Written by: Ian Smith (@FlaSmitty)
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Earlier this week, I kicked off MLB draft week here at Prospects 365 with my feature on New Mexico State second baseman Nick Gonzales, and teased the fact I had a 2020 first round mock draft on the way…
Today is the day!
In one the most uncertain MLB Drafts in league history, I’ve decided to take a stab at my first-ever MLB draft mock. It’s also the first mock draft ever published on P365!
Throughout my first couple of seasons covering baseball, the draft was always important to me but I never felt comfortable with a full first round mock until recently. The draft has been an obsession of mine for the past 2+ years, and I’m lucky to be able to live in Florida where I get the top-tier talent at all levels, including elite universities, nationally ranked JUCO teams and of course the WWBA World Championships in Jupiter, which hosts the top high school talent every year. Florida has given me the ability to finally attain live looks at so many prospects in this draft, and I’ve finally become confident enough to publish an entire first round mock draft.
The 2020 draft class is extremely strong. The top-5 appears to have distinguished themselves, but the incredibly deep starting pitching values combined with high ceiling bats make for an exciting draft regardless of its shortened length.
Throughout this mock, I break down why each pick makes sense for that organization using my own evaluations, plus what I’m hearing from certain sources. Slot values are included for all of the picks; if they look familiar, it’s because they are the same as last season instead of increasing due the COVID-19 pandemic. A little something to add to that is if the player selected first overall receives full slot value, it will tie the highest guaranteed bonus in MLB history, alongside 2019 1st overall pick Adley Rutschman.
With the 1st round only being 29 picks this year due to Houston losing its first round pick (bang bang), I wanted to include a little bonus by adding the Round A of the competitive balance picks. Come take a few minutes, and let’s figure out what picks I’ll get correct come draft time, whenever it finally rolls around.
Some notables before we get started….
- Out of the 37 players mocked in this article, 17 are starting pitchers
- This season’s SEC talent is ridiculous, including 9 players picked in the first round
- Only one shortstop selected in the first round
- Left-handed bats galore. 10 are mocked in the first round.
Let’s start this mock with a bang. Anyone in the top-5 of everyone’s boards could go here, but Detroit makes history with the first ever college first baseman selected 1st overall, and it’s pretty clear to see why. Torkelson was one of the most-feared hitter in all of college baseball throughout the last three seasons. More simply put, he just looks like a prototypical big league slugger. An elite hit tool combined with potential for 70+ power. Built in a strong 6-foot-2, 215 lb. frame with a short, powerful swing that shows power to all fields. Great plate discipline and extremely quick hands that consistently produce triple-digit exit velocities. He was a home run machine while at Arizona State, mashing 54 HRs in 129 games. Torkelson also showed some of his pro potential in his time in the Cape Cod league the past two summers (30 G, .340/.484/.745, 9 HR, 11 2B, 32 RBI). An adequate defender at first base with great hands, it’s not outside the realm of possibility he could see time in left field if an organizational need arises. You combine the Arizona State slugger with last year’s first rounder Riley Greene, and Detroit has two pure bats to support perhaps the best stable of arms in the entire minor leagues. “Tork” is soon to receive the highest slot bonus in MLB history, and he’ll likely will be a fast mover through the minor league system.
Potential No. 1 pick Spencer Torkelson absolutely CRUSHED this baseball 😱
(via @FabianArdaya) pic.twitter.com/D1cv8Jkw3q
— Tony Dombrowski (@tonydombrowski) March 4, 2020
With Torkelson off the board, Baltimore lands the SP1 on their board in the high octane lefty out of College Station. Probably no player in America raised their stock higher in the shortened 2020 season than Asa Lacy. Lacy is equipped with a four pitch mix, two of which already grade at plus-or-better (fastball and slider) with another (changeup) seemingly on its way. We have seen the fastball sit anywhere between 92-96, and even touching 98. The slider is by far his best pitch, a filthy, high spin offering that sits 88-90 and has utterly dominated opposing hitters throughout Lacy’s collegiate career. The changeup showed major growth in 2020, and it appears the pitch will be a true weapon versus right-handed hitters professionally. The curveball is his least developed pitch as of now, but Lacy’s work ethic and mentality on the mound show it has potential to be another viable pitch at peak. There is a perception of reliever risk when looking at Lacy due to some delivery violence with similarities to former Oriole Zack Britton and some control issues in the past, but the 6-foot-4 southpaw did his best to show improvement in his short season in 2020 to look like a bonafide ace on the mound. Baltimore is loaded with three picks in the first 40 picks (2, 30, 39) and could potentially sign Lacy for a little less than slot value without dipping under the slot for the 3rd overall pick. That would essentially give the Orioles more flexibility in its next two picks while still getting their guy.
With the 3rd overall pick, I believe Miami sits in the best position of any team in the first round, simply being content with whoever falls to them here. Lucky for them, here, it’s the number one guy on their board. While Georgia RHP Emerson Hancock could be in play here, Marlins scouting director DJ Shilvik decides to return to Vanderbilt with another first round pick, grabbing Swiss Army knife Austin Martin a year after selecting outfielder JJ Bleday. The NCAA All American brings a set of tools that all grade 55 or better across the board. Martin dazzles with a hit tool that is easily plus, utilizing a swing with natural loft and double plus bat speed. Still, his hit tool plays even higher due to the elite plate discipline (140 G, .474 OBP , 85:82 BB/K). In the field, Martin possesses the ability to be a plus defender at potentially three positions at the next level (second base, third base and centerfield) due to high instincts, a great glove and speed that can surprise you. I do believe he can play shortstop in the pros, but likely not as an everyday player. Dansby Swanson is a common comparison for Martin, but I see a player like Ketel Marte as a ceiling for the 21-year-old. Adding Martin to a quickly improving Marlins system gives Miami the top-notch third base prospect who could take the system to elite status.
And here we have it, the third second baseman drafted in the top-5 in the last 20 years as New Mexico State’s Nick Gonzales heads to Kansas City. Earlier this week, I wrote a feature explaining why Gonzales has the potential to be a top-5 pick, and it’s clear to see after watching tape on the former walk-on-turned-All-American why that’s the case. Just look at the video game numbers he posted in just 16 games in 2020: 82 PA, .448/.610/.1.155, 12 HR, 36 RBI, 21:10 BB:K. Granted it was in a very favorable hitting environment and against mid-level competition, but those are numbers you can’t ignore. An average arm and glove, but a high IQ and motor plus favorable positioning save his defensive profile. Some think Gonzales won’t be able to stick at second base long term, but I see his make up and work ethic being able to keep the elite hit tool he carries at the keystone. A no nonsense approach at the plate combined with a swing that wastes absolutely zero effort makes the package at the plate hard to beat as a college bat. Royals fans can get excited thinking about a middle infield duo of Bobby Witt Jr. and Nick Gonzales for years to come.
I’ll expect Toronto to have this pick sent-in within seconds, locking down the best pure starting pitching prospect in the 2020 class with the 6-foot-4, 215 lb. right hander from Georgia. Hancock presents the same four pitch mix as Asa Lacy (fastball, slider, curveball, changeup) with less electricity but more command and polish. An effortless, repeatable delivery gives him the ability to paint the corners with a mid-90s fastball that he pairs well with a slider and fantastic changeup. He throws the curveball on a limited basis at this time, but the pitch shows good shape and his command allows it to play all over the zone and to both right-handed and left-handed hitters. Seeing Hancock perform so well in a limited basis this spring vaulted him to 2nd-ranked pitcher on my big board going into this mock process, and that was mostly due to his command of the whole arsenal. There’s no doubt it’s a 60+ grade tool going into this draft. Being from a high level conference like the SEC, a 131:21 K/BB in his last 114 innings allows you to begin to understand the immense talent here. Toronto is going to be blessed with a potential ace here with the 5th pick.
Here is maybe one of my surprise picks in the first rounds with UCLA OF Garrett Mitchell and Louisville SP Reid Detmers being primarily mocked at 6th by most outlets. However, the upside of Veen is simply too much to pass up here and Seattle takes the first high schooler of the 2020 draft. At 18-years-old with a grown man’s frame, the University of Florida commit presents some of the easiest left-handed power in the high school class; it looks to project as a double plus tool moving forward. His vision at the plate looks advanced well beyond his age and allows his violent swing to barrel up balls with ease, leading to the hit tool grading at average while projecting better at peak. Currently a center fielder, Veen moves wells for his size. However, as he fully develops into his massive frame, right field seems like the eventual landing spot as a professional. Watching Veen gives me strong Kameron Misner vibes, but with a better hit tool and an even higher ceiling. The Mariners front office is licking their chops looking at a future offensive core of Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez, Evan White, Noelvi Marte and now Zac Veen. Whew.
Zac Veen (2020) UNLOADS on a pitch and hits a line drive HR. The @PGAllAmerican does this with two strikes on him to open up the game. Huge crowd of scouts here to see the first match up between Veen and and fellow #PGAA Dylan Crews. #PGHS pic.twitter.com/nV8eGM7mRn
— Perfect Game Florida (@Florida_PG) March 5, 2020
This was a pick that was tough for me to peg. I feel Pittsburgh could easily go with a prep player here (notably a Pennsylvanian in Austin Hendrick), but the untapped potential in Garrett Mitchell was simply too enticing. A game-changer with a truly-elite speed tool, Mitchell is capable of making a legitimate impact on the bases while also being a plus defender in center field. The UCLA product has a swing that can create easy raw power from the left side, but he sometimes relies on his upper body too much, which suppresses his power from reaching its potential in-game. Mitchell has overcome Type 1 diabetes to become a true power/speed prospect who might be one of the best defensive prospects in the entire draft. A slight swing change that allows his lower half to become engaged more consistently could mean the 21-year-old becomes a perennial 20/20 type player in the majors. Pirates fans can look forward to Mitchell easing the pain of the organization not possessing an Austin Meadows anymore.
The third straight left-handed bat comes off the board as San Diego lands possibly my favorite swing in the entire class in Austin Hendrick. An older prep in this year’s class as he will be 19 at draft time, 70-grade raw power and electric bat speed helps ease penalizations his age might present within organizational draft models. True violence shows itself when you see Hendrick swing the bat. A free swinger who gets full extension when he sees a ball he wants leads to some swing and miss concerns, but the lightning hands he shows at the plate tell me that it’s an area he should be able to overcome as he moves through the Padres system. Currently shows potential to be able to play all three outfield positions, but most likely will end up in a corner where he can showcase his plus arm. Slotting Hendrick into the outfield simply adds to a farm system that already possesses immense talent. Now, the organization’s collective bat speed and raw power receives a nice bump.
From 70-grade raw power to a 70 grade curveball that’s heading to the Mile High city. Reid Detmers might be the most fun pitcher to watch film on within this class. The curveball is unspeakably good when it’s on, and that’s all of the time. He pounds the strike zone better than any pitcher I’ve seen in this year’s class, missing plenty of bats along the way. (279 K in 181 career IP). Standing 6-foot-2’ and sitting 91-93, the Louisville lefty isn’t the most imposing force on the mound but instead uses elite deception and command to dominate hitters. Detmers is able to make the fastball and curveball appear as though they’re coming from the same arm slot, which gives the fastball even more life. If he had a smidge more velocity to that fastball, he may have been a surefire top-3 pick. Detmers also throws a changeup, a pitch he will surely need if he finds himself within the Rockies organization. While I believe Max Meyer and Mick Abel could be an option for this pick, Colorado decides on the second best lefty in this draft to instantly become the best pitching prospect in their entire system.
2020 PitchingNinja Award for College Pitch of the Year. 🏆
Reid Detmers, Curveball. Public Enemy #2. pic.twitter.com/BrFirXECvN
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 7, 2020
It took until the 10th overall pick, but again we see a catcher selected within the first ten overall picks for the third year in a row (Adley Rutschman 2019, Joey Bart 2018) in Patrick Bailey. Switch hitting backstops with solid tools in front and behind the plate don’t grow on trees (rarely do they grow at all), but Bailey brings a special combination of the two. He boasts a career OPS of 1.072 while at North Carolina State, showcasing most of his power from the left side of the plate. Bailey displayed more patience throughout the shortened 2020 season, which consequently allowed him to tap deeper into his natural power, hitting 5 home runs in a 16-game season. While showing a consistent knack for barreling the ball, the 21-year-old has been known to sell out on breaking balls on occasion. And while pitch recognition is an aspect that can be developed and improved as a professional, Bailey presents a 45-50 hit tool at peak with possible 60-grade power. The real draft value I feel comes from his field presence. He’s a natural leader with a great baseball IQ. Bailey consistently relieves the pressure from his battery mate in key situations, presenting plus receiving skills in the process. When I say he has the blocking skills behind the plate that remind you of an NHL goalie, I’m not kidding. He combines that with an arm that should grade plus to double plus as he matures. Bailey looks like the complete package as a college catcher, and the Angels could be getting their first real catching prospect in a long time with this pick.
Yet another pitcher off the board here at pick 11, this time in the form of an undersized former closer who can touch triple digits. Max Meyer is a fun player to watch throw. It’s not every day you see a 6-foot, 185 lb. kid pump 94-98 on a regular basis with a 60+ grade slider that sits in the low 90s, forming one of the best two-pitch combinations of the class. A former closer who only started 15 games while at Minnesota presents certain reliever risk due to size and durability concerns, but the question marks are overshadowed by the explosive arsenal Meyer brings to the table. Plus command (41 BB in 148.2 IP) with a delivery that looks effortless, which is surprising when you know the velocity that comes out of his moderate frame. The right-hander was a strikeout artist in both roles in college, averaging over 12 K/9 during his career. Remember when I said if Reid Detmers had a bit more velocity, he’d be a top 3 pick? If Meyer was 6-foot-3, he’d be a legitimate 1.1 candidate. Chicago gets an electric arm at 11th overall who has a chance to be a frontline starter if things go to plan.
The first top prospect who was undeniably hurt by the shortened 2020 season is finally off the board here to Cincinnati. Mick Abel is the definition of a prime projection prep pitcher. A 6-foot-5 frame, a mid-90s fastball and two plus offspeed pitches in a slider and changeup, the biggest knock on Abel’s profile is his lack of exposure in 2020. As his 2019 campaign came to a close, the right-hander displayed a fastball that consistently sat in the 95-97 mph range with a slider that looked like a true plus offering. That two-pitch combination has this prep arm at the head of his class, and it shows as he becomes the first high school pitcher off the board. After adding TCU lefty Nick Lodolo in the first round last season, Pitching Coordinator Kyle Boddy and this Reds system add another weapon to their disposal in the first round of 2020.
2020 Draft Spotlight – Mick Abel (RHP, OR) PG Grade 10, 97mph FB Velo, 86mph SL, 88mph CH, SL is elite-level at times and showed well. at ’19 National Showcase, Currently #7 in our 2020 Draft Player Rankings #PGSpotlight pic.twitter.com/3dRz5VhDlG
— Perfect Game Scout (@PG_Scouting) February 28, 2020
As the pitching continues, a third college lefty is off board in the first 15 picks. This one is equipped with an elite fastball. Garrett Crochet creates easy velocity with his fastball by utilizing great extension from his 6-foot-6 frame. Paired with a plus slider and a developing changeup, the Tennessee product has some of the best raw stuff in this class. What holds Crochet back from being one of the first arms off the board is 1) the inconsistency in control and command at times, and 2) an early-season shoulder ailment that limited the southpaw to one start this season. Switching between multiple roles during his time in college never gave him the ability to find comfort in a role, but given his frame and the flat out filth he possesses, becoming a starter in the pros is quite likely. San Francisco finds a lefty who throws 100 and looks the part of a prototypical starter without high mileage for a system that is starved for all the top flight arms it can find.
For the second time in the last three picks, a prep righty comes off the board with the Rangers taking the local talent in Kelley. A physical 6-foot-3 presence on the mound brings the fire out of his right arm, commonly sitting 96-99 with the fastball as an 18-year-old. The feel and command on the four seam is advanced for his age, and Kelley uses a plus changeup that sits 82-84 to keep hitters uncomfortable at the plate. His command already looks to be above average tool due to how fluid he moves in his delivery. Hard throwing high school right-handed pitchers don’t have the most ideal track records throughout draft history, but the makeup and explosive arm that Kelley brings out of southern Texas looks to be the real deal. Already a University of Texas commit, the pivot to Arlington should be an easy move for the young flamethrower. After taking the solid floor pick in Josh Jung in the first round last year, Texas takes the slight risk in looking for an elite ceiling in 2020.
We finally get away from the onslaught of pitching coming off the board by shifting to an Arkansas right fielder with the double plus raw power. If you’re just looking at resume, Kjerstad is likely a top-10 talent. An appetizing hit and power track record plus an SEC pedigree with high level production (.343/.421/.590, 37 HR in 150 G). Likely a right fielder in the pros where he can showcase a plus arm, I’m hopeful a general lack of speed doesn’t mean a move to left field or first base isn’t in store. Overall, Kjerstad’s profile parallels that of Twins prospect Alex Kirilloff. The reason Kjerstad falls to pick-15 here is the unique, complex left handed swing he brings to the table. It’s sort of a two part swing between the load and extension that has a hitch that is slightly worrisome. The swing mechanics were certainly the protagonist of the higher strikeout rates versus SEC competition. If you can get the 21-year-old to simplify his swing at the next level, you may see the second coming of Rhys Hoskins in Philadelphia.
Here is one of my favorite prospects in the 2020 class coming off the board at pick-16. Robert Hassell III may present the best hit tool from any prep in this year’s class, including the guys picked ahead of him. He brings it with a compact left handed swing with plus bat control, allowing him to control the strike zone better than most players his age. Hassell possesses a very lean 6-foot-2 frame that looks to be very projectable. Further physical development should lead to adequate power, perhaps projecting to above average raw at his best. Hassell shows ability to play all outfield positions with his plus arm and speed tools, but as he grows into his frame, the idea of him playing in a corner seems the most likely. Getting this quality bat that reminds me a lot of 2019 5th overall bat Riley Greene to abandon his Vandy commitment would give Chicago a very high ceiling player to develop next to Brennen Davis in the Cubs’ future outfield.
Complex mindset- Get to your finish as quick as possible.
Simplified- SWING THE BAT HARD. pic.twitter.com/4RNbGVkdL4
— Robert Hassell III (@robert_hassell3) April 6, 2020
Here we are with yet another pitcher in the 2020 class who can claim two 60+ grade pitches, but Boston’s pick at 17 could be the riskiest of them all. Cade Cavalli looks the part standing 6’4” 215 lb. with a fastball that sits 96-99 and a devastating slider that hovers around 90, which sounds like a quality SP. Where the concern lies is in his past injury history and simply the lack of deception in his oil elite offerings. The fastball can look flat on occasion which is mind blowing considering the fact it’s coming in the upper 90s. He seems to overthink his pitches in situations where if he just trusted his stuff then it would be a much better outcome. That being said, the former Sooner presents a truly elite arsenal when he’s on, and if the player development team in Boston can find the right way to tweak his delivery then a strikeout machine could be making his way to Fenway in the next few years.
While we constantly discuss how loaded this year’s pitching class is, it’s important to note how shallow the shortstop talent pool is in 2020. In 2019, Bobby Witt Jr. (KC), CJ Abrams (SD), Will Wilson (LAA), and Bryson Stott (PHI) all came off the board before pick 18 where I have Chicago prep Ed Howard. Of course, that’s not meant to diminish the 18-year-old’s talent, which is headlined by a 6-foot-2 frame that shows a plus arm and glove with great instincts. His ability to make all the plays necessary to stick at shortstop stands out when watching Howard. He can seem to cover ground effortlessly without having a plus speed tool. While the glove catches the headlines, Howard is uber-projectable with the bat, showcasing an extremely easy right-handed swing with present warning track power. However, the likelihood of Howard growing into his frame and showing above average raw power doesn’t look too far fetched. The Diamondbacks should already be comfortable with Howard as a prospect after drafting Alek Thomas out of Mount Carmel High School in the 2nd round in 2018, when Howard was a sophomore.
A year removed from taking the oldest prep of the class in Brett Baty in the first round, the Mets take a chance on a cold weather pitcher who just recently reclassified from the 2021 class and is still just 17-years-old. Nick Bitsko may not be the oldest prospect in the class, but he’s just as advanced as any prep arm in the pitch feel department. An old school, overhead delivery allows his fastball to comfortably sit 93-95 mph and topping at 98; Bitsko pairs it well with one of the best curveballs in the prep class. He looks like a true innings eater at 6-foot-4 and 225 lbs., and he’s shown-up against the top competition he’s been exposed to. Lack of a true third pitch and general lack of exposure has kept him out of the Abel/Kelley range, but thankfully the Mets will be thrilled if he falls to overall pick-19. New York has now added Matthew Allan and Nick Bitsko in back to back years to inject some top-tier pitching into a Simeon Woods-Richardsonless, bat heavy system.
The Brewers head into the 2020 MLB Draft with potentially the worst farm system in baseball. Milwaukee could go a variety of ways with this pick, but they ultimately take the first prep catcher off the board in Soderstrom. The teenager is one of the best overall bats in the prep class, showing massive raw power and loud contact from a smooth left-handed swing. His swing might not generate natural loft, but he barrels the ball consistently enough that a slight tweak at the next level could easily unlock 25-30 home run potential. Hit tool projects as above average and looked impressive all last summer. Already at 6-foot-2 and 200 lbs., staying at catcher is currently perceived to be a long shot, but presently the UCLA commit shows great pop times and a plus arm behind the plate. In due time, it’ll likely be stiffness that forces a defensive move away from catcher. Overall, I think he has the tools to be an everyday third baseman, where his arm and instincts could play up if he’s able to prove he’s athletic and agile enough to handle the hot corner. Soderstrom’s profile reminds me a lot of Diamondbacks prospect Daulton Varsho with less speed. With first round bloodlines after his father was the 6th overall pick in 1993, this is a bat-first profile that’s easy to dream on.
‘20 C Tyler Soderstrom (@tylersode) of @turlockbeisbol had a huge day yesterday going 4-4 3R 3RBI and this #PBRBombSquad. The #UCLA commit is arguably one of top 2-3 #MLBDraft prospects in the state. #ShapeTheState #BeSeen SOUND UP! @PBR_California @NathanRode @Clemmens_PBR pic.twitter.com/1VVejZZP8J
— 𝐋𝐞𝐬 𝐋𝐮𝐤𝐚𝐜𝐡 (@LesLukach) March 6, 2020
As we reach the 21st pick overall, St. Louis should be ecstatic to see this prep outfielder still on the board. “PCA” is a prototypical, top-of-the-lineup hitter with the defensive abilities to stick in centerfield. Yet another left-handed bat in this year’s class, the Vandy commit shows a very silky swing with gap power that plays-up due to his plus speed. At minimum, Crow-Armstrong should be an extra base machine at the next level. In the field, he uses those legs to showcase great range and routes while running down fly balls. An above average throwing arm doesn’t hurt, either. The Cardinals can add yet another talented touted prep to their system if they can sign him away from his college commitment.
I feel like Washington either goes with a polished college arm or a high upside bat, and I’ll lean to the latter. Austin Wells heads into the draft as sophomore eligible after absolutely torching the PAC-12 during his time at Arizona (.357/.476/.560, 35 XBH in 71 G) with an easy, left-handed swing known for its power and elite plate discipline (20% BB). Wells projects to be a 55 hit, 60+ power type profile as a professional. Where the concerns in Wells’ profiles lie are his defensive destination. A big body already at 6-foot-2 and 220 lbs., Wells shows good qualities as a backstop with a big arm and great leadership, but he struggles with breaking balls and doesn’t move particularly well. He could be best suited for first base or left field time, either of which would put additional pressure on the performance of his bat. Luckily, it’s the offense that is the true selling point for Washington to make this move at 22nd overall. After thumping 7 home runs during his time in the Cape last summer, Wells has already showed an affinity for performance with a wood bat.
#MLBDraft Video: Austin Wells (C, @ArizonaBaseball) in summer league action, open side swings, via @NickJFaleris.
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Sortable 2020 MLBDraft Vid Library: https://t.co/1HeN75sLoB pic.twitter.com/p32Ddr73nL
— 2080 Baseball (@2080ball) October 20, 2019
This pick feels like it should be just the safe choice, but that would be underselling the slightly undersized, right-handed pitcher out of Auburn. Burns brings three pitches that grade at least 55 (fastball, curveball, changeup), and he throws them with solid command. His stuff plays up due to his aggressive mentality on the mound. The numbers that he posted throughout his collegiate career in the SEC would be an elite pro season (36 starts, 188.2 IP, 2.86 ERA, 210:67 K:BB). Burns’ four starts in 2020 looked to be the best of his college career, even touching 96-97 mph in an outing. Adding a polished college arm to a system with a knack for getting the most out of its pitchers seems like an ideal fit here.
One of the highest risers on my draft board is finally gone at pick 24. Formerly a cold weather prep who was very raw walking into Louisville, Bobby Miller is now a fully developed 6-foot-5 right-hander with an electric three-pitch mix. Miller can generate very simple velocity with his fastball that sits 94-96 and he compliments it well with a plus slider and changeup combo. His delivery looks a bit unorthodox—it appears to be a hybrid between a three quarters and sidearm slot—and he sometimes has issues controlling his offspeed. The second Louisville starting pitcher off the board here in the first round along with Reid Detmers, Miller was swapped between a few roles before ultimately becoming a full time starter. He started to show the true potential of what his upside could be in the short period we saw him this spring, where he showcased the best control we’ve seen and was striking out over 13 batters per 9 innings. Tampa Bay is another organization that is known to find every bit of talent from its players, and this player development team should be stoked to be getting a weapon like Miller.
Bobby Miller, Louisville (Junior).
99MPH 2 Seam 🔥
98MPH 2 Seam ⛽️
Stats so far this year:
23.1 IP, 34K, .181 batting average against.
Louisville’s got themselves some arms. 😀@BMilled15 pic.twitter.com/4kfLPjwsbN
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 14, 2020
Pick 25 is Georgia, through and through. Cole Wilcox was born in Georgia, played high school baseball in Georgia, played collegiate baseball at the University of Georgia and is now my pick for the Atlanta Braves in the first round. The right-hander is one of the toughest profiles in this class for me to figure out. He possesses a flamethrower build and is surprisingly athletic at 6-foot-5, 240 lbs. Leans on two plus pitches in the fastball and slider, with the fastball often sitting at 97-99 mph. Another sophomore eligible player in this year’s class, Wilcox only has 10 starts under his belt in his collegiate career, but he’s shown the most potential in that role. In 2019, while split between starting and relieving for the Bulldogs, Wilcox walked nearly 7 batters per 9 innings. Fast forward to the short stint we saw in 2020 where he knew he’d be in a starting role, the walk rate dropped to under 1 per 9. Wilcox fits the profile that Atlanta has coveted in recent years, and as some of their talented arms graduate from the system, adding the big righty with Georgia roots makes perfect sense.
The Athletics’ pick here is so interesting, with a wide range of players available at 26th overall. Casey Martin is a player you’d commonly refer to as a “toolshed”. Double plus speed. Plus arm and raw power. He brings loud aspects to his game, but this profile currently lacks the necessary hit tool to be a top-20 pick like many expected this time last year. An alarming strikeout rate after his stellar freshman season is somewhat worrisome, but you just see the potential in his ceiling while watching him. Martin is expected to play centerfield in the pros, where I think he will have better defensive ability than any college outfielder in this first round other than Garrett Mitchell. Martin will use his plus speed to be a weapon on the bases and in tracking batted balls in the outfield. With the tools he has, a 20/20 type profile is well within the realm of possibilities.
After opting for the pop-up prep in 2019 with 13th overall pick SS/3B Keoni Cavaco, Minnesota goes the high floor college pitcher route in 2020. Look, another SEC arm is gone in the first round, but I see the Twins making this move based off what they saw last summer in the Cape Cod league versus elite competition. Leaning on a sinker and two above average offspeed offerings, he threw to the tune of 29.2 IP, 2.15 ERA, and a 40:4 K:BB while in the Cape. It seemed like Mlodzinski was a completely different pitcher against wood bats after a spotty track record as a Gamecock. The sinker hovers around 95-98 mph and generates a ton of soft contact. Both the slider and cutter have flashed plus at times, but it’s hard for me to label either with a grade higher than 55 presently. Minnesota has a track record of making the most with what they’re given, so drafting a talent like Mlodzinski and getting the most from him shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. I will also point out Florida State RHP CJ Van Eyk and Mississippi State infielder Jordan Westburg could be in play with this pick as well.
As we reach the Yankees’ spot here at pick-28, New York and Daniel Cabrera seem like a perfect match. After losing their second round pick in this year’s draft when they signed Gerrit Cole, the Yankees’ front office takes the calculated approach by taking a high floor prospect who is the best talent remaining on the board. Cabrera doesn’t blow you away in any facet of his game, but his hit tool could reach plus at peak, and you can’t find anything within the profile that grades worse than average. Cabrera is a highly advanced outfielder out of LSU with a pretty left-handed swing that explodes through the zone and get easy natural loft to all fields. To be honest, it’s a swing that’s made for the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium. Defensively, Cabrera profiles in either corner outfield spot; he would be a defensive asset in left field, though slotting at that position would raise the necessity that he produces consistently with his bat. Overall, his profile reminds me of a modern-day Michael Brantley.
To close out the first round, Los Angeles takes a chance on one of more high-variance prospects in the 2020 class. Cecconi possesses a starter’s frame and delivery, an upper-90s fastball, and a holistic arsenal that boasts three pitches that all flash plus. At times, the right-hander throws too many strikes and allows damage inflicted by opposing hitters. In my two looks of Cecconi in 2020, the stuff wasn’t as electric as I expected. The fastball sat 92-94 and the secondaries weren’t nearly as crisp, yet still he was putting up some of the best numbers of his brief collegiate career. A full season in 2020 would have done wonders for the Hurricane, but I believe the Dodgers trust they can maximize the tantalizing stuff Cecconi possesses, which means he won’t quite make it out of the first round.
Competitive Balance Round A
Remember when I said Baltimore *could* sign Asa Lacy for maybe $7.5-7.6 million to save a little bit of money? The first pick of the competitive balance round is where it begins to pay off. In my eyes, Jordan Walker is going to be the toughest player in this class to sign away from his college commitment to Duke. Walker is a true 50-hit, 70-power type prospect in a 6-foot-5, 220 lb. body who’s young for a prep player in this class. Walker is long levered, and with it comes some swing-and-miss concerns. However, the infielder shows an ability to consistently find the barrel when he makes contact. In the field, Walker moves fluidly for someone who’s grown to his size. He also features a plus throwing arm that could be enticing from a corner outfield slot depending on his professional destination. Adding a frontline starter in Lacy and the best prep corner infielder in the first 30 picks is a damn good way to start a draft, and that’s what the Orioles accomplish here.
Coming off the board at pick-31 is a college starter who has more than 25 starts on his resume, which is a bit of a rarity in this year’s class. Van Eyk operates with a simple, loose windup that allows his slightly above average pitch mix to play up. He repeats his delivery with ease and just gives you the prototype starter vibes. The right-hander is not blessed with imposing size (6-foot-1, 185 lbs.), but he still brings a fastball in the mid-90s that holds its velocity throughout appearances. The pitch I feel really sets him apart from other pitchers who will be selected after he comes off the board is a changeup that can be a 60-grade pitch with further development. It sits anywhere between 80-83 and looks identical to the fastball coming out of his hand, keeping hitters off balance. One area Van Eyk will need to improve as he progresses is command; he’s walked over 4 batters per 9 innings throughout his ACC career. Overall, Pittsburgh adds a inning eater starter here who should hit a ceiling of a SP3/4 fairly quickly.
The prospect I’ve seen live more than anyone in this draft is coming off the board here to the Royals. Dylan Crews has a bat that is just impressive to watch. Quiet yet lightning-quick hands allow him to show plus raw power from the right side of the plate. Crews has a slight tendency to overextend against quality pitching, and it’s led me to projecting a bit more swing-and-miss concern than expected. His feel for hitting is so pure though, that I feel pro coaching will correct his extension issues quickly at the next level. The teenager shows the present ability to give you innings at all three outfield positions with a plus arm, but he’s likely to find a permanent home in right field fairly quickly. If Crews had put together a stronger summer and short spring campaign, we’d likely see him being compared to Zac Veen and Austin Hendrick as the best prep in the class. He should be tough to sign away from LSU, but he could give Kansas City a second elite bat to pair with Nick Gonzales early in this draft.
Dylan Crews is almost perfection mechanically. Upset I couldn’t find a behind home view of Trout, but both start vertical and work top-to-bottom, have posture leaned back at contact, replace forward bend w/ side bend, and keep lead arm flexed. Crews is a first rounder IMO. pic.twitter.com/hRBD9Fq9cT
— 🧩 (@eccentricladdie) April 20, 2020
After landing one of the best shortstops in the 2020 prep class in Ed Howard, Arizona pivots to a polished college arm for its second pick. At 6-foot-2 with a very repeatable windup and delivery, McMahon flashes an exciting three pitch mix that all possess above-average-or-better qualities. His fastball sits in the mid-90s with heavy arm side run. He compliments his heater with a sweeping slider and changeup that can miss bats from both sides of the plate. McMahon also induces ground ball contact at a high rate, and he does a tremendous job of keeping the ball in the park (4 HR allowed in 112 IP). The Diamondbacks’ scouting department has ties to the Miami area, plus McMahon could be the best player available at pick 33.
After being drafted in the first round by the Dodgers in 2018 but opting to attend Mississippi State instead, will JT Ginn bypass another 2+ million dollar deal? I don’t think so, and I don’t believe the Padres will either. Less than halfway through his first start of 2020, Ginn exited with elbow discomfort that ultimately led to the dreaded Tommy John surgery (he also missed time last season due to arm discomfort). The surgery was a massive blow to a prospect who had the chance to push into top-10 conversations prior to drat day. When healthy, the sophomore can spin his fastball into the upper-90s to pair with one of the best sliders in this class. It’s a two pitch mix that is reminiscent to Asa Lacy’s FB/SL combination when he’s locked in. He brings an uber-athletic delivery when he’s on the mound, so it’s going to be interesting to see what that looks like when he returns to form. San Diego could be landing a player with ace upside in a great spot.
Given the true talent of this catching prospect, this pick could prove to be the steal of the draft. Drew Romo is one of the best defensive catchers in this class, perhaps even better than potential top-10 pick Patrick Bailey. He receives and blocks extremely well and has posted sub 1.80 second pop times, which is better then some big league catchers. A plus arm and great flexibility give him the best chance to stick at the position over anyone in the prep class. At the plate, Romo can show impressive raw power from both sides of the plate by generating good incorporation of his thick lower half. Like he’ll likely never be a plus hit tool type player, Romo shows the ability to hit enough that it shouldn’t damage his future value or impact. Another LSU commit that should be a small challenge to sign, but Colorado will be adding a special battery in Detmers and Romo if both develop to their potential.
Time for another power/speed combo to come off the board at 36. Jordan Westburg possesses above average power and speed, with a decent shot to stick at shortstop defensively to boot. Westburg is another Cape Cod darling, hitting .326/.385/.516, with 4 HR in 25 games for Hyannis last summer. He doesn’t have the same hit tool as 2019 first rounder Braden Shewmake, but overall you can see similarities in build and makeup. Westburg saw the hole in his hit tool in the early stages of his collegiate career and has been working to improve it tirelessly. He’s cut his strikeout rate down by nearly 10% from his freshman to junior seasons. All in all, the Mississippi State product looks like he has all the makings of a high floor, high ceiling prospect that you can slot just about anywhere on the infield.
Oh my, Jordan Westburg!
This man is out here flashing leather in Omaha! #CWS #SCTop10 | @HailStateBB pic.twitter.com/rl6THuCg25
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 19, 2019
Could you think of a better landing spot for Nick Loftin than Tampa Bay? I sure can’t. After taking the big potential in Bobby Miller in the first, the Rays add the versatile bat out of Baylor to close round-A of the competitive balance picks. Loftin may have the highest floor of any of the middle-tier first round prospects, possessing 55-grade tools or better everywhere you look. Loftin presents a quiet load at the plate that allows an effortless right-handed swing to tap into gap or better power. Shows plus bat control. Defensively, he offers the tools and instincts that could allow him to play anywhere in the infield, and possibly even centerfield in a pinch. You can look at his profile and see a decent resemblance to current Texas super utility and former Rays prospect Nick Solak, just with less power but better defense.
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Featured image courtesy of site graphic designer Dorian Redden. Follow him on Twitter (@dRedden26) and Instagram (@d26gfx)
Original photos used for graphic courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics (Austin Martin), photographer Peter Van Stoep (Spencer Torkelson) and photographer Butch Dill (Asa Lacy)