It was another monumental day for the Nationals franchise and its future.
After making the signing official, the organization officially introduced No. 2 overall pick Dylan Crews as its latest highly touted prospect.
“Another exciting day here at Nationals Park,” said general manager Mike Rizzo to begin the introductory press conference in front of members of the Lerner family, Crews family and local media. “Over the years that I've been here, we've been here many times and few occasions can match the excitement that we have today. To get into the organization one of the most decorated, accomplished, winning-type of players in collegiate history to join the Washington Nationals is a special occasion for us.
The Nationals made the LSU outfielder the No. 2 selection of the 2023 MLB Draft two weeks ago. Crews reportedly signed a deal worth $9 million, the highest ever given to a position player in the bonus slot era of the draft. His college teammate, Paul Skenes, set the overall record with a $9.2 million bonus as the Pirates’ No. 1 overall pick.
Jim Callis of MLB.com reported the final number.
With his dad, George, mom, Kim, sister, Lyndsee, and girlfriend, Jane, sitting in the front row, Crews wasted no time in thanking his family for their support before moving on to members of the Nationals organization and his agent, Scott Boras.
“First off, I'd like to thank my family. Of course, mom and dad, Lyndsee, my girlfriend. Without them, none of this is possible. You've made endless sacrifices to get me to this point, and I'm just forever thankful. I want to thank the Lerner family. I want to thank Scott and the Boras Corporation. And of course, Mike Rizzo. I'm ready to get going. Looking back 10 years from now, I really wouldn't think I'd be in this position right now. And I think it all starts with surrounding myself with the right people. And I'm just ready to get going. I couldn't be happier right now. I'm looking forward to the future. It's gonna be awesome.”
Crews hit .426 with 18 homers, 70 RBIs, a .567 on-base percentage and 1.280 OPS in 71 games this season while helping lead LSU to the College World Series championship and winning the Golden Spikes Award.
His accolades made it easy for the longtime GM come draft night.
“It's always great to add a keystone type of player in the organization,” Rizzo said. “Like I've said before, we've been here before. And when I was out and about seeing some of the top players in the country this year, I knew I had my pick when I left the University of Mississippi against LSU. So it was something that we, you know, there was a lot of decision making, there was a lot of thought put into this. But my instinct was when I left that ballpark, I knew we were going to take him.”
Why was it so clear?
“Over the years of my experience in the draft, this was just not only a unique player but a player that I've seen for years, I've seen him grow as a player,” Rizzo said. “He's been the man. For three years at LSU, he had to add the target on his back and you would never know it. He plays with a slow pulse and a low heart rate, a lot like Anthony Rendon was when I saw him at Rice. And this is a guy that it was about one thing. It wasn't going 4-for-4 and impressing the scouts. It was about winning that game. I was sold on him. He's pitch-to-pitch and a guy that took great pains in preparation, not only pregame, during the game, but postgame I'd watch him in the dugout and he was always helping people and trying to get the edge.”
Crews is the highest Nats draft pick since they took Stephen Strasburg (2009) and Bryce Harper (2010) with No. 1 overall picks. But the 21-year-old isn’t feeling any added pressure that might come with being a top selection.
“I don't think it's added pressure at all, really,” he said. “I view pressure as a privilege, really. I think it's a privilege to have pressure like that. I've played up my whole life. I was a 2020 playing in the 2019 class, playing up, so expectations kind of came natural to me. I'm just gonna play my game. At the end of the day, play my game and everything should take care of itself.”
Now two years into this rebuild and with the new draft lottery rules, the Nationals cannot pick that high in the first round next year. But the general manager was happy they did this year.
“Well, it's never fun to draft high because you had a really bad year the year before,” Rizzo said. “So it was a good year to be bad the year before because we got ourselves a hell of a player with the second pick. A guy that's gonna be a cornerstone for us moving forward. And if you're going to pick high, it's good to pick high when you've got a player like Dylan Crews that you can take.”
Crews’ record-setting contract was negotiated by Scott Boras, who obviously has a history of making deals with the Nationals. The super-agent made sure one important aspect was part of the deal in memory of the late founding principal owner Ted Lerner.
“I wanted to point out one other thing and that is good today; the final point of our negotiation was to ask that Annette Lerner come meet Dylan and his family. And she came today,” Boras said. “She's a special lady. We all have a very ... (we) lost Ted. We all built a championship here. And we did it with core players like Rendon and Harper and Strasburg and Werth. To see this next generation with (managing principal owner) Mark (Lener) and (principal owner) Judy (Lerner). But having Annette here, I wanted the Crews family and Dylan to meet that history. To share in it and watch it grow. And let her meet the next future of the next generation of what Ted wanted.”
As a part of that next generation, Crews will begin his Nationals career at the team’s facility in West Palm Beach before moving up to on the Single-A level.
“We're gonna get him acclimated to the organization,” Rizzo said. “First of all, he's gonna run around the outfield today under the guidance of manager Dave Martinez, and have a little fun out there. Then we're going to get to work, to get the business. Everyone's got a different plan of development. I think we're going to start in West Palm Beach, get acclimated to the organization, and then he'll probably head somewhere in the minors, one of the A-ball clubs soon thereafter. But it'll all be driven by where he's at and how rusty he is from the season and that type of thing. But I don't think it should take very long for him to get into the swing of things and to get rolling.”
Manager Davey Martinez stood in the back of the press conference room listening to one his future players. And he got excited at the prospect of having to put Crews’ name on a lineup card.
“Exciting day, exciting day,” Martinez said. “Just another piece to what we're trying to do in the future here. A good piece at that. I listened to his press conference, as you guys are aware, and sounds like he's got a great plan. I sat there and I listened to him talk about being where his feet are and I thought, 'Man, that's a young Dave Martinez right there. Not bad.' But it's good. We're all excited to have him. Now he'll go down and get his feet wet and get him going. Hopefully he goes down there and does the things that we know he can do and he makes his way up here as soon as possible.”
Crews shagged fly balls in the outfield at Nats Park during batting practice before taking some swings at home plate. He connected for three or four home runs, a sign of things to come.
“Emotions are going through the roof now,” Crews said. “I feel just accomplished and just knowing that all the hard work is paying off. Like I said, looking back, I really don't think I'd be in this position without surrounding myself with the right people and sacrificing a whole lot to get to this point. So I'm ready to get going. The game doesn't change. Everybody's nameless and faceless, so I'm ready to get going and just play the game I've always been playing.”
It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks for Crews, who went from winning the national championship to winning the highest award for an individual collegiate player to being drafted to now being introduced at Nats Park.
“It's all happened so fast, honestly,” he said. “Competing for the national championship and winning that and the Gold Spikes and getting drafted to a great organization, it's all happened so fast. It's honestly kind of hard to enjoy everything. But I've learned how to slow things down and be where my feet are single day. So I've enjoyed it. Like I said, I couldn't be happier with where I am today.”
Crews is familiar with the Nationals’ past and present. He looked up to Harper during his playing days in D.C. and is familiar with some of the fellow top prospects already in the system, such as CJ Abrams, Brady House, James Wood and second-round pick Yohandy “Yo Yo” Morales.
“When I was growing up, I used to always watch Bryce Harper play and that was one of my favorite players growing up,” he said. “So that's somebody who I look up to. I know a lot of the guys on the team and in the organization: CJ, House, Wood. Yo Yo Morales, who just got drafted. So I'm familiar with all the faces here. So I think that's a good start and I think we got a head start on this whole thing. So ready to get going and competing with those guys.”
Although expectations are still sky-high for him, Crews isn’t too concerned with how quickly he rises through the minor league ranks. He knows he’ll be in Washington soon enough.
“I'm just gonna play my game at the end of the day,” he said. “I'm gonna do what I can to try my best and perform to the highest that I can perform. That decision is up to the Nats and however fast I go, it's up to them, but I'm gonna play my game at the end of the day.”
At the end of the day, Crews and the Nationals hope that results in another World Series championship.
“I'm just gonna go out there, it doesn't matter what day it is, give it all I got and leave it out on the field,” Crews said. “All I want to do is win, really. So I hope to bring that to this organization and hope to bring other guys along with my game and hopefully impact others as well.”
Said Rizzo: “We have way bigger and way more important goals to accomplish with Dylan here in Washington, D.C.”