Pittsburgh Pirates Draft: No. 1 Overall Pick & the LSU Duo

LSU base runner Dylan Crews tags and moves to third on a sacrifice fly against South Carolina during
LSU base runner Dylan Crews tags and moves to third on a sacrifice fly against South Carolina during / Gary Cosby Jr.-Tuscaloosa News / USA

What will the Pittsburgh Pirates do with the number one overall selection in July's MLB draft? Will they play it safe and choose the man that most say should be the pick in LSU outfielder Dylan Crews or will they choose his teammate, pitcher Paul Skenes?

Back in 2021 the Pittsburgh Pirates had the no. 1 overall selection in the MLB draft due to having the worst record in Major League Baseball in 2020. With that selection, the Pirates chose Henry Davis, a catcher from the University of Louisville. The selection seemed to make sense for two reasons.

The first reason was because the Pirates were virtually bereft of catching prospects throughout their farm system. The other reason was because he was not as highly rated, the Pirates were able to use savings from their draft pool money to draft and sign prospects in later rounds that were considered unsignable due to the perceived higher financial demands that would be needed to draw prospects away from solid college scholarships.

Now that the Pirates have come back down to Earth as they have fallen back to the .500 mark after today's 6-3 loss to Seattle, it may be time to start looking ahead to July's MLB draft.

Once again, Pittsburgh has the first overall selection, but not because they had the worst overall record in 2022, but because they were the first winners of the new MLB draft lottery system.

The question on every Pirate fan's mind is simple. Who will the Pirates choose?

In contrast to 2021, there is seems to be a clear choice as the top overall prospect this year, but will it be the Pirates choice and will it be the right one?

It would be a distinct challenge to find a legitimate website or draft guide that does not list LSU outfielder Dylan Crews as the top prospect. His teammate, pitcher Paul Skenes, is the consensus selection as the number-two prospect.

If both are selected with the first two choices, it would be the first time in MLB draft history that teammates were selected consecutively to begin the draft.

Dylan Crews appears to be a five-tool player if there ever was one. Read more about Crews' scouting report on mlb.com.

Aside from the scouting report, your eyes may pop after reading his current stats for 2023:

Crews currently has a hitting line (average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage) of .420/.567/.710, which is actually down from earlier this month.

Crews has hit 13 doubles, 1 triples, and 15 home runs. He as scored 82 runs, driven in 59, and has been walked a whopping 58 times. Crews has struck out a career-low 38 times.

In Crews' three-year career, his hitting splits are .375/.493/697. He has hit 40 doubles, 7 triples, and 55 home runs while scoring 219 runs and driving in 173.

Dylan Crews' career is not over as of yet as LSU will be playing in the NCAA baseball tournament beginning this weekend.

Crews' teammate at LSU, Paul Skenes, has risen up the draft boards in 2023 with an outstanding season on the mound. Skenes is in his first season at LSU after transferring from the Air Force Academy.

Skenes has a 10-2 record in 2023 with a 1.89 ERA. He has struck out an amazing 167 batters in 15 starts, while walking only 17. In his three year career, Skenes has an ERA of 2.35.

Both Crews and Skenes look to be very solid prospects, but it is Crews that is the consensus choice of all mock drafts available to read. The question remains is whether or not the Pirates will feel the same way about Crews in July.

There is no question that Pittsburgh general manager Ben Cherington deserves a lot of credit for having taken one of the thinnest prospects pools in major league baseball after taking over the mess that previous general manager Neil Huntington left behind and turned it into a very competitive and talented group of players. But, is the pitching depth as solid as it should be.

Let's look at the outfield pool of players both currently in the majors and also down on the farm.

In Pittsburgh, there is Bryan Reynolds who just signed a huge contract extension and appears to be anchored in left field for the next several years. Jack Suwinski, while inconsistent, has the potential to be a fixture in center field or right for quite a while and is only 24 years old.

Another young and talented player is Ji Hwan Bae that can either play center field or second base. His speed, if for no other reason, appears to be cementing his place on the roster for a long time and he is only 23.

Also in Pittsburgh, there is Connor Joe and Josh Palacios, but neither seems to figure in the long-term success of the big club.

In Indianapolis, the Indians feature Travis Swaggerty (ranked no. 21 by mlb.com) and Canaan Smith-Njigba (ranked no. 27 by mlb.com), along with Cal Mitchell, who has spent some time at the major league level and some success. Also, second-ranked prospect (by mlb.com) is Endy Rodriguez, whose main position is as a catcher, but is being groomed as both a first baseman and outfielder down the road.

Also on the Indians' roster, but is on the 60-day injured list Lonnie White, Jr. (ranked no. 13 by mlb.com).

In Altoona, the Curve feature Matt Gorski (ranked no. 16 by mlb.com) and Matt Fraizer (ranked no. 22 by mlb.com) along with Connor Scott, who was considered one of the cornerstones of the Jacob Stallings trade a year ago, and was a first-round choice by Miami in 2018 (#13 overall).

In Greensboro and Bradenton, the Pirates have Hudson Head (ranked no. 23 by mlb.com) and Shalin Polanco (ranked no. 26 by mlb.com).

Contrast those top outfield prospects with the pitching prospects in the Pirates' system. The Pittsburgh pitching staff is too numerous to detail, so what follows is a rundown of the top 30 pitching propects in the Pirates' system. Currently in Pittsburgh is Luis Ortiz, who is considered to be the Pirates' eighth-best prospect (according to mlb.com).

In Indianapolis, the Indians have Quinn Priester (ranked no. 4 by mlb.com), Mike Burrows (ranked no. 9 by mlb.com), Hunter Barco (ranked no. 4 by mlb.com), and Carmen Mlodzinski (ranked no. 24 by mlb.com).

The problem in Indianapolis is that Mlodzinski is a reliever (Skenes is a starter), while Burrows is out until at least the end of 2024 due to Tommy John surgery and Barco is on the 60-day injured list.

In Altoona, the Curve feature Jared Jones (ranked no. 11 by mlb.com) and Kyle Nicolas (ranked no. 19 by mlb.com), who was also acquired in the Jacob Stallings trade. Both are starting pitchers.

In A-ball and rookie ball, the Pirates have Bubba Chandler (ranked no. 7 by mlb.com), Anthony Solometo (ranked no. 10 by mlb.com), Thomas Harrington (ranked no. 12 by mlb.com), Michael Kennedy (ranked no. 20 by mlb.com), Jun-Seok Shim (ranked no. 25 by mlb.com), and Braxton Ashcraft (ranked no. 30 by mlb.com).

Chandler, Solometo, and Ashcraft are starting pitchers in Greensboro, Harrington is a starting pitcher in Bradenton, while Shim and Kennedy are in rookie ball.

So, what will the Pirates do with the number-one overall selection in July's draft?

Will they play it safe and take the consensus top player in Crews, although there may only be one true outfield spot available in Pittsburgh over the next several years and quite a few prospects as options to fill it?

Or, will Pittsburgh take the riskier choice of choosing a pitcher knowing arms are hard to rely on in terms of health and consistency, although it seems that the Pirates don't seem to have many starting pitcher options in the top two tiers of their minor league system.

In either case, Pittsburgh is poised to pick a player that appears will make a tremendous impact on the success of the Pirates, and relatively soon. Crews is the favorite to be that pick, but there are still a lot of things to consider and still time to do so.

What is your selection if you were in Ben Cherington's position? Write your selection and reasoning in the comment section below to play along.

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