Who should the Nationals draft at 2nd overall?

2023 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship
2023 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship / Jay Biggerstaff/GettyImages

Draft day is approaching. On Sunday, the Nationals will welcome their newest top prospect, one that is almost certainly a lock to be top 50 in most Top 100 prospect rankings. For a team in the midst of a massive player overhaul, that is a welcome sight.

But even still, there is no such thing as a 'can't-miss' or 'sure-fire' prospect. The volatility with prospects is high to begin with, but especially in baseball. That being said, there are three prospects this year that would arguably be 'can't-miss' number 1 overall type players in their own drafts: Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes of LSU and Wyatt Langford of Florida. Logic tells you that college bats and arms are more seasoned and the "safer" route to go, especially this high in the draft. They also, in theory, are closer to major-league ready as opposed to a High School Player. However, there are also a couple of High School bats in Max Clark and Walter Jenkins that have gotten some buzz as top 3 potential picks, perhaps even number 1 overall to the Pirates, as predicted in some recent mock drafts.

It is also worth mentioning the underslot draft strategy in baseball. Each team has a certain amount allotted to them for signing their draft picks. Save money with one pick, and you have more to spend later should a player fall to you. So even at the top of the draft, teams will often look for a discount so they can save money for later on. Or just because they are cheap. Ironically, the Pirates employed this strategy just a couple years ago by selecting Henry Davis out of Louisville over some of the top prep bats that were projected to go 1-2 in that year's draft. Now would the Pirates do it again, especially with this crop of talent? Maybe not, but the historical precedent is there and Max Clark, for instance, would be cheaper and an underslot pick over Crews or Skenes, the 1 and 2 ranked players in the draft.

So where does that leave the Nationals? Obviously they are at the mercy of the Pirates and will need to have at least two players they love in case one of them gets taken first overall. The good news is that there are plenty of players to love in this draft and the Nationals should be just fine regardless of who is taken first overall. So lets look at the scenarios:

Dylan Crews Goes First Overall

If it is a chalk pick at 1, then the Nationals really proceed as expected. While there is plenty of buzz with Clark or even Paul Skenes going first overall, Crews has widely been considered the top prospect in this draft for quite some time. Seeing him go to the Pirates would not be a surprise at all. So this would seemingly leave the Nats to decide between Skenes, Langford, Clark and Jenkins.

In my opinion, the Nationals need to steer completely clear of the prep bats. They went that direction in the past two drafts with Brady House and Elijah Green, so at the very least, they need to diversify their prospects a bit. House has turned it on again after battling injuries last season, but Green has really struggled this season and has a very alarming K%. His upside is there, but it just goes to show the volatility of prep bats in general and if there are great college bats available, that is the route you should go.

So that would just leave Wyatt Langford as the lone bat option for the Nats, and they could do much, much worse. Langford had an excellent season and is viewed as on the same level as Dylan Crews, with some scouts ranking Langford even higher. Crews might have slightly better potential as a Center Fielder, but Langford arguably has a better bat and more pop than Crews. Even if he doesn't stick in Center Field, you'd be getting a corner outfielder with a floor of 25 Home Runs a season, something this team desperately needs.

Now, of course, there is also another player who would be available that many fans want to see in DC: Paul Skenes. Skenes is coming off a historical season pitching in the SEC and an absolute dominant performance in the College World Series. I am sure I don't need to do much convincing, but just in case you need a refresher, here are Skenes' stats from this past season:

1.69 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 209 Strikeouts, 20 Walks and even more video game-like numbers.

Skenes could likely crack the starting rotation at some point in 2024, if not at the start of the season, which would be an incredibly enticing proposition for a team looking for some life. One may also argue pitching is more a necessity than another outfield bat, with players like James Wood, Robert Hassell III, Green and others already in the system. So what do the Nats do?

I have flip-flopped on this exact scenario countless times. I think it would be smarter to go Langford, as I think he is "safer" and has a very high floor. However, I am worried about the chance at "over-thinking" the pick by not taking the pitcher who just dominated the SEC of all conferences en route to a historic season and College World Series title.

As long as it is one of these two, I don't think the Nats could go wrong. But with this team's history of drafting and developing players and how poorly most have turned out, I think they need to go safe and I would select Langford. I would still be thrilled with Skenes if that is the direction they went.

Paul Skenes Goes First Overall

While it seemed Dylan Crews would be a lock at the top spot for most of the season with fellow top prospect Chase Dollander struggling at points during the season and falling out of top pick consideration, Paul Skenes pitched himself into consideration and then some. The Pirates very much could view their organization and the need for a top arm in the rotation, something they have not had in quite some time. With Skenes unquestionably the best pitcher in the draft, it would be a surprise to no one to see him selected first overall.

That would leave Dylan Crews to the Nationals, should they so choose. Following the same logic of avoiding prep bats as before, it would come down to Crews or Langford. The arguments for each player are incredibly similar and ultimately it may just come down to preference and perceived fit within the organization. While I love Langford, I think Crews' consistency is incredible and the team should jump at the opportunity to draft him if he is available. Crews finished his college career with a 75 game streak of reaching base -- absolutely unreal.

Max Clark, Wyatt Langford or Other Goes First Overall

If you are following my train of thought, I think the Nationals should go with a bat in the draft and it does not change here. It is as simple as if Dylan Crews is available, you draft Dylan Crews. If Crews and Langford were not in this draft, I would absolutely take Paul Skenes over Max Clark, Walter Jenkins and Kyle Teel. But when not just one, but two elite level bats are available at the top of the draft, I think you have to take one. Again, I would not be disappointed with Paul Skenes whatsoever, and honestly that seems to be the way the Nationals are leaning based on all of the pre-draft buzz. A future rotation of Skenes, Gore and Gray sounds wonderful, but so does an outfield of Crews/Langford, Hassell and Wood. As long as they don't go underslot, the Nationals will be in a great position after Sunday's draft.