The first day of the highly anticipated 2023 MLB draft has concluded, showcasing the selection of talented players who will embark on their professional baseball journeys. The Pittsburgh Pirates made a significant move by drafting Paul Skenes as the first overall pick, followed by the Washington Nationals selecting Dylan Crews from LSU as the second pick. However, surprises unfolded from the third pick onward, with unexpected selections shaping the first two rounds.
ESPN baseball insiders Alden Gonzalez, Jesse Rogers, and Dave Schoenfield provide insights into their favorite and most intriguing picks of the night. Kiley McDaniel also shares the best available players for the upcoming rounds, scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
The decision to draft Paul Skenes as the top pick raised questions. Did the Pirates make the right choice?
Gonzalez: While it might have been surprising to some, I believe the Pirates made the correct decision. The opportunity to acquire an elite pitching prospect like Skenes, combined with winning the No. 1 overall pick, is a rare occurrence. Skenes possesses exceptional skills, athleticism, and work ethic, making him a safe bet despite the inherent risks involved with drafting pitchers.
Rogers: Yes, the Pirates made the right call. Skenes brings a proven track record and does not require extensive development. Considering Pittsburgh’s need for an ace pitcher, this choice seems like a no-brainer.
Schoenfield: Undoubtedly, the Pirates made the right pick. Skenes ranks among the best college pitching prospects in history, alongside the likes of Stephen Strasburg and Mark Prior. His potential is immense, and if he can stay healthy, he could become the next Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer. The Pirates secured an exceptional talent and a chance to earn a bonus first-round pick if Skenes performs well enough to contend for the Rookie of the Year title next season.
Apart from Skenes, what were your favorite and head-scratching picks of the night?
Gonzalez: I have two favorite picks: Jacob Gonzalez, an outstanding shortstop selected by the Chicago White Sox at No. 15, and Bryce Eldridge, a 6-foot-7 aspiring two-way player chosen by the San Francisco Giants at No. 16. Gonzalez brings a high floor with his defensive abilities and contact-oriented approach, while Eldridge’s potential as a versatile player makes him an intriguing prospect. As for head-scratchers, the Los Angeles Dodgers surprised many by selecting undersized high school outfielder Kendall George at No. 36, earlier than projected.
Rogers: The Oakland Athletics’ choice of Jacob Wilson was an impressive one. Wilson, coached by his father Jack (a former major leaguer), possesses a ready-made skill set and will likely anchor the A’s rebuild as their shortstop. On the other hand, the Detroit Tigers opting for high schooler Max Clark over Wyatt Langford was unexpected. Langford’s drop outside the top three picks is surprising, considering college bats are usually regarded as more reliable selections.
Schoenfield: I’m intrigued by the Tigers’ decision to select Max Clark over Langford. Clark, a highly talented high schooler, offers a well-rounded game with blazing speed and exceptional defense in center field. His skill set provides additional value that Langford, likely confined to an outfield corner, may not possess. While Langford exhibits raw power, I prefer the completeness of Clark’s game. As for a head-scratcher, it’s the Kansas City Royals’ selection of high school catcher Blake Mitchell at No. 10. Taking a prep catcher that high carries significant risk, as history indicates limited success for such picks.
Which player drafted last night has the best chance of winning an MVP or Cy Young award in the future?
Gonzalez: My pick is Dylan Crews, a complete hitter with an impressive track record at LSU. Alongside his defensive prowess, Crews’ skills could potentially earn him multiple Silver Slugger awards and even an MVP title in due course.
Rogers: I’m leaning towards Paul Skenes as the most likely candidate to win a Cy Young award. With his exceptional performance of 209 strikeouts in 122.2 innings, he showcases the dominant qualities required for such recognition.
Schoenfield: The obvious choice is Skenes, as his talent and potential make him a strong contender for a Cy Young award. However, I’ll offer a sleeper pick: Hurston Waldrep, selected by the Atlanta Braves. With his impressive skills and the Braves’ track record in developing pitchers, Waldrep has the potential for a standout career. In terms of MVP candidates, Crews stands out, but keep an eye on Max Clark. His combination of hitting, power, and speed mirrors that of Corbin Carroll, who already demonstrates the potential to become an MVP candidate as a rookie.
What is your biggest takeaway from Day 1 of the draft?
Gonzalez: The clear distinction between the top-tier prospects and the unpredictability beyond them stood out. Skenes, Crews, Langford, Clark, and Walker Jenkins were the obvious elite talents, and the subsequent selections displayed the unpredictability inherent to the draft. Notably, shortstops proved to be a significant strength this year, with 14 of the 39 picks in Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A being shortstops.
Rogers: When in doubt, teams lean towards outfielders or shortstops due to their athleticism and versatility. Middle infielders and outfielders possess the ability to play various positions. For instance, the Chicago Cubs prioritized the selection of shortstop Matt Shaw from Maryland over addressing their need at third base. Although Shaw may not ultimately play shortstop within the Cubs organization, his flexibility and athleticism contribute to his overall value.
Schoenfield: The scarcity of high school pitchers chosen in the first round (the first 28 picks) aligns with recent trends, as high school catchers and pitchers are considered riskier selections. The prevalence of advanced pitch-tracking and hitting data in college baseball has allowed scouting departments to better evaluate college players, leading to more confident drafting decisions. However, this trend might mean that teams are undervaluing high school players, potentially revealing hidden gems in later rounds.