Written by: Mason McRae (@mason_mcrae)
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Though it’s been long anticipated, it’s good to know the 2020 MLB Draft class has solidified itself as one of the best draft classes in recent memory.
The sheer depth of talent in the class is perfectly pictured below – so many first round talents aren’t even listed – with plenty of high-end prospects being left out, including a dozen college pitchers. The ranking of the players below is entirely based on the individual players ranking on my draft board, which was just recently published in one of the biggest releases in Prospects 365 history. Enjoy my ranking of the top-five players at each position group leading up to this June’s MLB Draft.
1. Patrick Bailey (North Carolina State)
Bailey’s such an easily likable prospect, hence why he’s the 7th-ranked prospect on my board. The switch-hitting catcher has lots of tools, mostly all average, though the hit tool gets an above average grade from both sides. From behind-the-plate, he has an above average arm and average receiving skills. At the plate, he has slightly above average power – shown with a career .280 ISO and 4.9 HR% – which actually outpaces Adley Rutschman, who had a .207 ISO and 3.4 HR% at Oregon State. It’s actually hilarious how under-the-radar Bailey has flown within this year’s draft class; you could argue he’s a top-five talent at the most important position, and yet I haven’t heard a peep about him.
2. Drew Romo (The Woodlands HS)
High school catchers will always get the short end of the stick, and that’s even more true of glove-first prep backstops. Romo will face those similar challenges until he’s drafted. The two-time USA 18u member and All-American is quite possibly the most advanced defensive catcher we’ve seen in a few seasons. His arm is well above average, and his receiving skills are above average too. Offensively, his upside comes from some sublime strength, which is rare from somebody his age. His ability to drive balls deep into gaps is why he’s #20 on my board.
3. Tyler Soderstrom (Turlock HS)
Unlike Romo – his teammate for USA Baseball this year – Soderstrom is a clear bat-first prospect, having advanced hands and clear present hitting abilities. While he’s listed as a catcher, Soderstrom likely ends up moving to a position that best suits his arm-strength (hit 90 on the mound when he threw for his high school). His bat could profile to right field as he develops physically, and he’s got long-limbs with lots of muscle to add. Despite that, third base is where he likely profiles best. He played at the hot corner for Team USA – thanks to Romo’s sheer dominance behind-the-plate – and while struggling to get a feel for the position, he showed athleticism and mobility.
4. Dillon Dingler (Ohio State)
When Ohio State has a high end prospect, you know that draft’s pool is deep. The Buckeyes haven’t produced a first rounder since 2010 (Alex Wimmers) and if what we’re hearing is true, Dingler could become the first Buckeye in 10 years to complete the feat. Dingler is an athletic-freak, starting out his baseball career in center field then moving to catcher at Ohio State. He’s got plus-speed and a growing feel for the position. His bat is twitchy, but there’s clear bat-to-ball skills with lots of projection remaining.
5. Austin Wells (Arizona)
The sophomore-eligible Wildcat was one of the Cape Cod League’s most impressive performers last summer, showing present raw strength and an above average hit tool. It remains to be seen whether he’ll remain at catcher, as some scouts have already ruled it out. While move would diminish his defensive value while adding pressure to the bat, there’s foundational arm strength and blocking/receiving tools that would be adequate with the proper professional development. Depending on the publisher, you could see first round grades on Wells. While he’s certainly talented, he’s the 57th-ranked prospect on my board, which would certainly keep him outside of the first round.
1. Spencer Torkelson (Arizona State)
I’m sure nearly everybody with internet access and any knowledge of baseball knows about Spencer Torkelson, the man who broke Barry Bonds’ home run record at Arizona State. Tork is the most advanced hitter in this class. There’s not a single hole in his game; he hits everything, has elite ball/strike recognition, easy bat speed and natural loft in a low-maintenance swing. The Sun Devil is the most presentable prospect in this class, and whoever takes him knows what they’ll be getting.
2. Jordan Walker (Decatur HS)
If you like monstrous, projectable, 65-grade power prep bats, Walker will have a soft spot in your heart. The Duke commit has obvious strength in a growing 6-foot-5, 210 pound frame. Defensively, he’s shockingly mobile at third with clear arm strength and a feel for the spot. Depending on the organization that selects him and the finalization of his physical development, it’s possible that Walker moves away from third and shifts to right field, where his bat profiles and his arm can stand out.
3. Drew Bowser (Harvard Westlake HS)
It remains to be seen if the 6-foot-3, 195 pound ‘shortstop’ can stay there, but it’s unlikely in my opinion, as Bowser lacks range and the quick-twitch feet needed to remain at shortstop as a professional. Offensively, he’s got slightly above average power – displayed at the All-American Home Run Derby – and present bat-to-ball skills in a profile similar to 2019 second round pick Gunnar Henderson.
4. Tanner Witt (Episcopal HS)
The son of a hitting coach in the Miami Marlins’ system has been around the game forever, and it shows. He has a natural feel for the game, with high end IQ and a massive frame (6-foot-5, 195 pounds). There’s clear bat-to-ball skills offensively, and his base is strong. The ‘Hook em Horns’ commit will be interesting to follow in this year’s draft, as he has obvious in-house knowledge in regards to negotiations and lives with a coach from an organization with plenty of money to spend in the shortened draft.
5. Blaze Jordan (DeSoto Central HS)
Oh how the tides have turned for the (once) 15-year-old who was proclaimed as ‘the next Bryce Harper’. Jordan has been well-known for a while and became of even more interest when he reclassified from the 2021 class and became one of the younger prospects (only 17.5) in this summer’s class. Jordan has easy raw-power—probably double plus—though the lack of performance versus top-tier prep pitching led to a drop on draft boards. His profile is already tough to judge, given he’s likely a 1B-only pro and a right-handed hitter, so some teams naturally won’t be interested in paying seven figures for a first baseman with a lack of in-game success. However, it’s possible some teams could value his youth, presentable strength and obvious easy bat speed enough to sign him away from Mississippi State.
1. Nick Gonzales (New Mexico State)
Remember when you played Road to the Show on rookie difficulty? If not, Nick Gonzales at New Mexico State was the closest thing to it. In his shortened junior season, Gonzales went off (.448/.610/1.155 line, .707 ISO, 12.2 K%, 25.6 BB% in 16 games), albeit against subpar competition. The Aggie has easy bat speed, average power and a plus hit-tool that could eventually ascent to double plus. Defensively, Gonzales has the athleticism to play short, but second base is the likely destination for the #4 prospect on my board.
2. Ed Howard (Mount Carmel HS)
Minus the defensive position, Howard’s profile is like Patrick Bailey’s (mentioned above); he’s an all-around shortstop with average-or-better tools across the board, though the defense currently overshadows the offense slightly. He’s graceful in the dirt with a strong arm and feel for the position as well as enough mobility to stay there. There’s some quick-twitch in his feet and he’s a solid bat at a premium spot, so the upside is mega.
3. Casey Martin (Arkansas)
Casey Martin is in the same group as Austin Martin (discussed below with the center fielders) in the sense that he’s athletic enough to play short but might profile best in center field professionally. The former Martin has some of the best speed in the class—double plus, to be exact—and it comes easy. His bat hasn’t fully come around at Arkansas, with massive swing and miss concerns hindering his success and even getting him benched. Despite that, there’s obvious upside in a shortstop whose two plus tools are power and speed.
4. Justin Foscue (Mississippi State)
Braden Shewmake—who was drafted at the end of the first round last year—is the easy comparison for Foscue. There’s plenty of power in a relatively simple (yet imperfect) swing. Foscue might be one of the safer bets in this group, putting up some impressive numbers this spring (.302/.449/.491) at a valuable defensive position.
5. Nick Loftin (Baylor)
Loftin beat out Casey Martin (above) for a spot as a shortstop on the USA’s collegiate roster; he then posted a .298/.339/.544 line with 2 home runs and 8 total extra base hits in the shortened 2020 season. He has a similar swing to Paul Molitor, with a downward bath that creates below average power, but he’s also produced some high exit velos. Loftin has good actions at short and probably sticks there, but the bat must continue to develop throughout the minor leagues.
1. Austin Martin (Vanderbilt)
The #1 player on my board. It might be a surprise to see him listed as a center fielder, but that’s where Martin played in 2020 and he was solid while doing so. Some think Martin is destined to play second base at the next level, but others (like myself) think he could become a Swiss Army knife of sorts, playing premium positions including shortstop and center field as needed. Offensively there’s no secret, his hit tool is elite and one of the better ones in the class.
2. Zac Veen (Spruce Creek HS)
Veen has one of the most ruthless swings in the entire draft, all while showcasing a calm and cool approach that—when ready—unleashes hell on the ball. He shares characteristics with Nick Markakis and could stay in center field with above average speed, though I wouldn’t rule out right field as a final destination. Veen has been given comparisons to both Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich. The Bellinger comparisons are reasonable as his swing has a similar bat plane and angle of attack; the Yelich comparisons make sense when comparing their bodies and athletic abilities.
3. Garrett Mitchell (UCLA)
If you ignore some off-field peripherals, Mitchell might be the single most talented player in the draft. His plus-arm, raw plus-power, plus-speed and above average hit-tool are reasons why he’s in top-five talks, even with type one diabetes hindering him. His age is another concern, as he’ll be nearly 22 on Draft Day, which is nearly a year older than Spencer Torkelson, Emerson Hancock and Nick Gonzales.
4. Pete Crow-Armstrong (Harvard Westlake HS)
PCA is one of the more well-known prospects from this year’s crop, getting first round grades dating all the way back to his rising sophomore summer. The future center fielder for one lucky organization won’t face any change in scenery at the next level, as Crow-Armstrong appears to be a safe bet to remain there as a professional. The Vanderbilt commit, two-time USA alum and Baseball America All-American has checked every box off his amateur list with a long track record of success at showcases he’s attended.
5. Mario Zabala (International Baseball Academy HS)
Like Casey Martin (above), Zabala has a plus speed/power combination, but with a less athletic swing. Defensively he has a plus-arm, throwing in the high-90’s at the PG National, making right field a possibility with his frame (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) and power-projection. Zabala appears to have some of the best upside in the class, and some mechanical tweaks could unleash even more power moving forward.
1. Austin Hendrick (West Allegheny HS)
Power, power and more power. That’s what you’re getting with Austin Hendrick. A lack of in-game success and some swing-and-miss concerns will give some teams reluctance, but he’s mechanically sound with plenty of bat whip and natural loft. Throw in a plus throwing arm for good measure, and Hendrick just might be the most fascinating player in the class and my pick if I want to watch batting practice.
2. Dylan Crews (Lake Mary HS)
Ah, Dylan Crews, my favorite player in the class. He was my 3rd-ranked player in this class all the way up until October, now he’s #13. Crews has an easy swing, featuring great hip rotation and easy bat speed. His frame might be close to plateauing, but an advanced feel to hit (and the overall offensive skillset) largely puts any projection concerns to rest.
3. Robert Hassell III (Independence HS)
If you value the track record of a prep bat, this is your dude. Hassell III had a stand-out summer for the US, showing bat-to-ball skills and good ball/strike recognition. The Vanderbilt commit might be tough to sign, but the outfielder’s tools (plus-hit tool, above average speed, slightly above average power and average arm) make him worth the extra money it’ll likely cost.
4. Daniel Cabrera (LSU)
Cabrera and Zach DeLoach (directly below) are likely the only prospects in this group who will move to left field. The Tiger carved his way through SEC pitching because of average power, above average hitting actions and well above average bat-to-ball skills. He produced at a blue collar program in the best conference at a first round level. The risk is small, but the upside isn’t anything that’ll make you jump from your chair.
5. Zach DeLoach (Texas A&M)
The 31st-ranked player on my board has above average hitting abilities and a power tool that fits well in left field (he’s also played right field for Texas A&M). DeLoach entered the 2020 season on a high note thanks to a loud summer at the Cape Cod, where he began rising on draft boards. In the shortened season, he showed great discipline at the plate with natural loft on a swing that doesn’t throw away contact for power and rarely swings and misses.
1. Reid Detmers (Louisville)
Detmers has every puzzle piece but one: velocity. He usually sits in the 91-93 range, hitting 95 while ending his starts in the 88-91 range. His heavy spin curveball is one of the more unhittable pitches in the draft, often freezing left-handed hitters while attacking righties at their back foot. Mechanically, he works with a starter-friendly delivery with whippy arm action.
2. Garrett Crochet (Tennessee)
Crochet, Tennessee’s ace, was out of the spotlight early this winter because of injury. In his only 2020 start, Crochet was simply sensational. Like most pitchers, Crochet faces ‘reliever or starter’ questions. However, a plus slider and repeatable mechanics give him a solid chance to remain in the rotation throughout his professional career. The shortened season hurts the stock of guys like Crochet, especially with the small sample size he provided to scouts and evaluators. Fortunately, in that one start, he showed exactly what scouts saw in the fall: elite velo, capable secondaries and a much improved control-over-command attack method.
3. Asa Lacy (Texas A&M)
Mid-90’s heat, a plus slider and efficient spin numbers are why Lacy is the top arm on many boards. An atypical delivery, vertical arm slot and lack of a third-pitch are why he’s the 3rd-ranked left-handed pitcher and 9th-ranked overall pitcher on my board. Lacy’s track record is undeniable, his strikeout numbers are elite and his ability to miss bats was obvious this spring.
4. Andrew Abbott (Virginia)
This is where the drop-off begins. Abbott, a high-leverage reliever for Virginia, has one of the better pitches in the class in a plus curveball. He has the typical quick delivery from a UVA arm (similar to 2015 2nd round pick Nathan Kirby) and possesses a fastball that shares a similar tunnel to the slider. Though he hasn’t shown a capable third pitch, his changeup has a decent shape at times.
5. Ryan Bruno (American Heritage HS)
The Stanford commit works in the low-to-mid 90s, revving up to 96 occasionally. He has a delivery that’s aggressive at times, and his mechanics can get out of place with poor body direction and head movement, leading to heavy arm-side-misses and below average control. While he’s raw, Bruno has some serious bat missing stuff and a really good arm action, both of which make up for any mechanical red flags.
1. Emerson Hancock
The #1 pitcher on my board, and easily the most-talented. Hancock has three pitches that flash plus, with the slider being his best and the fastball acting as a clear-cut second. The changeup is also extremely good at times, showing a fading action. Hancock’s elite command and elite pitch-mix are why he’s an obvious starter at the next level. His delivery is repeatable, his arm is quick and the frame is typical for a high-end draft pick.
2. Mick Abel
The tall, long-limbed, uber-projectable Oregon product is already sitting in the mid-90s, topping out at 99. His plus curveball and arm action are some of the many traits scouts like. Abel has lots of upside, though—like most prep arms—he’s highly volatile, so the upside comes with heavy risk. There’s similarities to 2018 1st round pick Cole Winn.
3. Max Meyer
Meyer is one of the most electric amateur arms I’ve ever seen. He shares a high-intent and athletic delivery similar to that of Sonny Gray. Meyer’s been up to 100, sitting 97-99 at the beginning of games and 94-95 down the homestretch of outings. He lacks any present plus secondary, though his changeup is slightly below average and the slider has shown promise.
4. Cole Wilcox
Wilcox is another power-arm. He’s struggled to harness his high-heat, though it was obvious he had taken steps in the right direction this spring. Wilcox lives off an overpowering fastball with heavy arm-side-run and slightly above average control. He currently lacks much feel for a second offering, though his breaker has potential and the changeup has a tough plane out of the hand. Wilcox’s positives outweigh the negatives forming a similar pre-draft profile to ex-Bulldog and high draft pick Robert Tyler.
5. Nick Bitsko
The final prospect in this article is one of the more advanced prep players in this class. Bitsko has an easy feel for three pitches, his fastball and curveball commonly receiving plus-grades while the changeup acts as a really good third pitch. The recently reclassified Virginia commit has some Trevor Bauer traits including an arm action that hides the ball well.
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Featured image courtesy of Vanderbilt Baseball