It's hard to believe, but the 2020 MLB Draft is a mere three months away.
In that time, General Manager Mike Elias and the Orioles front office will have to whittle down the top players across the country to their top few choices in preparation for the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft.
Thankfully for them, along with the other teams picking in the top five this year, this class looks strong and deep in polished college prospects.
The college season has been underway since mid-February, so now that the calendar has flipped to March, it's time for an update on how the season has gone for some of the top potential choices to land in Baltimore this June.
Emerson Hancock, SP
Weight: 213 pounds
2020 stats: 4 starts, 2-0, 3.75 ERA, 24 IP, 34 strikeouts, 3 BB, 22 hits
Hancock has alternated strong starts and poor starts in the early going, leading to an unsightly early ERA despite strong peripheral numbers. His last start brought the season mark down to 3.75, still high for a potential top pick.
The 34:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio is terrific, and a strong indicator of future success. Ten-plus strikeouts in back-to-back outings is particularly encouraging as well.
Hancock entered the season as the slight favorite to go No. 1 overall according to many evaluators, with health looking like the biggest barrier. His inconsistency just four starts into the season isn't enough to drop him from the top tier of college prospects, but it's at least something to keep an eye on.
It's also important to note that Detroit's farm system is flush with pitching talent and devoid of hitters. Teams shouldn't draft based on need but, eventually, the Tigers will need to develop some bats in order to compete again. That could lead to Hancock being available at the second pick.
Spencer Torkelson, 1B/OF
School: Arizona State
Weight: 220 pounds
2020 stats: 17 games, .340 average, 1.378 OPS, 6 HR, 4 2B, 24 R, 11 RBI, 31 BB, 2 SB, 15 K
Probably the most well-known name in the 2020 class, Spencer Torkelson boasts perhaps the best game power in the class along with a stellar batting eye, as evidenced by his ridiculous walk total — only fellow top prospect Nick Gonzales is within 10 walks of Torkelson's 31.
Despite opposing teams simply refusing to pitch to college baseball's best slugger, Torkelson is still laying waste to pitchers every week. He led the country in home runs as a freshman and hasn't slowed down since.
The questions surrounding his defensive profile — college first basemen don't generally go high in the draft thanks to a lack of positional value — may keep him on the board for the Orioles at pick No. 2.
Torkelson has pedigree and production. All that's missing is some speed, and a few more pitches to hit.
Austin Martin, SS/3B
Weight: 170 pounds
2020 stats: 15 games, .347 average, 1.125 OPS, 3 HR, 5 2B, 14 R, 9 RBI, 10 BB, 3 SB, 2 K
Martin's bat hasn't been otherworldy, as was expected entering the 2020 season, but it should say something that a 1.125 OPS is considered a "slow start." Martin remains one of the most consistent, reliable bats in the class, and probably has the highest floor of any player who will be selected in June.
The power numbers aren't flashy, but Martin is the toughest batter to strike out in all of college baseball while providing excellent defense at multiple positions. He's also considered a standout team leader, and his personality would fit in well as the Orioles' hope to move from rebuilders to contenders.
Martin's tools don't stand out in the way others' do on this list, which means he may be available at pick No. 2. If he's the selection and develops similarly to fellow SEC-infielders-picked-second Alex Bregman and Nick Senzel, the Orioles would be very happy with their choice.
Nick Gonzales, 2B
School: New Mexico State
Weight: 190 pounds
2020 stats: 16 games, .448 average, 1.765 OPS, 12 HR, 3 2B, 28 R, 36 RBI, 21 BB, 4 SB, 10 K
I mean, come on. These stats are flat out ridiculous.
Gonzales has been far and away the best hitter in the country through the first few weeks of the season, seeing his stock skyrocket into "surefire top-5 pick" in the process. Even after a mini "slump" over the weekend, he still has the best statistics in the country.
Questions remain about his defensive value — he is playing shortstop this season but is almost certainly a second baseman long term — but it won't much matter with an OPS near 2.000. He hit well in the Cape Cod league last summer, which should assuage any concerns about switching to a wood bat and facing tougher competition.
College second basemen never go first overall, so there's a good chance Gonzales will be there for the Orioles. If they want the most prolific hitter in college in 2020, the choice will be easy.
Asa Lacy, SP
School: Texas A&M
Weight: 215 pounds
2020 stats: 4 starts, 3-0, 0.75 ERA, 24 IP, 46 strikeouts, 8 BB, 9 hits
Lacy entered the 2020 season as just one of several excellent options in what is shaping up to be a banner crop of college pitchers. After his first few starts, he looks like a future ace destined to go in the top five picks of the draft -- and perhaps at the very top.
He has utterly dominated in the early going, and he has the body to be a workhorse at the top of a Major League rotation. In his most recent start, he shut down the vaunted New Mexico State offense -- home to fellow top prospect Nick Gonzales -- with seven no-hit innings, notching 13 strikeouts in 99 pitches.
Along with Gonzales, Lacy began the season on the outside looking in at the upper tier of college prospects, but he's quickly solidified himself in the conversation to be the top overall pick. A few more starts like this, and he may even start to separate himself at the top.
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