Written by: Mason McRae (@mason_mcrae)
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The MLB Draft has been picking up some steam—both at Prospects 365 and throughout the rest of the industry—with numerous reports now suggesting the MLB Draft will occur as originally scheduled, on June 10th.
Last month, P365 dropped its first-ever MLB Mock Draft (written by Ian Smith), and I released The War Room on the same day I officially joined the site. If you’re wondering why this is the “8.0” version of my 2020 MLB Mock Draft, it’s because I’ve published several previous versions at Future Blue Jays. I’m very excited to publish this mock on P365, since the site has quickly become a hotbed of MLB Draft content.
As always, plenty of changes and conversations have taken place that alter the way in which I project next month’s first round to transpire. As I do before every mock draft I publish, I want to make it abundantly clear: This mock draft is not based on my draft evaluations. Instead, it’s purely based on noise and speculation on where prospects might be selected. This is even more true as we hit the homestretch leading up to the actual draft itself. Any 2020 mock draft should only have goal, and that’s correctly predicting all 29 selections.
If you want to read about my personal prospect rankings (I’ve ranked nearly 750 draft prospects, most of whom have a report accompanying their name), simply head to The War Room. But without further ado, I present my newest mock draft for the 2020 Draft, and my first (of many) here at Prospects 365, Enjoy!
At this point, the 1-1 spot is still very much up for grabs. The case for Torkelson over Austin Martin is just as convincing as the opposite point-of-view. I should also mention that the case for a college arm—while far fetched—isn’t entirely out of the question as the Tigers could always look to add-on to an already-deep system of arms. You could make a case for about half a dozen prospects here, but I assume this will be a two-horse race as we approach June 10th. Of the two, I just can’t see Detroit passing on the generational bat of Spencer Torkelson. With the selection of Torkelson, the Tigers become the first team in MLB Draft history to select a college first baseman at first overall. This pick gives them a combination of security and present tools to add-on to an impressive nucleus of Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Riley Greene and Tarik Skubal. This organization desperately needs pure offense; they snag it here with Torkelson.
While I’m sure Baltimore would’ve also opted for Torkelson over Martin, I doubt there would be any disappointment with the plausibility of an Adley Rutschman and Austin Martin-led lineup for the next fifteen years. The bat of Martin—while not as powerful as Torkelson—comes with heavy defensive flexibility, including the ability to play two premium spots. At worst, he settles at the cornerstone, where his bat would make him extremely valuable. Personally, I’d take Martin over Torkelson for the same reasons already mentioned, so Baltimore is getting fantastic value with their second straight selection in the top five.
With the most dominant hitter in college baseball throughout the past three seasons off the board, it’s fitting Miami takes the most dominant pitcher during the same time frame. During his historic stint in College Station, Lacy had a career 2.32 ERA, 12.5 K/9 and 1.07 WHIP. In the shortened ‘20 season, he was just as good (if not better), throwing 24 innings with a 0.75 ERA, 0.71 WHIP and 17.3 K/9. Lacy’s success stems from the draft’s best two-pitch-mix, the better of the pair being his power-slider, which sits in the low-90’s with advanced break and heavy spin efficiency. While Lacy is likely the best prospect remaining at this pick on paper, there’s some relief risk, with an atypical delivery that’s violent and sometimes out-of-touch. If the Marlins don’t feel comfortable with Lacy—though I think they are—they could take a more traditional pitching prospect in Emerson Hancock. If they’re looking for another college bat to pair with last year’s first round pick JJ Bleday, they might take the Nick Gonzales route. But it goes without saying that Lacy’s track record speaks for itself and the Marlins are going to feel good selecting a potential top-of-the-line starter.
General Manager Dayton Moore and high school prospects typically don’t mix well together. Prior to selecting Bobby Witt Jr. with the second overall pick last season, the Royals had taken three straight college prospects with first round picks. Of course, this was after Kansas City drafted three consecutive prep players in the first round from 2015-2017. As of today, they’ve missed on all three. There’s some growing belief from within that Dayton Moore could snatch the top prep bat with this pick, likely meaning Zac Veen comes off the board. Sure, the upside of Veen is through-the-roof, but Nick Gonzales is the safe and much better gamble. The 2019 Cape Cod League MVP has a hit tool trailing only Austin Martin and Spencer Torkelson in this class, as well as sublime bat speed. I really don’t think there’s another reasonable selection aside from Gonzales and Hancock, so it’s their choice between another college arm or the bat. I’m wagering the Royals want the position player.
It goes without saying that Emerson Hancock is the top player remaining at this pick, making him the obvious selection for Blue Jays’ first-year amateur director Shane Ferrell. Toronto has taken a college prospect with seven of their previous eight first round choices, and four of their last five under Mark Shapiro. While Hancock is the logical pick, I wouldn’t rule out Zac Veen just yet. The Jays have shown they’re unafraid of taking a prep bat this early in the scenario that the prospect takes less than the slot, a la Jordan Groshans in 2018. Assuming an underslot contract might not be enough to steer Veen away from his collegiate commitment to Florida, that makes Hancock the obvious pick.
Seattle has been on a roll with college prospects, taking Kyle Lewis, Evan White, Logan Gilbert and George Kirby in that order since 2016. The Mariners have selected exactly one prep prospect inside the top-10 of the first round during the 21st century, and I’m sure they’d like a rain check on that pick (Alex Jackson in 2014). With the final prospect of the top tier now off the board, Seattle will have to dive into the second tier of prospects. While Mitchell and and Zac Veen likely headline this group, Ed Howard and Max Meyer have also been named as prospects in play at this pick. Some believe the Mariners might even snatch the top shortstop in this class (Ed Howard), which would likely allow them at least one overslot pick later in the draft. While there might be some truth to those rumors, Mitchell is the top college bat remaining and Seattle has avoided risky prep players in recent years. Jerry Dipoto has recently gone on record saying the Mariners are targeting up the middle prospects at pick-6, and Mitchell will almost certainly stick in center field as a professional.
With new general manager Ben Cherrington and amateur director Steve Sanders set to take over the Pirates, a new approach to the draft should manifest itself beginning next month. The logical thinking would be that Sanders—who was Toronto’s amateur director the past four seasons—will stick with his approach, taking a college arm with all the measurables. It’s fitting that in Sanders’ first draft in Pittsburgh, the state of Pennsylvania sees two potential top-ten talents spike on draft radars in Nick Bitsko and Austin Hendrick. While the thought of a Pennsylvania product could spike some interest, I’m not buying it. The Blue Jays were very risk averse when drafting under Sanders, and with the college pitching that’s out for the taking this season, the Pirates have no reason to be risky inside the top-10. That makes Meyers the pick, and he’s got some of the best stuff in this class, with repeatable, clean mechanics to boot. Under new leadership, the Buccos get one of the most electric arms in the draft.
Now this is where things get interesting. The Padres—who have become a popular, projected landing spot for one of many top prep prospects in this class—have selected prep prospects in the first round of the draft throughout the past three seasons. With zero spring season for high schoolers, last summer was the best in-game evaluation period for C/O 2020 preppers, and no one matched Hassell III’s performance overseas for Team USA. There’s a dozen plausible options here, and if the Padres prioritize upside over present bat-to-ball skills, it’s likely Zac Veen is the pick here (he’s been commonly mocked here). But from what I’ve heard, Hassell seems to be the player San Diego is most captivated by.
Originally I wanted to slot Jared Kelley here, but Colorado selecting prep arms in the first round has been about as effective as mixing oil and water. So the last thing they’d want is another Riley Pint or Mike Nikorak, and their history with college arms is pretty dang good. The Rockies have taken a pitcher with five of their last seven first round picks, the best of the bunch being college pitchers Kyle Freeland and Jon Gray. There’s little reason to risk it with Kelley or Mick Abel with the likes of Detmers or Garrett Crochet still available. One could make the argument that Detmers has the best curveball in the class, ranging from 75-80 mph and earning grades as high as 70 by some outlets. Though Detmers’ ceiling is a little lower than other pitchers you’ll read about in this mock, the floor is high for such a valuable position. Colorado needs pitching—for obvious reasons—and there’s no need to sweat out their top pick in this year’s draft when they can simply take the top arm available.
When Mike Trout signed his record-breaking deal to remain in Anaheim, the Angels had locked up the star they needed but lacked the pieces around him to make a true run at the title. The biggest reason for their lack of system depth has stemmed from the draft. However, in 2017, Billy Eppler and crew flipped the script and started taking some chances, landing themselves their first top ten prospect in baseball since Mike Trout (Jo Adell). Kelley possesses a similar high risk/high reward profile centered with mid-90’s heat and a changeup that gets plus-marks regularly. The Texas product stands in a filled-out 6-foot-2 frame that looks to be done growing, so there’s relief risk, but his stuff is electric and there’s some Nate Pearson traits dangling beneath him. If the Angels truly believe in their scouting department, they’ll stick with what’s worked. Top prospects Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh, Jordyn Adams and Jeremiah Jackson were all high schoolers, so there’s no reason for them to shy away from the risk when they’ve reaped the rewards until now.
From the surface, this pick seems insane. Just give me a second. The first thing you’ll notice with the White Sox is they haven’t taken a high schooler in the first round since Courtney Hawkins in 2012. The second thing you’ll notice is the fact that Zac Veen—who’s arguably the most talented prep prospect in this class—is on the board still. Both of those facts point in a different direction than Tyler Soderstrom. But Chicago is turning the draft over to a new face in 2020 (Mike Shirley). Prep catchers are generally risky, but it’s likely Soderstrom will shift to either third base or right field early in his professional career. The meat of Soderstrom’s game comes from the bat, showing a feel to hit and an all-around, clean-cut approach that’s currently more oriented for gap-to-gap power than warning-track or over-the-fence power. While I totally get the argument for Veen, his signability is still in question. The reverse side of that coin is Soderstrom, who the White Sox could underslot at this pick, allowing Shirley to be more aggressive later in the draft as he attempts to officially stamp his name on the budding powerhouse on the South Side.
With the Reds selecting outside the top ten for the first time since 2015, they grab the top prep prospect in the class in Zac Veen. The upside coming from the Gators commit looks impressive considering the sublime present hitting abilities he already possesses. The Reds have selected two relatively safe college prospects the past two seasons, but you don’t have to jog your memory too much to remember Hunter Greene and Tyler Stephenson as recent first round picks as well. The Reds have taken their fair share of risks in the draft and while Veen is far from a gamble, there are certainly safer options remaining with Patrick Bailey and Heston Kjerstad still on the board. Second year amateur director Brad Meador would be thrilled to land the talent of Veen at pick-12, though they would likely need to overslot to ensure he signs.
At pick-13, second year director Michael Holmes was likely set to snatch one of the many college prospects on the board. That is, until the sublime power of Austin Hendrick remained on the board until the Giants went on the clock. Traditionally risk averse in the draft room, Austin Hendrick’s massive upside is enough for Holmes to move outside of his comfort zone to make this pick. While Heston Kjerstad fits their previous M.O., Hendricks’ raw-bat has some similarities to current top prospect and 2017 first-round pick Heliot Ramos, often hitting for plus-power while showing well above average actions in a corner-outfield role. One could argue that the pitching needy Giants would inevitably select Garrett Crochet here, but as previously stated, it would be incredibly difficult to pass-up on Hendrick’s immense upside at this point of the first round.
Within the last few weeks, no player has come up as much in conversation as center-fielder-turned catcher Dillon Dingler. There’s a clear shortage of positional players in this year’s draft, which means some prospects will go higher than anticipated. Dingler being selected at 14 would be as much of a shock as Patrick Bailey being—at best—the third catcher off the board. Unlike the majority of collegiate bats, Dingler’s ceiling is one of the highest of any college prospects in this year’s crop. The Buckeye catcher has obvious athleticism, and there’s some surprising feel for the catcher position despite the fact he hasn’t been a backstop for long. While still a bit raw, Dingler is armed with an above average arm that makes you wonder just how good he could end up being behind-the-dish. The .340/.404/.720 slash with 5 home runs and 10 total extra base hits in just 13 games this season embodies the value Dingler brings to the table on both sides of the ball.
With first-year amateur scouting director Brian Barber (who’s one of the more prominent scouts in baseball over the last decade) set to take over the Phillies’ draft, he plucks college baseball’s top left-handed bat in Arkansas’ Heston Kjerstad with Philadelphia’s lowest selection since 2013. With uber-projectable prep arm Mick Abel and Pennsylvania product Nick Bitsko on the board, there’s a chance Barber could make a bold move and go the risky path with a prep arm. But as long as Kjerstad remains on the board when the Phillies go on the clock, this feels like a logical match.
Chicago hasn’t selected this high in the first round since 2015, when they selected Ian Happ with the 9th-overall pick. Under Theo Epstein, there’s been a clear demand for low-risk prospects at premium spots. Crochet is no different, and he’d become the eighth Tennessee Volunteer to selected in the first-round with this pick. Numerous sources have linked Chicago to Heston Kjerstad; since he’s already off the board, the massive upside of Crochet is a fine consolation prize. The southpaw only pitched once during the shortened 2020 collegiate season, going 3.1 IP and flashing an elite two pitch-mix that includes a high-spin fastball and a wipeout slider (he also utilized a changeup for good measure). His best pitch—the high-octane fastball with carry and double plus velocity—has traits progressive organizations like Chicago look for.
With newly-appointed chief of baseball operations Chaim Bloom and first year amateur director Paul Toboni set to kickstart the Red Sox rebuild via the draft, the Tampa Bay Rays’ Best Player Available approach should be in effect immediately. While in Tampa, Bloom oversaw five drafts and seven first-round selections. Of the seven selections, one was a college bat, one was a college arm, one was a prep arm, three were a prep bats, and Brendan McKay—however you’d like to label him—was the wildcard first-rounder. While Tampa didn’t show a particular niche around any specific position group, they showed how much stock they put into their scouts’ evaluations and the heavy emphasis on taking the top player available. At pick 17 of this mock, one could make the argument a few guys are the BPA. If the Sox want the consensus top guy left, it’ll likely be Abel or Nick Bitsko, though well-rounded Ed Howard or Gold Glove level center fielder Pete Crow-Armstrong might also be in consideration. With the signability of PCA and Bitsko both up in the air, the case for Abel emerges and Bloom lands what could be a building block for Boston’s future starting rotation.
If you want to know which of the 29 selections in the first round makes the most sense, you just found it. Last season, the Diamondbacks stole the top prep center fielder in the class. This season, they’ll walk away with the top prep shortstop. If you’re looking for an amateur director with a track record as good as Deric Ladnier, good luck. Ladnier drafted and signed nearly all of the 2015 World Series winning team in Kansas City (Jarrod Dyson, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Luke Hochevar, Eric Hosmer, Greg Holland and Danny Duffy). While in Arizona, the D-Backs (under Ladnier) have gone heavy on high schoolers when picking outside the top ten. In 2018, they took Alek Thomas, the high school teammate of Howard, so there’s already some familiarity here as I’m sure they’ve had their eye on him for a while.
Under Marc Tramuta, the Mets have shown a flare for high schoolers, grabbing Jarred Kelenic (RIP) and Brett Baty in the first round and stealing Matt Allan in the third round. However, they haven’t drafted this low in the first round since 2017, when, under Tramuta, they selected Oregon pitcher David Peterson. In a class with so many college arms left on the board, I find it hard to believe that they’d pass up on Cade Cavalli, Cole Wilcox or Tanner Burns, but I also found it hard to believe that Crow-Armstrong could fall this far. With PCA, the Mets are getting one of the most successful prep hitters in the bat, standout defensive abilities and obvious athleticism at a premium position. After witnessing Kelenic take over the prospect world as a member of the Mariners organization, I can’t see the Mets steering away from the Vanderbilt commit.
If you told me the catcher who hit more home runs than Adley Rutschman in nearly fifty less collegiate games would fall into the 20s, I’d call you crazy. But here we are. The Brewers are getting one hell of a player in Bailey. The switch-hitting backstop has lots of tools, all of which grade at least average, though the hit tool gets an above average grade from both sides of the plate. Defensively, he has an above average arm and average receiving skills. At the plate, he has slightly above average power, which translated to a career .280 ISO and 4.9 HR% at North Carolina State. Bailey’s natural feel to hit from both sides of the plate combined with numerous average or better tools have him primed to become the sixth Wolfpack catcher drafted in the past nine years.
At this point of the first round, you’re likely best off selecting the best available college pitcher on your board, and that’s what the Cardinals will be doing here. Cavalli highlights a still-heavily regarded pool of remaining college arms, including Carmen Mlodzinski, Cole Wilcox, Tanner Burns, and JT Ginn. Looking at the Cardinals’ most successful first round picks of this decade, you notice a trend of college arms, including Dakota Hudson (Mississippi State), Luke Weaver (Florida State), Marco Gonzales (Gonzaga) and Michael Wacha (Texas A&M). They also selected Kentucky southpaw Zack Thompson at nearly the same spot (19th overall) last season. With Cavalli, the Cardinals are acquiring a somewhat old-for-the-class (21.8) prospect with evident stuff and present control. There’s some similarities to former Oklahoma pitcher Alec Hansen, albeit with better overall command.
The Nationals actually selected Wilcox out of high school (in 2018), and I don’t see why they wouldn’t want him again here. Since taking over as the amateur director, Eddie Longosz has made five first round selections. Of them, four were pitchers, and three were college arms. This pick is an obvious demographic selection, but the real question is which of the many-remaining college arms are the Nationals most intrigued by. The upside of a Cole Wilcox compared to a Tanner Burns, Bryce Jarvis or Carmen Mlodzinski is far bigger and there’s still some present starter traits he throughout the shortened 2020 spring and last fall. Wilcox’s high-octane fastball and improving control gives him the edge over the rest of the class at this spot.
When Bitsko reclassified to the 2020 class somewhat late in the process, teams immediately started sending cross-checkers out to see him in action. Bitsko wouldn’t be such a tricky player to project if it weren’t for his commitment to Virginia, as some scouts believe he’ll be one of the toughest first round talents to sign. Cleveland has taken a prep prospect with all of their previous five first round picks and seven of their last eight. The Indians’ comfortability with absorbing risk to acquire massive upside has been demonstrated continuously over the years, and while Bitsko’s one of the more advanced prep arms in this class, he’s still a part of the most volatile demographic. If Cleveland doesn’t have the money to dish out to Bitsko, Drew Romo—whom I originally had slotted to be selected here—makes plenty of sense as the Indians are one of three teams to select a prep catcher in the first round of the last eight drafts.
One quick look at the Rays system and you’ll find a plethora of athletic, quick-twitch prospects with immense upside and present tools (power/spin/speed) that trend towards the current trajectory of Major League Baseball. As if Vidal Brujan, Wander Franco and Taylor Walls weren’t obvious enough, the Rays drafted Greg Jones in the first round last season then traded for Randy Arozarena and Xavier Edwards. Talk about hammering a point. Martin ended up missing out on a spot on the US collegiate team, but in preparation, he was shifted from shortstop to center field in hopes of utilizing his plus plus speed, arm strength and wide set of athleticism. Offensively, there’s raw plus-power in his profile and present bat speed, but atrocious contact and ball/strike recognition that will surely scare off some teams. Martin could be one of the best prospects in baseball in a few seasons and it wouldn’t surprise anybody, but he could just as easily be an afterthought. The risk is clear and Tampa Bay will be aware of the slow burn within Martin’s development, but if anybody can put all of his desired tools together, the upside is enormous.
Not unlike the Anthopoulos-led Blue Jays, Atlanta (with Anthopoulos at the helm) has consistently targeted college prospects. After the mess that was Carter Stewart in 2018, I doubt the Braves want to let another first round pick get away. Mlodzinski is sophomore eligible, so there’s some leverage on his side, though it’s hard to imagine a pitcher with a track record of injuries turning down seven figures to return to school and re-enter the draft process again as a 22-year-old. Mlodzinski has repeatable mechanics and a solid arm action to go with an athletic delivery. The right-hander could go as early as 13 to the Giants or as late as the second round, depending on how much weight organizations place on his stellar performance in the Cape Cod League last summer.
No team values defense as much as the Athletics, which is what they’re getting with Loftin at pick-26. In a deep class, one of the glaring weaknesses is a lack of shortstops who actually project to remain there. Loftin will. There’s well above average range, an above average arm and well above average athleticism. Oakland has selected a college prospect with four of their last five first round selections, and they once took fifteen straight college players in the first round from 2001 to 2011. If there’s one thing that’s obvious with the Billy Beane-led A’s, it’s a desire for safe prospects at premium positions who possess solid defensive skills. Loftin is such an Athletics pick, and I promise it has nothing to do with Baylor and Oakland’s similar color schemes. While Loftin had success at Baylor and overseas for the Team USA, there’s some questions as to how much power the shortstop will hit for post-draft. If the team getting Loftin can get some extra air under his swing, there’s a strong possibility Loftin becomes a perennial all-star, in part to his stellar defense at a valuable position.
The last time Minnesota selected this late in the first round was in 2011, when they selected North Carolina infielder Levi Michael. With one of the most physical players in this class still on the board and no shyness with selecting prep players in the first round, the Twins opt to offer everything they have for the monstrous thunder that Walker’s bat possesses. Austin Hendrick and Blaze Jordan are the only prep players in this class who possess the similar power to that of Walker. Minnesota could go in so many directions this year, including Mississippi State’s Justin Foscue and Jordan Westburg, who both present traditional traits at infield positions. College pitchers Tanner Burns, JT Ginn, Chris McMahon and Slade Cecconi all present starting pitcher quality tools, and in a deep pitching class, any of those names would be a safe bet. Instead, Minnesota’s going to roll-the-dice and bank on Walker’s hit tool to continue developing while allowing the raw power to continue to dominate.
With the upper echelon of college bats quickly deteriorating, the Yankees should feel inclined to snatch one of the more successful hitters in this draft class. At LSU, Cabrera slashed .300/.382/.520 against SEC pitching with a .220 ISO, 17.5 K% and 11.3 BB%. Consistently labeled as a left field-only prospect, Cabrera will need to continue raking as a professional to accrue consistent value, especially with the added pressure of living up to the yearly expectations in the Bronx. The last time New York took a college outfielder, they netted themselves 17.8 fWAR, 110 home runs and 387 hits from Aaron Judge in just three full MLB seasons. Not that Cabrera is comparable to Judge, but it’s interesting that a team like the Yankees—who’s struggled to successfully draft recently—would land such a prized player then shy away from the demographic in years afterwards. Cabrera makes all the sense in the world for the Yankees, and I can’t see them taking any high schoolers thanks to a spotty, recent track record.
Just three months ago, I had JT Ginn being selected seventh overall. Unfortunately, most people reading this article are well-aware of what transpired afterwards. Imagine a top-ten talent—who’s dropped because of injury—falling to the 29th pick and into the laps of the MLB’s best organization for development. Financials aside, I can’t imagine the Dodgers of all teams passing up on Ginn, despite the facts the right-hander won’t pitch at all until next season (he underwent Tommy John surgery in March) and he already turned down the Dodgers as a prep first rounder. At Mississippi State, Ginn has shown much improved secondary pitches and refined command. With the money side of this selection being unknown and probably the biggest conundrum, it’s tough to exactly pinpoint where he’ll land, but the plausibility of LA grabbing him to end the first round is just too much fun.
Follow P365 MLB Draft Analyst Mason McRae on Twitter! @mason_mcrae
Follow us on Twitter! @Prospects365