immediate success.


If Grayson Rodriguez was in this years draft, he’d 100% be the top pitching prospect(over Skenes). In fact, he has been the top pitching prospect in all of MLB for two years running. And he’s getting lit up in his first shot at MLB. TNSTAAPP!!


Yep, another way to look at it is floor to ceiling.
Skenes floor is kinda close Waldrep’s ceiling.
Waldrep’s floor is nowhere close Skenes ceiling.


Tried to watch Waldrep yesterday but he only got 1 inning because a rain delay. Had 2 k’s and looked good but again only 1 inning.


*** Here’s that article: and for the record Alesandro Rosario is my favorite. I’ve watch a bunch of his Miami games and highlights and also saw a lot of stuff on him in 2020 draft as a prep kid. He was 2021 prep but got reclassified and was super young for that 2020 draft.

Elite, elite stuff; all of it!! A sinker/two seamer that sits 98-99 touching 100 mph. He has a forkball that dies at the plate he uses as an off-speed pitch. Plus an elite sweeper/slider. Obviously some control issues and mixed results but you won’t find a higher ceiling if it all clicks. And even if it doesn’t, it’s a MLB arm destined for the backend of the bullpen.


Last edited 18 days ago by pittsburghbob69

It shouldn’t be the player who gets to the majors the fastest but the one who’ll make the biggest impact sooner rather than later and for a long time. Only a time traveler or someone with a reliable crystal ball can know who that will be and the batteries in my crystal ball died a long time ago.

From virtually everything I’ve read from MLB scouts and others who make their living making these decisions, Crews is clearly the one player most likely to be that guy. There are no guarantees of course. Maybe all of them will have success or maybe the best player in this draft will wind up being someone few fans have even heard of like Trout was when taken 25th back in 2009. The Pirates have to take their best shot, and it sure looks to me like that has to be Dylan Crews.


Who gets to the majors the quickest..that’s the pick…

Pirates need all the help they can get as soon as they can get it…sorry state of the team after 5 years of drafts and trades…


That should not be the reason for the pick. At all. Then you end up with Mike Leake over Strasburg.


it’s also how you end up with Tony Sanchez, who didn’t even make it to the majors that quick


Let’s see just how good is Strasburg??? If you are being honest what difference does it make for the Pirates who they pick, as they have had such outstanding success picking #1


How good is Strasburg now? Not very, but that doesn’t matter. He was much better than Leake and a very good pitcher around injuries. It’s not a race to the big leagues, don’t be a fool.


That’s probably Andrew Walters from Miami, high leverage relief pitcher with a great fastball. He strikes out a ton with very limited walks. He would be a 2nd or 3rd rounder if he had a second plus pitch.

Last edited 18 days ago by melkel

If they take a RP #1 ………….


No reason to get pre-emptively mad about something that won’t happen.


Who is mad? They won’t do it.


Never ever happen. Well unless they draft Skenes and he ends up failing as a SP and is moved to the pen.


Might be able to get Walters with the 4th round pick, with his control and command and plus fastball, he could be in the bullpen quickly.


What is funny is that some team will have the 96th pick and end up with a Mike Trout clone.

Last edited 18 days ago by piratemike

Who is a Mike Trout clone? He is a 1 of 1 player in baseball today…


This year is weird, probably because of the covid year. After the first 25 or so top prospects, there’s very little separation. This draft looks weak but could be very deep. Some very good players might come in the mid-rounds.


As you hinted at….no to the HS guys…..too much time for things to go wrong and too much development time…

That leaves Crews or Langford….v. Skenes…

As of today it is Crews on performance (and don’t get too cute on the tools stuff.)

So it is Crews v, Skenes….

Hitter v. Pitcher

Hitter is lower risk and plays every day…

Pitcher can pay post season dividends but much higher injury risk.

All things being equal, I always prefer the everyday player (due to injury risk) but if both are healthy long term, the Pirates can’t lose on the choice.

Last edited 18 days ago by MD78

I pretty much agree. All things equal I prefer the everyday player. I have seen both play several times this year. I marvel at how good Crews is at the plate, and am sold on him. Until I see Skenes pitch, then I marvel at how good he is. Really reminds me of when Strasburg was going to be drafted, and yes, Strasburg has been injured a lot, but when he is healthy, he is a special pitcher. I have seen Langford a couple of times as well, and he does look good as well, but I am fully impressed by Crews. If the Pirates take Crews I will be thrilled. If they take Skenes instead I will just hope he does not have any major injuries along the way. It feels like with these 2, only injuries would keep them from becoming productive, and maybe even great Major Leaguers.


Low risk like Nikky Stix.
Injury free like Hank the tank Davis.

I just want the Pirates to take who they think will be the best player. Period.


If the Davis we are seeing this year is the real Henry Davis, then we made the right pick. He could be our future 1B.


Future Catcher or RF. You don’t put an 80 grade arm at 1B. That’s a fireable offense.


I don’t know, Ernie Banks had a great arm and he worked out just fine at 1B

b mcferren

teach him to pitch and throw an 80 grade fastball


Well if he can’t run down fly balls and you have a significantly better defensive catcher with a solid bat then you just get Davis in the lineup.


He’s far, far from slow


We won’t know who the best player out of that draft will be for another 6 years at least.

If Davis can only play first, that would make it very tough for him to be the best player of his draft class.

You take the best player at 1,1. Period. That’s the point I’m trying to make. You don’t try to justify position vs pitcher vs injury vs number of times on the field a year.


I’m glad they’re giving him time in right, would hate to see that plus plus arm be wasted at first.

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