If the Pittsburgh Pirates get the no. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft, who could the team select?
With the Major League draft changing in 2023, there’s no knowing yet who the #1 overall pick will be. With the Pittsburgh Pirates having a decent chance of securing the pick, you have to consider who the team could select if they get the first overall selection. If that were to occur, who would the Pirates choose based on how the armature landscape looks like right now.
The easy answer right now is Dylan Crews among position players. The Louisiana State outfielder has been absolutely unreal. In 594 plate appearances, Crews is batting .356/.458/.677 with a wOBA approaching .500. Crew has hit 40 dingers in just under 600 plate appearances and has a .321 isolated slugging percentage. That’s about what Barry Bonds had in his career.
Not only has Crews looked like a top-of-the-line power hitter, but he’s drawn 81 walks with just 100 strikeouts, leading to a 13.6% walk rate and 16.8% strikeout rate. He’s also shown some base running prowess. He’s swiped 17 bags in 22 total attempts and projects to be an above-average runner. Even if Crews has to move to a corner outfield spot later on in his pro career, some think he’s the best prospect the draft has seen in the last few years.
Chase Dollander from the University of Tennessee is another #1 overall pick candidate. There have only been two pitchers in the last ten drafts who have went #1 overall and signed with their team, and Dollander is an exceptional talent. Like Crews, Dollander had some crazy numbers. In 79 innings, Dollander had a 2.39 ERA, .80 WHIP, and an 8.31 K:BB ratio. Dollander allowed just seven home runs and, impressively, allowed just 13 free passes. Even better were the 108 batters he struck out. His walk rate was below 5% at 4.2%, and his strikeout rate was well above one-third at 35%.
Dollander’s fastball has both elite velocity and movement. He typically works in the mid-90s but can crank it up to 99 MPH when he needs to. It has both run-and-ride action and some deception on top of it. His slider may be the best breaking ball in this draft class, and his curveball is a very slept-on pitch simply because he hasn’t used it much. His change-up is seldom used, but given how talented he is, he defintiley has the ability to develop a it into a fourth pitch.
But what many analysts love about Dollander is his mechanics. Some have drawn the comparison to Jacob deGrom, but he has 80-grade arm speed. It’s a three-quarters arm slot and on the lower side of the three-quarters, and it absolutely works for him. He’s got everything you’d want out of a pitching prospect and then some.
A third player to keep in mind is Ole Miss infielder Jacob Gonzalez. Gonzalez is the best pure hitter in this year’s draft, and it shows. Through 610 plate appearances, Gonzalez is slashing .316/.424/.560. But he has an 88:66 BB:K ratio. He’s only struck out in 10.8% of his plate appearances and has drawn a walk at a 14.4% pace. This past year, he drew 50 walks while striking out just 32 times. He also does it with some power, cranking out 30 home runs and having a .244 isolated slugging percentage.
Gonzalez is a very well-rounded hitter, one who could hit 25 home runs and hit the .300/.400/.500 benchmark. He’s played shortstop with Ole Miss and has displayed good defensive prowess up the middle. However, he isn’t the rangiest infielder. Still, a move to third base shouldn’t discourage a team from selecting him.
If the Pittsburgh Pirates get the no. 1 pick, either Dollander or Crews would have to be the guy, at least based on things right now. Gonzalez is great too, but Dollander and Crews are arguably the best college pitcher and college hitter the draft has seen in years. Of course, it’s very early, and things could change, but based on how things look right now, the Pirates would have to go with either Crews or Dollander no. 1 overall.