Is Presumptive 2023 No. 1 Overall Pick Dylan Crews Already A Top-10 Prospect?
It’s been awhile since we saw a truly famous college position player available in the draft. In part due to the repercussions of the 2020 five-round draft, Dylan Crews ended up on campus at Louisiana State. Crews is arguably the most famous college position player in a decade and has drawn the type of praise that Kris Bryant garnered as a prospect.
At the time of publication Crews is hitting .463/.609/.800 through 47 games with 13 home runs and 50 walks to 24 strikeouts. That remarkable combination of contact, approach and power certainly is a recipe for success. It’s clear Crews will rank within the top 25 of our Top 100 Prospects, but just how high is the question. Is he a top-10 prospect? A top-five prospect? Is he the top prospect? It’s all within the realm of possibility.
After a period where the top 2-3 prospects in the game was fairly clear—think Gunnar Henderson and Corbin Carroll or Adley Rutschman, Bobby Witt Jr. and Julio Rodriguez—there’s now perhaps a list of six prospects currently with a claim to the top overall spot with no clear-cut separation. How does Crews fit within the group of Jackson Chourio, Jordan Walker, Elly De La Cruz, Grayson Rodriguez, Eury Perez and Jackson Holliday?
First let’s discuss Crews’ production. He’s dominated in the strongest conference in the country, hitting .445/.595/.796 against SEC competition thus far. He has a .440 or higher batting average against every pitch type. He’s rarely fooled and does damage against velocity, hitting .455 against 95-plus mph velocity with an 86% contact rate and a swinging strike rate of just 5%.
Crews makes a high rate of contact, is rarely fooled into chase swings and has little trouble with any particular pitch type. Beyond that, his exit velocity data is outstanding, as his average exit velocity this season is 96.5 mph and his 90th percentile exit velocity is 109.6 mph. All caveats due to an aluminum bat apply, but Crews’ numbers are outstanding regardless and should translate to 70-grade raw power metrics in pro ball. It’s an offensive profile with few question marks.
Defensively, Crews has started in center field the last two seasons. He’s capable of playing the position but likely would settle in as a right fielder long term, where he projects to be above-average or better. It’s a tantalizing combination of skills that would put him in the company of Chourio, Walker, De La Cruz and Holliday.
While Crews doesn’t possess the outlier athletic ability of De La Cruz, his approach is more advanced, leading to fewer question marks around his strikeout rate and ability to consistently contribute strong at-bats. In this way he’s also more advanced than Walker and Chourio, who despite excellent power likely aren’t in Crews’ neighborhood in terms of plate skills, without any real advantage when it comes to impact hitting. That leaves Holliday.
The conversation between Crews and Holliday is an interesting one comparing what’s likely to be the No. 1 overall picks in consecutive drafts. Holliday is younger with similar elite plate skills and potential for more defensive value, but Holliday has yet to hit the ball as hard and as consistently as Crews. It’s certainly plausible that Holliday gets there, but he lacks the strength Crews has at present.
It’s reasonable to consider Crews in the conversation for the top prospect in the game before he’s even stepped foot on a professional field. That’s heady company and few college hitters in recent memory garnered that sort of respect immediately outside of Adley Rutschman—who ranked as the No. 5 prospect on the 2020 Top 100. We spoke with some high ranking contacts inside the game to get a feel for how he’s viewed within that debate.
High ranking analyst:
“I personally don't see a reason he shouldn't be an immediate top 10 or even top five. He’s done nothing but rake for three years. Compare him to (James) Wood, who's 10th on the Baseball America list right now and realistically only six months younger than Crews. Wood might have more juice, but by how much? After that, I might lean Crews for every other tool.”
“Just the plate discipline part of it is really impressive. Obviously when he hits the ball it just takes off. It’s a different sound off the bat. But just like his at-bats and the at-bat quality were really good. I saw him in high school and there was some chase against secondary stuff off the plate. Now he’s not chasing. He’s got pretty good plate discipline, he’s got a pretty good idea of what he’s doing and he doesn’t miss pitches. Plus he can let the ball travel deep and he’s got power the other way. He did everything you can ask when I saw him. They didn’t have an answer for him. They couldn’t get him out.
“He fits right with those guys. Kris Bryant had an unbelievable platform season before going out to the draft. He compares right with those guys. I can’t imagine him not being 1-1 overall. He fits right with the Rutschmans and the Bryants from the past.
“It’s crazy. It’s not like they’re cheap hits, either. When he hits them the ball explodes off the bat. Just a different bat speed. He can let the ball travel so deep and just have the opposite field power, he’s able to do that. It’s like a quick, explosive stroke. I can’t see that type of swing getting in a lot of slumps, either.
“(Crews and Paul Skenes would) definitely both be in the top 20 (on a Top 100 list) right out of the gate. I could see them sneaking into the top 10. It’s hard to say they’d definitely be top 10 prospects immediately because the guys up there are elite prospects, too, and they’ve proven it in pro ball. But they’d definitely be top 20.”