MLB Draft Day One Rewind: Storylines, Steals & SurprisesProspects
Day One of the 2020 MLB draft is in the books, which means 37 picks are down, and there are 123 picks left to go on Thursday. The first round and competitive balance round A featured a handful of big surprises and some fascinating storylines. The D1Baseball and Prep Baseball Report prospects team dissects Day One below:
• As expected, the Tigers chose Arizona State slugger Spencer Torkelson with the No. 1 overall pick. But Detroit threw everyone a curveball by announcing Torkelson as a third baseman, after he spent his college career at first base. If the Tigers are committed to developing him at the hot corner, Torkelson might wind up having even more value than anticipated.
• For the first time in draft history, each of the first seven picks came from the college ranks. Perhaps this is partly a product of the pandemic-shortened season, which gave scouts far fewer looks at higher-risk high school prospects than usual.
• Overall, 11 of the 29 first-round picks were preps, compared to 10 of 30 in 2019 and 17 of 30 in 2018.
• Baltimore went for power potential and upside picking collegians OF Heston Kjerstad (Arkansas) and SS Jordan Westburg (Mississippi State). Kjerstad is highly talented, but was an unexpected pick at No. 2 overall. He ranked 17th on the PBR/D1Baseball Top 200 prospects list, but he’s in the conversation with Torkelson for best power tool in the draft class, which could offset concerns about his swing-and-miss tendencies.
• The ACC and SEC tied for most first-round picks with six apiece, but the SEC pulled ahead in the competitive balance round to finish with nine picks on Day One, against the ACC’s seven. But ACC power Louisville was the only team to produce multiple first-rounders: No. 10 overall pick Reid Detmers (Angels) and rotationmate Bobby Miller (No. 29 to the Dodgers).
• Overall, 18 of the 29 players picked in the first round were Division I college players. And 17 of those 18 college players came from Power Five programs.
• Mississippi State and Arizona State joined Louisville with two players drafted on Day One. ASU shortstop Alika Williams was taken No. 37 overall by the Rays, making two Sun Devils the bookends of the draft’s first day. And MSU’s middle infield duo of Justin Foscue (No. 14 to the Rangers) and Jordan Westburg (No. 30) also went on Day One.
• Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin was widely expected to be the No. 2 pick in the draft. However, Martin dropped just a few spots to No. 5. The Orioles likely got a money saver in Kjerstad in the two-spot, the Marlins surprised some by taking Minnesota righty Max Meyer, and the Royals were always going to take Texas A&M’s Asa Lacy should he be available. But Martin dropping down to five did raise at least a few eyebrows.
• SS Nick Yorke (Archbishop Mitty HS, CA) selected 17th overall by Boston. He is ranked No. 133 on the PBR/D1Baseball Top 200 and was a favorite among scouts and college recruiters. He has a pretty swing and projects to hit for a high average, but first round is a surprise. Second or third round was a more reasonable ceiling for him. He is a good defender, but fits better at second base.
• 3B Jordan Walker (Decatur HS, GA) selected 21st overall by St Louis. Ranked No. 35 on the PBR/D1Baseball Top 200 and originally projected as a Competitive Balance Round A pick to early second round, Walker has big power potential. He moves well for his size and has a chance to stick at third base. Some questions surround his future hit tool, which will obviously dictate how much he taps into that raw power.
• SS Carson Tucker (Mountain Pointe HS, AZ) selected 23rd overall by Cleveland. Ranked No. 144 on the PBR/D1Baseball Top 200, Tucker is a good athlete with bloodlines, as his older brother is Pittsburgh Pirates SS Cole Tucker. He has a good internal clock on defense and moves with ease. He has bat speed from the right side and the ball has been jumping off his bat as he has continued to develop physically.
• LHP Jared Shuster (Wake Forest) selected 25th overall by Atlanta. Ranked No. 76 on the PBR/D1Baseball Top 200, but the Braves opted to look past his spotty statistical track record in order to draft an athletic southpaw with a power arm and a wipeout changeup.
• RHP Bobby Miller (Louisville) selected 29th overall by Los Angeles Dodgers. Ranked No. 58 on the PBR/D1Baseball Top 200, Miller clearly went much higher than expected. He has a fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s with a slider that has some promise.
• OF Garrett Mitchell (UCLA) selected 20th overall to Milwaukee. Ranked No. 12 on the PBR/D1Baseball Top 200, Mitchell likely fell due to the uncertainty as an everyday position player with Type 1 diabetes.
• LHP Kyle Harrison (De La Salle HS, CA) was not selected during Day 1. He is ranked No. 18 on the PBR/D1Baseball Top 200. The top left-hander in the high school class went without a spring season, so scouting departments may have been hesitant to deliver the high signing bonus that he likely will command. A Boras Co. client, the likelihood that he chooses to raise his stock while on campus at UCLA grows higher with each pick.
• RHP Jared Kelley (Refugio HS, TX) was not selected during Day 1. He is ranked No. 19 on the PBR/D1Baseball Top 200. Just two high school pitchers were taken on Day 1 which speaks volumes to the smaller number of looks that scouts got at them. There are some question marks on Kelley’s ability to spin the ball, but the arm strength is elite. The Padres’ selection of RHP Justin Lange at pick 34 gave some potential insight into the asking price that Kelley was seeking, and the fact that he was not picked. Signs currently point toward school although clubs who have freed up money may have a chance to make a run at one of the top pitchers in the high school ranks.
• RHP Cole Wilcox (Georgia) was not selected during Day 1. He is ranked No. 23 on the PBR/D1Baseball Top 200. A draft-eligible sophomore advised by Scott Boras, Wilcox was never going to be an easy sign, and his price tag likely kept him from getting drafted on Day One. He has the kind of upside that could vault him to the top of the 2021 draft if he returns to school, so it’s hard to envision him taking any kind of discount as a Day Two pick.
• RHP JT Ginn (Mississippi State) was not selected during Day 1. He is ranked No. 25 on the PBR/D1Baseball Top 200. The No. 30 overall pick out of high school in 2018, Ginn starred as a freshman for Mississippi State but wore down late in the year, then went down early this spring with Tommy John surgery. Still just a draft-eligible sophomore, Ginn would retain some leverage if he returns to school next year, but there won’t be a minor league season this year anyway so it might make sense for him to continue his rehab with a pro club and return to action in pro ball next year. His turbo sinker and putaway slider continue to make him very appealing.
• RHP Chris McMahon (Miami) was not selected during Day 1. He is ranked No. 26 on the PBR/D1Baseball Top 200 and in our opinion highly undervalued by the industry.
• RHP Cole Henry (LSU) was not selected during Day 1. He is ranked No. 30 on the PBR/D1Baseball Top 200. Like Wilcox, Henry is a high-upside draft-eligible sophomore with top-10-pick upside if he elects to return to school in 2021, which clouds his signability heading into Day Two.
• UTL Austin Martin (Vanderbilt) selected 5th overall by Toronto. Ranked as our No. 2 overall prospect, the Blue Jays hit the jackpot when Martin fell to them at five. He’s a five-tool prospect with a plus hit tool who can play all over the diamond.
• 1B Aaron Sabato (North Carolina) selected 27th overall by Minnesota. Think of him as Torkelson Lite if you want; our analytics model has the two sluggers neck and neck when it comes to performance since the start of the 2019 season, and his power bat could provide huge returns toward the back of the first round.
• RHP Slade Cecconi (Miami) selected 33rd overall by Arizona. Ranked as our No. 24 overall prospect, Cecconi is near the top of the list for college arms when it comes to pure stuff with a lively fastball up to 98 mph and two plus breaking pitches in his slider and cutter. The soph-eligible righty also looks like what you think of when drawing up a frontline starter; 6-foot-4, 215 pounds with clean mechanics and a smooth arm action.
• RHP Tanner Burns (Auburn) selected 36th overall by Cleveland and ranked No. 28 on our Draft Board, Burns has been a high-level performer for three years in college baseball’s best conference. He may lack projection, but his 91-95 mph fastball has serious life, his slider has late, hard bite, and his quality changeup gives him another weapon to find a home in a big league rotation some day.
• C Tyler Soderstrom (Turlock HS, CA) selected 26th by Oakland. A potential top 10 pick if a team were willing to take a chance, Soderstrom’s value at 26 is immense given the potential of his strong lefthanded stroke. A gifted athlete, the 6-foot-2, 202-pound catcher moves nimbly on the infield, as well, which could help his bat develop even quicker with strategic days off (on the infield) in pro ball.
• C Drew Romo (The Woodlands HS, TX) selected 35th by Texas. The top defensive catcher in the high school class also swings a powerful stick from both sides of the plate. A top-20-pick talent, getting him at 35 likely stole a premium pick away from LSU and the 2023 draft.
• Aaron Fitt: Bryce Jarvis (Duke) selected 18th overall to Arizona. No pitcher made a bigger jump from 2019 to 2020, as his fastball climbed from the 88-91 range into the 92-96 range, and his slider emerged as a plus pitch to complement one of the draft’s best changeups. Throw in a curveball that flashes above-average, and you can make a real case that Jarvis has the best four-pitch arsenal in this class.
• Kendall Rogers: Cade Cavalli (Oklahoma) selected 22nd overall to Washington, backup is Asa Lacy going fourth overall to the Royals. Cavalli certainly did not put up great numbers in the COVID-shortened season, but consider me a believer. He has a sturdy frame with an explosive fastball that will range from 92-96 and up to 97 mph at times. The slider is still improving and the other secondaries will come as he enters the Nationals organization. Cavalli’s best days are ahead of him, that’s for sure. As for Lacy, you could have made a very strong argument for him going 1-1. Sure, Tork is a once in a decade type of college hitter and he’s incredible, but Lacy is a future No. 1 or No. 2 starter in the big leagues. He has all the stuff and the makeup to be a star at the next level.
• David Seifert: Austin Martin (Vanderbilt) selected 5th overall by Toronto. It’s not too often this type of talent, especially his hit tool, falls to five after receiving consideration for 1-1.
• Nathan Rode: Ed Howard (Mount Carmel HS, IL) selected 16th overall by Chicago Cubs. He didn’t get the spring to prove anything with the bat, the biggest question mark on him. But you can’t question his athleticism and defense. I like the chances with the bat and felt like he could’ve been a top 10 pick with his tools.
• Shooter Hunt: Justin Foscue (Mississippi State) selected 14th overall by Texas Rangers. He might have had the least buzz throughout the preseason and shortened spring, but watching him consistently, showed himself as a professional hitter and the second best in the college class (Torkelson). A doubles machine with a keen sense of the strike zone, there is more power to come, and should it develop as expected, he has a chance to be a run-producer with All-Star potential.
During the draft, the PBR and D1Baseball teams each made their own mock pick in real time after the Cubs made the 16th overall selection. PBR’s Rode and Hunt along with Seifert made their pick first, and D1’s Fitt and Rogers followed.
Prep Baseball Report: 16B- C Tyler Soderstrom (Turlock HS, CA)
D1Baseball: 16B: RHP Cole Wilcox (Georgia)
WHAT TO WATCH ON DAY TWO
• With Ginn, Wilcox and Henry all going undrafted on Day One, the chances of those three returning to school has risen significantly. Ginn is probably the lowest confidence of returning to school from this trio, but Wilcox and the Nationals were in talks before money became an issue, and it’s believed that there’s a great chance the Georgia righty now returns to college for another season. Meanwhile, LSU felt like it had a great shot to get Henry, a draft-eligible sophomore, back for another season if he didn’t go on the first day. We’ll see what happens on Day Two, but if Henry doesn’t go the first few picks of the second round, there’s a very good chance he returns to Baton Rouge. Imagine that rotation with Henry, Jaden Hill and Landon Marceaux, along with potentially AJ Labas.
• Texas could have a feast or famine kind of Day Two. The Longhorns got some bad news on Wednesday when Carson Tucker was taken 23rd overall by the Indians. However, the ‘Horns have other highly talented prospects on the board, including Jared Kelley, Petey Halpin, Tanner Witt and Jared Jones. The feeling in Austin is that all five will end up getting drafted high enough to sign, but as they say, hope springs eternal.
• College pitching depth is the strength of this draft class. Look for power arms from the college ranks to dominate Day Two. In addition to the “fallers” mentioned above, keep an eye on Florida State’s Cj Van Eyk, Florida’s Tommy Mace and Dallas Baptist’s Burl Carraway.
• 15 pitchers went on day one of the draft which was only scratching the surface. A night to regroup and a day to make calls on signability will give scouts plenty of time to figure out which arms they want to attack on day two. Picks 35-60 have routinely been a sweet spot for organizations to take chances on “upside” pitching, especially high school right-handers, and RHP’s like Jared Kelley (Refugio HS, TX), Carson Montgomery (Windermere HS, FL), Cam Brown (Flower Mound, TX), Alex Santos (Mount St. Michael Academy, NY), Jared Jones (La Mirada HS, CA), Tanner Witt (Episcopal HS, TX) and Masyn Wynn (Kingwood HS, TX) will all be in play.