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MLB Draft 2023: What to know about every first-round pick

SEATTLE — The MLB Draft has begun, and so have the fireworks.

Held outside in downtown Seattle as part of this week’s All-Star festivities, there was nonstop buzz leading up to Sunday evening about what the Pirates would do with the top pick. History, in fact, was made between the top two selections.

Here’s what you need to know about all 28 of the 2023 first-round picks as we track each one in real time.

1. Pittsburgh Pirates — RHP Paul Skenes; LSU

Most evaluators agree that Skenes is the best college pitching prospect since Stephen Strasburg. After spending his first two college seasons at the Air Force Academy as a two-way player, Skenes transferred to the powerhouse LSU Tigers for his junior draft season. Upon arrival in Baton Rouge, Skenes became a full-time pitcher and embarked on one of the most dominant college pitching seasons in years, one that concluded with two masterful starts in the College World Series and a national championship.

His velocity ticked up into the high 90s and beyond (he had outings this year when he sat at 100 mph), his slider was a devastating bat-misser and he baffled lefties with a legit change-up. Skenes is everything you want in an ace: He works deep into starts, has the body and frame to throw 200 innings a season and is ruthless on the mound. The only thing to nitpick on would be how the non-velocity characteristics of his fastball play at the big-league level.

The industry consensus over the past half decade has skewed away from pitching at the very top of the draft due to the volatility and injury risks associated with pitchers. But Pittsburgh determined that Skenes was truly an unavoidable, generational talent, one who should be on his way to PNC Park by this time next year.

2. Washington Nationals — OF Dylan Crews; LSU (No. 1)

A first-round level talent out of high school, Crews eschewed pro ball because he (1) thought he could make more money in three years and (2) wanted to become an LSU legend. Missions accomplished. The outfielder capped off an unforgettable career with the Golden Spikes Award for the nation’s best amateur player while leading the Tigers to the national title.

Entering the season, Crews was the consensus favorite to go first overall. His “fall” to the Nats at No. 2 has more to do with Skenes’ historic season than anything Crews did wrong. His bat-to-ball skills are freakishly good, and even though he doesn’t have light tower raw juice, scouts believe he could smash 30 homers at the big league level. He is as advanced of a hitter as you’ll see at the college level, and even though he ran a concerningly high ground ball rate this year, evaluators agree that Crews is amenable and talented enough to iron that issue out in pro ball.

Quite simply, the Nats got the best pure hitter in the draft and maybe the best pure amateur hitter of the past five years. He and Skenes going 1 and 2 as teammates is a first in the history of the draft and perfectly exemplifies the outrageous season LSU just had.

3. Detroit TigersOF Max Clark; Franklin Community High (Franklin, IN)

Most evaluators believe that this draft had a consensus top 3: Skenes, Crews and Florida college outfielder Wyatt Langford (who went fourth to the Rangers). Clark was a relative lock to go fourth or fifth after the collegiate trio, but his selection by the Tigers is a legit zag, though by no means a reach.

So, why Clark?

The first thing to know about the Indiana high school outfielder is that he has the “it” factor. Clark, who has nearly 350,000 followers on Instagram and a huge YouTube footprint, exhibits all the personality traits of a modern baseball superstar. Some old school scouts were put off by his vibe, but there’s no doubt Clark moves like a big leaguer.

On the field, he’s a jack of all trades, a master of none. Clark’s defense in center field is good, his feel to hit is good, his power potential is, you guessed it, good. Despite his mountain of charisma, Clark is a true sum-of-his-parts player, similar to Cubs prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong (without the elite defense).

4. Texas RangersOF Wyatt Langford; Florida

5. Minnesota TwinsOF Walker Jenkins; South Brunswick High (Southport, NC)

6. Oakland Athletics — SS Jacob Wilson; Grand Canyon University

Jake Mintz, the louder half of @CespedesBBQ is a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He played college baseball, poorly at first, then very well, very briefly. Jake lives in New York City where he coaches Little League and rides his bike, sometimes at the same time. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Mintz.

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