Well… that didn’t go the way ANYONE thought.
Just about every pick was a surprise. Even the first pick was a bit of a head-shaker. Not that the Tigers went with Spencer Torkelson — everyone knew that was coming — but that they insist on trying him at third base, but I digress.
We knew heading into the draft that some teams were going to have obvious strategies and that the team-by-team evaluations of talent would to be all over the board due to the lack of baseball being played in 2020 and some organizations furloughing their ops people. We knew that college players were going to dominate the early rounds because of the volatility of high schoolers, especially if they don’t get to play for six crucial months. Still, there was a prior consensus on the top two talents of the draft, a consensus that was obviously ignored. Let’s get started.
1. Spencer Torkelson, 3B, DET
By far the most predictable pick in the draft. Tork is on a level to himself in this draft class. He broke Barry Bonds’ single-season HR record at Arizona State as a freshman and didn’t look back. I’ve seen varying comps for him from Kris Bryant to Paul Goldschmidt. The point is, they are all good. Yes, he’s a right-handed first baseman… oh wait, no he isn’t. The Tigers are trying him at third, which I don’t see happening. I don’t think he’s a good enough athlete to field the hot corner, and it would be insane to slow his progression if he dominates the minors just on the hope he can play a position he hasn’t played.
2. Heston Kjerstad, OF, BAL
The Orioles didn’t furlough any operations people, but it sure seems like it with this pick. It was certainly possible Kjerstad went in the top 10, but second? There are two explanations for this: (1) the layoffs of 25 front office staff from last fall affected their scouting department or at least changed its direction, or (2) they plan to pay Kjerstad under-slot and throw extra money at players down the road… in the next four rounds. I guess they also could buy into the Arkansas junior’s power and selectivity progress. If there is any improvement there, his ceiling jumps considerably. Still, I don’t get this pick. There are simply fewer gambles at No. 2.
3. Max Meyer, RHP, MIA
My guess is that unless Torkelson fell to them, Miami was going to pick Max Meyer. How else can you explain Austin Martin falling into your lap and not pulling the trigger? I’m not going to argue with this pick. Meyer certainly has the potential to be a front-line arm, as long as he develops a third pitch. The fastball/slider combo might be the best in the draft. The only thing I question is if everything goes right, Meyer is going to stick out amongst the rest of the Fish’s roster and prospects. They are not close to being competitive and a long way off from seeing any fruits of a rebuild.
4. Asa Lacey, LHP, KC
I also don’t know how Martin doesn’t get picked here. From a rebuild perspective, the Royals need everything — not just on the MLB roster, but in their minors as well. Starting with a college pitcher is generally not the way to go. The timelines don’t match up. I am a proponent of picking the best player available all the time. Lacey is probably the best pitcher in the draft, and getting a left-handed ace is always a good thing.
5. Austin Martin, INF/OF, TOR
Talk about lucky. The Blue Jays just got another Bo Bichette — that’s how I view Austin Martin. He might lack power, but he is a doubles machine with an advanced approach and speed. It’s hard to tell where Martin will fit in defensively, not because he’s lacking in any way but because the Jays are set at third base and shortstop. Will he move to second base or center field? That’s really the question right now. Either way, he’ll likely be in Toronto by sometime in 2022.
6. Emerson Hancock, RHP, SEA
Being from Seattle, I’m lukewarm about this pick. Hancock has very good stuff and a track record for success in the SEC. He’s got three plus pitches and decent control. With the Georgia righty in the fold, the Mariners look like they are building a pitching base in their system. That is exactly why this pick doesn’t excite me. They have had recent success getting the most out of less-touted pitching prospects (Logan Gilbert/George Kirby) and I would like to see the M’s make value picks for pitchers while trying for elite hitters.
7. Nick Gonzales, 2B, PIT
Speaking of elite hitters, let’s talk about Nick Gonzales. The Pirates had to take an infielder with this kind of offensive potential. His numbers were certainly inflated at New Mexico State, but there is a real possibility he’s a .300 hitter with 30 homers and double-digit steals. Not too shabby.
8. Robert Hassell, OF, SD
I don’t like this pick for the Padres or for Hassell. To be fair, I do like the sweet-swinging high school outfielder. The problem is his lack of power. Exactly how much he has to improve to make an impact at Petco Park? My guess is a lot or the ceiling here is Wil Myers all over again.
9. Zac Veen, OF, COL
Now let’s talk about a prospect who won the lottery. Zac Veen has unfairly received some crazy comps: Christian Yelich for one. It’s not fair because being comped to an MVP is a lot to ask any high schooler, but now that he’s in Colorado I have to think that just got a little easier.
10. Reid Detmers, LHP, ANA
Look! The Angels took a pitcher in the first round for the first time since 2014. In fact, the Angels have only picked one pitcher in the first round since 2010. It’s no wonder their opening day starter is Julio Teheran. That said, Detmers is just what they need: an experienced college starter who could be ready in just a couple of years. Detmers has the best curveball in the draft and could move quickly through the minors. Now the Angels just need three more of him.
11. Garrett Crochet, LHP, CWS
If the White Sox can help Lucas Giolito live up to his ace hype, they might be able to get the most out of Garrett Crochet. With top-end velo and a plus slider, Crochet has all of the makings of a starter. What he needs are consistency and a third pitch. I worry that with the Sox in win-soon mode, they might be aggressive with his development, a la Carson Fulmer/Carlos Rodon/Michael Kopech, but hopefully, they’ll be patient.
12. Austin Hendrick, OF, CIN
Cincinnati is a good landing place for the powerful prep outfielder, as long as they are willing to be more patient than they were with their 2018 first-round pick Nick Senzel, who they moved to center field and then, after one injury-plagued rookie season, have now reportedly lost faith in. I know this is a different situation. Hendrick is a high schooler and Senzel played college. He’s further away. The Reds OF right now is crowded and hard to justify putting starting a second-year kid who is still learning how to play the position. I believe Hendrick will take a few years in the low levels before breaking out.
13. Patrick Bailey, C, SF
So… Joey Bart? This pick makes no sense for me. It’s not an over-slot or an under-slot. I don’t believe in drafting for need, but San Francisco doesn’t have a need here either. I believe in drafting the best available player all the time, and I don’t think Bailey is even close to that. In my opinion, he is a fringe first-round catcher. He’s a good defender with a questionable bat. To me, he looks just like a starting MLB catcher who hits .230. How many of those are out there? A lot.
14. Justin Foscue, 2B, TEX
I have to admit, when Texas’ pick was announced, I said “who?” Not because I didn’t know who Justin Foscue was but because I wasn’t expecting to hear his name called for another hour, if at all, on Day 1. He performed well in the SEC, but nothing really stands out about him except his advanced approach. He has potential to develop into an on-base machine, but there is also potential for almost no power.
15. Mick Abel, RHP, PHI
The Phillies got fantastic value getting high school’s top pitcher at 15. With three plus pitches and better control than most prep pitchers, Abel has a very high ceiling. It’s possible we look back at this pick in five years and wonder how this happened.
16. Ed Howard, SS, CHC
I was expecting the Cubs to go with a college player given the state of the franchise. They are right in the middle of their window to compete. Garrett Mitchell would have been a good gamble here. That said, I like homegrown pick Ed Howard. There is power potential and a quick bat here. He’ll also stick at short.
17. Nick Yorke, 2B, BOS
Editor’s note: The Red Sox have agreed to sign Yorke to a below slot deal. So they are trying to save money, but in a different way.
Extra, extra! Billionaire trying to save money! That is the only reason for the Red Sox to pluck Yorke out of the fourth-round group and probably not sign him. Well, that and they’ll get another pick in 2021. Either way, this is ridiculous. I know the 2021 draft class is very strong, but not only did you trade away the best player in your franchise in the last 50 years but you then don’t draft. When exactly are you trying to tell your fans you want to win?
18. Bryce Jarvis, RHP, ARI
Bryce Jarvis is one of those guys you root for. He’s not overpowering, but he has been very good all three years at Duke. He was good enough to be selected by the Yankees last year in the 37th round as an eligible sophomore, but he stayed at Duke instead. Good thing too. Through only four or so starts in 2020, his draft position significantly improved. I’m surprised to see him go this high, but I’m not going to argue it.
19. Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, NYM
Certainly worth a top-20 pick, Crow-Armstrong has been around the prep scene for what seems like forever. Though one of the better fielding outfielders in the draft, his power is in question, but he’ll get every chance to prove himself because of his glove and his reputation as a high schooler who works to improve.
20. Garrett Mitchell, OF, MIL
Statistically, Garrett Mitchell doesn’t fit with their most recent college first-round picks (Corey Ray/Keston Hiura) who were more performance than tools. Mitchell represents is untapped potential. There is power here, and some glaring swing adjustments could really make a difference. This is good value for the Brewers as Mitchell is a top-10 prospect.
21. Jordan Walker, 3B, STL
The best prep third baseman goes to the Cardinals, which is a boon for their franchise given their need for power. That said, their other power prospect, Nolan Gorman, also plays third. This is a great example of taking the best player available and letting it play out.
22. Cade Cavalli, RHP, WAS
I’m not a huge Cavalli fan. He’s got great stuff but he’s incredibly wild — especially for a kid who will be 22 in August. His career NCAA WHIP is 1.54. There is major relief risk here.
23. Carson Tucker, SS, CLE
Not too much power in Carson Tucker’s swing, but the kid can field the position and will likely hit for a good average and get on base. It’s a good pick, but not a great one. I don’t know what else to say: this is a safe pick.
24. Nick Bitsko, RHP, TB
Part of me doesn’t like this pick for Tampa and part of me does. This might be the only time you’ll see me be critical of a Rays decision. I like Bitsko. His breaking stuff is pretty insane. Maybe it was just trading Matthew Liberatore last year after he was progressing nicely that has me gun-shy when they take another high schooler first. There is a very high ceiling with this pick, but it’s going to be a long and lucky road to reach it.
25. Jared Shuster, LHP, ATL
When COVID struck, Jared Shuster was in the middle of completely turning around his career. Not amounting to much at Wake Forest in his first two seasons, Shuster light up the Cape Cod League by going from a guy who walks everybody to a guy who walks nobody. And he did it while actually gaining velocity. It’s hard to tell how much better he can be — or even how good he is right now.
26. Tyler Soderstram, C, OAK
I’m not a fan of high school catchers. That said, I think Oakland could have done better here only because of the risk involved in picking such a volatile group. In terms of MLB draft history, Soderstram is not an elite prep catching prospect. He is the best one in this draft, however. Bobby Miller would have been a great pick here.
27. Aaron Sabato, 1B/DH, MIN
Every once in a while a team makes a pick and you wonder how you didn’t see it coming. The power-hitting Aaron Sabato just seems like a Twin. A draft-eligible sophomore, Sabato was Co-Freshman of the Year, belting 13 homers with a 1.087 OPS.
28. Austin Wells, C, NYY
Just like Sabato to the Yankees, Austin Wells is the kind of catcher that New Yorkers will love: a hitter. His bat will get him to the majors, but there needs to be more work behind the plate. I believe he can get good enough to make the Yankees consider using him, especially considering how they’ve been willing to overlook defensive deficiencies there in the past.
29. Bobby Miller, RHP, LAD
The rich keep getting richer. In Miller, the Dodgers got one of the few pitchers in this draft that has virtually no risk of becoming a reliever. His sinking, mid-90s fastball combined with a plus slider and a good change make him a potential fast-riser. One of the reasons for the Dodgers’ success is their ability to have so many arms that they can overcome injuries. Drafting guys like Miller help defend against Dodgeritis.
Comp A Round
30. Jordan Westburg, SS, BAL
I’ve heard that the Orioles were hoping to get Bitsko here, which would make sense, considering the under-slot we saw at No. 2. They went with another talented but raw prospect in Westburg. He’s got plus speed potential and plus power potential, although neither really showed up in 2+ years at Mississippi State. This pick will be a test for how much the Orioles’ system has improved.
31. Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP, PIT
If I saw the Pirates pick a guy like Mlodzinski two years ago, I’d break out my trumpet and start playing Taps. I’m willing to give the newer brass the benefit of the doubt because if this kid becomes a starter, they have their work cut out for themselves. Despite flashing first-round stuff, the South Carolina junior never lived up to the sum of his pitches, sporting a 5+ ERA and a 1.5+ WHIP in college. He’s got two plus pitches but the reliever risk here is real.
32. Nick Loftin, SS, KC
A popular riser in mock drafts over the past few months, Nick Loftin’s contact skills are what is driving his value. Normally I like this kind of pick, but I’m not completely sold on Loftin as his performance doesn’t match his profile. Hitting .319 and slugging .480 is frankly not that great in college. Yes, he had a BB:K ratio of 40:37 over 2+ years, but even that isn’t great. This is the kind of guy who could be a launch angle candidate due to his ability to avoid striking out and putting the bat on the ball, but I’d want to see more hits in college before thinking he can control where that contact goes.
33. Slade Cecconi, RHP, ARI
I believe when it’s all said and done, Cecconi will outperform Arizona’s first-round pick. I don’t think we’ve seen a healthy Cecconi in a while, and when he’s right, he’s flashing upper 90s with three more potential plus offerings: slider, cutter, and change. This is my favorite pick in the draft so far, value-wise.
34. Justin Lange, RHP, SD
The Padres are hoping they struck gold here with a kid who came out of nowhere to start throwing triple digits just months ago. His slider is decent but right now that’s about it. San Diego knows what they are doing with young pitchers, so there is reason to be optimistic.
35. Drew Romo, C, COL
Read Soderstram’s blurb to see what I think of prep catchers. Here is one who is known for his defense. Maybe the Rockies are hoping that playing in Coors will help his offense, but that isn’t always a lock. I mean, if it were, they’d have had a decent catcher in the last 20 years. I get that the Rockies’ system is lacking catching depth, but that can be addressed next season when there are 41 rounds. I don’t know why Jared Kelly isn’t picked here.
36. Tanner Burns, RHP, CLE
I can’t think of a better pick for the Indians here. Tanner Burns is a first-round talent who has had tremendous success in the SEC. He doesn’t overwhelm batters but it’s possible his stuff gets a boost after Cleveland’s system gets ahold of him.
37. Alika Williams, SS, TB
The Rays certainly have a type. Alika Williams is a patient-hitting middle infielder with speed — you know, like the 20 others they have in their system behind Wander Franco. He also has the ability to play multiple positions. Remind you of all the others?
Next 5 Best Names
Dillon Dingler, C/1B
Jared Kelley, RHP
Cole Wilcox, RHP
Daniel Cabrera, OF
Blaze Jordan, 1B/OF
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)