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Demilio: Pirates Draft Decision Getting More Interesting



Pittsburgh Pirates, Dylan Crews, MLB Draft

While there still seems to be a general consensus on which direction the Pittsburgh Pirates will go with the first pick in the 2023 MLB Draft two months from now, the decision is getting a bit more interesting.

Louisiana State outfielder Dylan Crews has long been the top prospect available in this year’s draft class, and he still is. ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel said that Crews is the best position player prospect since Adley Rutschman in 2019.

Crews has been on a tear all season for the LSU Tigers. Crews’ batting average has been hovering around the .500 mark this season, currently sitting at .487. His OPS, meanwhile, is nearly 1.500 (1.484). The 21-year-old is coming off being named the SEC Player-of-the-Week for the third time this season.

MLB Pipeline has Crews’ hit tool as a 70-grade with plus-power and plus-speed. Defensively, Crews could stick in center field but is also capable of manning a corner spot if necessary.

On top of everything Crews brings to the table as a prospect, general manager Ben Cherington has leaned towards position players with each of his first three first-round picks as Pirates’ general manager.

Two of those picks have been college bats — Nick Gonzales (2020) and Henry Davis (2021) with Termarr Johnson (2022) being selected out of high school.

Yes, Crews is still the fairly clear frontrunner for the pick, but there’s another player who has emerged this college season and he is teammates with Crews.

Right-hander Paul Skenes has opened eyes with his performance this year and has soared up draft boards. While McDaniel said Crews is the best position player draft prospect since Rutschman in 2019, he pegged Skenes as the top draft pitcher since Gerrit Cole in 2011. Funny enough, the Pirates were the team who took Cole — and it was with the first pick.

In his first season with LSU after transferring from Air Force, Skenes is 9-1 with a minuscule 1.93 ERA in 11 starts. The soon-to-be 21-year-old has struck out 124 batters and has only walked 12 in 65.1 innings.

The right-hander has an elite fastball that has been clocked as high as 102 mph. He also features a strong slider and a solid changeup along with his excellent control, according to Pipeline. 

While drafting for need is not necessarily a common practice in Major League Baseball, the Pirates are generally in much better shape when it comes to high-level position player prospects as opposed to pitchers in the system. Of their top six prospects, five of them are position players.

While at this stage of the draft process, Crews is still the favorite to go number one to the Pirates, Skenes’ emergence this season has made this more of a discussion.

Both players look like legitimate prospects who could go first and second overall in the draft. As it stands right now, my money is on Crews being the pick, but don’t dismiss Skenes just yet.

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