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Why Dylan Crews is the right pick for the Pirates at No. 1 overall

by Ryan Lang

Junior center fielder, Dylan Crews, went into this season as the favorite to be the first prospect selected overall in the 2023 MLB Draft. Not only has he lived up to these expectations, he has exceeded them. Crews leads No. 1 seed LSU (36-8) with one of the best-hitting seasons we have seen in recent history. Crews is posting a ridiculous .487 batting average with a .633 OBP and is a machine at getting on base however he has to. His 49-22 walk-to-strikeout ratio increased drastically from his 42-56 ratio last year. This stat alone may give fans a glimpse into his mindset, as he has demonstrated an amazing work ethic and understands what he needs to do to improve.

Consider this as well—Crews has been pitched around a lot this season and his strikeout-to-walk ratio shows his patience and plate discipline, choosing not to chase pitches and instead wait for the right pitch. There is a maturity to his game that most prospects his age wouldn't possess. Crews gets on base and draws walks when he can but has proven to hit into the gaps or put a ball over the wall at any moment. He has a slugging percentage of .851 with 13 home runs and 27 extra-base hits.

In 2022, Crews was honored as the SEC Co-Player of the Year, first team all SEC, and to prove he isn't just a hitter, he was named to the SEC all-defensive team. The awards have not stopped for Crews in 2023 as he has already won the SEC Player of the Week 3 times this season.

Not only does Crews have the potential of a generational talent, but he also fits the Pittsburgh Pirates’ biggest need—the outfield. Since 2017, the Pirates have had a top-20 pick each year and have taken an outfielder once in that span. The Pirates are loaded with young talent in the infield with big leaguers like Oneil Cruz, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Ji-Hwan Bae, and prospects, Nick Gonzales and Termarr Johnson.

The Bucco prospects at outfield feature some young guns, too, with the likes of Lonnie White Jr, and Matt Gorski, and of course big leaguer, Jack Suwinski. And current major league superstar, Bryan Reynolds (who is just on the good side of 30), leads this position, but the team lacks depth there overall.

Some frustration exists within the Bucco fanbase as they watch natural infielders playing the outfield, like Ji-Hwan Bae and Miguel Andujar. Playing out of position, they often struggle with routine plays, making them look difficult at times. Even the Pirates’ No. 2 prospect in the minors, Endy Rodriguez, can play the outfield, but again, would be playing out of position.

Many teams cherish positional flexibility and no doubt—many of the Pirates players and prospects have the ability to play out of position for some time—but eventually, they will be exposed. In this upcoming draft, the Pirates need to invest in creating stability by adding a guy like Crews. With him, the organization has the potential to one day play an outfield of Bryan Reynolds, Jack Suwinski, and Dylan Crews. An outfield like that has the potential to be one of the best in baseball for quite a few years.

Granted, the Pirates need to decide to draft Crews first, and then he must matriculate his way through the minors and into the “bigs,” which will take time. But you can’t look at an outfield with those names and not see the immense potential in that dugout.

Coupled with the emergence and perhaps early arrival of Connor Joe and other young prospects like Lonnie White Jr. and Matt Gorski, the Pirates could be turning the corner on these awful past few years. With an unexpected 20-11 start to the season and the second-best record in the NL, owner, Bob Nutting, recently signed Bryan Reynolds to the largest contract in Pirates history. We’ll see if the Pirates' amazing start to 2023 continues on July 9th with the selection of Dylan Crews.

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