LSU teammates Skenes and Crews go 1-2 in MLB draft; Ole Miss’ Gonzalez picked 15th

Published 8:51 pm Sunday, July 9, 2023

SEATTLE (AP) — The Pittsburgh Pirates selected hard-throwing LSU right-handed pitcher Paul Skenes with the top pick in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft on Sunday night, with teammate Dylan Crews going No. 2 to the Washington Nationals.

Skenes went 12-3 with 209 strikeouts in 122 innings in helping lead the Tigers to the College World Series championship. The pick was announced by Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., the top pick of the 1987 draft by the Seattle Mariners.

“A lot of work and a lot of surrounding myself with the right people and doing the right things for a long period of time,” Skenes said.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Skenes was the first college pitcher selected No. 1 overall since Casey Mize by Detroit in 2018.

“He had an incredibly special season at LSU. He obviously took another step forward this spring,” Pittsburgh general manager Ben Cherington said. “It’s a really special combination of pitches and just as much about the mix and command than any one pitch.”

For the second time in three years, the Pirates held the top overall selection after picking catcher Henry Davis at the top of the 2021 draft. Davis made his major league debut last month for Pittsburgh.

Skenes’ slot value is expected to be about $9.7 million. Cherington said the hope is an agreement can come quickly and Skenes could pitch somewhere in the Pirates organization in 2023.

“It will have been a little while since he last pitched in the World Series and we want to be sure that whatever that schedule and progression looks (like) makes sense for him,” Cherington said.

It seemed to be a debate between Skenes and Crews for the top pick. It didn’t take long for Crews to come off the board after hitting .426 with 18 home runs while playing center field for the Tigers. Crews had a 26-game hitting streak as part of his standout season for the Tigers and finished his career at LSU by reaching base in each of his final 75 college games.

Crews said he’s never been to Washington, but saw plenty of the Nationals while growing up and watching Bryce Harper.

“Seeing him in a Nationals uniform, it was pretty awesome,” Crews said. “I’m going to play my game and hopefully have as much impact as him. … He’s just a complete player.”

Crews is the first college position player taken by Washington with its first pick since Anthony Rendon in 2011.

“A guy we’ve watched since he was in high school,” Nationals president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo said. “He’s the type of guy that we want here in Washington. He’s a terrific person. He’s got great character. He’s very competitive and he’s a winner.”

Skenes and Crews are the first teammates to go 1-2 in draft history. Two of their teammates, pitchers Ty Floyd and Grant Taylor, were also selected on the first day of the draft. Floyd went 38th overall to the Cincinnati Reds n Competitive Balance Round A. Taylor, who did not play this season while recovering from an injury, was picked by the Chicago White Sox in the second round, No. 51 overall.

“There was no really butting heads over who was going to go 1 or 2,” Crews said.

Detroit selected high school outfielder Max Clark from Franklin, Indiana, at No. 3. Clark was the Gatorade national player of the year after hitting .646 with six homers and 33 RBIs during his high school season.

Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford went No. 4 to Texas, and high school outfielder Walker Jenkins, from Oak Island, North Carolina, went fifth to Minnesota.

Oakland took college shortstop Jacob Wilson, the son of former major league shortstop Jack Wilson, from Grand Canyon at No. 6.

Wake Forest right-hander Rhett Lowder went No. 7 to Cincinnati, Kansas City selected high school catcher Blake Mitchell, from Sinton, Texas, at No. 8, and Colorado picked Tennessee right-hander Chase Dollander.

The top 10 concluded with Miami selecting high school righty Noble Meyer from Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon.

Ole Miss shortstop Jacob Gonzalez went 15th overall, to the White Sox. A career .319/.427/.561 hitter in the ultracompetitive SEC, Gonzalez did everything Major League clubs could hope for at the plate, hitting for average and getting on base. He slugged 40 home runs in 186 career games at Ole Miss — including 18 during the Rebels’ national championship run in 2022.

The California native’s skills go beyond the batter’s box. The son of Jess Gonzalez, a Minor League pitcher in the 1990s, the shortstop received a solid grade of 55 (on the 20-80 scale) on his throwing arm and a 50 grade onhis fielding skill, making him a capable defender at short.

Gonzalez’s Ole Miss teammate, Kemp Alderman, was taken by the Miami Marlins in the second round, 47th overall. The outfielder won the Ferriss Trophy as the top college player in Mississippi and earned All-America honors from the NCBWA’s and ABCA/Rawlings.

Alderman’s 19 home runs in 2023 were the third-highest single-season total in Ole Miss history and his .376 batting average was the highest in a season since 2012.

Mississippi State also had a player picked on day one of the draft. Outfielder Colton Ledbetter went 55th overall, to the Tampa Bay Rays with their second-round selection.

Ledbetter started  all 57 games for Mississippi State this season after spending the previous two years at Samford.. He batted .318, and led the team with 67 hits, 16 home runs, 57 RBIs and 51 runs scored.

Another player with Mississippi ties, pitcher Hurston Waldrep, went to the Atlanta Braves at No. 24 overall. Waldrep helped Florida reach the College World Series finals this season, but pitched at Southern Miss in 2022.

The right-hander piled up 296 strikeouts in 191 2/3 innings over the past two seasons, good for the third-best K’s in NCAA Division I. From the beginning of the 2022 season, he recorded double-digit strikeouts in 16 starts.

The MLB draft continues Monday at 1 p.m., with rounds 3-10, and concludes Tuesday afternoon with rounds 11-20.