Never before have two teammates been chosen with the first and second overall picks of a Major League Baseball draft.
That leaves the Louisiana State University Tigers well-positioned to become the first school to accomplish the feat Sunday during the first round of the 2023 MLB draft (7 pm ET, ESPN/MLB Network). The top two players in the draft, right-handed pitcher Paul Skenes and outfielder Dylan Crews − fresh off leading the Tigers to the 2023 national championship last month − are projected to go first and second overall.
Which LSU Tiger the Pittsburgh Pirates will take first overall and which goes to the Washington Nationals at No. 2 won’t be known until the picks are revealed. But the leader of the program, head coach Jay Johnson, will be on MLB Network’s set in Seattle as a guest analyst to not only provide his perspective, but witness history.
For Johnson, who skippered the Tigers to a title in his second season in Baton Rouge, the day – and opportunity to join the broadcast – is the nexus of his occupation.
“Our job is about winning,” Johnson told USA TODAY Sports by phone. “But how we get to the winning is important. For me, that’s always player development.”
Can LSU make history at the top of the MLB draft?
Since 1965, when the modern version of the MLB draft began, 11 teammates have been drafted in the top 10. There have been two separate years when players from the same school were taken first and third overall − 2011, Gerrit Cole (1) and Trevor Bauer (3), UCLA; 1978, Bob Horner (1) and Hubie Brooks (3), Arizona State.
Skenes and Crews have also shared a piece of history previously. In 2021, Collegiate Baseball voted them as National Co-Freshman of the Year.
They rose to the top of draft boards by being especially talented, Johnson said. While that goes without saying, both are better people than they are players.
“They deserve everything they have coming their way,” Johnson said. “I’m obviously very thankful to the contributions they just made to us winning the national championship this year. But this is their time. Let’s just say the Pirates and the Nationals are going to be infinitely better because they’re going to have these two guys in their organization.”
Paul Skenes scouting report
A transfer from Air Force, Skenes was a first-team All-American twice over before his arrival to the Bayou. The 6-foot-6 righty struck out 209 hitters over 122 2/3 innings to lead all of Division I and set a new NCAA record. His fastball, which averaged 98 mph last season, has been awarded a maximum 80-grade on the scouts’ scale.
In Johnson’s mind, Skenes is a surefire No. 1 starter on a perennial postseason team, with multiple All-Star Game starts potentially in the future.
“You’re getting one of the most amazing human beings on the planet when you talk about (being a) leader, character, elevating the level of everyone else around him,” Johnson said. “He was really the unquestioned leader of our team, and that’s special, given that he was here for only 10 months.”
Dylan Crews scouting report
The 2023 Golden Spikes Award winner, given to the best player in college baseball, Crews represents the dying breed of a baseball player who is a true five-tool player. Last season, Crews batted .426 with a 1.280 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. The Longwood, Florida, native slugged 58 homers over his three-year career.
Johnson said Crews will go down as one of college baseball’s all-time great hitters and expects him to be an MVP candidate at the next level.
“The humility that he plays with, the edge that he plays with, is what allowed all those tools to show up… and it led to this legendary performance,” Johnson said.
Jay Johnson ready for MLB Network draft broadcast
Johnson is certainly more looking forward to talking about Rhett Lowder than facing the Wake Forest right-hander considered the next-best pitching prospect in the draft after Skenes.
“He is a special pitcher, man,” Johnson said.
MLB Network sent Johnson a list of prospects he’ll be expected to chime in about. When he saw the names, he felt even more pride for the Tigers’ recent championship with how many projected first-round picks they competed against in 2023. He’ll study the evaluations compiled by the Tigers’ analytics department during the flight to Seattle to make sure he’s well-prepared to discuss any player on the biggest night of their baseball careers to that point.
“I think it’s just a great year for the draft and college baseball players in the draft,” Johnson said. “I think it’s more accentuated because this is the class that came out (of high school) around the COVID draft. So there’s actually more great college players in this draft than ever has been, and that’s exciting.”
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB draft 2023: Jay Johnson an analyst as LSU chases history