This is the last of a five-part series examining the top five prospects in the 2023 MLB Draft.
The debate has been going on for weeks now about who is the best player available in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft.
One thing is certain and that is it is a player from LSU, the College World Series champion — right-hander Paul Skenes or center fielder Dylan Crews. Talent evaluators from MLB teams are split on who they like better.
The Pittsburgh Pirates hold the first overall selection when the draft begins Sunday night at Lumen Field in Seattle.
“It’s a tough call,” said a scout from an American League team on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. “Skenes could win multiple Cy Youngs in his career. Crews is good enough to be an MVP. Both are going to be perennial All-Stars. Flip a coin. It really comes down to your preference. Do you want a pitcher, or do you want to hitter?”
Crews won the Golden Spikes Award, emblematic of the top amateur player in the country. That came after he was also voted as the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year.
Crews became the second LSU player to win the Golden Spikes Award. Ben McDonald was the first in 1989 and was the first pick in that year’s draft by the Baltimore Orioles.
Of the 44 previous Golden Spikes winners, three have won the Cy Young Award, three have been an MVP and 20 have been selected to the All-Star Game as a player or manager.
The 21-year-old Crews is a right-handed hitter who is 6-foot, 203 pounds and hails from Lake Mary, Fla. He hit 18 home runs for LSU to set a school freshmen record in 2021 then moved from right field to center field last year and increased his homer total to 22.
Crews then had his best year yet this season. He batted .426/.567/.713 with 18 home runs and 70 RBIs in 71 games and 344 plate appearances.
Crews finished second in Division I in on-base percentage and third in batting average and fared well in the advanced stats, too. According to D1Baseball.com, he was fourth in both wOBA (.559) and wRC+ (192).
The five-tool player tag certainly applies to Crews. His outstanding bat speed allows him to hit for both power and average. He also has an above-average arm and is considered a plus runner and defender.
Baseball America and The Athletic both rank Crews as the No. 1 prospect in the draft. MLB.com has him at No. 2 behind Skenes.
“There’s a lot to like about him,” the scout said of Crews. “We’ll look up at the end of his career and see a lot of All-Star Game appearances on his record. He’s going to be a good big-league outfielder for a long time.”
Will the Pirates select Crews? There is a lot of industry scuttlebutt suggesting that they might go for Skenes or prep outfielder Max Clark because they feel contract negotiations could get messy with Crews, who is advised by hardline agent Scott Boras.
We’ll find out Sunday night.