The College World Series featured the Top-3 ranked draft picks: Paul Skenes, Dylan Crews, and Wyatt Langford!

Congratulations to LSU for winning this year’s College World Series. What a great postseason. The finals also featured the presumptive Top-3 draft picks in some order of RHP Paul Skenes, OF Dylan Crews, and OF Wyatt Langford. While Skenes and Crews were on the winning side, Langford suffered the agony of defeat.

It feels like a top of the draft featuring a pick between Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, and wait for it … Bryce Harper. These are all 1-of-1 quality players, and the Pittsburgh Pirates get the first pick, and the Nats are next with the second pick.

The Nats have a $8,998,500 slot value for that pick, and $14,502,400 to spend in total for the whole draft. The rules are very clear how you can spend your money. General Manager Mike Rizzo is on the clock now, and should be working to pre-negotiate a deal with two players in case Pittsburgh chooses one or none of them. Pittsburgh has been known to go off script, and they could go to high-schooler Max Clark which is why Rizzo has to do his due diligence.

If you saw any of the College World Series games, you know Skenes is the best college pitcher since Strasburg — and dare I say, he could be even better?!? Crews and Langford are both center fielders who could play the corner outfield, and both are excellent athletes. Langford has more power (.784 SLG), and Crews the better hit tool (.426 BA). That is based on their college records. A tough choice between the two as they were separated by a miniscule .002 in OPS (1.280 vs. 1.282) but evaluators felt like Crews faced the tougher pitching in 2023.

Langford won a Home Run Derby as a high school player. His power was seen with tape measure shots in this postseason. Crews’ power is more about clearing the fences, and not the distance. Skenes as a pitcher is in a class of his own. Either you want the pitcher or go with the outfielder in a process of choosing between these two stars. Rizzo, by July 9, the day of the draft, must know who he covets most, and then the runner-up, so that he has a second choice in case Pittsburgh takes his first choice.

For the past two months, almost every mock draft had Skenes to Washington and Crews to Pittsburgh, but that has changed this week with Kiley McDaniel of ESPN going with Skenes to Pittsburgh and Crews to Washington. But maybe Rizzo wants the power of Langford?

Langford started last night’s game off with a pulled 2-run homer to put Florida up quickly at 2-0. That lead didn’t last long — and none of that is Langford’s fault. He did his job. What we saw with Langford was huge hits in high leverage spots. He’s a gamer with huge power for a player that only stands 6’1″ about the same size as Crews. Here’s what Langford said after his final college game before entering the draft:

“Obviously going through my mind right now, I’m pretty disappointed [about our team losing]. But I mean, I’m just thankful to be here. I’m thankful to have this opportunity and just to be able to play with these guys.”

Wyatt Langford said to a media question via our ZOOM call after last night’s loss in the College World Series

One disturbing part of McDaniel’s article is that there could be some manipulation at work here that Crews does not want to go to Pittsburgh, or that is how some have taken his words. Truthfully knowing the Pirates’ enduring track record, could you blame anyone for a preference of Washington over the Steel City?

“Let me try to explain my thinking and the industry buzz on this one — and I’ll be careful not to make any of this sound more concrete than it is. There’s a belief from those plugged into the Pirates pick that the Crews camp will not be willing to take whatever is offered at the first pick. Some describe it as ‘not interested,’ some as ‘maybe just a negotiation ploy.’ There’s a spectrum of how to take this since it’s just indications and bluster and posturing — but I’ve been hearing since February that the Pirates have been aggressively looking into the non-Crews options, even after it became clear he was the consensus best prospect. Even when you’re planning to take the best player, those can be smart things to do — a combination of due diligence and spreading rumors to maybe get his price down — so I assumed until recently that’s what was happening.”

“If the Nationals — at No. 2 — would do whatever they needed to to get Crews to their pick, including going over their slot, let’s say to $9.25 million, that still wouldn’t really impair their ability to spend at later picks. Toss in being a big-market team that has drafted major stars (and stars from this agency) before, and you can see how a couple of phone calls could make the Crews camp more interested in the team most motivated to get him among the top few picks, rather than simply focusing on going first and taking what’s offered. If you’re Crews’ representative and you have $9.25 million waiting at the second pick — your preferred spot in general — what would you ask Pittsburgh for? At least $9.5 million, maybe full slot at $9.72 million — maybe just say $10 million? See, it all fits together nicely, provided you think this is something like what’s been happening behind the scenes.”

Kiley McDaniel wrote on ESPN

Crews kind of seemed excited about a chance to be drafted by the Nats and play in Washington, D.C. when he talked to us in May.

“I think it would be awesome [to be drafted by the Nationals]. I guess whatever happens, happens. I have no control over [which team drafts me]. I have control over my process each and every day, and being present every single day. If that were to happen — if that were to be where I end up in the future — that would be awesome. I think it’s a great organization.”

“… I think [Washington D.C.] would be a really cool place to be.”

— Crews told us about possibly playing for the Washington Nationals

Crews might surprise you too as a person. He was projected to be a 1st round pick out of high school in Orlando, Florida, and he withdrew his name from the draft to honor his commitment to go to college at LSU. He would have been an 18-year-old multi-millionaire, and this was really before the NIL money became a huge financial incentive. His advice to high school kids:

“Man, it was a tough [decision] out of high school. I was an 18-year-old kid. Didn’t know what to expect for the future. There was a lot of, like, just if you go to [college], it was like a bad thing or something like that. So to make that decision as a young kid like that and to be able to go to [LSU] — this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to go to school, and I wanted to experience this and bring a National Championship to LSU.”

“So if I had to give any advice [to a high school player], it’s go to college, really. Experience this. Don’t miss out on these three years. Just develop as a player, physically and mentally for the next level, and everything will take care of itself.”

Dylan Crews said to a media question via our ZOOM call after last night’s win in the College World Series

Knowing general manager Mike Rizzo, he is all about the starting pitching. If Paul Skenes is available at pick No. 2, you have to believe that Riz is taking the pitcher who has been compared to the greatest college pitching prospect, Strasburg, who went 1-of-1 to the Nats in the 2009 draft out of San Diego State.

“Starting pitching is the driver to me . . . We’ve built our [rosters] based on having a guy in the middle of the diamond who gives us a chance to win every day.”

— Rizzo said in 2018 when he had Strasburg, Max Scherzer, and was about to sign Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez in free agency. Less than a year after that comment — the Nats won the 2019 World Series

Here is what Skenes told us about the possibility of being drafted by the Nats:

“I try not to look at those [mock draft rankings], and I think as long as I keep doing what I’m supposed to be doing over the new few weeks, everything will just land as it should,”

Skenes said to our Ben Belford-Peltzman in May about going to Washington at the top of the draft

One thing for sure is that it is great for recruiting for LSU and Florida to have a top of the draft star player. LSU’s head coach Johnson thinks his two guys will be one and two in the draft.

“When you’re talking about those players [Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes], in all likelihood, are going to be drafted first and second. I think that shows a lot of development. I mean, Dylan is a better player today than he was as a freshman; Paul came out of the transfer portal and chose us over any school in the country because he believed he could develop to be the best that he could be.

In my opinion, you’re looking at the best position player in college baseball, the most prepared position player to go have success in professional baseball with Dylan, and you’re looking at the best pitcher and the most prepared pitcher to have success in professional baseball — and both of those guys are calling LSU ‘Home.’ So it’s a really big deal.”

— Johnson told our Ben Belford-Peltzman in May

There you have it for Skenes, Crews and Langford. One of those names should be called first, second, and third in just 12-days on Sunday, July 9, in Seattle, Washington — the site of this year’s All-Star game.

Many thanks to Ben Belford-Peltzman for his contributions to this article. Ben wanted to write this piece, but ran out of time as he was readying for his baseball camp in North Carolina with no electronic devices.

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