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March update on top 2020 college draft prospects for the Orioles

March update on top 2020 college draft prospects for the Orioles

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 

School: Georgia
Class: Junior
Height: 6'4"
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
Class: Junior
Height: 6'1"
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

School: Vanderbilt
Class: Junior
Height: 6'0"
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
Class: Junior
Height: 5'10"
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
Class: Junior
Height: 6'4"
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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Orioles in statement: 'We are committed to advocate for the change our country needs'

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Orioles in statement: 'We are committed to advocate for the change our country needs'

The Orioles were one of many teams to release a statement about protests and the Black Lives Matter movement across the country late Tuesday, as nearly every professional sports team has in the last two days.

“Nearly six decades ago, at another low point in our country’s ongoing struggle to understand and rectify the racial injustice our fellow Americans have endured since the inception of our nation, the author James Baldwin warned, ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced,’” the statement began. 

The Orioles statement came amidst a flurry of statements released by MLB teams in the late afternoon.

“Today, as our friends and neighbors experience the same mistreatment of generations ago in the form of engrained, unyielding and institutionally-discriminatory systems that deny justice and equality and provide in their place a steady supply of brutalizing misconduct, compounded in some cases by voices that fan the flames of violence and racism, it is imperative that we face the past and present,” the statement continued. 

The statement concluded with the phrase, “Black Lives Matter,” one of the only team-released statements to reference the specific movement. 

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2020 MLB Draft: Date, Time, TV Channel, Draft Order, How to Watch

2020 MLB Draft: Date, Time, TV Channel, Draft Order, How to Watch

The 2020 MLB Draft will take place on June 10 and 11. Yet, this draft will be like none other for both the league and the prospects. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event will be virtual just like others before it this year. However, the more impactful change is the length of the draft. Major League Baseball has decided to cut down the 2020 MLB Draft from 40 rounds to just five. In that move, hundreds of players will lose the opportunity to head to the pros in 2020.

In order to counteract the move, MLB has passed a measure that teams can sign an unlimited amount of players following the 2020 MLB Draft for up to $20,000. Even with that, this draft will not be like any before it in recent years.

Still, despite the lack of rounds, teams will have a chance to build for their future. That included the Baltimore Orioles, who once again own one of the top picks. A year after taking Adley Rutschman No. 1 overall, the Orioles will select second overall in 2020. With that pick, there will be plenty of players who can shape the franchise for years to come.

The first 37 picks of the 2020 MLB Draft (first round and Competitive Balance Round A) will take place on Wednesday, June 10, while the remainder of the 160 picks will take place on Thursday, June 11. The draft will be broadcasted on MLB Network and ESPN platforms. 

The Detroit Tigers will lead off the first round, which will only contain 29 picks after the Houston Astros forfeited their first round pick due to the sign-stealing scandal. 

Here's everything you need to know about the 2020 MLB Draft:

2020 MLB DRAFT: HOW TO WATCH

What: 2020 Major League Baseball Draft

When: Day 1: Wednesday, June 10 at 7 p.m. ET, Day 2: Thursday, June 11, 5 p.m. ET

Where: The 2020 MLB Draft will be in a virtual environment due to the coronavirus pandemic

Broadcast: The 2020 MLB Draft can be viewed on MLB Network and ESPN on Day 1 and MLB Network and ESPN on Day 2.

2020 MLB DRAFT FIRST ROUND DRAFT ORDER

*Picks 30-37 are Competitive Balance Round A picks*

  1. Detroit Tigers
  2. Baltimore Orioles
  3. Miami Marlins
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Toronto Blue Jays
  6. Seattle Mariners
  7. Pittsburgh Pirates
  8. San Diego Padres
  9. Colorado Rockies
  10. Los Angeles Angels
  11. Chicago White Sox
  12. Cincinnati Reds
  13. San Francisco Giants
  14. Texas Rangers
  15. Philadelphia Phillies
  16. Chicago Cubs
  17. Boston Red Sox
  18. Arizona Diamondbacks
  19. New York Mets
  20. Milwaukee Brewers
  21. St. Louis Cardinals
  22. Washington Nationals
  23. Cleveland Indians
  24. Tampa Bay Rays
  25. Atlanta Braves
  26. Oakland Athletics
  27. Minnesota Twins
  28. New York Yankees
  29. Los Angeles Dodgers
  30. Baltimore Orioles
  31. Pittsburgh Pirates
  32. Kansas City Royals
  33. Arizona Diamondbacks
  34. San Diego Padres
  35. Colorado Rockies
  36. Cleveland Indians
  37. Tampa Bay Rays

 

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