2020 Mock Draft: Mach 1

Below is my first mock draft of the year, a mock I’ll link to (along with The Board) at the top of and along with each subsequent iteration, as this one lays a foundation of context that I reserve the right to refer back to.

Teams are largely in the final stages of board building right now. National cross checkers are convening electronically; the last of the staff positional group discussions are wrapping up. How accurate can a mock be at this point? If you’d like to use mock accuracy as a proxy for how things will evolve over the next two weeks, take a look at the first complete round one mock Kiley McDaniel and I did last year and compare it to the one we did the day of the draft. You can see the initial mock has players in the right general range, while the final one is more precise. That’s how readers should think about what they’re about to read.

Of course, things are likely to be harder to predict than usual this year. A monkey wrench the size of the planet itself has been thrown into the cogs of the draft process. The draft’s reduced length, signing bonus limitations on players signed after the five rounds, the bonus deferral guidelines, minor league baseball’s imminent contraction, the asymmetry of prospect-to-prospect playing time this spring, the increased involvement from pro departments and otherwise uninvolved executives who had nothing else to do, the relative ease with which pitchers can upload opinion-changing video during the shutdown compared to hitters, the way teams’ cash flow issues might impact strategy, the way each player’s family’s financial situation may have recently changed and altered their signability, and how a college’s scholarship shortage might make players more or less inclined to return to school or matriculate, not to mention how all of those things (I’m sure I’ve missed some) interact with player, agent, and team incentives, make this year’s draft very unpredictable.

In broad strokes, teams seem more inclined to minimize risk this year. For instance, there are teams that do not have some higher profile high school players on their boards because they didn’t see them this spring. Prospects who were only scoutable for a brief window in March, never began play at all, or were in a crowded region and so were an opportunity-cost casualty, are at risk of not being on a team’s board here and there and sliding. There might be a couple of cases where someone slips past where they’re signable.

In my opinion, this is cowardly. Teams have had plenty of looks at Mick Abel, Ed Howard, Freddy Zamora, Austin Hendrick, and most all of the other names who I’ve heard might slip or become unsignable because of this apprehension. Even Nick Bitsko, who teams have the least history with because of when he reclassified, was widely seen last fall (he was awesome) and by about a third of teams in the bullpen this spring — he clearly belongs near the top of the high school arms in this draft.

I agree that a seven month layoff for high school prospects (that’s how long it’s been for guys who played in Jupiter last October) is not ideal, but neither is a three-month layoff for literally everyone else. Some teams seem more inclined to buy into some of the pop-up college arms who made four good starts in February and March rather than cold weather high schoolers who have a multi-year pedigree of performance. Was anyone really going to learn anything new about Ed Howard’s feel to hit by watching him crush bad Midwest varsity pitching? I don’t think so. On to the mock.

1. Detroit Tigers- Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Arizona State

At this point, the industry thinks Torkelson is the heavy favorite to go first overall and generally sees him as a cut above the rest of the prospects in the draft. There are a few industry dissenters who view him as a little less of a layup, but they’re rare. They cite his profile (for the uninitiated, aside from a few recent examples, righty batters who played solely first base in college have a horrible track record of clearing the position’s high offensive bar) and the uncharacteristic uptick in Tork’s in-zone whiff rate this spring as forces pulling him back toward the pack.

But there’s no evidence that Detroit feels this way, and any indication they do, even if they were to come out and say it publicly, could be construed as posturing to try to drive Torkelson’s price down (he’s a Boras advisee). In the seemingly remote scenario where Detroit wants to cut a deal, I’d make Asa Lacy the favorite since his repertoire is the sort Detroit either targets or tries to coax out of their pitchers after they acquire them.

2. Baltimore Orioles- Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M

Based on some of Houston’s activity in the draft during Elias’ tenure there (especially in 2011 and 2015), the size of Baltimore’s bonus pool (just shy of $13.9 million, the most in this draft), where they pick later (30, 39), and the fat tier of 45 FV prospects in this class who should spill into those two picks, Baltimore should consider an under slot deal at two. Other team personnel believe Baltimore has Austin Martin (another Boras advisee) and Nick Gonzales evaluated similarly, so naturally Gonzales is the candidate for such a pact. My other intel has Gonzales in the mix at four through seven (his perceived floor), which means the Orioles would theoretically be able re-allocate between $1.2 million to $1.8 million if they were to sign him for the slot at those picks. That’s the equivalent of a mid-second round bonus slot. Whether that level of savings is worth it to Baltimore depends on whether who they have in mind for later (either specific players or a player subgroup they expect to be around en masse later in the draft) becomes signable because of that extra space. I have no names attached to them in this regard.

But neither Martin nor Gonzales has particularly impressive measurable power, which, again, seemed to be a driving variable during Elias’ stint with the Astros. Lacy has vicious stuff, visually and on paper, and the nitpicking knock on him is that his strike throwing is on the starter/reliever fringe, which I perceive to be less of an issue for this org. I think they take Lacy if they want the best player available.

3. Miami Marlins- Austin Martin, CF, Vanderbilt

I think Miami takes whichever of the top three prospects falls here, and in this scenario it’s Martin. The Marlins recently furloughed many of their scouts and if the org is truly convulsing financially then, at first glance, perhaps the idea of dealing with Scott Boras here would be troubling. But look closer and exhale, Marlins fan. Every prospect will get a max of $100,000 up front regardless of the bonus size, and the Marlins seemed to have no issues signing JJ Bleday last year (also a Boras client).

4. Kansas City Royals- Nick Gonzales, 2B, New Mexico State

I’ve had sources put the Royals on Gonzales and Florida high school outfielder Zach Veen, and I’ll speculate that Georgia righty Emerson Hancock is in the mix, too, since the Royals took nothing but value college arms two years ago, and Hancock looked like a 1-1 for much of 2019 before sputtering out of the gate this year.

5. Toronto Blue Jays- Max Meyer, RHP, Minnesota

I have Toronto’s mix as college pitching (Meyer, Hancock, Louisville lefty Reid Detmers) and Veen. The Jays took a falling value arm last year in Alek Manoah, and also seem keen on identifying pitchers who should be using their changeup more often (Thomas Hatch is the prime example), and I think Hancock is both in this case. The industry wants to see his medical since he didn’t pitch in the 2019 postseason or summer, and was not sharp early this year when all the teams picking near the very top were in to see him (perhaps part of why he might fall); multiple sources have mentioned him as the prospect in this draft’s 50 FV tier most likely to slip.

Meyer’s stuff (and relief risk vibe) are similar to Manoah and Nate Pearson’s, and now that Toronto’s young core of hitters has arrived, it makes sense to rush some pitching upward. I think Meyer will move the fastest of the aforementioned group, albeit as a reliever.

6. Seattle Mariners- Emerson Hancock, RHP, Georgia

If one of Gonzales or Hancock gets here, I think they’re heavy favorites to be Seattle’s pick. I’m not sure how they’d stack the two of them if both do (which happens if it’s chalk at one, two, and three, then Veen at four, and Meyer or Detmers at five). If neither of them gets here, I think the mix is Veen, Meyer, and Detmers.

7. Pittsburgh Pirates- Heston Kjerstaad, RF, Arkansas

Other teams have very little feel for what Pittsburgh is going to do here. Scouting Director Joe Dellicarri took a prep arm last year, and the club has a new GM who might want to make the pick — Boston’s first round record during Cherington’s years there is Jackie Bradley Jr. and a lot of pitching that didn’t pan out.

This seems to be Gonzales’ floor, and I think it’d be Hancock’s too (unless the medical is bad, which we don’t know yet), but neither is available in this scenario.

8. San Diego Padres- Zach Veen, OF, Spruce Creek HS (FL)

Veen, Meyer (who could be fast-tracked in relief), and Tennessee high school outfielder Robert Hassell seem to be in their mix.

9. Colorado Rockies – Patrick Bailey, C, North Carolina State

I do think a few high schoolers are in Colorado’s mix (the outfielders, especially Hassell) but aside from Ryan Vilade, most of Colorado’s recent early high school draftees have struggled to get real traction. The top college catcher almost always goes higher than he’s generally ranked, and Bailey is a high-contact backstop who might accidentally hit for relevant power (for the position) at Coors.

10. Los Angeles Angels- Reid Detmers, LHP, Louisville

Multiple sources have told me that as MLB discussed how to alter and proceed with the baseball calendar at the start of the pandemic, including the draft, the Angels’ Arte Moreno was one of the owners who would have preferred to forego the draft altogether. Based on this, Moreno’s decision to furlough almost the entire scouting staff before the draft (one more paycheck for each of them would have gotten them there), and Los Angeles’ trade of Will Wilson to dump salary last year, other teams are speculating that the Angels’ approach to the draft might be compromised by the owner’s financial motives, though the public relations hit from that seems more devastating than paying a couple players a heavily-deferred bonus.

Detmers has high starter probability and probably a short timeline to the big leagues, both fits for the Angels. He’s also shy of 21 on draft day and the Angels have selected lots of young-for-their-class players the past few seasons.

11. Chicago White Sox- Garrett Mitchell, CF, UCLA

The White Sox’s new scouting director, Mike Shirley, is an internal hire, so most other teams expect the team to stay the course with college players at the top of the draft. In this range that means Bailey, Kjerstad, and Mitchell.

12. Cincinnati Reds- Mick Abel, RHP, Jesuit High School (OR)

I think any of the high school outfielders would be in their mix here, and will specifically point to 19-year-old Austin Hendrick since the Reds seem to care less about high school player age (they took a couple of 19-year-old high schoolers last year). Abel (who is also a little older at 18.8) has all the ingredients that the new player dev group should, theoretically, be able to optimize.

13. San Francisco Giants- Ed Howard, SS, Mount Carmel HS (IL)

There are some teams that are apprehensive about drafting Howard, whose high school team only practiced a few times before the pandemic shut down youth athletics nationwide. A different cut of the industry thinks what we all saw last summer (Howard hit well on the showcase circuit) was sufficient to have him on the board pretty strong, around the top 10. I fall into the latter camp.

The Giants seem to be kicking the tires on several higher upside high schoolers (Pennsylvania high school righty Nick Bitsko, NorCal catcher Tyler Soderstrom) and they took a player with a truncated track record last year in Hunter Bishop.

14. Texas Rangers- Garrett Crochet, LHP, Tennessee

15. Philadelphia Phillies- Clayton Beeter, RHP, Texas Tech

16. Chicago Cubs- Cade Cavalli, RHP, Oklahoma

I think some of the teams picking in the middle of round one (Reds, Rangers, Cubs, Red Sox, D-backs) might be more motivated than usual to take a pitcher who they can plug and play in their bullpen sometime this summer, and the Phillies are perhaps the most needy of these. Tennessee lefty Garrett Crochet and Texas Tech righty Clayton Beeter (in the James Karinchak mold mechanically, 94-98 with a 70 slider) each have two pitches that would probably miss big league bats right now and would be good fits for this.

Bullpenning them for the rest of this year doesn’t preclude you from developing them as starters next spring. It doesn’t seem Philly is limited to this player pool and is casting a wide net; they’re also interested in Bitsko and Soderstrom according to sources. Hassell is also just great value at this point and would be a threat to go at any of these picks.

17. Boston Red Sox- Robert Hassell, CF, Independence HS (TN)

18. Arizona Diamondbacks- Nick Bitsko, RHP, Central Bucks East HS (PA)

19. New York Mets- Austin Hendrick, OF, West Allegheny HS (PA)

All three of these are strong value picks. Both Hassell and Hendrick are in some teams’ mixes in the back half of the top 10. I think Hassell is a threat to go anywhere from nine onward and is probably off the board at this point, and perhaps I don’t have his name attached to teams right in front of this because they assume he’ll be gone. The Red Sox early hitter draftees have been contact-first types (even Triston Casas was advanced from a contact standpoint) so I’ve given them Hassell here, who I think would be the dream for the D-backs.

Neither Bitsko nor Hendrick played a game this spring (Hendrick was heavily scouted last summer, Bitsko had not yet reclassified), and though I disagree with it, there’s real risk it will impact where they’re taken.

20. Milwaukee Brewers – Justin Foscue, 2B, Mississippi State

Foscue walked 15 times and struck out just thrice before the shutdown. He’s a multi-year performer at an SEC school and plays a premium position, the kind of player who teams with a strong quantifiable track record gravitate toward.

21. St. Louis Cardinals- Tyler Soderstrom, C, Turlock HS (CA)

High school catching is very risky, and while I have Soderstrom linked to several teams closer to the middle of the round, prep catching tends to slide a little on draft day. Scouting director Randy Flores was front and center for Wake Forest at Louisville’s Saturday tilt in early March, and both Bobby Miller and Jared Schuster shoved in that one, so perhaps they’re also sneaking into the mix.

22. Washington Nationals- Cole Wilcox, RHP, Georgia

A pretty good rule of thumb in mocks is to give the Nationals a player who Scott Boras advises, so here’s Wilcox. His fastball traits are considered less desirable by analytically-inclined draft rooms, which Washington’s is not. I’ll mention J.T. Ginn here for the same reason.

23. Cleveland Indians – Jared Kelley, RHP, Refugio HS (TX)

Cleveland has been unafraid to take prep arms, especially ones who were dominant during their pre-draft summer, which Kelley was.

24. Tampa Bay Rays- Peter Crow-Armstrong, CF, Harvard Westlake HS (CA)

25. Atlanta Braves- Dillon Dingler, C, Ohio State

26. Oakland A’s- Slade Cecconi, RHP, Miami

There is a bit of a college bat drought in this area that I think up-the-middle players like Foscue and Dingler are most likely to fill, though I think some corner guys like Arizona’s Austin Wells and North Carolina’s Aaron Sabato could be in the mix for teams if they’re really leaning hard on college performers this year. PCA would be baptized as Kevin Kiermaier’s hit-stealing successor in Tampa. Dingler is the best up-the-middle college bat left and the Braves seem to value those at a premium. Cecconi has the best build and athleticism of the remaining college arms, his stuff has a little more power than Duke’s Bryce Jarvis, and he has a more traditional delivery than Bobby Miller.

27. Minnesota Twins- Aaron Sabato, 1B, North Carolina

The Twins like college performers (even corner guys) and young high schoolers, so maybe Carson Montgomery is in the mix here, too.

28. New York Yankees- Carson Tucker, SS, Mountain Pointe HS (AZ)

Sources tell me Tucker is motivated to sign on Day 1 even though that likely means he’ll go under slot, and because the Yankees “absorbed” their four corners area for this year, it was easier for my four corner pals to see him when they (we assume) had decision-making personnel at games in that area, which they appeared to at Tucker’s games this spring when he looked better than he did last summer.

29. Los Angeles Dodgers – Bryce Jarvis, RHP, Duke

Here I’ve given the Dodgers the best remaining player on my board but they’re apt to take an injured player who they think should have gone higher on talent (Freddy Zamora, maybe a J.T. Ginn sequel?) or someone with a shorter track record like Beeter (who I think has homes throughout the back half of round one) or Shuster.





Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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jeffston
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jeffston

What’s the biggest part of Meyer’s game that makes you believe he will only be a reliever?

Uncle Spike
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Uncle Spike

If Meyer’s risk of being a reliever are so high, is he really in the mix for the #5 pick? Seems like a high price to pay.

nuthought
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nuthought

I think he is just suggesting that they could put him in the bullpen this year since he has a plus pitch already then put him back on a starters track next Spring.