The Nats draft Dylan Crews at #2 overall. An historic day for the franchise.

The Washington Nationals made it official with a pick of Dylan Crews after the Pittsburgh Pirates shocked the baseball world and drafted Paul Skenes at No. 1 overall. General manager Mike Rizzo said the team would go slow to start Crews off in the system, and that means they won’t start him at Double-A out of the gates. After scouting director, Kris Kline, rattled off the names of five players a few days ago that the Nats could pick in the first round, he spoke about Skenes first, Wyatt Langford second, Max Clark third, Walker Jenkins fourth, and Crews as the fifth player he spoke in-depth about. Maybe Kline knew then that Crews was the guy.

“We would have certainly liked to have our choice of all the players. It takes out all the uncertainty of what the team in front of you is going to do. But we’re tickled pink to have Dylan Crews as a National. He’s going to be one of the guys that are going be front-and-center of the next wave of championship caliber players here, and we’re looking forward to getting him in a Nats uni.”

“He’s the type of guy we want here in Washington. He’s a terrific person. He’s got great character. He’s very competitive. He’s a winner. And he’s got a great skill-set. I think he’s a guy that’s going to fit right in here and be one of the leaders of the core group of guys that’s going to be part of the next group of championships that we have here.”

— Mike Rizzo said after the draft pick

It kind of all went by the script and history was made when two LSU players, Skenes and Crews, were chosen first and second in the draft. In the 58-years of the draft, that had never happened before that a pair of teammates were selected with the first two picks. In 1978, Arizona State third baseman Bob Horner was selected No. 1 overall by the Braves, while his Sun Devils teammate, Hubie Brooks, went No. 3 overall to the Mets. Of course in that deep pitcher’s draft of 2011, the year the Pirates selected Gerrit Cole first overall, his UCLA teammate, Trevor Bauer, was Arizona’s pick at No. 3 overall.

Crews spoke tonight with the media and said that he sees himself as a leader. He said that his first two years at LSU that he was a “lead by example” player, and then this season became a vocal leader. He did confirm that Scott Boras will be his agent, and the one player on the Nats that he knows well is CJ Abrams from USA Baseball. He knows several Nats players in the farm system too including Brady House and Cole Henry. He said in Nats’ history he kind of modeled his game after Bryce Harper. Mostly, Crews wants to be an impact player for this team.

 “I’m just happy I’m in a great organization like Washington.”

— Dylan Crews said tonight

The Nats have a $8,998,500 slot value for their first round pick, and the third largest pool to spend from of $14,502,400 in total for the whole draft. The rules are very clear on how you can spend your money. Of course a team can pay above or below the printed slot values, but in total, a team has limits. Teams can go over their total bonus pools and incur a tax, however, no team has ever gone over the 5 percent threshold that triggers a loss of future draft picks in this bonus pool era. In the rounds of 11-20, draft picks do not have an assigned slot value, but any money spent over $150,000 for those players, come out of the total bonus pool.

“I would say it feels different [from past years]. We are still going to take the best available player. It feels different because we are picking at the top again. … We have five or six guys we really really like. I think it’s going to take care of itself.”

— Kline said to Dan Kolko in an exclusive from the Nationals

The bigger question for the Nats is their pick for the second round where they have No. 40 slot, and many want local product, LHP Cam Johnson, who was an IMG teammate with the Nats first round pick of last year, Elijah Green. On this second round pick, Kline said they will have the one player they have identified and hope he is still on the board for the Nats. If not, they will have identified five to eight players in order that they will want in the second round. With any luck, at least one of those players could be available for their third round pick at No. 71.

“Pick-40 is our next pick, and we are going into this that this is just as important — maybe a little bit more challenging than the one at the top. But either way we are going to get two great players at the end of the first day.”

— Kline said to Dan Kolko in an exclusive from the Nationals

As mentioned, Pittsburgh could have gone off-script as Vegas had the favorite as Langford as the runaway top pick, and they went with Skenes.

The Nats had the choice between Crews and Langford who 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. Ultimately Crews was the pick over Langford.

While the only negative on Crews is that he is lacking the big power now, my scouting eye says he is a hitting clone to a young Rice product named Anthony Rendon with those barrel to ball skills that will plug gaps and rack up the hits all over the field. From a centerfield view of both hitting, they look similar. They have those quick twitch muscles, and a wrist control swing. The pluses for Crews is that he is an extremely hard worker, high energy guy, and would be a Face of the Franchise type of player. You will never see him yawning during a game or saying baseball is boring.

The newest CBA also made a concerted effort to limit service time manipulation for top prospects with the the prospect promotion incentive (PPI). Last season, the Mariners promoted their 21-year-old phenom, Julio Rodriguez, to their opening day roster, and because he won the American League Rookie of the Year, the Mariners were awarded a bonus first round PPI pick in this first-ever incentive. It just happens to be the 29th pick this year. In normal years, it would be a 31st pick.

For the past two months, almost every mock draft had Skenes to Washington and Crews to Pittsburgh, but that has changed this week, and Kiley McDaniel of ESPN is going with Skenes to Pittsburgh and Crews to Washington. McDaniel got it right — unless he did another mock.

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

There is also some similar rumored talk from Joe Doyle of FSS Plus.

“There’s almost no circumstance where Dylan Crews falls past the second pick. Behind closed doors, there have been rumors Crews fancies the idea of playing in Washington. So much so that the Boras camp has purportedly thrown gaudy signing bonus demands at the Pirates to land Crews. That said, the Pirates hold the cards almost all the leverage.”

“The Nationals have scouted South Brunswick outfielder Walker Jenkins extensively, and have had brass out to see LSU righty Paul Skenes and Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford on almost every occasion down the stretch. That said, those efforts are likely for naught if Crews is on the board at No. 2.”

“The Nationals are squarely in wait-and-see mode, but if Crews is gone here, Skenes, Langford or Jenkins all make a lot of sense.”

— Doyle wrote on the FSS Plus site

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 the College World Series

This is Skenes talking about Crews:

“He’s a big leaguer. He’s professional in everything that he does. It’s funny, my first college outing was against him, and he hit a home run off me. So I’ve seen him do his thing for three years. I played with him for the past two summers, and obviously the past year [at LSU]. But he is just an unbelievable worker — an unbelievable human being, and everything that he does off the field.”

“You guys can see [what Crews has done] on the field because he is such a special player. So it’s been awesome to play with him, and it will be awesome to follow him in the future.”

— Skenes said about his LSU teammate Crews

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.”

— LSU head coach Johnson told our Ben Belford-Peltzman in May

There you have it after all the talk that Dylan Crews was the pick in the first round. Now guess who will be the Nats’ second rounder.

Post Pick Update

So who do you want with the Nats second round pick at #40?
The article Potential Dodgers MLB Draft targets: Ty Floyd, Cameron Johnson, Charlee Soto by coincidence lists the first three names Ghost mentioned to DonH to use in this poll:

Weigh in on your preference – but time is short.

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