LSU baseball coach Jay Johnson after winning the 2023 Men's College World Series. Coach Jay Johnson speaking as Tiger fans welcome the LSU Tigers Baseball team home at Alex Box Stadium. Wednesday, June 28, 2023.

Since 2009, MLB Network has been televising at least the first round of the league’s annual draft. They’ve had many prominent college baseball coaches as guest analysts during that time, including Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin, UCLA’s John Savage, and Tennessee’s Tony Vitello. But their most notable one yet may be tabbing LSU’s Jay Johnson this year for their 15th televised draft. Beyond him coming off a Men’s College World Series title, Johnson is a particularly significant analyst here, as Tigers’ stars Paul Skenes and Dylan Crews could see LSU become the first school ever to have players drafted first and second overall.

This week, Johnson spoke to Ryan Fagan of The Sporting News about this opportunity, Crews, and Skenes. And he said his overall takeaway from coaching those top prospects is how lucky teams will be to have them:

It’ll be pretty special. Obviously, it’s always about the team, but I have a different view maybe on things. Like, obviously, we want to win and we want to win championships, but how we do that is really important to me, and you do that through development. So to see Dylan and Paul, or Paul and Dylan, go as the first two picks in the draft is something that I’m really proud of them for because they’re unbelievable players and very worthy of being selected up there. And they’re Hall of Fame people. Whatever team gets them is going to have a different organization immediately, not just because of the talent they’re adding but the person they’re adding.

…I’m just so proud of both of them. It can be boiled down to this: Let’s just say the Pittsburgh and Washington organizations are going to be changed by drafting either of these guys. It doesn’t matter who goes first and who goes second. It’s an elite, future All-Star player or pitcher that is a Hall of Fame human being. But I’m really excited for Harold (Reynolds) to ask me questions and to talk about them, because they really deserve to be talked about.

Johnson also talked with USA Today‘s Chris Bumbaca, and had high praise for Skenes and Crews:

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.”

…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 a 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.

As mentioned, no college teammates have ever gone first and second overall in the MLB Draft. But there have been a couple who have gone first and third:  Bob Horner and Hubie Brooks from Arizona State in 1978, and Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer from UCLA in 2011.

It’s also of course not totally clear that Skenes and Crews will go first and second. While ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel envisions that (in that order),’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo both think the Pittsburgh Pirates are likely to take Florida’s Wyatt Langford with the top pick, with Skenes dropping to the Washington Nationals in the second slot and Crews falling to the Detroit Tigers in the third slot. There are also cases for high school outfielders Max Clark and Walker Jenkins, and there are plenty of top players beyond that. So Johnson’s work here will involve much more than just talking about his players. But he told Fagan one notable thing from the list of top prospects MLBN set him to review was how many of them his team played against this year, and how many of them were competing in this year’s College World Series:

JOHNSON: I have a really good head start, actually. When they gave me the list of who to be prepared to talk about yesterday, the amount of guys that we played this year, it actually made the national championship more meaningful, with the amount of first-round picks we played against this year. You’re talking about Rhett Lowder, Chase Dollander, Wyatt Langford. I mean, we played all of these guys. Chase Davis, I recruited and coached at Arizona. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity and I think it’s a great showcase for how good college baseball is right now.

TSN: Omaha really had just a ton of great players, high draft picks there.

JOHNSON: Yeah, it was truly amazing. It felt like the whole tournament was guys who will be a first-rounder either this year or next year.

So Johnson should have lots of insights into draft picks beyond just the ones from his program, as many of these college coaches have in the past. But he’s certainly an especially notable guest analyst to have on in a year where his program could make MLB Draft history.

And that’s a nice thing for MLBN, going up against competing coverage from ESPN for just the fourth time ever. With both networks televising the first round (similar to the multitude of networks doing that for the NFL Draft these days), there’s further pressure to make your network’s coverage stand out. And having Johnson on the panel feels like a good way to do so.

MLBN’s draft coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET Sunday, with the first round of the 20-round draft itself set to start at 7 p.m. In addition to Johnson, MLBN’s Greg Amsinger, Melanie Newman, Dan O’Dowd, Harold Reynolds, and Xavier Scruggs, Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo, and MLB’s Callis will contribute to their coverage of the first two rounds Sunday. 

[, The Sporting News, USA Today]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.