Amid the uncertainty of the fate of the 2020 MLB season, front offices have been preparing for one certain event that could determine the futures of several franchises: the first-year player draft.
Limited to just five rounds this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, teams will be tasked with making every pick count—particularly those in the first round. Scouts had limited opportunities to see prospects in person before spring sports were shut down, leaving many teams working with limited data for assessing their options.
On Wednesday, the first round will begin at 7 p.m. ET with the 114-loss Detroit Tigers kicking things off with the first selection.
Below is a mock draft of the first round and subsequent competitive balance picks that will be made Wednesday night. For further reading on the Orioles and Nationals, follow the related links below their selections.
1. Detroit Tigers – 1B Spencer Torkelson, Arizona State
Torkelson isn’t so much considered the undisputed top talent in this draft class as much as his power at the plate makes him the safest option at No. 1 overall. There have been rumors that Detroit might pivot to Texas A&M left-hander Asa Lacy, but it would be a surprise if Torkelson’s name isn’t called here.
2. Baltimore Orioles – 2B Austin Martin, Vanderbilt
With the largest bonus pool of any team, the Orioles could take a cheaper player such as New Mexico State infielder Nick Gonzales and save the extra slot money for a prep player with their No. 30 Competitive Balance pick. Yet it’s hard to pass up on the best all-around position player in the draft.
3. Miami Marlins – LHP Asa Lacy, Texas A&M
It’s expected that whoever is still available between the big three of Torkelson, Martin and Lacy after the first two picks ends up in Miami. Though even if Martin is still available, reports indicate the Marlins are focusing in on Lacy with this pick.
4. Kansas City Royals – CF Zac Veen, Spruce Creek HS (Florida)
The Royals snatch up the undisputed top high school player in this class by taking Veen, who’s received comps to Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger. Scouts have raved about the 18-year-old’s swing, although there’s some concern about his ability to hit for average once he starts facing professional pitching.
5. Toronto Blue Jays – RHP Max Meyer, Minnesota
Several draft analysts have pegged the Blue Jays drafting a college pitcher, but it’s a toss-up between Georgia righty Emerson Hancock and Meyer. Hancock could’ve been the top pitcher in this draft if not for a lat injury in 2019. Meyer doesn’t have as high of upside but is the safer pick for Toronto.
6. Seattle Mariners – 2B Nick Gonzales, New Mexico State
The Mariners have selected college pitchers in the first round each of the past two years and they’ve progressed nicely since joining their farm system. That makes taking the Gonzales an easy choice, giving Seattle a chance to develop one of the NCAA’s best hitters who projects as an everyday infielder.
7. Pittsburgh Pirates – RHP Emerson Hancock, Georgia
Hancock’s slide ends in Pittsburgh, who takes the final “Tier 1” player left on the board. The injury concerns are real—Hancock is presenting teams with updated medicals this week—but there is too much potential for the Pirates to pass on him at No. 7.
8. San Diego Padres – RHP Nick Bitsko, Central Bucks East HS (Pennsylvania)
Taking Bitsko would mark the first major surprise of the draft in this scenario. The Padres would hope to entice the right-hander to forego his commitment to Virginia by offering an amount below the No. 8 pick’s high slot value ($5,176,900), giving them wiggle room for negotiating with other players later on.
9. Colorado Rockies – LHP Reid Detmers, Louisville
Colorado hasn’t developed a first-round starter into a major leaguer since Kyle Freeland, who was taken eighth overall in 2014. While they may opt to take one of the many outfielders still left on the board, Detmers’ reliance on his high floor makes him an ideal candidate for pitching at Coors Field.
10. Los Angeles Angels – C Patrick Bailey, North Carolina State
The last catcher to post a three-WAR season with the Angels was Mike Napoli in 2009. Most teams don’t typically draft based on need, but Bailey profiles as a bat-first catcher with above-average power at the plate and a strong arm for nabbing baserunners. The fit is too good to ignore.
11. Chicago White Sox – RF Heston Kjerstad, Arkansas
Chicago hasn’t taken a prep player in the first round since 2013 and that’s not expected to change Wednesday. Kjerstad is easily the best college bat still on the board at this point—all that’s left is fitting him for some black and white pinstripes.
12. Cincinnati Reds – CF Robert Hassell, Independence HS (Tennessee)
The Reds have been rumored to be in on a high school outfielder at No. 12, making Hassell, Pennsylvania native Austin Hendrick and Pete Crow-Armstrong from California the top choices for this pick. The nod goes to Hassell for his natural left-handed swing, which rivals Veen’s for the best in the class.
13. San Francisco Giants – LHP Garrett Crochet, Tennessee
His arm slot has earned him comparisons to Madison Bumgarner. Need I say more?
14. Texas Rangers – CF Garrett Mitchell, UCLA
Mitchell is about as close as you can get to a five-tool player in this draft class. Although some draft analysts believe Mitchell underperformed in college based on his skillset, the Rangers should have no problem investing in a top-of-the-order bat who projects as an everyday center fielder.
15. Philadelphia Phillies – RF Austin Hendrick, West Allegheny HS (Pennsylvania)
The Phillies have been linked to California backstop Tyler Soderstrom here but high school catchers are fickle and Hendrick profiles as one of the best power bats available. Committed to Mississippi State, Hendrick is expected to be signed over slot value if he does opt to skip college for the majors.
16. Chicago Cubs – RHP Cade Cavalli, Oklahoma
With a clean delivery and fastball that touches 97, Cavalli presents the upside of a No. 2 starter if he can limit the hard contact that’s plagued him since becoming a full-time starter as a sophomore. Even though the Cubs have struggled to develop pitchers, Cavalli would give them plenty to work with.
17. Boston Red Sox – C Tyler Soderstrom, Turlock HS (California)
The Blake Swihart experiment never panned out for Boston, but that shouldn’t stop the Red Sox from nabbing the best-hitting prep catcher in the draft at No. 17. Soderstrom’s defensive question marks behind the plate make him a candidate to move to first base anyway.
18. Arizona Diamondbacks – CF Pete Crow-Armstrong, Harvard Westlake HS (California)
If Crow-Armstrong’s defense is what will make him a first-round pick, it’ll be his ability to cut down on the strikeouts that will determine whether he sticks at the professional level.
19. New York Mets – RHP Mike Abel, Jesuit HS (Oregon)
Abel is the most highly touted high school pitcher on the board. The reason he probably falls down to the late teens/early 20s is because he never took the mound this spring before the coronavirus pandemic ended his season.
20. Milwaukee Brewers – RHP Clayton Beeter, Texas Tech
The choice at No. 20 for the Brewers likely comes down to preference between Beeter and Georgia right-hander Cole Wilcox. Even though Beeter is a former Tommy John recipient, he should be enticing for Milwaukee based on his curveball alone—it just might be the best pitch of any prospect this year.
21. Louis Cardinals – 2B Justin Foscue, Mississippi State
Foscue is a classic case of a player who’s outperformed his tools. In 2019, he hit .331 with 14 home runs and only 32 strikeouts in 67 games for the Bulldogs despite scouts refraining from assigning him any standout attributes. He’s a wild card, but St. Louis has been linked to him by multiple draft analysts.
22. Washington Nationals – RHP Cole Wilcox, Georgia
A highly touted prospect coming out of high school, Wilcox was drafted by the Nationals in the 37th round of the 2018 draft after they were rumored to be interested in picking him in the first. Washington has a reputation for always taking the biggest name available and Wilcox is be no exception to that rule.
23. Cleveland Indians – C Dillon Dingler, Ohio State
Dingler boosted his draft stock with a hot start to the 2020 campaign before the NCAA season was cut short, putting him in first-round consideration. An excellent defender, Dingler would get the chance to show Cleveland his progress from this spring was no fluke.
24. Tampa Bay Rays – RHP Slade Cecconi, Miami
With another pick in the Competitive Balance round, the always-savvy Tampa Bay is a likely candidate to take a cheap college player at No. 24 before trying to pry away a prep star from his commitment by offering above slot value. A former top high school prospect, Cecconi likely ends up a reliever long term.
25. Atlanta Braves – RHP Bryce Jarvis, Duke
Before using both their first-round picks last year on college bats, the Braves had only drafted one NCAA player over their previous eight first-rounders. Expect them to dip back into the college pool with Jarvis, who is as polished as they come and could be a contributor out of the bullpen as soon as this summer.
26. Oakland Athletics – SS Nick Loftin, Baylor
There are no blue-chip shortstop prospects in this class, making Loftin’s ability to stick at the position long term an attractive factor that could push him into the first round. With the A’s 2018 first-rounder Logan Davidson appearing capable of playing more than just shortstop, Loftin lands here at No. 26.
27. Minnesota Twins – RHP Jared Kelley, Refugio HS (Texas)
Kelley is a candidate to go much earlier in the first but slips in this scenario due to a lack of athleticism and no developed third pitch. He’s got a fastball that touches 98 and strong changeup to go with it but will be a project for the Twins to turn into a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
28. New York Yankees – 1B Aaron Sabato, North Carolina
Even though his defense (or lack thereof) likely makes him an eventual DH candidate, Sabato’s unique blend of power and plate discipline make him a steal for the Yankees at the bottom of the first round.
29. Los Angeles Dodgers – SS Jordan Westburg, Mississippi State
With the final pick* of the first round before the first wave of competitive balance picks, the Dodgers take a flyer on a shortstop with power potential much higher than what is usually expected of the position. However, his high strikeout totals and limited defensive abilities certainly make this one of the riskier picks of the first round.
*The Houston Astros forfeited their first-round pick as part of their penalty for the sign-stealing scandal.
Competitive Balance Round A
- Baltimore Orioles – SS Ed Howard, Mount Carmel HS (Illinois)
- Pittsburgh Pirates – RHP Tanner Burns, Auburn
- Kansas City Royals – RF Dylan Crews, Lake Mary HS (Florida)
- Arizona Diamondbacks – RHP C.J. Van Eyk, Florida State
- San Diego Padres – RHP Chris McMahon, Miami
- Colorado Rockies – RHP Carmen Mlodzinski, South Carolina
- Cleveland Indians – RHP J.T. Ginn, Mississippi State
- Tampa Bay Rays – 1B Blaze Jordan, DeSoto Central HS (Mississippi)
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