Pittsburgh Pirates: Way Too Early Look at the 2023 MLB Draft

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2023 MLB draft is still ways away and too early to predict who the Pittsburgh Pirates will select, but who is atop the current draft rankings?

This season hasn’t been good by any means necessary. Of course, you could go on and on about the laundry list of negatives, but I like looking at the positives. Pittsburgh Pirates top prospects going into the season, namely Roansy Contreras and Oneil Cruz, have looked decent in their rookie season, with Cruz coming into his own recently. Jack Suwinski and Rodolfo Castro have also looked quite solid. Mitch Keller has also seemingly figured out how to pitch. Finally, the Pirates get yet another early-round pick.

Because of the draft lottery, the Pirates aren’t guaranteed the third overall pick, behind the Washington Nationals and Oakland Athletics. They could have the first overall pick, but they could also have the seventh overall selection. The 2022 MLB draft was just a few months ago, and we’re just under a year away from the 2023 draft, but who are some potential players the Pirates could select with their first-round pick?

Ole Miss shortstop Jacob Gonzalez is atop FanGraphs’ top draft prospects rankings for 2023 (not to be confused with minor league first baseman Jacob Gonzalez). Gonzalez has been a stud for the 2022 College World Series university. Through 610 plate appearances, Gonzalez is slashing .316/.424/.560. Gonzalez hits for good power, having hit 30 round-trippers throughout college. However, what makes him so intriguing is his elite plate coverage and discipline. Gonzalez has just 66 K’s and has drawn 88 walks. That’s a 10.8% strikeout rate and 14.4% walk rate.

Gonzalez has also displayed a good glove up the middle. FanGraphs projects him to be a 60-grade defender. He also has a 55-grade arm, so he’ll easily have the arm strength to make the deep throws. The only downside is he lacks range. He’s a mediocre runner, so a move to the hot corner or a corner outfield position may be in his future. Regardless, Gonzalez is currently the best pure hitter among notable potential 2023 draft selections.

The best power bat in this year’s draft class is Brock Wilken. Wilken is a third baseman from Wake Forest University. Wilken has been a great hitter throughout college, slashing .275/.363/.609 with 40 home runs. He’s absolutely ripped the cover off the ball with a .334 isolated slugging percentage and a pace of 47 home runs every 600 plate appearances. He also has a healthy 11.4% walk rate. The downside? He has a career 21.4% K-rate and struck out in 24.2% of his plate appearances last season.

Wilken’s glove at third base is fringy, though he has a powerful arm. The red flags are there, but so are the signs of potential. FanGraphs projects him to grow into 80-raw power eventually. Though how good his power will play will likely depend on if he can cut down on the K’s. If Wilken could improve in the strikeout department, he may go within the first five selections.

The top pitcher in this year’s draft is Tanner Witt. Witt is a right-hander for The University of Texas Austin. Witt has not pitched much in college, tossing a total of 68 innings, but being quite effective. Witt has a 2.91 ERA, 30.9% K-rate, 9.9% walk rate, and .79 HR/9. Witt was slated to work out of the Longhorns’ rotation this year after serving as their closer in 2021 but was limited to just two starts and 11 innings. His fastball, curveball, and change-up look like reliable offerings, though his command can sometimes get shaky.

This year’s draft class is position player-heavy. Of FanGraphs’ top 10 ranked 2023 draft prospects, seven are position players, and only three are pitchers. Most are college players, but Walker Jenkins is the top high school player on FanGraphs’ list.

An outfielder from South Brunswick High School, Jenkins is praised for his mechanics, including his smooth swing, strong hands, and ability to spray the ball all over the field. Jenkins projects to have plus power, which should play up because of his ability to hit. He also is an above-average runner with a strong arm. His athleticism should keep him in center field. Jenkins is currently committed to North Carolina. Overall, Jenkins is a very well-rounded player.

Pirates Sweep Doubleheader in Cincinnati. dark. Next

It’s way too early to tell who the Pirates could select. Not only are we close to a year out from the draft, but because of the lottery system, we don’t know if the Pirates will have a top-three pick. They could be selecting seventh overall or first overall, so take current rankings with a grain of salt. Things could drastically change. However, as things stand right now, these are the current top draft prospects.