This is the third part of a five-part series examining the top five prospects in the 2023 MLB Draft.
With the number one overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, several outlets have discussed a plethora of possibilities for the Pittsburgh Pirates and who they will take with the coveted pick.
For a while, the consensus was LSU outfielder Dylan Crews, and now there are whispers of others like Florida’s outfielder Wyatt Langford.
I would say that Langford hasn’t had a ton of spotlight on him due to the monstrous numbers, Crews has put up in ’23, but if you look close enough, you can see why the attraction to Langford is warranted.
In 303 plate appearances, Lanford managed a slash line of .373/.498/.784 with an absurd OPS of 1.282. In addition, Langford hit 52 extra-base hits (28 doubles, three triples, and 21 homers), while driving in 57 runs for the Gators.
The surface numbers alone are impressive for a college bat playing in arguably the nation’s toughest conference (the SEC), but let’s take a look beyond the surface and see what we find.
For 2023, Langford struck out just 14.5% of the time and drew a fairly decent amount of walks at 18.5%. Granted, they aren’t Dylan Crews’ numbers (13.4% K rate, 20.6% walk rate), but they are still impressive nonetheless.
Jumping ahead to even more advanced stats, Lanford posted a wOBA of .545 and a wRC+ of 185. To put things in perspective, the “average” wRC+ is typically right around 100.
One area of advanced statistics that may go unnoticed by some are ground ball rates and line drive rates. If Langford has an edge on Crews, it would be here.
In ’23, Langford posted a ground ball rate of 25.3% and a line drive rate of 22.2%. Both of these stats are a boost from the previous years.
In 2022, Langford’s ground ball rate was 40.1%, and his line drive rate was 18.4%. Dropping his ground ball rate by nearly 15 points could prove to be crucial.
Crews’ ground ball rate and line drive rate took a bit of a downturn from ’22 to ’23. In ’23, Crews’ ground ball rate went from 43.7% to 49.1%, and his line drive rate dropped from 16.8% to 14.6%.
If the Pirates care about these sorts of statistics, Langford should have a slight edge.
In terms of national ranks, Lanford found himself ranked 11th in wOBA (Crews is fourth), and 11th in wRC+ (Crews is fourth). Jumping to conference rankings, Langford finished second in both categories mentioned, directly behind Crews.
One aspect that gets overlooked in the draft process is the negotiation table.
Now this isn’t to say Crews would reject a 9+ million signing bonus, this is to say maybe Langford would be willing to take slightly underslot, as Henry Davis did in the 2021 draft, enabling the Pirates to grab some prep picks overslot in later rounds.
If the Pirates are going to take the underslot route in the ’23 draft, Langford would probably be the best of both worlds in that he probably would take under, and still have the college experience for a “fast track” to the majors.