Written by: John Calvagno (@SALNotes)
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Hey guys, I’ve been thinking lately about the top college bats from the 2019 draft and the pressure that many of these kids will be under due to the (likely) lost 2020 season.
Most will be 23+ years old at the start of the 2021 season and, in many cases, they haven’t even seen a pitch above Short Season ball yet. These kids will be old for levels, and they need to stay healthy and mash or risk getting buried on organizational depth charts. No one wants to see a 25-year-old in Single-A.
Worth noting, some of these kids may get onto expanded rosters and earn semi-regular playing time this summer assuming there is a 2020 MLB season. Also there’s talk of expanding the Fall Leagues (with in length and quantity) which could give many of these players a couple hundred at bats anyway. While it’s true most prospects are continuing to train in their hometowns, nothing can take the place of professional instruction during the daily grind throughout a minor league season.
Some kids I’ll have a better feel for than others and, as always, I welcome your feedback.
I set out to do the first five rounds of college bats from last season, but that list includes a ton of names. So I thought I’d split it, today I’ll cover the first two rounds and I’ll be back next week with rounds 3-5. Cheers.
First Round (picks 1-32)
The 2019 1st rounders that are seemingly in the best situation:
Adley Rutschman (Orioles), Andrew Vaughn (White Sox), JJ Bleday (Marlins) and Braden Shewmake (Braves)
With the exception of Rutschman, every player in this group reached A+ or higher post-draft and could theoretically move directly to Double-A once minor league baseball returns (Shewmake has already debuted at the level). In the case of Rutschman, he’s widely viewed as the most MLB-ready of the class, and the O’s could certainly fast track him as they see fit.
The next group has summer birthdays and were the youngest first round draftees in 2019. They won’t turn 23 until mid-season 2021.
Hunter Bishop (Giants), Will Wilson (Giants), Michael Toglia (Rockies) and Korey Lee (Astros)
Here, we begin to see the loss of a 2020 minor league take its toll. Bishop and Toglia, who are top-200 prospects but reportedly need lots of work with pitch recognition, probably get hurt the most. Wilson, who’s known for his feel to hit, might not get hurt as much.
This group of first rounders have fall or winter birthdays, meaning they’ll play all of 2021 as 23 year olds. They’re 3-9 months older than the previous group. That list includes: Josh Jung (Rangers), Shea Langeliers (Braves), Bryson Stott (Phillies), Greg Jones (Rays), Logan Davidson (Athletics) and Michael Busch (Dodgers).
Kody Hoese (Dodgers) is the oldest. He’ll turn 24 in July of 2021, which will be three months into Hoese’s first full professional season. He’s a full year older than the Bishop group.
The Josh Jung group—plus Hoese—really needs to stay healthy and consistently rake. It may take some of these players a couple of seasons to navigate the high minors and perhaps another year to fully stick at the big league level. That means some of the names already mentioned won’t be full-time players at the MLB level until they’re 26 or 27 years old. The quicker they can dispose of the low minors, the better.
These players are slightly higher risk now, due to the smaller window with which they’ll have to do damage and the urgency that comes with being 23 and 24 years old and not on the cusp of big league contribution.
Of this group, Josh Jung shows the best natural feel to hit but he may need to rework his approach/swing to get to his power. Langeliers, Stott and Jones could head to the Florida State League (High-A) to begin next season, where good bats often go to die.
Competitive Balance and 2nd Round (picks 33-78)
Of this group, most never got past Short Season ball last summer. None advanced further than Low-A. Considering those facts, it’s unlikely any prospect in this group is capable of being placed in Double-A to begin the 2021 minor league season. Most will Low-A and and head for High-A, but this could create a depth chart crunch in deeper organizations.
Those on the younger side will turn 23 during next season:
Brady McConnell (Royals) and Beau Phillip (Braves).
Lost development time is never a good thing, and Phillip needs work with pitch recognition and identifying spin. I hadn’t seen McConnell in-person yet, but reports suggest he needs to the same focus on development.
Those that will play all of 2021 as a 23-year-old: Kameron Misner (Marlins), Matt Wallner (Twins), Cameron Cannon (Red Sox), Nick Quintana (Tigers), Logan Wyatt (Giants), Matt Gorski (Pirates), Chase Strumpf (Cubs), Kyle Stowers (Orioles), Jared Triolo (Pirates), Logan Driscoll (Padres) and Dominic Fletcher (Angels)
Misner, Wallner, Quintana, Gorski and Triolo are likely heading to the Florida State League. Wallner and Misner have big power but big swing and miss. Lost development time isn’t likely to help the pitch recognition. Wyatt has pretty good plate coverage but will need to find his power stroke.
Those who will turn 24 during next season:
Davis Wendzel (Rangers), Aaron Schunk (Rockies), Josh Smith (Yankees), Grae Kessinger (Astros).
Wendzel and Schunk are known for their hit tools but will need to develop notable power as corner outfielders.
Every one of these players received a significant signing bonus upon signing with their draftor, which will buy them some time. Those who project to stay up the middle will have a ton of rope, even if they’re struggling offensively due to their utility floor. However, the opportunity window for first basemen and corner outfielders who don’t hit as a 23 or 24-year-old at High-A will quickly shrink.
Lots of kids everywhere will be hurt by the lost (or mostly lost) season. 23 and 24 year olds in the low minors beginning in 2021. Older preps such as Bobby Witt Jr. and Brett Baty—who have no college experience—will play half of their first, full professional seasons as 21 year olds. Even 2020 draftees will begin their professional careers after a long layoff with lost development time.
Development and timelines we know them will change. These effects will take their toll in real life and in dynasty leagues throughout the fantasy world. As you look to lengthen and optimize your contention window in your leagues, these factors and delays must be taken into consideration.
Follow P365 Lead Prospect Analyst John Calvagno on Twitter! @SALNotes
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Featured image courtesy of photographer Darin Oswald and the Idaho Statesman