PITTSBURGH — Seemingly the entire baseball world believes the Pittsburgh Pirates will select one of two players with the first pick in next Sunday’s Major League Baseball Player Draft.
It’s either going to be right-hander Paul Skenes or outfielder Dylan Crews, who helped LSU to the College World Series title last week. At least, that’s what the outside world thinks.
The Pirates concluded their third day of meetings among their front office and amateur scouts Saturday. General manager Ben Cherington said their choice is not necessarily just an either/or between Skenes and Crews.
When asked specifically if he thought either player could help the Pirates at the major-league level as soon as this season, Cherington said: “First of all I just want to be clear. I wouldn’t stop at two players. We have more than that under consideration.”
Cherington would not say how many other players the Pirates are pondering for 1-1, which is baseball parlance for the first pick of the first round. However, they have at various times been linked to University of Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford and high school outfielders Max Clark of Franklin, Ind., and Walker Jenkins of South Brunswick, N.C.
That Cherington wouldn’t reveal his plans wasn’t surprising. That’s the way drafts typically work in all sports with GMs rarely tipping their hands.
“It gets narrower every hour you spend on it,” Cherington said of the Pirates’ draft board. “I fully expect we go into Sunday, a week from tomorrow, still with multiple considerations at the top. We’ll dig into it. And, of course, the rest of the board is really important too so we’re spending time on the whole draft and not just 1-1.
“There’s a bunch of good players at the top of the board. It’s an exciting time and we’re going to get a chance to add a good player, it’s one player at the top and we have to choose one, can’t do more than that so we’ll take all the time we have between now and next Sunday to figure that out.”
The Pirates had the first overall pick two years ago and selected Henry Davis from the University of Louisville, who made his major-league debut last month. At the time, the Pirates were in the midst of the third of what has been four last-place finishes in the National League Central.
Though 39-43, the Pirates are just 4.5 games out in the division race this season behind the co-leading Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers. However, Cherington said the Pirates’ position in the standings won’t necessarily dictate who they draft.
“I think the players at the top of the board are going to tell us which direction to go more than kind of where we are as a team,” Cherington said. “We still have to think about best player. I believe that is always the case for every baseball team. It’s just too hard, even if you’re talking about a college player that might be a little closer than a high school player it’s still, a lot can happen in this game, even between this year and 12 months from now a lot can happen to our team. And what the needs might be and what the fit might be. So, I think we want to stick with best player available.”
That’s either Crews or Skenes.
Skenes had a 12-2 record, 1.69 ERA and 0.75 WHIP this season in 19 starts with 209 strikeouts in 122.2 innings. Crews batted .426/.567/.713 with 18 home runs and 70 RBIs in 71 games and 344 plate appearances.
It would be surprising if the Pirates chose anyone else.