Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

2023 Early Mock Drafts


Your likely 1-1 overall pick, Dylan Crews from LSU

So, in years’ past, when the Nats were drafting somewhere besides the top 5, analyzing mock drafts was a lot more fun. We could look at who was predict to go at the top, then we could analyze all the myriad of names that could conceivably fall to the nats wherever they were picking.

In 2023 though, this exercise has proven to be pretty simple. There’s basically two guys who practically every pundit thinks will end up on our team, so this collecting of mock draft exercise seems futile.

Here’s some early takes on the 2023 draft class, with some mocks. By May, consensus amongst most scouts was the same top 5 in some varying order, then a gap to 6 and beyond.

Top 5 expected to be ( not necessarily in this order):

  • Dylan Crews, OF from LSU, is the current #1 overall projection. Hit 349/.463/.691 as a sophomore for LSU with 22 homers. Plays CF but likely a corner in pro ball at 6’0″ 200lbs of power.
  • Max Clark, a prep OF from Indiana with an all-Lefty speed/hit tool comparable to Jacoby Ellsbury. Possible 5-tool lefty who can hit 96 on the mound. Vanderbilt commit, isn’t getting to college. Struck out just 3 times in his entire junior season while slashing .577/.717/1.126.
  • Walker Jenkins, a prep corner OF from NC. Commit to UNC. Underclassman on 18U national team, Projects to 30-home run power, had more walks and homers than Ks his Junior season.
  • Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida. Huge bat, led Florida in slash lines in 2022 and now projects as a possible CF, turning him into an upper-end 1st rounder.
  • Paul Skenes, RHP, LSU: Air Force xfer who is helium guy based on Fall 2022 work. Big arm. Exploded onto the scene in Spring 2023, added velocity, now expected top 2 picks.

Other names who appeared in earlier top 5 lists but who have dropped include:

  • Chase Dollander, the RHP Friday starter for Tennessee in 2022. 103/13 K/BB in 79 innings, 2.39 ERA for Best team in college baseball in 2022. Shooting up draft boards with Jacob deGrom comps in 2022, but struggling in 2023. Slipping down the boards.
  • Jacob Gonzalez, SS from Ole Miss. Middle of the order bat, slashed .355/.443/.561 for Ole Miss his sophomore season while leading team to CWS title.
  • Jacob Wilson, SS Grand Canyon. All WAC as a freshman, starred for Team USA summer 2022. Stock increasing late 2022, rising up.

Here’s some early Mock Drafts that we’ve seen. Nats pick #2 but we’ll put in the top 5 for context.

  • BA 2023 Way Too Early mock 7/20/22 (as in, the day after the 2022 draft): Crews, Clark, Dollander, Jenkins, Gonzalez. This is before we knew that the Nats would pick #2, and there’s no way they’re leaving top-end college talent on the board in a college-rich draft to pick a prep kid like Clark.
  • BA 2023 Draft Class Rank 7/25/22: Clark, Crews, Jenkins, Gonzalez, Dollander. Crews would be a very, very solid pick at #2, despite our top three prospects also being OFs.
  • BA First Full Mock post lottery 12/7/22: Crews, Dollander, Langford, Wilson, Gonzalez. Dollander as the top arm would be great, but beware his spring season as Tennessee’s Friday night starter.
  • MLBPipeline Mock draft 12/15/22 with top 100 release: Crews, Dollander, Clark, Skenes, Langford. MLBPipeline notes that they went chalk to their top 100 at the top, noting that Dollander is the “best pitching prospect since Strasburg.” Fitting if the Nats get him.
  • BA’s first official 2023 Mock draft 3/16/23: Crews, Langford, Skenes, Dollander, Clark.
  • MLBpipeline Callis first mock 5/4/23: Crews, Skenes, Langford, Jenkins, Clark
  • BA Mock v2.0 5/11/23: Crews, Skenes, Jenkins, Langford, Clark
  • BA 5/17/23 staff draft. Crews, Skenes, Jenkins, Langford, Clark as well.
  • MLBpipeline Mayo Mock 5/18/23: Crews, Skenes, Jenkins, Clark, Langford
  • Keith Law 1st mock 5/23/23: Crews, Skenes, Clark, Jenkins, Langford
  • MLBpipeline Callis mock 6/1/23: Crews, Skenes, Langford, Jenkins, Clark
  • BA 6/8/23 mock 3.0: Crews, Skenes, Langford, Jenkins, Clark

So, what do I think will happen? I think Pittsburgh, a notoriously conservative franchise in the draft, will cut a small deal with Crews (giving him the same $$ that he’d get at 2nd overall) and take him 1-1. A positional player is less risky than a pitcher, always. This then lets the Nats take the big arm, the guy who everyone says is the best pitching prospect since Strasburg, and they can start him in High-A or AA like with Strasburg, with an eye on getting to the majors maybe by late 2024.

What if the Pirates take Skenes? Then the Nats trip over themselves to take Crews. I don’t care how many OF prospects we have right now … Crews is that good. I don’t buy that Langford can play CF (if he could, he’d be doing so), and I’d rather have a college guy versus a prep guy.

What if the Pirates don’t take Crews or Skenes? If this happens … I think the Nats take Skenes.

Written by Todd Boss

June 8th, 2023 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Nats in General

11 Responses to '2023 Early Mock Drafts'

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  1. Skenes is the most Rizzo draft prospect ever. If for some reason the Pirates get Langford on an underslot deal and Crews and Skenes are still on the board, Riz is going to wet himself rushing to pick Skenes.

    As I just noted on the last post, I don’t know why any of the Big 3 would take underslot, though. Langford might be the only one tempted, as he might actually make a little more that way, or at least no less than the $8.3M for the third pick. The other two are spoken of as generational talents and have no reason/incentive to take less.

    Current numbers, going into super regionals:

    Crews: .432/.573/.736, 17 HR, 14 2B, 61 BB
    Langford: .387/.511/.799, 18 HRs, 24 2B, 50 BB

    Langford has come back REALLY strong after an early-season injury, even with much of that time being during the SEC season. He may indeed have a higher ceiling at the plate than Crews, but he may be LF-only.

    Skenes: 1.90 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 5.5 H9, 1.5 BB9, insane 16.2 K9. He has 179 Ks in 99.1 IP.

    I really don’t see how the Pirates or the Nats can pass on Skenes. It makes no sense to do so.


    8 Jun 23 at 2:44 pm

  2. Unless of course you buy the touting of Crews as “mini-Trout.”

    Ridiculously good choices. I’m so glad that they have college quality at the top of this draft. It’s such a crap shoot when it’s mostly high schoolers, as it was last year.


    8 Jun 23 at 2:46 pm

  3. My view has mostly been “why would you take Langford over Crews – Crews has been a top prospect for years under intense scrutiny and he has done nothing but perform in the toughest conference.” But there’s just not much difference in the Crews/Langford stat lines. I think this is where scouting matters a lot. If the Nats’ decisionmakers prefer Langford to Crews, I just don’t think that’s something to get too upset about. They’re close enough that reasonable minds can differe, IMO.

    The two OFs vs. Skenes is more philosophical. Putting aside health (which is a gigantic matzoh ball to put aside), I think it’s just more easy to translate success like Skenes has had in college to MLB. That kind of domination plus control essentially means that Skenes will get MLB-caliber hitters out as a starter. If he doesn’t break, that dude is going to have a sub-4.00 FIP and is a reasonable bet to have a sub-3.00 FIP. I think there’s too much mystery in the hit tool to make similar predictions about Crews and Langford. The other side of this coin, however, is that pitchers routinely break, and so could Skenes.

    I’ve decided I’ll be ok with any of Skenes, Crews, and Langford (though that’s my order of preference). I’ll be upset if they draft one of the HS OFs. There’s a time and a place to play games with bonuses. That time and place is NOT the top of a draft with studs like these.


    8 Jun 23 at 3:14 pm

  4. Derek’s question about trying to “save money” on someone instead of picking the obvious talent at 1-2 is indeed a strategy that some teams have taken (Baltimore, philly recently), but that the Nats decidedly do NOT ever do. No: we’re the team that’s known to take the “famous guy” and to overpay. That’s how we ended up with guys like Giolito and House and Seth Romero, overpaying all of them by slot. Skenes is the famous guy.

    Todd Boss

    8 Jun 23 at 4:33 pm

  5. I pretty much agree with all. However, we’re beaten over the head with “best player available,” and basically every board that I’ve seen has Crews ahead of Skenes. If for some reason the Pirates do an underslot with Langford, would the Nats really take Skenes over Crews? But as I said, and Todd echoed in another context, Skenes has Rizzo written all over him. And we know that Riz certainly doesn’t mind the risk associated with taking a pitcher.

    I could see things getting interesting if the Pirates take Skenes. As Derek noted, then it comes down to the scouts. Part of the reason that most boards have Crews ahead of Langford is better chance of CF/RF defense from Crews. That’s not as big of a deal for the Nats, though. They’ve got Hassell/Green/Vaquero in the CF pipeline, and Wood likely to be a fixture in RF. If the Nat scouts agree with Law that Langford’s bat has a higher ceiling than Crews’s, then the Nats are in a position to make that choice.

    That said, if Crews goes #1, I would be shocked if the Nats were to take Langford over Skenes. But Langford over Crews would only surprise me a little.

    And . . . there’s still (perhaps) a fair amount of baseball to be played by all three. Let’s see if any guy really rises to the occasion in the pressure situations.


    8 Jun 23 at 6:56 pm

  6. New mock from Jonathan Mayo at

    Just a couple of tidbits from him for our purposes:

    — “And yes, we’ve heard the talk about the Pirates doing something to save more money (though it would be with someone else in the top five, with Max Clark’s name mentioned the most).”

    — “The Skenes-to-the-Nats connection continues to be the strongest one at the top of the round.”

    Kiley McDaniel also laid out the Clark top pick scenario two weeks ago:

    His take on the Nats: “It’s widely believed that the Nats’ board is Crews at one and Skenes at two and they love both players, so this should be a no-lose pick for them with both players available here. Now, the Nationals do have an interest in Clark and their scouting director was also taking a long look at Kyle Teel two weeks ago. And they over-index on pitchers more than maybe any other team in baseball. All that being said, it’s still very likely they just take Crews if he gets here, with a strong chance that he gets the biggest bonus in the draft.”

    My take: if they take Clark over Crews or Skenes, they’ve lost all their marbles. Same for the Pirates from where I sit. There’s NO ONE you would be saving for in the second round who is worth passing on a generational talent to take. And neither team will be allowed to pick in the top 10 next year, so this is the one chance to get a college stud who should be in the majors no later than 2025.

    (FanGraphs isn’t in this conversation at all, hasn’t updated its draft board since before the spring season. Longenhagen may just be one deep and concentrating on the team prospect lists.)


    9 Jun 23 at 6:34 am

  7. Fangraphs: Longenhagen still hasn’t finished all 30 prospect lists; its mid June! He just released Washington’s list and its a ridiculous list … i have it written up and will post soon.

    Todd Boss

    9 Jun 23 at 2:11 pm

  8. An O-fer for Langford on Friday night, although he had one caught against the wall. LSU plays at 3 p.m. on Saturday on LSU.

    I was looking at a couple of Pirate sites and found an interesting note. The main guy on their prospects site who has been tracking the draft wrote that while there have been many mentions that the Pirates have been considering everyone in the top five, he’s seen nothing specifically connecting the Bucs to Skenes. It’s all been Crews or Clark. So he doesn’t think that they’re really in on Skenes, or Langford.


    10 Jun 23 at 11:40 am

  9. Skenes looked very good again on Saturday (the game was delayed like 6 hours because of weather). He’s striking out fewer guys (though when you are approaching a 50% K-rate, your K-rate really has only one direction to go) but remains unhittable. I saw a beautiful 91 MPH changeup to a lefty for a whiff (along with many more monster fastballs and sliders). Mercifully, LSU took him out at ~100 pitches in the 8th inning.

    I’m not sure when the next Skenes start will be, but it will definitely take place in Omaha and will almost certainly be on TV.


    12 Jun 23 at 10:12 am

  10. I watched the first three innings on Saturday. Skenes certainly throws the “easiest” 101-102 that I’ve ever seen, and consistently, to the point that you’d swear that the stadium radar gun is jacked (except he’s been doing this all season). He wasn’t that overwhelmingly dominant, though, with only one K the first time through the UK lineup. Interesting stat from the announcers: opponents are hitting .211 on his fastball but only .078 on the slider.

    My greatest horror with Skenes came the next morning when I looked at the game stats and saw that they sent him back out in the 6th despite an 11-run lead . . . and the 7th with a 12-run lead, AND the 8th with a 14-run lead!!! So he went a totally unnecessary 101 pitches after a horrifying 124 the previous game.

    Crews didn’t do much over the weekend — two dribblers for hits on Saturday and a double on Sunday (and four walks). On Saturday night, he took dubious routes to a couple of balls in CF, although the announcers did point out that the wind was swirling. An interesting fact they added about him is that he has a 43-inch vertical, which is some serious athleticism.

    Langford went 0-for-the-weekend, although his team also advanced. I saw him hit one to the wall into what seemed to be a stiff breeze.


    12 Jun 23 at 11:38 am

  11. Cool video interview with Skenes:

    He shows his pitching grips, talks 4-seam vs 2-seam, and curve vs slider. He also confirms what Todd and others have said: he doesn’t throw his changeup very much because he’s worried college hitters who can’t hit 100 will catch up to it (and he uses a split grip instead of a circle grip…maybe Stras can show him the circle grip?)

    All in all, he seems like an interesting, personable guy. He likes to talk about spin rates.


    12 Jun 23 at 5:44 pm

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