Pirates Draft Prospects: Strengths and Weaknesses of the 2023 Draft Class

With just over two months until the 2023 draft class, there is still time for changes to be made at the top, but things have remained rather consistent throughout this whole process.

In the last two days, we have look at a mock draft from MLB Pipeline and a combo article from ESPN with new rankings and a new mock draft. All three of those subjects start with LSU outfielder Dylan Crews.

Last week in our Pirates Draft Prospects weekly Saturday article, we looked at how the top of this draft class has basically stayed the same

I thought we could take a break for one week from talking about the same players, and instead focus on the strength and weaknesses of this draft class. The Pirates have the highest draft bonus pool this year. That means that they will be spending a lot of money after the first overall pick.

Jim Callis mentioned in that Pipeline mock that this draft drops off after the top five, and it gets really cloudy by the end of the first round. That first part was more of an indication that the top five players are elite in this particular class, rather than a knock on the next tier of players.

Whether it was intentional or not, the descriptions of the players taken later in the first round don’t give off a lot of confidence that this is a deep draft. That’s probably not surprising because participation in baseball at the youth level in the U.S. has been shrinking, so at some point it has to affect the talent pool.

The Pirates pick first overall, then don’t pick again until the 42nd pick. While the won the much more important draft lottery, they ended up with the final pick of the 14 competitive balance picks, so their third pick isn’t until 67th overall. They come right back though with the 73rd overall pick, giving them four picks out of the first 73.

Those are three important picks for the Pirates. Callis noted that the late first round could go anywhere, so trying to guess exactly who the Pirates might pick would be a waste of time.

We can still look at the 2023 draft by position, even though anyone who follows the draft knows you don’t draft for position like other sports. Position in a baseball draft should only be used as a “flip a coin” way to pick between two players whose potential is indistinguishable from each other.

Here’s a breakdown of Baseball America’s top 100 by position after the first five picks. I wanted to eliminate them because they have separated themselves, and because the group includes four outfielders, so that could skew the results. If you don’t like that decision, just add four outfielders and a right-handed pitcher. If players had two positions listed, I went with their most likely spot in the pros.

RHP: 30

LHP: 8 

1B: 2

2B: 1

SS: 28

3B: 9

C: 5

OF: 11

Utility: 1

There isn’t a college left-handed pitcher in the top 60. The top ranked one is Hunter Owen (#65), who is not the former Pirates prospect trying to resurrect his career as a pitcher.

Both first basemen are college players, which isn’t surprising. Almost all high school teams put their best players at positions of value.

The only second baseman is also the only second baseman in the top 200. That’s 16th ranked Tommy Troy from Stanford, who has no shot at #1, but also no shot at being around for the 42nd pick. MLB Pipeline lists him as a shortstop, so even calling him a second baseman might not be agreed upon.

Shortstop is particularly deep, both in the late first round area, and between high school and college players. It’s also a position where players move off of the most, so there definitely won’t be 28 future pro shortstops in that group of 28.

Those five catchers are broken up into three ranked fairly high (likely first rounders), and two ranked 98th and 99th. I won’t say you should eliminate the Pirates from taking a catcher with any of the 42/67/73 picks, but that’s what these particular rankings would suggest.

My plan to leave off outfielders worked perfectly because there aren’t as many as you would expect, but it would definitely look better with the elite players

The one utility guy is high school Swiss army knife Gavin Grahovac (#77), who plays everywhere except pitcher, but probably ends up at a corner spot, still leaving four positions to choose from if he can’t play those other four.

Here’s the same exercise using the 6-100 group on MLB Pipeline.

RHP: 27

LHP: 11

1B: 2

2B: 2

SS: 21

3B: 11

C: 4

OF: 17

The two big differences between these two lists are the amount of shortstops and outfielders. All of the other numbers are close. As you might expect, those differences come later in the list, where players tend to fall in bigger groups, such as player xx is a potential 3rd/4th round pick, and then these two industry sources have to figure out where to put them in that large group.

If you’re looking for strengths here, it’s with right-handed pitcher and shortstops, which can be said about almost every single draft class. Not going to lie, if you just took an educated guess based on averages, you would come up with something very close to what you see here. Sometimes you’ll get more outfielders than you see here (especially the BA list), or more catchers, or it will be a particularly bad year for left-handed pitchers, but this looks a lot like what you would expect going into this exercise.

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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This draft seems to be pretty deep but lacking seperation from picks in the twenties to the fourth round. I think there we be some good players available in the mid rounds (4 – 7). I guess it depends on how many high schoolers go in the early rounds.


Cole Carrigg is 100% a Swiss Army knife and a top 100 draft prospect. The kid plays CF, SS and Catcher. And is a switch-hitter. Yes please!!

Last edited 28 days ago by pittsburghbob69

After reading this, I am convinced the only way forward is to trade for as many comp picks that we can and offer as much money as we can to both of the LSU guys and otherwise pick college senior signs. I dont know that we could get skenes or crews to drop, but maybe making them demand 10-12m we could get lucky


Holy smokes.


If the Pirates do what many think is unthinkable and choose Skenes over Crews, we should all be excited. And be no less excited if Crews is the choice. Both players are true difference makers.

BTW, Skenes struck out 15 and walked 0 two nights ago vs Auburn. Not hard to imagine him being the Pirates SP in their 1st playoff game in 2024.


SKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKenes. That will be fun to put the number of K’s he throws into his name every 5 days


Well Skenes was an Air Force kid. It’s one of the main reasons the velo hasn’t come until this season. He had so much on his plate at Air Force.

Now that he can just concentrate on just baseball, has one of the best pitching coaches in the nation, Wes Johnson(ex Minnesota Twins pitching coach) and plays at one of the baseball programs in the nation(LSU) everything has ticked up and come together for him.

Last edited 28 days ago by pittsburghbob69

Great article – wow thats an impressive profile – “highest character player he’s ever coached”? Sheesh. Just when I had rationalized myself to picking Crews. Now I’m back waffling again – thanks James. 🙂


Hard to read that article and not start leaning back (for me) to Skenes. I am concerned about the higher pitch counts with so much of the season left (I’m assuming that if he’s being allowed to throw ~110 pitches now, he’ll be allowed to throw ~120 in regionals and, if they get that far, the CWS), but maybe that’s balanced somewhat by the six days of rest between starts.


Skenes has a relatively “young” arm. In 2021 he pitched only 26.2 innings at the Air Force Academy, and 85 IP for Air Force in 2022, and then 4 IP for Team USA. At El Toro HS he was a Catcher who also pitched, so I doubt there were many innings on his arm. El Toro has produced Nolan Arenado, Matt Chapman, and Austin Romine. To play a sport and still manage a 4.76 GPA is a good measure of his work ethic

BTW, that Auburn team that he dominated Friday night came back against LSU to take the last 2 games of the 3 game series.


Pitch count is the only thing that concerns me, very little though. I like either with the first pick and don’t dislike any of the top 4.


I was thinking the same thing

Wilbur Miller

I say we forget positions and just skip the hit-tool guys.


I would like to apologize to everyone, esp SKliesen for going off yesterday. When this site first started, I got excited about the prospects and was rewarded with 2013-2015. All was good.

Since those years, I have seen highly touted prospect after prospect fail. It has hardened me and I guess it took until yesterday to finally get that thru my head. Even Wabbit Season’s comments didn’t faze me.

Tim and the rest of you’nz don’t need my negative comments. Therefore, even tho I remain a Pirate fan, my negativism towards them ever being a successful org again, remains strong. I am not sure that this feeling will change. I am always waiting for the ‘other shoe to drop’.

Therefore, it is not doing anyone any good to hear my crabbiness on an almost daily basis. I will stick to liking a comment or two if I read the comments at all.

Again, my apologies to all.


I must have missed your comment. But I assume you are French with a name ending in fieux. Aren’t French people usually crabby and negative? And their women have hairy armpits?
The Pirates will probably never be a strong franchise again but it wouldn’t be much fun if we all were so stressed we had to take hypertension medicine to get through the season. At least some of us are old enough to remember the Slyke, Bell, Drabek, and all the other days of glory. I pity the fans that don’t remember 1992 and before. They probably have more right to b and moan than anyone. Post away my French pen pal.


I see no need for an apology. I’m not sure how it’s possible to be a Pirate fan over the past 30 years, since Bream slid into home and spoiled the season, and not expect the worst. There’s been very little effort to win by ownership since then other than for a couple of years 7-8 years ago and that ended with another sell out by ownership and the inevitable drop to the bottom again. Maybe this time will be different? I try not to allow my negativity to turn into cynicism, but they are going to have to prove it instead of talking about it for me to truly believe again.

I’m old enough to remember the Impossible Pirates of 1960 and the ‘71 and ‘79 teams, but those were completely different times and not likely to be repeated. I think I just love the game that I used to be able to play but for many many years have only been able to watch and that has to be enough to keep me going back for more. I don’t trust the Pirates and would never suggest anyone else should because they haven’t earned it, but it’s still a great game, even with the DH and replay, so keep on caring and hoping because it’s better than the alternative of allowing greedy owners to spoil the game completely. Play ball!!!


Apology accepted. Even though I don’t think one was required. I’m the one who picked the fight after all, so let me apologize for setting you off. Let’s blame it on the last 5 games or 10 years. One of the two.

Cheers to today being a better day!


No need to apologize. One thing to remember is that many top prospects end up failing for many teams. There are very few can’t miss guys who are truly can’t miss guys that are available in any draft. To me the game has always been entertainment . A nice diversion form all the mess that is our daily lives. This site is a lot of fun for me. It was the one diversion that helped me keep my head together when my wife was diagnosed and was fighting her cancer and the few years since she has passed. One must never let a sport or any entertainment outlet to consume your life. Nothing that is meant to be fun should ever upset you to the point of anger. It is meant to sit back and watch the show, So far, even in some of the losses, the show has been enjoyable. Keep around and just relax and remember REO Speedwagon—-Roll with the changes😁


Well said Robert.

And sorry about your wife.

God bless!


Thanks for your kind words. Sit back and enjoy the show 😁. End result doesn’t really matter. Having some fun on the ride to get there is all that matters. Been quite fun so far! Looking forward to tonight !


Lee, I for one have never had an issue with your comments, so lighten up on yourself

Scam likely

I heard the song “we are family ” the other day and I climb right back on the band wagon, so what if the pirates haven’t won anything in in 44 yrs.


IMO you have no reason to apologize

Every poster here has their own style

I don’t think you broke any forum rules


Thx. No forum rules, but ‘life’ rules. I am actually an upbeat person in ‘real life’. Sports wise, I am very optimistic about the Steelers. But when it comes to the Buccos, I just expect failure. That is why it took this long to realize how pessimistic I had become. Normally I’m a ‘Guys just wanna have fun’ guy (with apologies to Miss Lauper).

No sense being a Donnie Downer here. 🤓🤓Hav a great day and thx again for the kind comment.


So you see the glass as half empty instead of half full, join the club. I have been a pirate fan since 1960. During that time there have been many great teams and players to root for. But over the last few years it has been hard to expect the pirates to win. So do what I did root for the pirate minor League players. That is why I am on this site. Sure you want them to succeed but most will fail. Look at Rivas this year. I was expecting a breakout to super stardom but alas he is human and has fallen off. Even though I eagerly look to see how he is doing each and every game. So cut yourself some slack and get back online.🤔

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