Ray Butler’s 2020 MLB Draft Prospect Obsessions

Written by: Ray Butler

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We are less than 36 hours away from the 2020 MLB Draft.

As P365 dots its i’s and crosses its t’s of our pre-draft content, I decided to publish a bit of a crossover piece as a cherry on top. If you’ve been following us for long, you know that 2020 marked the third season I’ve published a prospect obsession list for minor leaguers (infielders here, outfielders here, pitchers here).

With the minor league season on the brink of being canceled, I decided to create my first-ever MLB Draft prospect obsession list. A reminder for the uninitiated: this list is not comprised of my favorite draft prospects, nor a list of prospects I’m necessarily ‘high’ on. Instead, this list consists of prospects that, for a multitude of possible reasons, I find extremely intriguing with the draft less than two days away.

Some inclusions are destined for stardom. Others are notable pawns in determining the structure of the draft. Either way, let’s take a look at some of the most intriguing prospects in the 2020 draft class.

Check out P365’s latest mock drafts by clicking here (first round) and here (full five rounds).

Mick Abel, RHP, Jesuit HS (Oregon). Age: 18 

To be a part of one of the riskiest MLB Draft demographics, Abel is—on paper—everything you could ever want from a prep pitcher. The mechanics are clean, the delivery is athletic and the arsenal is chalked full of explosive pitches that project to above average or better. I’m not sure the gap between Abel and fellow prep right-hander Nick Bitsko is as wide as I portrayed it to be in the first edition of my 2021 FYPD list, but I completely stand by the notion of Abel being the best high school pitcher in this class. He’ll have to continually ward-off the stigma attached to right-handed preps, but the sky is the limit here. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: 9th

Nick Bitsko, RHP, Central Bucks East HS (Pennsylvania). Age: 18

As draft day nears, more and more information regarding the specifics of Bitsko’s arsenal (raw spin, pitch movement, extension, etc.) have been published. This information (specifically the vertical movement of the fastball, which was previously unavailable to the public) means the right-hander will likely ascend from his current ranking on my 2021 FYPD list, especially if he’s selected by a progressive organization on June 10th. Bitsko is one of the 2020 draft’s biggest wild cards, as he’s being mentioned anywhere from the middle of the first round to an overslot in the Comp A round. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: 23rd

Werner Blakely, SS, Southfield HS (Michigan). Age: 18

Mostly wanted to include Blakely on this list so this video will be databased on our site.

There’s nothing better than an aesthetically-pleasing left-handed swing. Athletic, loose, powerful, modern. Blakely’s rawness likely means he’ll head to Auburn in lieu of signing with his draftor (the main reason he was only an honorable mention in the first edition of my 2021 FYPD list), but he’s a prospect I’ll be monitoring closely regardless of his status moving forward. Join me in bookmarking that tweet to watch whenever my heart so desires. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: Honorable mention 

Burl Carraway, LHP, Dallas Baptist. Age: 21

Between now and the (hypothetical) start of the 2020 big league season, there will be rampant speculation regarding whether pitching prospects like Max Meyer or Garrett Crochet will receive the opportunity to assist their suitor’s MLB club from the bullpen later this summer. While it’s not impossible a situation in that realm actually comes to fruition, I do consider it highly unlikely. However, Carraway could play by his own rules in this discussion. Already a relief-only prospect, the southpaw is likely to be selected inside the top-100 of this week’s MLB Draft. He’s considered both explosive and advanced, and—assuming he’s fully healthy and isn’t selected by a rebuilder—there’s no reason he shouldn’t receive an opportunity to play a role in his organization’s bullpen later this summer. While the 21-year-old likely won’t be worth rostering even if he debuts at the big league level in 2020, he is a draft worth monitoring moving forward in deeper dynasties who reward holds. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: Not ranked

Chase Davis, OF, Franklin HS (California). Age: 18

Context and nuance. One lesson I’ve learned early in the process of covering this draft: don’t over-penalize present mechanical flaws in amateur, teenage prospects. Davis will almost certainly be a bit of a slow-burning prospect as he ascends the levels of the minor leagues (assuming he signs with his suitor instead of attending Arizona, which is far from a given). He needs to find quieter timing mechanisms. He needs to fix his hellacious bat wrap. However, he has a ton of time to fix these issues, which is needed context here compared to a 22-year-old prospect with the same flaws. The payoff here means Davis becomes an above average big league regular. “Nick Williams with a better approach”, as alluded to here by Eric Longenhagen, is a scary, scary thought for opposing pitchers. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: 56th

Zach DeLoach, OF, Texas A&M. Age: 21

I may be higher on DeLoach than anyone else in the industry. Had the 2020 collegiate season been played in its entirety, it’s very possible we’d be discussing the 21-year-old as a possible first round pick. Instead, a fairly small sample of success (he performed well in the Cape last summer before absolutely mashing in 18 games this spring) is likely to relegate the outfielder to the middle rounds of the draft. If DeLoach is selected outside of the top-50, your competitors aren’t likely to prioritize him in your league’s First Year Player Draft this offseason. That’s good news, since I ranked the outfielder inside the top-20 in the first edition of my 2021 FYPD list. That’s currently ahead of prospects like Heston Kjerstad, Cade Cavalli and Nick Bitsko, who are shoe-ins to be selected sometime within the first round. Get the picture? Current 2021 FYPD Rank: 19th

Bryce Jarvis, RHP, Duke. Age: 22

The fact he’ll be 23-years-old when he throws his first professional pitch must be taken into consideration from a fantasy sense, but Jarvis’ plus command, notable polish and adequate stuff means he could be a quick ascender through the minor leagues. After spending time at Driveline last winter, the right-hander’s fastball found another gear during the shortened college season; he’s now a prime candidate to be selected within the first 37 picks. Because Jarvis is old for his age demographic, his suitor will likely be able to save a bit of capital to disperse elsewhere throughout the draft. Someone I respect greatly in the industry the gap between the Jarvis and Emerson Hancock isn’t nearly as wide as public perception. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: 37th

Jared Jones, RHP, La Mirada HS (Georgia). Age: 18

Collectively, P365 may be higher on Jones than any site in the MLB Draft industry. Ian Smith mocked him in the first round recently (he also published a profile here), Mason McRae currently ranks him 24th in The War Room and, despite the right-handed prep being considered a non-elite prospect in an extremely dangerous demographic in the fantasy world, I ranked Jones inside the top-30 in the first edition of my 2021 FYPD list. My chips have been pushed to the center of the table on the 18-year-old; I love the arsenal, the ability to miss pitches, the athleticism and the makeup. Assuming good health, I believe the right-hander will eventually do battle with Mick Abel and Nick Bitsko for the title of top right-handed prep pitcher from this class. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: 26th

Blaze Jordan, 1B, DeSoto Central HS (Mississippi). Age: 17

Allow me to be a homer for a second. A couple of times each spring, I return to Mississippi State (my alma mater) to catch a few SEC games. Simply put, I would love the opportunity to watch Jordan crush baseballs into the Left Field Lounge throughout the next three seasons. Capisce? The 17-year-old reclassified to this draft class in May 2019, but his draft stock (he was once considered a top prospect and comped to the next coming of Bryce Harper, as you likely already know) has actually fallen thanks to hit tool concerns and the fact he possesses a first base body that will need to be maintained throughout his professional career. Barring a sizable overslot, it’s likely Jordan will become a Bulldog if he’s drafted outside of the second round. However, keep your eyes peeled on Cleveland’s intentions in the sandwich round. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: 58th

Heston Kjerstad, OF, Arkansas. Age: 21

Kjerstad is certainly not on this list because I love him; heck, I ranked him 25th on a list that, on paper, should play to his strengths. Instead, the 21-year-old is included here because there appears to be some serious steam he could be in play when the Orioles go on the clock with the 2nd (!) overall pick. Of course, this would be an underslot pick designed to give the Orioles flexibility to target overslot candidates at 30th (Comp A round) and 39th overall. This would also create a bit of a domino effect at the top of the first round, with either Austin Martin or Asa Lacy falling to at least fourth overall. If the Orioles turn elsewhere at pick-2 (along with Kjerstad, Lacy, Martin, Zac Veen and Nick Gonzales have been connected to the pick recently), Kjerstad has also been linked to the Pirates, Rockies, Angels, Reds and Rangers in the top half of the first round. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: 25th

Landon Knack, RHP, East Tennessee State. Age: 22

A handful of write-ups above, I mentioned the fact Bryce Jarvis’ age (DOB: 12/26/1997) will likely lead to a bit an underslot pick on June 10th or 11th. Now, take that notion and square it, and we arrive here. Knack is five months older (DOB: 7/15/1997) than Jarvis, and his age + 2020 performance will almost certainly be weaponized much earlier during the draft than the right-hander’s current standing within rankings and lists suggests. Knack was unconsciously good before the college season was canceled, including a K:BB ratio of 51:1. Even in the second or third round, Knack will be slotted at a number that could lead to multiple overslots from his suitor. While he lacks top of the rotation traits, the right-hander will be an important chess piece on Wednesday and Thursday. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: Not ranked

Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M. Age: 21

At the beginning of my 2020 draft class evaluation, I never envisioned I would become such a stark defender of Lacy. But when your fastball possesses north of 20 inches of vertical movement and two of your other pitches induced swinging strike rates north of 40 percent during a shortened 2020 collegiate season, I’m willing to sweet atypical mechanics and imperfect command entirely under the rug. When combining outcomes and individual pitch data, it’s impossible to come to a conclusion in which Lacy isn’t the best pitcher in this class. With the Orioles prioritizing vertical movement more so than any other organization in baseball, I selfishly hope the 21-year-old is the name submitted at 2nd overall on June 10th. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: 5th

Justin Lange, RHP, Llano HS (Texas). Age: 18

The right-hander has added more than 50 pounds to his frame throughout the last calendar year, which directly coincides with his meteoric rise up draft boards. Commoners get googly-eyed over Lange’s triple-digit fastball velocity, but the pitch’s 1:30 tilt lends itself more to soft contact that jaw-dropping whiff rates. The heater presently possesses lackluster vertical and horizontal movement, so it will be interesting to see how much his draftor tinkers with the pitch once the 18-year-old officially becomes a professional. Both of Lange’s secondary pitches (slider and changeup) are considered raw, and his command is currently a bit unrefined as well. The right-hander should continue to add positive weight to his frame as he and his nutritionists see fit, but the ‘ball of clay’ traits means we should pay extra attention to his draft day destination. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: 68th

Alex Santos, RHP, Mount St. Michael Academy HS (New York). Age: 18

Allow these words I published last month to set the stage for this write-up:

“Santos is that dude. Starter’s frame. Uber-athleticism. Fantastic arm action. A high-spin fastball and curveball with a developing changeup. There’s a droolworthy foundation here, but the upside is even more enticing.”

Amongst prep pitchers in this draft class, everyone knows who Mick Abel, Nick Bitsko and Jared Kelley are. Most people know who Jared Jones is. However, there appears to be quite a drop-off between that aforementioned quartet and Santos. Based on raw stuff alone, that drop-off is unwarranted. While the right-hander’s fastball doesn’t possess the vertical movement of Asa Lacy or Nick Swiney’s heaters, a slight adjustment in tilt could lead to some of the most impressive pitch data in all of baseball. Cold weather, right-handed preps are buried on draft boards more times than not, but Santos has a real opportunity to overcome that stereotype. I assume his current pledge to Maryland won’t keep him from signing with his suitor following the MLB Draft. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: 44th

Jared Shuster, LHP, Wake Forest. Age: 21

To be blunt, a lot of people watch Shuster’s atypical mechanics and fear the worst. The aesthetics of the 21-year-old’s delivery overshadow the actual, singular movements, leading to some evaluators missing out on one of the more intriguing profiles amongst pitchers in this class. In actuality, the southpaw possesses one of the most efficient arm paths in this draft, which sets the table for a fastball that’s ticked-up, a plus changeup and a developing breaking ball. Hailing from a Wake Forest program that leans heavily on analytics, I’ll be down on bended knee hoping Shuster is selected by a like-minded MLB organization on June 10th or 11th. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: 39th

Alerick Soularie, OF, Tennessee. Age: 21

Soularie’s inclusion here—as well as his aggressive ranking on the first edition of my 2021 FYPD list—really outlines the difference in fantasy-focused MLB Draft content and real-life MLB Draft content. Here, we can discount the defensive shortcomings (I hyperlinked to a report that comps him to Khris Davis) and instead choose to accentuate the offensive acumen within this profile. The 21-year-old will likely be a second or third round pick on June 10th or 11th, but sharp dynasty leagues will ensure he’s selected within the top-50 picks of 2021 First Year Player Drafts (assuming he signs). If you dig 99th percentile outcomes, Soularie’s best possible outcome is Marcell Ozuna. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: 47th

Nick Swiney, LHP, North Carolina State. Age: 21

While I am bullish on Swiney, those feelings of endearment are far from the industry consensus. Even from a fantasy sense, it’s impossible to evaluate draft prospects without considering their respective, real-life floors. At worst, the 21-year-old should develop into a reliable MLB reliever, which would be a positive outcome relative to where he’s projected to be selected in this draft. At best, Swiney practically eliminates his head whack, he adds muscle to his projectable frame, his fastball velocity ticks-up (the pitch already possesses fantastic vertical movement) and he becomes a high-end SP4—or better—at the big league level. Already boasting an above average curveball and changeup, the foundational tools of this profile are better than what meets the eye. I assume my dynasty cup will runneth over with Swiney shares following First Year Player Drafts throughout the next calendar year. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: 46th

Carson Tucker, SS, Mountain Pointe HS (Texas). Age: 18

Following the release of the first version of my 2021 FYPD list, a few organizational folks reached out and said I should dig deeper on Tucker. Less than a month later, the shortstop’s stock has exploded to the point he’s now a favorite to be selected sometime in the first round, and there have even been recent whispers a few organizations are considering him within the top-15. Remember when San Diego’s massively overslot of Hudson Head last season brought the draft industry to its knees? Tucker being selected in the middle of the first round (or in the first round at all, actually) would have the same, eye-opening effect for me. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: 50th

CJ Van Eyk, RHP, Florida State. Age: 21

The state of Tennessee entering the latter stages of its ‘re-opening’ following the COVID-19 shutdown means high school baseball teams have recently been able to begin summer practices. A few days ago, I talked to one of my sophomore pitchers (a 15-year-old) about increasing their stride length to optimize the rotation in their upper body at delivery. They were able to correct their biomechanics within a handful of pitches. As crazy as it seems, this exact issue hindered Van Eyk’s command at Florida State. Assuming professional pitching instructors are my equals in the coaching world (they’re actually way, way better), the 21-year-old should be able to tap-in to another level of performance we haven’t witnessed as of yet. The right-hander possesses some of the best raw stuff within this draft class, so the 80th percentile outcome here would shock the world. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: 29th

Jake Vogel, OF, Huntington Beach HS (California). Age: 18

I promise I’ll sail away from my coaching experiences shortly, but indulge me one more time. My high school team recently had tryouts for the 2020-2021 season. Amongst the players who tried out was an upcoming freshman by the name of Barton. Barton is undersized, and—even relative to his age group—he’ll never overwhelm you from a physical standpoint. However, there’s very little wasted movement in his swing. Surprisingly, the ball comes out of his hand really well defensively, and his holistic profile is headlined by speed. This is Jake Vogel. While smart money is on the outfielder attending UCLA in lieu of signing with his draftor, there’s a lot to love about this profile. While it’s a myopic (and unfair) comparison, the 18-year-old’s undersized frame, elite speed, simple swing and above average defensive prowess allow me to dream about a Corbin Carroll pipe-dream outcome. Vogel is a prospect I’ll monitor regardless of his post-draft destination. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: 71st

Masyn Winn, RHP/SS, Kingwood HS (Texas). Age: 18

Man oh man, are there going to be a lot of wrong, pre-draft takes regarding Masyn Winn five years from now. The 18-year-old’s biggest proponents are willing to discount a nasty head whack and a minute frame (5-foot-10, 180 lbs.) while admitting he projects better from the mound than at shortstop. While that may seem foolish on its face, you can certainly make an argument that Winn’s athleticism dwarfs any concern an evaluator could conjure. I tend to be more pessimistic when projecting the right-hander, largely because the track record of high-stress, undersized, right-handed prep pitchers is so spectacularly unappetizing. I’ve struggled to overcome that concern. Regardless of the eventual outcome, the pre-draft evaluators who are wrong in retrospect are liable to be VERY wrong. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: 69th (nice)

Mario Zabala, OF, International HS (Puerto Rico). Age: 18

Here’s a prospect you’ve read about many, many times, just not by name. Know the plus-power, plus-speed, lousy-hit prospects we love to target in dynasty leagues? That’s Mario Zabala. There will be obvious growing pains here, and this archetype has a bust rate higher than practically any other offensive archetype amongst prospects. However, the outfielder’s hit won’t ever have to reach a 50 (average) in order for him to become a really, really good player. Zabala may not be selected until the third round or so, but I assume he’ll sign in lieu of attending Florida International. Current 2021 FYPD Rank: 60th

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Featured image courtesy of the respective photographer and MLB.com

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