The Pittsburgh Pirates will once again have the first overall selection in the 2023 Major League Baseball Draft. This marks the second time in the Ben Cherington and Derek Shelton era. While it is unfortunate, this time the Bucs received the pick via the new lottery system. So the Bucs are definitely in good shape to take a franchise player.
Who will the Pittsburgh Pirates look to Draft with the first overall selection?
There are definitely a few players who are making names for themselves among the college ranks. This is the route the Pittsburgh Pirates took back in 2021 when selecting then-Louisville catcher Henry Davis. Let's take a look at the top 4 college players and their years to this point. All four of these players could be in consideration for the first overall selection. They will be listed in order of most likely to least likely:
The biggest star in College Baseball right now is LSU outfielder Dylan Crews. Crews has been projected to be the top selection for the upcoming draft for a while now. He had a monster Sophomore year making him the early favorite. The question was whether or not Crews would be able to maintain the top spot. Pittsburgh Pirates fans know very well that players projected months out from the Draft may not keep the helium through the season.
Many expected Kumar Rocker to be the top overall pick in 2021. When the Draft took place back in 2021 Rocker was not even really in the discussion due to showing regression. Crews has not shown that regression one bit. On the year he is batting .563 with an OPS just north of 1.600. He has 9 home runs in just 28 games played. Maybe the most impressive stat comes in the way of his place discipline, taking 29 walks to just 13 strikeouts.
The only hitter that may have more power upside than Crews is Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford. Langford was keeping pace with Crews early in the season, but the Gator missed a handful of games with an injury. So far he has appeared in 21 games and is boasting a 1.300 OPS. He has 7 home runs on the year, after hitting 26 last year it will be interesting to see if he can get back on pace.
The top 2 pitchers from the college ranks both come from the SEC. Tennessee right-hander Chase Dollander had an impressive sophomore year posting a sub-3 ERA. This year so far things have not gone as smoothly but still is showing why he could be the top pitcher off the board. Dollander has a 3.92 ERA across 39 innings. The most impressive part? So far he has punched out 59 hitters in those innings
The last player to keep tabs on is LSU right-hander Paul Skenes. Skenes has the size and ability that is rare to see toward the top of the draft board. Skenes is listed at 6'6'' and 235 pounds, the frame teams dream of for an ace. Skenes has absolutely dominated this year posting an impressive ERA of just 0.81 ERA. Even more impressive is that in his 44.1 innings of work, he has 88 strikeouts to only 8 walks.
All four of these players present top prospect ability. Crews right now have positioned himself to be the top pick. The Pittsburgh Pirates front office team has traditionally targeted hitters with their top selection, this even dates back to when Ben Cherington and Steven Sanders were working for the Toronto Blue Jays. Pitchers are more unpredictable, take longer to develop, and have a much higher injury risk, therefore a riskier investment.