Pirates make LSU’s Paul Skenes top pick of 2023 MLB draft

SEATTLE — Paul Skenes and Dylan Crews, star teammates on the LSU team that won the Men’s College World Series, were selected with the top two picks of the Major League Baseball amateur draft on Sunday, becoming the first pair of teammates to win 1 :2 achieved in draft history.

The Pittsburgh Pirates started the draft picking Skenes, the hard-throwing pitcher, No. 1 overall, and the Washington Nationals followed with Crews, the hard-hitting outfielder.

Skenes, whose selection was announced by Seattle Mariners legend Ken Griffey Jr., became the first pitcher to make No. 1 overall since Casey Mize was selected by the Detroit Tigers in 2018.

“I was shocked when I heard that,” Skenes said in a video conference. “A year ago, two years ago, I never would have thought that being the first overall win would be a possibility. I don’t know what I expected today, but it means a lot to me.”

The 21-year-old Skenes went 12-2 with a 1.69 ERA and 209 strikeouts in Division I, breaking the SEC record for a season in 122⅔ innings for the LSU Tigers. The 6-foot-6 right-hander Skenes became the sixth player — and first pitcher — to win Most Outstanding Player honors at the MCWS and pick 1 overall in the MLB draft. Phil Nevin (1992) is the only other player to have done both in the same year.

Crews, meanwhile, became the first player ever to win the Golden Spikes Award, a national title, and be drafted into the top five in a single year.

Skenes, who is drafted third by ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel, regularly throws his fastball in triple figures and combines it with a plus slider that could make him a major league player as early as 2024.

“I think I’m close,” Skenes said. “I don’t know exactly how close, but I’ll do everything in my power to get there as soon as possible.”

Crews, a bully who’s expected to offer above-average defense in midfield, was a two-time SEC Player of the Year, hitting .426/.567/.713 with 18 homers in 71 games last season as a junior. Mike Rizzo, president of Nationals baseball operations, called him “a formidable player and a man who helps any type of lineup.”

“He can get on top of the lineup, he can be a run producer in the middle of the lineup, he has base percentage credentials, he has batting average credentials, he has power numbers, he can steal a base,” , and he’s a two-way player,” added Rizzo. “You can’t have enough of players like that.”

Crews said he’s never been to Washington but saw a lot of Nationals as a kid and watched Bryce Harper.

“Seeing him in the Nationals uniform was pretty awesome,” Crews said. “I will play my game and hopefully make as much impact as he does. … He’s just a complete player.”

It is the third time a school has produced multiple top 3 picks in the same year, following UCLA in 2011 (Gerrit Cole, first and Trevor Bauer, third) and Arizona State in 1978 (Bob Horner, first, and Hubie Brooks, third). ).

“There wasn’t really any disagreement as to who would get #1 or #2,” Crews said.

Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford, whose team lost to LSU in the championship, was drafted fourth overall by the Texas Rangers. High school outfielders Max Clark and Walker Jenkins finished third with the Tigers and fifth with the Minnesota Twins, respectively, completing what is generally considered the major league of this draft.

The Pirates finished first overall for the second time in three years — picking up Henry Davis in 2021 and calling him up to the major leagues three weeks earlier — and for the sixth time overall, more than any other team. They went into the draft with the highest bonus pool at just over $16 million; The slot value for the #1 overall pick is $9,721,000, but teams and players can negotiate their own bonus.

Ben Cherington, general manager of the Pirates, said the hope is that an agreement can be reached quickly and Skenes can be integrated somewhere in the Pirates organization in 2023.

“It will be a while since he last pitched in the World Series and we want to be sure that schedule and progression is whatever it is.” [like] “That makes sense to him,” Cherington said.

MLB hosts the draft from Lumen Field, which is adjacent to T-Mobile Park and home to the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and MLS’s Seattle Sounders FC. The draft consists of 20 rounds and is played over a three-day period, with the first 70 picks taking place on Sunday. The Pirates were named the No. 1 overall pick by winning MLB’s inaugural draft lottery in December.

Grand Canyon University shortstop Jacob Wilson (Oakland Athletics), Wake Forest right-hander Rhett Lowder (Cincinnati Reds), high school catcher Blake Mitchell (Kansas City Royals), Tennessee right-hander Chase Dollander (Colorado Rockies) and high school right-hander Noble Meyer (Miami Marlins) completed the top 10.

Meyer, from nearby Portland, was one of the few potential draft picks in attendance.

“It’s incredible,” Meyer said while wearing blue Nike boots that happened to match his new team’s color scheme. “Having this just three and a half hours from my house, everything going on and all the fans here is amazing. I love it.”

Bryce Eldridge, a 6’2″ high school student with ambitions to follow in Shohei Ohtani’s footsteps and become a two-way player, was selected by the San Francisco Giants with the 16th pick and is said to have the opportunity get, hit and pitch professionally. Arjun Nimmala, an Indian-American high school shortstop who has one of the highest caps this draft, finished 20th with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Two players who may have slipped a little more than expected were Virginia catcher Kyle Teel, who ranked seventh in McDaniel’s most recent rankings and eventually joined the Boston Red Sox at No. 14, and Ole Miss shortstop Jacob Gonzalez, sixth in McDaniel’s ranking and ranked No. 15 voted the Chicago White Sox.

Leading up to this draft, there were big questions about whether the first choice would be Skenes, widely considered the best pitching candidate since Stephen Strasburg, or one of the four outfield candidates with similar ceilings. Like Eldridge, Skenes was a two-way star at the Air Force Academy, where he also served as a slugging catcher before joining LSU last season. He finished with the Tigers with a 1.11 ERA in 32⅓ innings in the Men’s College World Series and led the school to its first baseball championship in 14 years.

The Pirates have followed the same program that produced Nolan Arenado and Matt Chapman since Skenes attended El Toro High School in Lake Forest, California.

“Once you get to know Paul, you understand that from his background you would expect discipline, a work ethic, and a service-oriented teammate — all those things that you kind of expect,” Cherington said. “But what you learn about Paul when you get to know him is that he has a drive to get better.”

ESPN Stats & Information and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing emma@ustimespost.com.

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