Although there has been concern that the Pittsburgh Pirates will overthink the no. 1 pick and take someone other than Dylan Crews, there's more than enough reason to believe that Crews will be the pick
Dylan Crews has been far and away the best player in amateur baseball in 2023. He’s had absurd numbers in his season at LSU, batting well over .500 (.531), with an insane 23.4% walk rate, and nine home runs in just 111 plate appearances. Because of that, many people have the Pittsburgh Pirates taking Crews in the first round with the number one overall pick. However, there have been others who have concerns that the Pirates will not take Crews in the first round and go under slot. But I am here today to explain why that shouldn’t be as much of a concern as some have made it.
The main reason for this concern is because of the 2021 draft. The 2021 draft was the last time the Pirates had the no. 1 pick, and they went with Henry Davis. Davis signed for less than no. 1 money, which helped the Pirates select guys like Bubba Chandler, Anthony Solometo, Lonnie White Jr., and Braylon Bishop. But while that may seem like a reasonable concern, the two drafts are not comparable.
Going into the college season, many had the Pirates selecting Kumar Rocker. Then, at this time in 2021, Jack Leiter had surpassed Rocker. Later on, you had Jordan Lawlar on the rise alongside Marcelo Mayer and Davis. By the time the draft rolled around, it was really a toss-up on who the Pirates would select.
Sure, Davis wasn’t no. 1 ranked by most outlets, but he was still in the top three. Many had Mayer going no. 1, but all of Leiter, Davis, and Lawlar were still considerations for the #1. In short, the point I am trying to make is that there wasn’t a clear-cut best prospect in the class. The title of "#1 draft prospect" had been passed around like hot potato in the months leading up to the draft. No player was far out in front as ‘the guy’ for the Pirates. Let’s also not forget that the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers also passed on Mayer and Lawlar.
Another reason is the Pirates have taken the best player available in other drafts. Last year, they selected Termarr Johnson with the 4th overall pick. The Pirates passed on Elijah Green, who was one of the many top high schoolers who could have gone first overall, and college bats like Jacob Berry and Brooks Lee, both of which some predicted the Pirates taking so they could go overslot later on in the draft.
When the Pirates picked Johnson, he was easily the best player on the board. Green came with major questions about his strikeout issue. Berry was a third baseman/outfielder who was projected to end up at first base or designated hitter, and Lee had injury questions of his own. Johnson was praised as the best high school hitter the draft has had in quite a while, even over other top high schoolers who went earlier in the draft, like Jackson Holliday (no. 1 overall to the Baltimore Orioles) and Druw Jones (#2 to the Arizona Diamondbacks). If Johnson projected to stick at shortstop long term, like Holliday (Jones projects as a CF long term), he probably goes no. 1 overall. He may go after Jones and Holliday had the Texas Rangers decided to save for Brock Porter by selecting Rocker. If anything, the Pirates are lucky that Johnson was on the board.
Looking at this year’s draft, it’s pretty clear-cut and dry that Dylan Crews is the best prospect. Sure, something could happen between now and July that changes that, but it’s not looking like it. It’s easy to get excited over 101 plate appearances, but at this point, the only thing that might not make Crews the #1 pick is a life-altering injury caused by a freak accident. This is far from the 2021 draft when the Pirates selected Davis because the overall difference between him and the rest of the field was arguable at best.