Pirates Draft Prospects: Has Anyone Moved Into Possible #1 Talks?

Our weekly spotlight of 2023 draft prospects began with a closer look at LSU outfielder Dylan Crews, who many people have as the top prospect in this draft class. We then moved on to Chase Dollander, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Tennessee.

Our third profile article looked at high school outfielder Walker Jenkins. That was followed by LSU pitcher Paul Skenes. Our fifth profile was high school outfielder Max Clark, whose season opened that same day as the article was posted. The last profile was Wyatt Langford, the power-hitting Florida outfielder. Here’s our draft preview article in case you missed it.

I had an original group of eight players to cover here, which you have seen in our Monday weekend recap articles. A hand injury to Jacob Wilson, along with a slow start from Jacob Gonzalez, has led to me skipping those two for profile articles (for now). I’ll still keep them in our weekly article though, but it feels like any chances they had of going #1 this year has slipped away.

I got that list of eight players from averaging out the early draft rankings. I obviously had the last word on who would be on the list, but I wanted to cover everyone who could possibly going #1, even if it meant they had to make a big move, while seeing people ahead of them fail to impress more than normal.

I originally thought about including TCU third baseman Brayden Taylor because Fangraphs ranked him #2 to start the season. However, he was down at #9 for BA and #11 for MLB Pipeline. So he has been one of those guys I check on occasionally.

Taylor is hitting .280/.416/.576 this year, with seven doubles and ten homers in 32 games (going into last night’s action). He hit better during his freshman and sophomore years, putting up nearly identical slugging numbers all three years, though he did a better job getting on base during those first two seasons. Those are nice average/OBP numbers this year, but you expect more from a top college hitter.

Hurston Waldrep, a right-handed pitcher from Florida, rated well for all three sources, ranking tenth for Pipeline and BA, and 11th for Fangraphs. If I decided to cover ten players instead of eight for the weekly Monday article, he would have been the tenth spot behind Taylor.

Waldrep has 75 strikeouts this year in 45 innings, along with a .225 BAA, so you would think that I’d have added him to the group by now. Unfortunately for him, he has a 4.60 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP, thanks in part to a high walk rate. His best start this year out of eight games saw him allow two runs in six innings.

D1Baseball does a terrific job of covering the college side of the draft. They just updated their top 150 college draft prospects list on Thursday, but the top of that list didn’t add a potential name for us. Their top five has five of the guys mentioned above.

Prep Baseball Report just did a mock draft, and the top six spots went to guys in our top eight spots.

The #7 spot on that list is prep pitcher Noble Meyer, a right-handed pitcher out of Oregon. He ranks 12th for BA, 19th for Fangraphs and 16th for Pipeline. 

I’ll watch for any movement with him from other sources, but we are starting to get a little late in the game to make those type of moves to the top.

So in summary, my scheduled mid-season reevaluation says that there aren’t any outsiders making a run at the top spot. I might not be looking at the top eight players each Monday, but there’s a tremendous chance the #1 pick comes from that group.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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Good summarization and article. I have a question though. In the past, you couldn’t trade draft picks, but I think that is different this year. If that is the case, it might make an interesting article to see what the Pirates might do if they possibly traded down in the draft and what they could get in return. Thanks and keep up the great work!!!


Pirates trade Cole, Marte, Tailon and other major league talent and besides Reynolds for Cutch they received virtually nothing in return. When getting prospects in return for proven major league talent all you receive is hope and you usually get disappointment. Look around baseball and see former pirates succeseeding. Look at who the pirates received and watch them struggle or fail. Not a smart way to build a competitive team.


It’s hard to imagine you’re even paying much attention if you think we got nothing for any of those trades other than Reynolds.

From Taillon we got Roansy to begin with, and CSN can’t be written off yet. There was a lottery ticket too which I’m sure you’ll scoff at, but whatever.

Marte may well end up a just. But it’s early yet. Peguero is too soon to know for sure and Brennan Malone has talent but talent needs to be healthy. So I will give you that.

But the Coke Trade? That netted us the catcher of the future. Endy Rodriguez.

Cole trade also got us David Bednar and for goodness sakes!!. Endy isn’t up yet but he is straight from Gerrit Coke.

Musgrove came in the Cole trade then he went out for Endy. And Bednar.

So whatever. Take your tired talk radio narrative and watch some hockey or football.


I would argue the marte trade was very well executed even if it does not provide significant major league talent. So many people complain about going for high floor, low ceiling guys and that trade really swung for the fences. Those guys also fail just like the high floor guys fail. You are definitely right that it is early, but I think we make that gamble 100/100 times


The Musgrove Trade also returned CF Hudson Head, still only 22, LHSP/RP Omar Cruz, 24, and RHSP Drake Fellows, who should be coming off TJ soon. At this point, it was an excellent trade to get future talent.


Except that all of those prospects look poised to stall out at Altoona.


Thanks for your input but as I said hope is not production. Yes, Watson for Cruz seems to have worked out for the Pirates but at times you give away the store and get diminishing returns. Endy came from the mets for Lucchassi. So he really wasn’t a significant part of that trade but a throw in for the mets to get a lefty pitcher. Lets see how the trades work out. time will tell. I wish the trades are all in the Pirates favor, like the give up of Connor JOe and his return. I don’t listen to sports talk radio it bores me. Haven’t listened in 40 years when it first started. Hockey, Go RANGERS.


Endy came from Cole. Period. Every piece of a trade counts. Bednar too. It’s just how baseball works. Reynolds came from Cutch. He sang expected by anyone to be what he is. That’s baseball.


For me, it’s LSU all the way…


2010 draft: Nats go #1 overall with generational talent OF & Bucs #2 overall take right hander “who can throw as hard as 99” and “with more upside than any other pitching prospect” in draft

Will be interesting to see how 1-2 play out this time for these two franchises


What should haunt us from that draft is that we went with Taillon over Machado. Perhaps that was too much of a “character” pick, and by all accounts Machado has outgrown the immaturity of his younger years. It’s all moot now, but we might have won a championship in 2013-2015 had Machado been the pick (~15 WAR over that period). It hurts to think about, but spread those wins evenly over the three years and we would have won three straight division titles and who knows after that.

b mcferren

its true that Mercer was a reason we didnt win those years

Last edited 1 month ago by b mcferren

Who knows about winning a series before Machado would have been moved. He did not push the Dodgers to a title after he moved to them and has not gotten San Diego a title either. Machado would still be in San Diego right now. Still would have taken Taillon as he looked like the real deal. No way to predict injuries and in his case illness to compound the problems. Don’t think he out grew his maturity issues completely. He recently got ejected because the home plate umpire did not grant time. Pitcher was already moving in his windup when Machado stepped out. Umps always had the authority in such situations and is up to the Ump if they grant time or not. Same thing has happened for decades. Machado of course felt the Ump should have deferred to him and went ballistic when he didn’t. Lack of maturity in that situation.

Last edited 1 month ago by robertkasperski

Where Machado is now is irrelevant to the original post. He would have left, Cole would have left. With Machado (if he develops the same of course) they win at least two division titles.


I realized that I left that part out of my comment. Went back to see when Machado went to the Dodgers before commenting. I still would have gone with Taillon as you can’t for see the future and know that he would have suffered from injury and illness. He looked like a great pick and looked like a star in the making as he worked his way up the minors. If he does not get hurt or suffered from cancer, the Bucs would have had 2 dominant starters atop the rotation along with Liriano and Burnett. That rotation could have pushed the Bucs to a title just as easily. Wasn’t to be. Still would have taken Taillon at the time.


If JT didn’t get hurt he would have been a top of the line starter? Pitchers get hurt much more frequently than position players so that was foreseeable. JT looked good, above average, I don’t recall him ever looking like a big star in the minors.


Are there any traditional “5 tool prospects” vying for number 1? Where are the shortstops, centerfielders?

Picking a right handed hitting corner outfielder at 1:1 just makes me uncomfortable. Thats such a limited profile out of the gate. You gotta be convinced the bat will be All Star caliber. At this point, I’d rather take the risk on a potential dominant starting pitcher.


You do know Crews plays a very good center field and his arm is better than any pirate not named Marte. Are you saying if the pirate draft him he won’t stick in CF?


I’m afraid the Pirates will take someone not close to being #1 just to save money for extra good picks. That’s how was got. Davis was not a 1-1. Sanchez wasn’t a 1-4.
Bullington 1-1, best hitter in college that year and they made him a pitcher. Cole Tucker 1-24. There are more but I get sick looking them up.


The Pirates need to take the player who can give them the biggest impact. Period. I don’t think there is anything wrong with taking an impact bat playing a corner outfield position. The bat is what makes the impact. It’s not like Cutch ever played good defense. His bat did the talking.


Crews is hitting. 500/600+/1500+ with 35 walks. They will not pitch to him. This Friday and Saturday he was walked both times with a running on first. And he’s playing in the best conference in the NCAA. He’s selective in his batting and chases very few times. CREWS 1-1.


Exactly. His on-base-percentage is over 50%…that’s insane. And if you surround him with 2 or 3 decent hitters, pitching around him makes it so much more difficult. If the Pirates take him at #1 , I’d have 0 complaints.


I not sure Crews is the best player, I think one of the pitchers may be better and provide the biggest impact.

I looked it up and there were 18 RFers and LFers that hit at least 20 home runs last year. Positional value is such a huge factor – if Crews were played CF and hit 20 home runs he’s an All Star, but if he does it in left he’s close to average. Its why Cutch was an MVP and Derek Jeter a hall of famer, hitting at premium positions is enormous valve. (O’Neil Cruz please get healthy).

I get there isn’t a player like that considered worthy of a number one pick, which is disappointing. Scouting hitting is not an exact science either, Nick Gonzalez was universally praised as a hitter and he’s really struggled. All things equal I’d prefer a position player over a pitcher. But given the situation, you have a couple arms that have been completely dominant, maybe its tome to roll the dice on one of those.

Last edited 1 month ago by clemo83

Again….. Crews is a CENTERFIELDER. the reason he only has 11 HR’s is he has 35 walks in 32 games. It’s about time the Pirates take the best player and not a price saver for possible becoming as good as Crews. He plays in the very best league in college. The top 6 teams in the coaches pool are SEC teams. The buccos have had very little success with drafting pitchers high. Coke is the only one that performed while with the Pirates.


I hear ya. I’m all about whoever is the consensus best player. Doesn’t matter to me who it is.

Derek Jeter was total ass at shortstop and I can’t believe the yanks let him stay at short. Cutch was bad in center and only stayed there because he whined. I think a player needs to be at their best defensive position regardless of it being a premium position. That’s why I’m glad BR is in left this year.


Crews is a centerfielder and would stay there. Good arm and range.


I think that’s an oversimplification of Crews. He may be a RF who it’s 20 homers, but if he does it with good defense and plus overall offense, that’s a four win player, maybe more.
Dominant looking arms at the prep and college level don’t necessarily translate either. Set aside the injury risk, but for some guys, their stuff backs up as they adjust to a pro ball workload. Or their command wavers. Scouting pitchers isn’t exact either.
I’m basically dead even on Crews/Skenes, and I think I’d throw Langford as the third choice, right now. But there isn’t another arm within sight of Skenes.


That sounds simple but remember this is the Pirates. A player that becomes a star is gone in 6+ or less years via trade or free agency, i.e., Cole. A good player may or may not be gone, depending on the Pirates signing him to an extension, i.e., Reynolds. In any case, any player chosen likely doesn’t reach his ‘ceiling’ until his 3rd or 4th year, so his maximum value to the Pirates is limited to 2 or 3+ years. Of course, all of this can’t be known before the player is selected. So, what does greatest impact mean and how can the Pirates calculate it?
It seems to me they must choose a player they judge will be near his ceiling quickly over all other considerations because all good or very good players likely have a short Pirate ‘lifespan.’

Last edited 1 month ago by adicesa14

Here’s a thought, sign them long Term when they are young and take a chance. They did it with Hayes and should do the same with o’neill cruz.

Last edited 1 month ago by chuck_conner

And everyone wants to rush top prospects through the minors instead of ripening them to get their prime years


Did you mean to reply to me? What you’re talking about and what I said is apples and oranges. Pirates need to take the best talent at 1. It’s that simple.

Then, hopefully the player develops into a stud and you can worry about what you’re talking about later.

Scam likely

Crews can pass for a center fielder, but the bucs need another impact bat.

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