Because we are maniacs, we’re already midway through a clean sweep of all of our rankings. Since the signing deadline for the draft is July 15, we won’t know who is going back to school and who is joining a pro club for sure until then, but we have a way around this. Any player drafted in the top 10 rounds, as well as any college draftees, are assumed to be signing, while any high school player drafted outside the top 10 rounds is assumed to be going to the school to which he’s committed. There will likely be a handful of unsigned top 10 round prospects, who are often impossible to handicap at this point since post-draft physicals are usually the reason, and some college players will head back for their senior season, but we’ll just adjust those as we learn their fates. This means the 2020, 2021, and new 2022 draft boards all have our up-to-the-second rankings, thoughts, and tool grades, and will be updated regularly throughout the summer as prospects sign and we attend amateur showcases, tournaments and summer leagues.
With this in mind, next week we’ll add all of the top 10 round prospects and any 11th round or later with confirmed deals and 35+ or better FVs to team prospect lists. We’ll also take graduated prospects off, and re-do the top 100, likely with about a half dozen more prospects jumping into the 50 FV tier. Just after this, we’ll do a sweep through each team list to update based on what’s happened this spring, and also do a refreshed farm rankings based on all these changes. This will lead into trade deadline season, which will lead to more changes and another farm rankings update. You can find our current minor league prospects rankings and draft prospect rankings on THE BOARD and our pre-draft farm rankings here.
The 2020 Draft Class
We aren’t putting out a 12-months-early mock draft because that’s unnecessary, and if you want to know who the top players are for the 2020 class, we’ve been regularly updating that list for over a year now. The list currently has 188 players and will probably have close to 300 by the end of the summer. Our version of a mock draft would be pointing to the top tier of our list, which goes 34 deep and is essentially what a first round would be, and just assume they go in that exact order. We’ve also included blurbs and tool grades.
As far as what trends are strongest in the 2020 class, it’s the return of college pitching from a down 2019 and also the SEC. On the high-end pitching front, this year we had one pitcher in the top 10 and two in the top 15 picks. On our 2020 list, there are 11 pitchers in the top 19, and they are five of the top seven. There are power arms in the prep and college classes. Of our top 34 prospects, 14 play in the SEC now and five more are committed to play there. Georgia is tops on that list with our No. 1 and No. 4 overall prospects, RHP Emerson Hancock and RHP Cole Wilcox. The other SEC potential first rounders come from Vanderbilt, which has LHP Hugh Fisher and 2B Austin Martin; Florida, which has RHP Tommy Mace and RHP Jack Leftwich; LSU, which has LF Daniel Cabrera and RHP Cole Henry; Arkansas, which has RF Heston Kjerstad and SS Casey Martin; Auburn, which has RHP Tanner Burns; Tennessee, which has LHP Garrett Crochet; Mississippi State, which has RHP J.T. Ginn; and Texas A&M, which has LHP Asa Lacy.
A Quick Look at 2021 and 2022
We’ve also had 2021 rankings up for over a year and the only notable adjustment post-draft is that likely-to-be-Vanderbilt RHP Jack Leiter’s age makes him an eligible sophomore, so he goes to the top of the 2021 class with likely new teammate RHP Kumar Rocker. The other 2019 prep prospects who are 2021 eligible are much lower down. Over the last year, some notable risers in the 2021 class include Florida State RF Robby Martin, Florida RHP Ben Specht, and Louisville’s RHP Jack Perkins and 3B Alex Binelas. Some who had middling freshman years, but still have plenty of time to rebound, include Virginia RHP Mike Vasil, Ole Miss RHP Gunnar Hoglund, and UCLA 2B Matt McLain. The top of that prep class is already making waves, with Michigan prep 3B Luke Leto, Georgia prep 3B Brady House, and Arkansas prep RF Braylon Bishop making up the top tier.
The 2022 class is just the 18-year-old high school prospects who we expect not to sign and a handful of early-emerging prep prospects who are currently 15 years old. Cal Poly SS Brooks Lee, Vanderbilt 1B/LHP Spencer Jones, Florida LHP Hunter Barco, and LSU CF Maurice Hampton are expected to get to campus and be the top of this draft class at first blush. North Carolina prep RF Ryan Clifford is the earliest popping and best bat, which is usually a harbinger of success given the track record of that title. Atlanta-area prep SS Termarr Johnson also has a lot of fans, with one evaluator saying he’s further along than the No. 6 overall pick this week, new Padres SS C.J. Abrams.
College Winners and Losers
Vanderbilt was slated to be a big winner in this draft and it looks like they’ll come out almost as good as expected. 45 FV RHP Jack Leiter, 45 FV 1B/LHP Spencer Jones, and 35+ FV SS Carter Young will headline the expected incoming class. We expected them to land one of CF Tre Fletcher, SS Anthony Volpe, and RHP Kendall Williams, but it looks like all three will turn pro. RF Pat DeMarco, LHP Jackson Gillis, and LHP Zach King were all eligible this year and have a shot to come back next season to what may be the program with the most current pro talent.
LSU was hit hard, likely losing RHP Daniel Espino, RHP Jimmy Lewis, RF Rece Hinds, and 2B Christian Cairo along with veteran contributors CF Antoine Duplantis, CF Zach Watson, RHP Zach Hess, SS Josh Smith, and RHP Todd Peterson. The expected incoming class is still strong, though, including CF Maurice Hampton, SS Cade Doughty, RHP Connor Phillips, RHP Thomas Wilhite, and C Hayden Travinski. Florida also lost bulk, with among the expected lost commits RF Riley Greene, RHP Matthew Allan and RHP Brandon Sproat, along with contributors SS Brady McConnell, RHP Tyler Dyson, RF Wil Dalton, and 2B Nelson Maldonado. They look to be supplementing a young team with an incoming class of LHP Hunter Barco, 3B Josh Rivera, RHP Tyler Nesbitt, C Nathan Hickey, and 3B Isaac Nunez.
Ole Miss has to be thrilled, as it looks like they’ll land all of their top prep commits: CF Jerrion Ealy, C Hayden Dunhurst, SS Connor Walsh, RHP Andrew McDaniel, and RHP Derek Diamond. UCLA looks to be one of the top programs in the country, likely adding four players from THE BOARD: SS Michael Curialle, LHP/1B Josh Hahn, RF Emanuel Dean, and C Darius Perry. South Carolina had three prep commits and five juco commits on our board and looks like they’ll only be losing 2B Ivan Johnson and 3B Tyler Callihan of the group, both to Cincinnati. Mississippi State will lose C Ethan Hearn to the Cubs, but land the rest of their class, headlined by RHP Will Bednar, LHP Davis Rokose, RHP Landon Sims, RHP K.C. Hunt, RF Andre Tarver, and LF Jake Randa. Maryland looks poised to land all five of its prospects in our board: RHP Dave Falco, RHP Nick Dean, LHP Ryan Ramsey, RF Bobby Zmarzlak, and LF Tucker Flint. Auburn will almost certainly lose SS Gunnar Henderson to Baltimore but likely get the rest of the class: LHP Hayden Mullins, RHP Mason Barnett, RHP Trace Bright, and C/RHP Nathaniel LaRue. Likewise, Clemson loses SS Nasim Nunez but has a good shot to get the rest of their class on campus: RF/LHP Dylan Brewer, C Jonathan French, RHP Gavin Collyer and RHP Mack Anglin. Texas A&M got hit hard as expected, losing four commits in the top 100 picks: RHP J.J. Goss, RHP Matthew Thompson, RHP Josh Wolf, and CF Dasan Brown. They’ll also likely get RHP Blake Mayfield and RHP Evan Vanek.
Analyzing Some Teams’ Approaches
We covered this on our post draft podcast review of all 30 clubs, but it’s worth pointing out a few clubs that stood out for their strategy with their higher picks.
We thought there were more signable six-figure high school prospects in this draft than usual, and some teams clearly targeted that demographic during day two. After beginning their draft with several college players, some of whom will likely be underslot signs, the Cubs drafted three likely overslot high schoolers on the second half of Day 2. They took a similar approach both last year and the year they drafted Kyle Schwarber and Dylan Cease, though this year’s prep group is a little less splashy from a scouting/projection perspective, and more interesting from a player dev point of view.
The Mets and White Sox took the opposite approach. They each loaded up on expensive high schoolers in the first few rounds, then picked a lot of seniors through round 10. Cleveland continues to take young players. Five of their first six picks were high schoolers and all but one of them were younger than the average draft-eligible high schooler. The Angels are also in the “toolsy/young” draft strategy bucket, which was reinforced by their first two picks.
We also saw what might be some shifts in team strategy. Texas is typically on big-bodied athletes but drafted lots of college players this year, though their first two picks have Rangery physicality. The Braves also seem to be taking a new approach, which Kiley talked about more in his chat.
Arizona had the second largest bonus pool in the short history of the current draft era and we expected them to clean up. They did. They left with 10 players who’ll immediately go on The Board and, if they sign 11th round high school lefty Avery Short and he looks good during the summer, that number will climb to 11. We haven’t run the numbers yet, but they almost certainly have a top 10 farm system now and might yet add more talent if they turn into sellers before the deadline.