The MLB Draft is now within our sights. While it may seem like a long ways away, Spring is just around the corner, and the 2020 MLB Draft class will be able to strut its stuff.
While last year had a relatively thin class, this year’s crop boasts immense talent and is miles better than the previous one. The Detroit Tigers will, once again, own the first overall selection, as they had the first overall pick in 2018, where they took right-handed pitcher Casey Mize out of Auburn. Much like that year, a right-handed pitcher from the SEC leads the pack, but there’s a chance that the Tigers won’t bite this time around.
Leading the way atop this year’s rankings is Emerson Hancock, who hails from Georgia, followed by Spencer Torkelson from Arizona State and Austin Martin from Vanderbilt. While last year saw a glaring weak spot in college pitching, this year sees a very substantial bounce-back in that demographic, as college pitching could dominate much of the first round.
The Tigers have a lot of thinking to do as the time ticks away, but the gut feeling is that the club could take a position player, something they’ve only done four times since 2010. The last time they had taken a position player before they took Riley Greene at fifth overall in 2019 was Christin Stewart at 34th overall in 2015, after they took Beau Burrows in the same round.
#1: Detroit Tigers
Selection: SS Austin Martin, Vanderbilt
Scouting Grades: Hit: 65, Power: 50, Run: 55, Arm: 55, Field: 55
Martin is seen by many as the best pure hitter in this draft, and his .376/.479/.521 career slash line at Vanderbilt certainly backs that up. He has moved around the infield a bit during his tenure, as he started 2019 at second base before moving to third base. He possesses a quick right-handed swing with a natural feel of the barrel, however, the power lags behind a bit (only nine career home runs in college). After years of going for high quality pitchers in the first round, the Tigers could end up with two advanced hitters in back-to-back years.
#2: Baltimore Orioles
Selection: RHP Emerson Hancock, Georgia
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 65, Curveball: 55, Slider: 60, Changeup: 60, Control: 55
Hancock enters 2020 as the highest rated pitcher in this class, much like fellow SEC pitcher Casey Mize did in 2018. The right-hander has an arsenal that features a fastball that sits 94-97 MPH and can reach 99 MPH, as well as three secondary pitches that are plus pitches when Hancock is locked in. Hancock found his footing in Georgia’s rotation in 2019, as he pitched to a 1.99 ERA across 14 starts, while striking out 97 batters and walking just 18. If he manages to stay healthy, Hancock could easily be a front-line starter at the major league level.
#3: Miami Marlins
Selection: 1B Spencer Torkelson, Arizona State
Scouting Grades: Hit: 60, Power: 60, Run: 40, Arm: 50, Field: 50
Torkelson is this year’s version of Andrew Vaughn, whom the White Sox took at 3rd overall last year, but with more power. Torkelson burst onto the scene as a freshmen at Arizona State in 2018, where he hit 25 home runs, breaking Barry Bonds‘ freshmen home run record. Overall, he has slashed .337/.443/.723 and clobbered 48 home runs in his first two seasons. Torkelson possesses an ability to hit to all fields, with tremendous power, especially to his pull side. Defensively, he has been primarily a first baseman, but has seen time in the outfield, as well as third base.
#4: Kansas City Royals
Selection: 2B Nick Gonzales, New Mexico State
Scouting Grades: Hit: 60, Power: 45, Run: 55, Arm: 50, Field: 50
New Mexico State has never had a player drafted on the first day of the draft, but Gonzales is set to be the first to do it in school history. Gonzales absolutely shredded opposing pitching in 2019, where he slashed .432/.532/.773 in 55 games and finishing top five in the NCAA rankings in Batting Average (1st), OPS (2nd), Slugging (3rd), and On-Base Percentage (5th). He followed up that performance by nearly claiming the Triple Crown in the Cape Cod League. Gonzales has drawn comparisons to Keston Hiura, who went to the Brewers at 9th overall in 2017 and is currently their starting second baseman.
#5: Toronto Blue Jays
Selection: LHP Asa Lacy, Texas A&M
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 60, Curveball: 55, Slider: 50, Changeup: 55, Control: 50
Lacy made the jump from reliever to starter in 2019, where he became Texas A&M’s ace. In 15 starts, Lacy struck out 130 batters, good enough for a 13.2 K/9, which was eighth in the NCAA, and pitched to a 2.13 ERA. While walks may hamper him in the future (career 4.22 BB/9 in college), Lacy flashes serious potential, as he boasts a fastball that sits at 92-97 MPH, a curveball that he can keep down, and a changeup with fade that flashes plus when he’s on. He also has a slider, but the pitch blends with his curveball, with the curve being the superior pitch.
#6: Seattle Mariners
Selection: OF Austin Hendrick, West Allegheny HS (PA)
Scouting Grades: Hit: 50, Power: 60, Run: 55, Arm: 55, Field: 50
Here is where the fun really begins.
The first prep player off the board in this mock, Austin Hendrick possesses some of the best raw power in this class. While he did struggle a bit towards the end of the summer, including a 1-for-18 appearance at the U-18 World Cup, he won the Under Armour All-America Home Run Derby, blasting a couple of pitches over the bleachers at Wrigley Field. He also played well in the PDP League in the early parts of the summer. With the immense power comes some concerns surrounding swings and misses, but his upside has much to be desired. Elite bat speed and quick hands help his swing, and his defense could project him to stay in center field, but he could wind up in right field.
#7: Pittsburgh Pirates
Selection: LHP Garrett Crochet, Tennessee
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 65, Slider: 55, Changeup: 60, Control: 50
Crochet has flip-flopped between the rotation and bullpen in Knoxville, but after an outstanding showing in the fall, he finds himself being taken in the top ten. While the results have not been desired, as he owns a 4.77 ERA with 35 appearances, Crochet has the arsenal to finally breakout this spring. He sat in the mid-90’s last spring, but jumped to the upper-90’s this fall, where he even touched 100 MPH at times and boasts a high spin rate. His changeup is his best off-speed offering, as it touches 90 MPH and has deceptive arm speed, with a slider that has a difficult angle. If he can refine his command, he could find himself surpassing R.A. Dickey as the highest Volunteer taken in school history.
#8: San Diego Padres
Selection: RHP Jared Kelley, Refugio HS (TX)
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 65, Slider: 55, Changeup: 60, Control: 55
Kelley is the top prep arm in this class, and for very good reason. He impressed this summer, especially down the stretch as he was able to throw up to 99 (!!) MPH at the Area Code Games and the Perfect Game All-American in San Diego. His Area Code performance is labeled as “one of the best” of the events by scouts. Kelley’s arsenal features that rocket of a fastball, which usually sits in the mid-90’s, an advanced changeup that has serious fade and sink, and a slider that acts more like a hard slurve. He already has an MLB ready body and a delivery that requires minimal effort, if he stays healthy, he’s a threat to be a front-line starter in an already loaded Padres farm.
#9: Colorado Rockies
Selection: LHP Reid Detmers, Louisville
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 55, Curveball: 55, Changeup: 50, Control: 55
At this point in 2019, only one college pitcher had been taken in the draft. We have seen three go before we get to Detmers, who was one of college’s best pitchers in 2019. Last spring, Detmers recorded a 2.85 ERA in 17 starts, eclipsed 100 innings, and boasted a ridiculous 162:27 K:BB ratio. He reminds scouts of former Louisville southpaw Brendan McKay, just with a little less stuff. He has a fastball that he commands extremely well and is deceptive, as well as sitting 90-94 MPH, a big curveball that is his best off-speed pitch, and a changeup that is also an effective pitch.
#10: Los Angeles Angels
Selection: RHP Mick Abel, Jesuit HS (OR)
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 60, Slider: 55, Curveball: 50, Changeup: 55, Control: 55
The second prep arm to go is likely to be Mick Abel, who could be Oregon’s highest drafted prep player since Matt Smith was a first rounder in 1994. The Oregon State recruit has three plus pitches, a fastball that is usually around 93-95 MPH, a solid slider that sits in the mid-80’s, a changeup that has good arm speed and sink, and a curveball that could use some work, as it morphs with his slider at times. Despite growing tired as the summer progressed, he still showcased well, leaving a chance that he could still be in the conversation for a top ten pick.
#11: Chicago White Sox
Selection: RHP Carmen Mlodzinski, South Carolina
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 60, Slider: 55, Changeup: 55, Control: 50
Mlodzinski missed most of the 2019 campaign with a broken left foot, but it was his Cape Cod performance that put him squarely on the map. Mlodzinski put together one of the best Cape Cod performances in recent memory, as he posted a 2.15 ERA across six starts and dramatically decreased his walks, as he had only four walks compared to 40 strikeouts. His fastball sat at 92-96 MPH there, and he has reached 99 MPH in fall practice. He accompanies the heater with a solid slider that sits in the low-80’s and morphs into a cutter at times and a changeup that flashes potential with some solid sink.
#12: Cincinnati Reds
Selection: OF Garrett Mitchell, UCLA
Scouting Grades: Hit: 60, Power: 50, Run: 70, Arm: 60, Field: 50
Mitchell might be the best overall athlete in this class, as he has the best collection of tools across the board. The UCLA outfielder’s best tool is his speed, as he has swiped 23 bags in his career. Aside from the speed, Mitchell slashed .349/.418/.566 in 62 games as a sophomore for the Bruins, including having 32 extra base hits. Defensively, Mitchell projects to stay in center field due to his speed and range. A concern for some teams is that Mitchell has Type 1 Diabetes, but he has managed to play well despite the condition.
#13: San Francisco Giants
Selection: OF Heston Kjerstad, Arkansas
Scouting Grades: Hit: 45, Power: 60, Run: 45, Arm: 55, Field: 50
Kjerstad has the best power out of a left-handed hitter in this draft class in the college ranks, and is not far behind Torkelson. Since he enrolled at Arkansas, Kjerstad has hit 30 home runs, as well as slashing .331/.412/.563 in his two seasons as a Razorback. His strength and bat speed give him the ability to tap into power to all fields, however his swing is a bit complex and could use some work down the line. With the power comes the strikeout issue for Kjerstad, however, as he has 118 strikeouts compared to 47 walks over his career.
#14: Texas Rangers
Selection: SS Ed Howard, Mount Carmel HS (IL)
Scouting Grades: Hit: 50, Power: 50, Run: 55, Arm: 55, Field: 60
The top prep shortstop in this year’s class, Howard has shown consistent tools across the board. Howard possesses a simple right-handed swing, but is able to make consistent, hard contact. With a projectable frame and impressive bat speed, the power will come as he develops. Howard is also a smooth defender at shortstop, with bodes well for his chances to stay at the position as he progresses.
#15: Philadelphia Phillies
Selection: RHP J.T. Ginn, Mississippi State
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 60, Slider: 60, Changeup: 55, Control: 50
A draft-eligible sophomore out of Mississippi State, Ginn was taken by the Dodgers in the first round of the 2018 Draft, but went unsigned. In his freshmen season, Ginn boosted his stock nicely, as he recorded a 3.36 ERA across 16 starts and posting a 103:18 K:BB ratio in 80.1 innings. His fastball has some of the best life in this class, as he sits 91-95 MPH and can reach 97 MPH or more. He boasts a wipeout slider to accompany the sinking heater, as it has solid two-plane depth, as well as a solid changeup with good downward action. If he is drafted in the first round, he will become the 21st player in draft history to be selected twice in the first round.
Videos courtesy of Perfect Game, Baseball America, Prospects Live, The Prospect Pipeline, and 2080 Baseball. Scouting Grades/Reports courtesy of MLB Pipeline