Written by: Diego Solares (@DeegsBaseball) and Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB)
With the 2020 MLB Draft on the horizon, our extensive draft coverage here at RotoFanatic continues.
We jump-started our pre-draft evaluations on Monday and have finally finished each of our positional breakdowns. You can find all of those by clicking HERE, but today we’ll start to wrap up our player analysis by diving into the right-handed pitchers of this class.
It’s hard to think of a class in recent memory of right-handed arms, or pitchers in general, as deep as this 2020 crop. Led by Emerson Hancock, there are multiple first-round talents scattered throughout this list and some potential late-round gems should they sign with their teams. There’s no denying that this is a special group.
After several hours of churning through video and information, these are the consensus rankings agreed upon by both of our draft analysts. Without further delay, let’s get into it:
1. Emerson Hancock, 21 years old, Georgia
Emerson Hancock has seen his stock surge and now falls over the course of two calendar years. A year ago, Hancock was the odds-on favorite to go 1-1 in the 2020 Draft. But after a few lackluster starts over the course of an abbreviated 2020 campaign and some questions surrounding his health, the Georgia Bulldog now finds himself firmly in top 10 consideration, but likely not a top-three selection.
Hancock is built exactly how organizations want to see their starting pitchers. Standing 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Hancock has an athletic build. He has long legs and a high waist, meaning he’ll likely develop and age well. It’s a super projectable frame. He’s free and easy on the mound and has a beautifully repeatable delivery. The fastball is a 60 offering with consistent tail and run. He had a more difficult time spotting the pitch this year than in the past, but the pitch still displayed exceptional life. Alongside the heater, Hancock possesses an above-average slider and changeup, both of which have shown swing-and-miss capabilities. There’s also a curveball that he seldom offers, but has shown growth and development. Given the body, athleticism, track record and arsenal, Hancock is a good bet to enjoy a long big league career somewhere near the top or middle of a team’s rotation, so long as the health holds up.
2. Max Meyer, 21 years old, Minnesota
Arguably no prospect in the entire country benefited more from the shortened college baseball season than Meyer. He went from primarily being a closer in college to earning a spot in Minnesota’s starting rotation and cemented himself as a top-five talent in this class. Some would consider Meyer undersized for a pitcher. He’s only six feet tall and weighs in at roughly 185 pounds, but Meyer’s extreme athleticism on the mound allows him to play up. He uses that athleticism to keep himself under control despite having an efforty delivery that might be a concern for some evaluators. Meyer boasts two 70-grade pitches and has arguably the most strikeout effective pitch arsenal in this class. His heater regularly sits in the mid-to-high-90s with blistering life, exploding out of his hand and into the zone. Meyer’s money pitch is his slider and some consider it to be the best overall pitch in the draft. It typically sits between 87-91 mph, tunneling well with his heater and working effectively on both sides of the plate. Don’t disregard his changeup either, as it’s flashed above-average potential at times with natural tumbling action. His pitch mix, athleticism, and demeanor all suggest that he can stick as a starter long-term. Meyer likely profiles as a number three starter with top-of-the-rotation upside during his peak seasons.
3. Mick Abel, 18 years old, Jesuit (OR)
Mick Abel is by and large our favorite pitching prospect in this entire draft. Right-handed prep pitchers are a volatile bunch and tough to value near the tops of drafts. There’s the looming question of fragility and long-term projectability with frames that have not yet been pushed into bigger workloads and professional ball. That being said, it’s hard not to love everything in the package Abel brings to the table.
At 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, Abel has an uber-projectable frame with long levers and a high waist. His mechanics are fluid and consistent. The pitch arsenal is every bit as impressive as anyone on this list. The fastball is some of the easiest high 90s you can find. It’s a 2-seam primarily that exhibits exceptional arm-side run and tail. The pitch is a terror on right-handed hitters. Also in the toolbox is a plus slider, easily the best prep breaking ball in the class. It’s a tight slider with good vertical and horizontal movement at the plate. More importantly than anything, Abel knows the pitch and consistently commands it. There’s also a changeup that shows similar life to the 2-seam with impressive tumble and tunneling on the first two pitches. It’s generally a low-80s offering that plays beautifully off the fastball. Abel has also messed around with a curveball and cutter, both of which have shown the potential for fringe-average pitches. If Abel were a left-handed pitcher with this arsenal, or 21 years old, he’d likely be a top 3 pick in this draft. As it stands, he likely gets picked in the middle third of the first round and will sign, forgoing his commitment to Oregon State.
4. Cade Cavalli, 21 years old, Oklahoma
It’s possible that us here at RotoFanatic could end up being the highest publication on Cavalli once all draft ranks are finalized. There’s a lot to like about him, so much so that we’ve comfortably put him above two of the best right-handed pitching prep prospects in the class. With a strong 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame, Cavalli just looks like a big-league starter. He’s built proportionally, with broad shoulders and strong legs that allow him to generate some of the easiest velocity in the class. His fastball is an easy 93-96 mph, touching 98 mph with late elevation into the zone. Cavalli throws two distinct breaking balls, both of which have flashed above-average to plus potential. He’ll throw a low-80s curveball down in the zone to strike batters out and it’s an offering that he’s comfortable throwing. The slider shows strong lateral movement and it plays in the upper-80s, but he’s still learning how to throw it. His fourth offering is a changeup, although he doesn’t throw it much. Cavalli is still relatively new to pitching and he does struggle to control his pitches at times. He also doesn’t have the best track record of staying healthy, which is obviously the biggest concern with pitchers. There’s frontline upside here with Cavalli and it’s all about him just putting it together.
5. Nick Bitsko, 18 years old, Central Bucks East (PA)
Nick Bitsko is one of the high-risers in recent weeks leading up to the draft. He’s barely 18 years old on draft day, and because of that, he gets a small stock bump in the eyes of scouting and player development staffs. But the age has nothing to do with the ascent. Bitsko’s Rapsodo readings are absolutely insane. A heater that touches 99 and plus spin, a cutter that has elite, elite horizontal tilt, a changeup that tumbles through the zone. There is certainly reason to believe there are three-plus pitches in the profile and a top-of-the-rotation role. At 6-foot-4, and 220 pounds, Bitsko already has the body to handle a big workload. The mechanics are clean and very advanced for his age. Command is the biggest question mark surrounding his name right now, but that’s the case for 99 percent of preps. There’s almost no doubt he’s a starting pitcher at the next level and could be ready at some point in 2023 or 2024. It’s some of the best stuff in the draft and he’ll be highly sought on June 10.
6. Jared Kelley, 18 years old, Refugio (TX)
After the summer circuit came to an end, Kelley was considered by most publications as the consensus top prep arm and a potential top-10 pick. Things have changed since then, but that’s mostly because both Abel and Bitsko have made significant jumps in their games. Kelley should still be viewed as an impact talent in the class and he could end up being the best arm of the bunch.
Kelley is built like your typical hard-throwing Texas right-hander. He’s every bit of 6-foot-3 and 215-pounds with proportional strength, but there’s little-to-no projection left. He repeats his delivery well, doesn’t throw with much effort, and throws a ton of strikes for an 18-year-old. Kelley throws some of the easiest gas you’ll ever see, regularly sitting between 94-96 mph and flashes arm-side run. His bread-and-butter pitch is a plus changeup that dives down into the zone with swing-and-miss actions. The knock on him, for right now, is his inability to consistently spin his slider. Thankfully, some organizations have the technology and player development teams to teach spin, so that isn’t a grave concern right now. Kelley’s stuff paired with his pure pitchability gives him a relatively safe big-league floor. It’s rare to say that a teenage pitching prospect could ascend through the minors quickly, but Kelley could be up at the major league level around age 21 or 22.
7. Cole Wilcox, 21 years old, Georgia
Wilcox is no stranger to first-round grades. 2018 saw him ranked as one of the best prep arms in the entire country, but signability concerns pushed him into the 37th round to the Nationals. That pick was largely posturing — a way for Washington to get to know Wilcox a little better before his eventual eligibility into the 2020 draft.
Ironically, Wilcox now slots pretty comfortably into the Nationals draft position at the 22nd pick. Regardless, he’s an immense talent, albeit still a bit raw. The fastball is a mid-90s offering with significant tail and sink. He couples the heater with a mid-80s slider and changeup, both of which have flashed plus at times. The story on Wilcox is his command. Walks have been an issue during his time in Athens, though 2020 saw improved control and the walks were way down. At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, he’s built like a prototypical starter and will have every opportunity to achieve that mid-rotation ceiling. There’s a legitimate reliever floor here if the command doesn’t ultimately improve, but it’s more likely than not he straightens things out and remains in a team’s stable of starting pitchers.
8. Bobby Miller, 21 years old, Louisville
Drafted by the Orioles in the 38th round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Miller obviously honored his commitment to Louisville and quietly turned himself into one of the best arms in college baseball. You’ll be hard-pressed to find multiple arms with a more effective fastball than Miller, regularly sitting in the high-90s with explosive life into the zone. He doesn’t just hold his fastball velocity well into starts, but consistently pumps a high-80s slider late into outings as well. It’s his strikeout pitch, tunneling well with his fastball and generating some pretty ugly swings. He started to show comfort in a changeup that sits in the low-80s and works down in the zone.
Miller has the velocity, strikeout pitch, and massive 6-foot-5 frame to stick as a starter long-term. He throws with some effort and doesn’t always stay in sync, causing him to get a bit erratic at times. Some evaluators believe he’s destined for a bullpen role, while others view him as an absolute steal towards the end of the first round. His upside as a starter is obviously appealing, but he also has the stuff to be a dominant reliever. Miller will hold value regardless of what role he ends up being long-term.
9. Carson Montgomery, 18 years old, Windermere (FL)
Carson Montgomery is pretty advanced for a high school pitcher, as is evidenced by his high draft stock. At 6-foot-2, Montgomery isn’t the tallest or most projectable build in the class, but his ability to manipulate a baseball is seldom seen in players his age. The fastball comfortably projects as he develops. The pitch has a ton of arm-side run and late life. It generally sits 90-92 right now, but explodes at the plate and plays way more superior than the velocity would suggest. The slider is already an above-average offering and will likely be a plus offering with a couple years in pro ball. The biggest question mark on the breaking ball is its consistency, but the late break it’s shown is extraordinary. It tunnels unbelievably well with the fastball. Montgomery does a good job of hiding the ball prior to release, so everything in his arsenal tends to play up. There’s also a changeup in the arsenal, though he’s had a difficult time separating its velocity from the fastball enough to make it anything more than an average offering for now. Montgomery is committed to Florida State and could be a difficult sign in this draft unless a team is really sold on the profile and willing to stretch their budget to bring him on board.
10. Chris McMahon, 20 years old, Miami
There are so many good college pitchers coming out of the state of Florida this year, but for my money, McMahon is the best of the bunch. Super-athletic for his position, McMahon looks like he could be a starting quarterback on the mound. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he has an extremely controlled and fluid motion to the plate. There’s not a ton of concern in long-term durability, though that’s never a statement you can take to the bank.
McMahon features a mid-90s fastball with good life thanks to plus spin rates and efficiency. Deception in his delivery makes the pitch appear as though it’s exploding at the plate. He also employs a cutter/slider as well as a changeup. The slider is probably his best out pitch, though the changeup projects an above-average offering at the next level too. McMahon is a reasonably safe bet to achieve his no. 3/4 ceiling.
11. Slade Cecconi, 21 years old, Miami
A draft-eligible sophomore, Cecconi is one of the youngest college arms available in the draft. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Cecconi’s strong with the type of frame that makes scouts’ jaws drop. His fastball typically sits in the mid-90s, touching 96 mph with decent control to both sides of the plate. For someone that has started for most of his life, Cecconi doesn’t hold his velocity well deep into starts and his stuff leaks over the heart of the plate as his outing goes on. His best secondary offering is a hard high-80s slider with late lateral break and serves as a true power pitch. That’s pretty much it for Cecconi in terms of his mix, as he’ll occasionally throw a changeup and curveball but both don’t do much. Cecconi has upside because of his size but there are also some pretty evident question marks to his long-term future. He does hold leverage in these contract negotiations as a sophomore that can return for his junior season. There will be a team that takes a chance on him, as they should, but there’s certainly going to be an inherent risk.
12. Jared Jones, 18 years old, La Mirada (CA)
Jared Jones has been considered a premier talent for his entire prep career. At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, he doesn’t possess prototypical size or length like a lot of other players on this list. He does, however, possess quite possibly the fastest arm in the entire draft. It’s elite arm speed. That’s not a gradable tool, but if it were, he’d stand alone at the top. The arm speed generates high 90s fastballs that can touch triple digits. But it’s not just brute force with Jones. He’s got a ton of polish with three, maybe four offerings on the mound.
The aforementioned fastball is a 70, maybe 80-grade heater. He dances pitches around that to keep hitters off balance. The slider is a plus offering that has extraordinary depth and lateral tilt. Control has been an issue, but that’s all too common for pitchers his age. There’s also a changeup that grades out as average, maybe 55 on occasion. Since the pandemic started, Jones began working on a 12-6 curveball to mix in. He’s already achieving true shape, though spin efficiency and consistency are a work in progress. So long as the health holds up, Jones should be a force for whichever team brings him on board. Teams are generally apprehensive to overspend on prep righties, especially those with smaller frames. Jones hopes to buck that trend this June. He’s committed to the University of Texas.
13. JT Ginn, 21 years old, Mississippi State
Let’s be clear out of the gates — the chances of Ginn actually signing this year as a draftee are slim. He will almost certainly be selected, but after missing the entire 2020 campaign with Tommy John surgery, his stock has really never been lower. Considered a top ten selection by many pre-season publications, Ginn’s ability has never been in question. He, like Meyer, has a devastating fastball-slider combo, both of which have flashed plus-plus in recent years. The talent is there. The durability is not.
Ginn missed all of 2020 after missing several starts in 2019 with right arm soreness and general fatigue. He gutted through several short outings toward the latter half of the year and ended up taking most of the offseason off to recover. The 30th overall pick by the Dodgers in the 2018 draft, Ginn is still barely 21 years old. He’ll hold value in next year’s draft too. Ginn probably won’t be ready to pitch opening day in 2021 for Mississippi State. Teams will be cautious in selecting the small-statured righty in the 2021 draft, so from this chair, if he sneaks into the Top 40, Ginn should consider eating his dinner while it’s hot.
14. Bryce Jarvis, 21 years old, Duke
After being a relative unknown, potentially not even a top five-round pick, Jarvis exploded onto the scene in 2020 after several dominant performances — one, a 15-punch out perfect game against Cornell. The stuff has ticked up in a huge way this season. Because of it, Jarvis has shed his reliever profile and established himself as one of the better right-handed pitching prospects in the draft.
Jarvis’ fastballs generally sits 93-95, but he’s touched triple digits in bullpens during this down period. The changeup is one of the more underrated pitches in the entire draft and plays off his heater extremely well. It’s a low-to-mid 80s offering with late tumble. He controls the pitch very well and is comfortably a plus offering. There’s also a slider that flashes plus but is more often than not a 55-grade offering. It’s likely a plus offering with some tinkering and consistency at the next level. Jarvis is your prototypical pop-up prospect from the 2020 season and may represent excess value in Comp Round A if he lasts that long. He’s already 22 years old, so there’s no doubt he’ll sign.
15. Tanner Burns, 21 years old, Auburn
To be completely honest, Burns has the talent and pure stuff to rank higher on this list. He came into Auburn as one of the top prep players in his class and immediately vaulted himself into a weekend rotation that featured former number-one overall pick, Casey Mize. His fastball typically sits anywhere between 92-95 mph, touching 97 mph, and he has excellent quadrant command of it. He’s flashed feel to spin a potential plus breaking ball that doesn’t have a true consistent shape yet but does have advanced actions. Burns’ third pitch is a changeup with sink that could someday be an average pitch, even though he doesn’t throw it much. The one thing holding Burns back from being ranked higher on this list are durability concerns, most notably a shoulder issue that he suffered during his sophomore season. Still, from a true talent and stuff standpoint, Burns belongs to go somewhere in the first round.
16. Tommy Mace, 21 years old, Florida
Mace strung together one of the more impressive starts of the 2020 season when he went into Miami and tossed seven innings of one-run ball, only allowing two hits and striking out eight. He would’ve been the Friday starter on arguably the best team in the country this season had there not been a cancellation. Mace has the size that scouts can’t help but dream on. At 6-foot-6, there’s still more projection to come in his wiry frame. His fastball is heavy with low-riding action, topping out at 96 mph and usually sitting in the low-90s with natural movement. His go-to secondary pitch is a hard cutter that’s thrown with conviction and flashed swing-and-miss potential. He uses a low-70s, somewhat loopy curveball simply as a change of pace pitch, and his fourth offering is a changeup that he’ll use sparingly. While his arsenal isn’t anything to write home about, Mace’s demeanor, command, and pitchability all make him an intriguing prospect on the mound. He brings that true bulldog mentality on the mound and consistently throws a ton of strikes down in the zone. Mace has a fairly safe floor as a back-end starter.
17. Cole Henry, 20 years old, LSU
Cole Henry is another guy entirely familiar with being near the top of draft boards. Possessing a 97-mph heater in high school, he was squarely one of the top 200 guys in the 2018 draft. Two years later, he’s clearly ascended to a new prospect tier. Henry generally sits 91-94 with his fastball, mixing in a curveball and changeup. The former is a power bender that tunnels well with the fastball when he’s able to spike the pitch. When Henry misses, the curveball can get loopy and sit in the zone too long. Nevertheless, the pitch flashes an above-average offering at the next level. More than anything, Henry currently lacks the consistency to profile him a top of the rotation big leaguer. If he can find better command and consistency with his secondary offerings in pro ball, the ceiling is awfully high. Henry won’t even be 21 years old in June, so there are some signability concerns that come with his draft ability.
18. CJ Van Eyk, 21 years old, Florida State
Van Eyk enters this draft as one of the more polished right-handed arms available. He owns a solid three-pitch mix, two of which grade out as above-average to plus offerings, and he’ll comfortably throw all three for strikes. Van Eyk’s fastball typically sits between 93-94 mph and he’s able to consistently locate it on both sides of the plate for strikes. His best pitch is his high-spin 12/6 breaking ball with exceptional bite to it. It’s already a swing-and-miss pitch that he’s comfortable with throwing at any time in the count. Van Eyk’s changeup isn’t as advanced as his breaking ball, but it mimics his fastball and typically plays down in the zone. He might not have this illustrious high strikeout profile, but he’s a relatively safe prospect with back-end starter written all over him.
19. Justin Lange, 18 years old, Llano (TX)
Lange has been one of the fastest risers in this entire draft class and for good reason. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Lange has completely transformed his body over the past calendar year. He’s packed on a ton of muscle and alongside it has come velocity and athleticism. Already a projectable frame, Lange turned that projection into reality earlier than many anticipated. He’s put on 20 good pounds in one calendar year and now absolutely looks the part. The biggest criticism of Lange has been his erratic control. At times, he can dot his fastball for strikes at will. Other times, he completely loses the zone and simply can’t find it. That’s something that could come in time with increased strength, athleticism, and experience. Already an above-average offering last summer, Lange’s heater now hovers in the high 90s, touching triple digits consistently in bullpens. It’s a smooth, clean, and easy 70-grade offering. There’s also a fringe-average slider and changeup being worked into his arsenal, though both are in their infancy. Lange’s arm talent is undeniable and if drafted into the right player development system, the ceiling could be massive. He’ll be a project for sure, but it’s hard not to like the raw ability put on display.
20. Masyn Winn, 18 years old, Kingwood (TX)
You could make a case for Winn to be the most athletic player in this entire class. He’s a legitimate two-way prospect that blew up this past October after hitting 98 mph with his fastball and launching a home run in the same game. Winn has drawn some intrigue in the field, but his upside is much higher on the mound. His athleticism is on full display when he’s pitching, showing excellent body control and truly elite 80-grade arm speed. He’ll run his heater up to 98 mph and usually sits anywhere between 93-96 mph. It’s a high-spin fastball that works well up in the zone, giving him a true swing-and-miss pitch right there. Winn consistently flashed a plus high-70s breaking ball in October and a sinking changeup that grades out as average. There’s no denying that Winn could be a special talent, but his delivery is high effort and he’s barely even six feet tall, leading to some obvious durability question marks. He’s without a doubt one of the more intriguing prospects in the class and it’ll be interesting to see what teams do with him should he get drafted. If he does make it to campus, Winn could form a formidable up-the-middle duo with Robert Moore at Arkansas.
21. Ben Hernandez, 18 years old, De La Salle (IL)
Hernandez finally made a name for himself this summer after a stretch of impressive performances at the PDP league and basically the entire showcase circuit. Illinois has produced some pretty intriguing draft talent over the years and it’s possible that Hernandez ends up being one of the more successful players of that bunch. At first glance, Hernandez just straight up looks like he belongs. He’s a strong, well-proportioned 6-foot-2, 205-pound athlete with a durable frame capable of holding a starter’s workload. Hernandez was extremely impressive in his bullpen at the PBR Super 60. His mechanics are clean and he consistently repeats an extremely simple delivery. Hernandez’s fastball usually sits between 93-95 mph and he can essentially throw it wherever he wants to whenever he wants to. He pairs that fastball with an elite changeup that’s arguably the best in this class. It’s a 70-grade pitch with elite fading action that is already an effective strikeout pitch. As wonderful as his changeup is, the huge knock on Hernandez is his consistent inability to spin a breaking ball. He tried to throw a cutter/slider hybrid at the Super 60 and couldn’t get a feel for it, which could ultimately hurt his draft status in the future. If he goes to an organization that can properly develop at least an average breaking ball, Hernandez could be a serviceable back-end starter for a big league club. He has the makeup, pitchability, and command to carve out a fairly lengthy career as a professional baseball player.
22. Carmen Mlodzinski, 21 years old, South Carolina
Mlodzinski’s ascent up draft boards started this past summer when he was truly masterful in the Cape Cod league. He looked every bit the part of a first-round caliber player at that point, but there have been some pitch arsenal concerns that have caused him to drop this far on our list.
Mlodzinski’s fastball has effective velocity, typically sitting between 93-96 mph arm-side run and occasional sink. The problem that he has with his fastball is that he isn’t comfortable throwing it inside to hitters and tends to leave stuff over the heart of the plate as a result. This is something that he could’ve gotten away with in college based on pure talent alone, but professional hitters will absolutely hammer pitches in that area of the zone. Mlodzinski does have two featured off-speed pitches, both of which could be above-average down the road. He throws a power-cutter that plays in the low-80s, usually staying down in the zone, and also throws a changeup with natural sink. Mlodzinski is talented enough to go in the first round and be an impact arm, but there are some pitchability red flags in my opinion that’ll hold him back from being that type of player.
23. Markevian Hence, 17 years old, Watson Chapel (AK)
Markevian “Tink” Hence has been compared to some extraordinary pitchers of the past. Whenever your name is being thrown around with the likes of Tom Gordon and Yordano Ventura, there’s clearly a special talent there. Hence fits the tall billing. The arm speed, athleticism, and fluidity of it all are remarkable.
Just 17 at the time of the draft, Hence has shown every inclination of signing and jumping into pro ball. He’s currently committed to Arkansas, a premier program, though most would be surprised if he makes it to Fayetteville. The arsenal is already impressive. Hence sits in the mid-90s with his fastball, though he’s touched 100 in bullpens. More than anything, he’s shown touch in spinning his slider and curveball. In bullpens, he can land both consistently for strikes. Just 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, there’s still a lot of growth and development to be had here. The athlete is special, and with time, could develop into one of the more fun pitchers in baseball, or an absolute shutdown reliever.
24. Cam Brown, 18 years old, Flower Mound (TX)
Standing at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Brown has that prototypical big-league starter build that evaluators look for. He’s proportionally strong, with broad shoulders and a defined lower half. His delivery is fairly simple, although he puts an emphasis on his back leg during his load, and Brown’s short arm circle allows him to keep everything short and to the point. His fastball plays between 92-94 mph with heavy sinking action and is more effective against right-handed hitters. Brown can really laterally spin a sharp 78-82 mph slider that flashes plus potential and he throws a firm changeup in the mid-80s that plays straight. Brown’s consistent mechanics allow him to pound the zone with strikes at a high rate. He’s certainly polished on the mound for his age and could go anywhere between the second or third round, although his commitment to TCU could end up being strong enough to get him to campus.
25. Clayton Beeter, 21 years old, Texas Tech
There’s no way around it, Clayton Beeter has some of the loudest stuff in this draft. The Red Raider pumps mid-to-high 90s fastballs over the plate, and couples that with a power curveball that is a plus offering. He’s shown improved command and tallies a bevy of strikeouts along the way. But at the end of the day, his stuff really isn’t the story.
Beeter has one of the most combustible profiles in this draft. Having already had Tommy John surgery in high school, the chances of it happening again obviously increase. The mechanics of his extreme over-the-top delivery give scouts a lot of pauses. There’s a significant lag in his arm action, and some worry his body won’t be able to hold up to an extended starter’s workload. That being said, whoever selects Beeter this year will almost assuredly be drafting him as a power reliever. As previously mentioned, he’s the true two-pitch mix guy with extreme strikeout numbers. The walks have been an issue throughout his career, but they were improved in the abbreviated 2020 campaign. At just 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, and with questionable actions to the plate, look for Beeter to get plugged into the backend of a bullpen somewhere. He should be a quick mover and could debut as early as 2020 in a taxi squad.
26. Tanner Witt, 17 years old, Episcopal (TX)
It would not be easy to find a prep prospect, outside of Abel/Kelley/Bitsko, than Witt. Ranked as the number seven overall corner infield prospect on our top 20 list, Witt also has plenty of upside on the mound, where some think he’s better suited.
Standing at a massive 6-foot-6 and roughly 200 pounds, Witt has so much room to fill out his highly projectable frame. It’s not crazy to think he’ll add on at least 15-20 pounds of muscle over the next three seasons, which could ultimately lead to continued durability and an uptick in fastball velocity. He usually sits between 89-92 mph with his fastball, but he was actually sitting 92-93 mph in his final start prior to the nationwide cancellation. It’s possible that we see him take a significant velocity jump over the next few years and a triple-digit heater from Witt is not out of the question. His breaking ball shows true vertical break with high spin outputs and sits in the mid-70s. We’ve also seen him spin off a few aggressive sliders in the past that could honestly be more effective if he does take that velocity jump. Witt throws a firm changeup with fastball arm speed that isn’t that different from his fastball outside of the obvious velocity difference.
For someone his size, Witt controls his body well on the mound and does an adequate job of staying in sync. He’s probably better right now in the field, but there’s no denying his upside on the mound is much higher. Given the uncertainties and uniqueness of this draft, Witt could ultimately honor his commitment to Texas and get to campus.
27. Landon Knack, 23 years old, East Tennessee State
You have to feel for a guy like Landon Knack. At 23 years old, he finally had his breakthrough campaign, albeit a very short season at that. Now, that being said, a lot of guys never experience a breakthrough, so Knack has that going for him. But here’s the thing; a 23-year-old will never receive the signing bonus he deserves. Teams know he can’t go back to school, so when he should probably be receiving a few hundred thousand dollars, he’ll likely receive a fraction of that, especially in a financial crisis like baseball is currently in.
On the mound, Knack possesses some of the best command in the draft. His 51:1 strikeout to walk ratio easily bested the country in 2020. That control didn’t come at the expense of his stuff either. Knack saw a meteoric uptick in his fastball velocity, pumping 97-98 into the zone on occasion. His first four years of college ball saw radar guns flashing 90-92. Impressive, indeed. Knack also has an average curveball and a developing changeup, so he has the repertoire of a starting pitcher. At the next level, unless those pitches improve, you may see him slot into a long-relief role. There’s some funk in the delivery, so don’t be surprised if a team uses that motion as a change of pace mid-game. Considered a fourth-round talent, Knack will probably be selected in the second round of this draft, but more than likely as a cost-saving measure for a team looking to stretch their pool.
28. Kyle Nicolas, 21 years old, Ball State
Ball State has produced some flamethrowing right-handed pitchers over the last few seasons and Nicolas figures to follow in their footsteps as the next man up. His fastball is one of the best in the draft, consistently sitting somewhere in the mid-to-high-90s and touching triple-digits early on in his starts. It’s a high-spin rate pitch that he’ll comfortably be able to throw up in the zone and use as a swing-and-miss offering. Nicolas’ go-to secondary pitch is an overpowering slider with sharp break and can touch 90 mph. The slider is also a high-spin pitch, just like his fastball, and it’ll legitimately be able to get professional hitters out. Nicolas should scrap his curveball all together, as it’s basically a worse version of his slider, and he needs to start throwing his changeup more if he wants to stick as a starter long-term. He doesn’t repeat his mechanics and or stays in sync well, causing him to fly open at times and lose command. There’s high reliever risk with Nicolas, but that’s honestly not a bad thing in today’s game. An improvement in mechanical efficiency should increase the strike rate and make him a potential weapon out of the bullpen.
29. Alejandro Rosario, 18 years old, Miami Christian (FL)
Alejandro Rosario is a ball of power and electricity when he takes the mound. Tipping the scales at just 165 pounds, Rosario exhibits some of the best arm speed in the class and has seen his fastball touch 98 because of it. There’s a changeup and slider in there as well, both of which flash the ability to be above average offerings.
The story on Rosario is how hittable he is. Although his stuff is electric, he wasn’t missing many bats as a junior, and that carried over into his senior year at Miami Christian as well. It’s not to say he wasn’t dominating his high school district, but moreover, his stuff just didn’t strike many batters out. We’re not talking about national premier circuits here or even select league guys. We’re talking about high school league play — a bit concerning. It’s a clean delivery, smooth, easy, and fluid… but it lacks deception. It’s easy to wonder if Rosario telegraphs his pitches a bit. A commit to Miami, odds are he ends up at school. He’s a guy that could have serious helium moving into 2023 where he’ll be draft-eligible again.
30. Carson Seymour, 21 years old, Kansas State
From a pure physicality standpoint, Seymour might be the most physical arm in the class. He’s every bit of his listed 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, and just brings a different kind of physicality to the mound. Seymour’s fastball is his best pitch, sitting between 92-95 mph and touching 97 mph with natural downward tilt. His recently added slider is his best pitch, although it was his curveball that flashed above-average actions in the Cape this past summer. Seymour also has a changeup in his arsenal, although he rarely throws it and it’s a below-average pitch. There’s certainly upside with Seymour given his pure physicality, he doesn’t throw nearly enough strikes to stick as a starter long-term. He does still have sophomore eligibility and could return to Kansas State to improve some minor things before testing the draft waters again next season.
Written by: Diego Solares (@DeegsBaseball) and Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB)
With the 2020 MLB Draft on the horizon, our extensive draft coverage here at RotoFanatic continues.
We kicked off this year’s evaluations by writing up both the catchers and corner infielders yesterday, with the middle infielders following suit. Our coverage continues today with a full analysis of the 20 best outfielders in this class.
Zac Veen is the top prep player in this class and the potential future superstar headlines this group. A plethora of prep outfield bats will find themselves on this list, including Robert Hassell III, Austin Hendrick, and Pete Crow-Armstrong. While the college class is a bit weak, Garrett Mitchell and Heston Kjerstad are top-end talents to know.
After several hours of churning through video and information, these are the consensus rankings agreed upon by both of our draft analysts. Without further delay, let’s get into it:
1. Austin Martin, 21 years old, Vanderbilt
Depending on your flavor, Martin might not fit on this list at all. A Swiss Army Knife, the Commodore boasts some of the best versatility in the class and should see time at a number of positions wherever he’s drafted. There’s peak value up the middle of the diamond, and for that reason, we have him slotted as a center field prospect. Martin has more than enough range to man the position and should represent the best outfield prospect in any of the Tigers, Orioles, or Marlins systems. The polish on his player should immediately make him a top 30 prospect in all of baseball.
As one might imagine, Martin can do it all. He’s a plus hitter with solid-average power potential, maybe more. He’s an easy plus runner and projects to play above average at whatever position he ultimately calls home. The arm could be showcased anywhere on the diamond — another 55 offering. There’s legitimate 5-tool potential in Martin’s game, it all depends on how quickly and to what lengths he develops. The swing is already sound with natural loft and lower body leverage. Just 180 pounds, he’s not the most imposing guy on the diamond, but he’s stronger than most players his size and it shows in his barrel velocity and athleticism. Martin has gotten better every single year at Vanderbilt, culminating in an abbreviated 2020 season where he slashed .377/.507/.660 with three home runs and just two strikeouts in 68 plate appearances. It’s not hard to envision an Alex Bregman-esque player here. He has star potential.
2. Zac Veen, 18 years old, Spruce Creek HS (FL)
The top-ranked prep player on most draft boards, Veen has skyrocketed up lists after an impressive summer circuit and a scorching hot start to his senior season prior to the shutdown. His swing is absolutely gorgeous, showing excellent barrel control and consistently repeating his silky-smooth mechanics. His feel to hit is right up there with any prep prospect we’ve seen over the last five years and don’t sleep on his power production either. Veen unloads on baseballs in batting practice, flashing plus raw power while slowly starting that ever-so-important power transition to games. There’s so much projection to his 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame leaving us evaluators with plenty to drool about what he could look like a few years down the road. Veen easily projects as an above-average hit, above-average power type of bat that could even be plus in both categories down the road. He’s a safe bet to give you quality defense in right field and his bat is best suited for a corner outfield role anyway. Veen has all the tools necessary to be an absolute super prospect.
3. Robert Hassell III, 18 years old, Independence HS (TN)
Hassell has been a high riser over the last few weeks and some publications have started putting him in the top 10 conversations. There’s a lot to like with Hassell, headlined by a natural hitting ability that might be the best in this class. His bat-to-ball skills resemble 2019 first-round pick CJ Abrams as Hassell doesn’t swing-and-miss much and consistently sprays line drives to all fields. It’s certainly a hit-over-power type of profile, but Hassell can pepper the gaps and should run into some home runs every once in a while. The reason he’s the number two outfield prospect on our list is that Hassell has the highest chance to stick in center field. He’s a solid athlete with above-average run times and an above-average arm that’s touched 93 mph on the mound. No prep prospect should truly be considered “safe”, but Hassell’s feel to hit and his defense gives him a high floor.
4. Garrett Mitchell, 21 years old, UCLA
If we’re only looking at tools, Mitchell belongs right up there with anyone in this class. He’s got the freakish athleticism to put them all together and blossom into a truly special player. Mitchell’s swing is a bit awkward and he gets on top of the baseball at times. When he does stay on plane, Mitchell can drive the baseball with authority into the gaps. There’s plenty of raw power in his strong 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame, but he rarely translated that into home runs with the Bruins. Evaluators were eager to see him try and tap into that well-known power this season but were robbed of that opportunity because of the shutdown. It’s well documented that Mitchell is a true 70-grade runner that uses his speed to impact the game in multiple facets. He’s got the wheels to steal 20+ bags each season and stick in center field long-term. The big concern with Mitchell, outside of his power production, is the Type 1 diabetes he’s been playing with for most of his baseball career. He’s managed to turn himself into a ridiculously good athlete even with that obstacle, however, and this isn’t as big of a concern as some people are making it out to be. Mitchell has the tools to be a mega prospect should he put it all together. Keep an eye on which organization drafts him because that could ultimately be the deciding factor.
5. Austin Hendrick, 19 years old, West Allegheny (PA)
From a pure physicality standpoint, Hendrick’s natural bat strength rivals anyone in this class. He uses a combination of that and borderline electric bat speed to send baseballs into orbit, giving him an extremely high power ceiling. Hendrick’s swing is a bit unconventional and quirky with an aggressive bat waggle prior to starting it. He does struggle to consistently repeat his swing mechanics and stay in sync, but almost all teenage prospects struggle with consistency issues anyway. There are some question marks about his hit tool, which grades out as fringe-average and it’s possible that he doesn’t hit enough to tap into that massive power potential we all know he has. His pitch recognition skills are suspect as well, so you’re looking at someone who could potentially have high strikeout rates throughout his professional career. Nonetheless, Hendrick’s upside is undeniable and it all relies on how much he’ll be able to hit in order to reach that power. Should he go to the right organization that can improve his game in that regard, Hendrick could be on another level.
6. Pete Crow-Armstrong, 18 years old, Harvard Westlake (OF)
Harvard Westlake has produced several high-end big league players, most notably Jack Flaherty, Max Fried, and Lucas Giolito. Crow-Armstrong seemed like the next big thing prior to the summer of 2019, coming into the showcase circuit as the industry-wide number one prep player in this class. He did struggle a bit against high-end competition throughout the summer and has dropped on lists because of it, but Crow-Armstrong is certainly still a first-round talent. His natural feel to hit and bat-to-ball skills are both drastically advanced for his age and he consistently makes steady line-drive contact. He’s not known for putting up power numbers, but don’t be surprised if he runs into anywhere between 8-12 home runs on an annual basis. Defense plays a key factor in Crow-Armstrong’s ranking, as he’s a sure-fire bet to stick in centerfield moving forward and could compete for Gold Gloves down the road. It might not be the sexiest profile or skill-set but he does have a high floor.
7. Heston Kjerstad, 21 years old, Arkansas
It’s hard to argue against Kjerstad’s production with the Razorbacks over the last three seasons. He has one of the best statistical track records in the draft and that especially applies to this season where he was clearly a frontrunner for Player of the Year honors. Kjerstad’s calling card is true 70-grade raw power from the left side. He does major damage to the baseball, albeit in an unconventional way, and has easy 40+ home run power in his swing. Numbers aside, Kjerstad does have some pretty major flaws in his game that are cause for concern. He’s incredibly aggressive at the plate and did strike out a ton in college despite consistently putting up monster numbers. His hit tool is below-average, leaving little room for optimism that he’s going to make enough contact in order to tap into that power upside we all know he has. The upside alone warrants the ranking on our list but he’s someone that could plummet once he starts to go up against high-end professional talent.
8. Daniel Cabrera, 21 years old, LSU
Widely regarded as one of the safest prospects in the draft, Cabrera is going to make whichever team takes him towards the end of the first-round extremely happy. He was a 26th-round pick by the Padres in 2016 and someone who evaluators considered a top prep bat in his high school class, but ultimately chose to attend LSU instead. Cabrera owns an advanced approach at the plate and doesn’t try to do too much. His ability to recognize pitches and make adjustments when he’s fooled is certainly something that stood out. He boasts an above-average hit tool and should have no problem adjusting to professional pitching once he reaches the minors. There’s some strength in his 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame that results in at least average power. Defensively, Cabrera is a solid athlete, but his overall outfield instincts and route running suggest he’s best suited for left field. Still, he’s as safe of a prospect that you’ll find in this class and should be one of the first members to reach the big leagues from this group.
9. Isaiah Greene, 18 years old, Corona (CA)
One of the best overall athletes in this class, Greene has an intriguing combination of several raw tools that, if brought together appropriately, could result in him being an absolute steal a few seasons down the road. The first thing that stands out with Greene is a true 70-grade run tool that he uses to impact the game both offensively and defensively. He can afford to hit the ball on the ground more because of his speed and can be a long-term centerfield option for a team as well. There’s plenty of stolen base upside with his wheels, too. Greene can straight-up hit with a strict contact-oriented approach that doesn’t generate much power. His bat can get a bit flat through the zone at times and he doesn’t try to elevate the ball a whole lot. He does have room to add muscle onto his 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame that could ultimately result in some power output in a few years. Greene has the tools that some scouting directors or high-end front office officials will fall in love with. Don’t be surprised if he gets taken in the sandwich round, but understand that his floor isn’t particularly high, either.
10. Zach DeLoach, 21 years old, Texas A&M
DeLoach is a personal favorite of several industry-wide draft evaluators and it’s not hard to see why. He dominated the Cape Cod league last summer and kept that hot streak going into this spring, ending the season with a .421/.547/.789 slash line with six home runs in 17 games. DeLoach added muscle onto his 6-foot-1 frame, giving him more proportional strength and further developing his power tool. He’s got at least above-average raw power now, something that we slowly started to see at the start of this season. DeLoach doesn’t have crazy good bat speed and instead relies on a solid approach at the plate to do damage with the baseball. He does get a bit aggressive at times, but he stays within himself for the most part. His feel to hit is average and doesn’t project to get much higher than that mark. He’ll be a tough prospect for evaluators to analyze because they didn’t get an entire season to see if the adjustments he made this season were real. Look for him to go somewhere between the second or third round of the draft.
11. Chase Davis, 18 years old, Franklin (CA)
Davis is fairly similar to the aforementioned Austin Hendrick. He has pretty electric bat speed with loose hands that allow him to whip his bat through the zone with no problem. A left-handed hitter, Davis has flashed raw power to his pull-side at times and crushes pitches on the inner half of the plate. Scouts do question how much he’ll actually be able to tap into that power because of a below-average hit tool and high swing-and-miss issues. Davis is a solid athlete that runs well and has one of the strongest outfield arms in the class, making him an ideal fit for right field. He does have upside at the plate and right now it’s just a question of whether or not he’ll make enough contact to reach his ceiling. He is committed to Arizona and could be a tough sign.
12. David Calabrese, 17 years old, St. Elizabeth (ON)
Calabrese is one of the top pure runners in the class, recording 80-grade run times both out of the box and in the outfield. His speed plays anywhere on the diamond and he’s got enough athleticism to impact a game with that alone. Expect him to wreak havoc on the basepaths and steal a ton of bags at the college or professional level. At the plate, Calabrese makes consistent contact and is more of a gap-to-gap hitter than anything else. He does get a bit slappy at times but gets away with it because of that game-changing speed. Calabrese is going to stick in centerfield moving forward, adding more value onto his plate. A team could lure Calabrese away from his Arkansas commitment later on in the draft with over slot money based on his athleticism alone. He’s an intriguing player to monitor, especially in the fantasy game.
13. Dylan Crews, 18 years old, Lake Mary (FL)
Once in the upper-echelon of prep outfielders from this class, Crews has dropped considerably on most draft ranks due to his struggles on the summer circuit last season. He does have some intriguing tools and can hit for both average and power when he’s on, but an extremely poor approach at the plate doesn’t allow that to happen often. His swing is short and he does have loose bat speed. Crews has flashed above-average raw power during batting practice, but his swing-and-miss issues have limited him from getting to that in games. A complete refinement in the approach and a significant increase in pitch recognition needs to improve before he can confidently hit professional pitching. He’s best suited to play right field, where his instincts will play up and his above-average arm strength is adequate for the position. The talent and pedigree alone warrant the ranking, but he’ll significantly benefit from making it to campus in the fall.
14. Enrique Bradfield, 18 years old, American Heritage (FL)
Similarly to David Calabrese, Bradfield is a true 80-grade runner with game-changing wheels that play both offensively and in the field. He’s a grinder-type at the plate, working counts and doing whatever it takes to get on base in order for his speed to impact the game. Bradfield isn’t afraid to put a bunt down, hit the ball on the ground, or even get a bit slappy at times either because he understands how truly special his athleticism is. There is absolutely no power to his game right now, although it could end up reaching the 40-grade level should he add more muscle onto a fairly lean 6-foot, 155-pound frame. Bradfield is as safe of a bet to stick in centerfield as anyone in the class, where he’ll essentially get to everything and play borderline elite defense at a key position. He could end up being an everyday leadoff hitter that gets on base at an above-average clip and plays elite outfield defense.
15. Petey Halpin, 18 years old, St. Francis (CA)
Halpin wasn’t invited to participate in either of the All-American games this past summer as somewhat of an under-the-radar in draft circles early on. He then balled out in the PDP League and performed well at the Area Code games later in the summer, rightfully locking himself in as a name-to-know from the California crop. Halpin is a quick-twitch outfielder with easy bat speed that does legit damage from the left side of the plate. We’ve seen him hammer some baseballs to his pull-side in batting practice and he keeps his hands inside the baseball. His swing mechanics are smooth and while there isn’t much elevation, he does consistently find the barrel. Halpin is a plus runner that has shown natural baserunning instincts in the past. He’s athletic enough to stay up the middle and has a 60-grade arm as well. While it’s likely that he gets to Texas this fall, Halpin is a name to monitor for the 2023 class as a potential first-or-second round guy.
16. Jake Vogel, 18 years old, Huntington Beach (CA)
Vogel missed out on almost the entire summer circuit this past year and most teams didn’t get extensive looks on him because of that. He kicked off his senior season with some impressive performances that put him back onto team’s radars and has been somewhat of a riser dating back to March. It’s impossible to deny the tools that Vogel has. He’s a 70-grade runner with impact wheels and knows how to use his speed on the bases to swipe bags. That athleticism translates onto the field, as Vogel is a rangy defender with an above-average arm that can lock up center field for a long time. His swing is simple and he doesn’t try to do too much at the plate, leaving some evaluators to believe that he’ll be able to hit at the next level. He’s fairly undersized at 5-foot-11 and roughly 165-pounds with little-to-no power in his game. Vogel’s combination of speed/athleticism make him an interesting draft prospect, but it’s more likely that he finds himself at UCLA than with a professional team.
17. Kala’i Rosario, 17 years old, Waiakeia (HI)
The top prep prospect out of Hawaii in this year’s draft, Rosario has double-plus raw power in his 6-foot-1, 205-pound compact frame. He impacts the baseball with ferocity to his pull-side in batting practice, generating loft with ease. That same pull-happy approach translates into games, forcing Rosario to be over his front foot at times and ignoring the other sides of the field. His hit tool is well below-average, even for a high school player, and it doesn’t matter how much power he has if he can’t successfully tap into it. Rosario doesn’t offer much defensive value as a right fielder. He probably would’ve gotten drafted as an over-slot signee if this were a normal draft, but it’s pretty likely we see him at California Baptist in the fall.
18. Mario Zabala, 18 years old, International Baseball Academy (PR)
Zabala is the perfect example of high risk, low reward type of prospect. His tools and athleticism are off the charts, but his actual baseball instincts and feel for the game just aren’t there. Zabala is a plus runner with borderline elite athleticism that is on display no matter what he does. He makes some fairly difficult things look easy and that makes him such a treat to watch on the field. There’s plus raw power from the right side of the plate and we saw him perform well against top competition at times during the summer circuit. Zabala’s hit tool is below-average and he’s way too aggressive at the plate. He doesn’t yet understand how to pick out his pitch to do damage with and instead tries to launch everything into the bleachers. Zabala is athletic enough to play center field but lacks the instincts necessary to have success. There’s no denying his raw arm strength with accuracy that’ll almost certainly play in right field. A Florida International commit, someone may decide to take a chance on him on the upside alone, although that isn’t the likeliest outcome.
19. Tyler Gentry, 21 years old, Alabama
Gentry has been the best position player for Alabama over the last two seasons after transferring in from Walters State following his freshman year. His pure raw power is his most intriguing tool and he’s even flashed double-plus raw power at times. Like a majority of power-hitters in our game, Gentry struggles with strikeout issues, whiffing 51 times in 210 at-bats as a sophomore in the SEC. He doesn’t have a great history against spin or an innate ability to pick it up out of the hand either. A significant improvement in the hit tool could result in more contact and less strikeouts, allowing that power to truly show itself. It remains to be seen if that is even possible, but Gentry has upside.
20. Jace Bohrofen, 18 years old, Westmoore (OK)
One of the top prep prospects in an intriguing Oklahoma class, Bohrofen is a power-hitting masher from the left side that’s committed to his hometown Sooners. There’s no denying Bohrofen’s plus raw power or his desire to send baseballs into orbit. His bat travels on an uphill path specialized to elevate the baseball and create loft. Surprisingly, Bohrofen doesn’t have crazy swing-and-miss issues nor does he have poor plate discipline. He picks up spin well and is willing to take a walk, but he doesn’t always get to his power because of inconsistent swing tendencies. Bohrofen doesn’t have bat speed and he tends to drag his barrel through the zone instead of exploding it. So, while he does make contact at a decent rate, he doesn’t always make contact with the part of the bat you want a power hitter to make contact with. Clean up these inconsistencies and we could see a new level of Bohrofen that hasn’t been tapped into yet. He will likely get to campus.
21. Parker Chavers, 21 years old, Coastal Carolina
Chavers’ prospect status has dropped after strikeout issues plagued him on the Cape and he also dealt with an injury that limited his offensive production. This slip could ultimately result in an absolute draft steal if someone was to take a chance on him late in the draft. Chavers earned All-American honors in his freshman season as the best hitter on Coastal Carolina’s team and has found success throughout his entire career with the Chanticleers. He’s an off-the-charts athlete with a 70-grade run tool, 60-grade arm, and 55-grade raw power from the left side. He could easily hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bags over the course of a 162-game season should he ever be given the opportunity. Chavers has shown above-average defensive skills in the outfield throughout his collegiate career and there’s reason to believe he can stick there long-term. Health issues are the main reason why Chavers is this low and teams’ inability to fully clear him prior to the draft may ultimately hold him back. There’s no denying the talent, or tools, that Chavers has and it’s possible someone takes a flier on him because of that.
Written by: Diego Solares (@DeegsBaseball) and Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB)
With the 2020 MLB Draft on the horizon, our extensive draft coverage here at RotoFanatic continues.
We kicked off this year’s evaluations by writing up both the catchers and corner infielders yesterday, and today we’ll take an in-depth look into the top draft-eligible middle infielders in this class.
This is probably the weakest positional group of the draft, but it’s headlined by two potential game-changing talents. Nick Gonzales has tormented college pitching each of the last two seasons and Ed Howard is one of the top prep prospects from the Midwest in recent memory.
After several hours of churning through video and information, these are the consensus rankings agreed upon by both of our draft analysts. Without further delay, let’s get into it:
1. Nick Gonzales, 2B, 21 years old, New Mexico State
A virtual unknown coming out of high school, Gonzales burst onto the scene for the Aggies as a freshman in 2018. While his first-year numbers were impressive, his historic sophomore season made them look pedestrian. Gonzales slashed an unbelievable .432/.532/.773 with 16 home runs and 80 RBI en route to earning basically every accolade a college baseball player could dream of. Critics still questioned his overall offensive abilities, however, and attributed his success to the hitter-friendly park that New Mexico State calls home. In response to the question marks, Gonzales went on to slaughter Cape Cod league pitching with a wood bat and also won the league MVP honors.
There’s a lot to love about his offensive game. Gonzales has purely electric bat speed and controls his barrel well in the zone. He doesn’t have much raw power in his 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame, but instead creates power with the quick-twitch he has in his hands. His true hitting ability rivals anyone in this class and Gonzales bat will play at the professional level. The questions now lie with his glove, as Gonzales is an average at best defender that is strictly limited to second base in the field. He does have athleticism with above-average run times, but he just doesn’t get it done with the glove. Nonetheless, his bat should play enough to masquerade the value he loses defensively and it’s not like he won’t be able to hold his own at second base. Gonzales is eerily similar to former first-round pick Keston Hiura and the two have drawn several comparisons to each other over the last few months.
2. Ed Howard, SS, 18 years old, Mt. Carmel HS (IL.)
Howard is in a league of his own in the 2020 draft, representing the only true shortstop likely to stick at the position with a first-round grade. When you talk about Howard it’s all projectability. The Mt. Carmel product has a frame scouts dream on. Long levers, broad shoulders, and a high waist. Not only are the tools polished, but they’ll likely continue to grow and develop for years to come. Howard is smooth on the field. His defensive actions are fluid and precise. The arm is already a plus, and his defense is already above average. He’s a true future shortstop through-and-through. The lanky 6-foot-2 prepster makes every play to his right, left, and center, all the while displaying body control. At the plate, Howard still has a ways to go, but flashes plus potential at every turn. At his peak, Howard probably represents an above-average hitter with below or fringe-average power. There’s more to dream on with his frame, but as it stands, there’s strength gains and swing tinkering that needs to happen. A University of Oklahoma commit, it’s unlikely he ends up on campus as most teams covet the opportunity to acquire a sure thing up the middle.
3. Nick Loftin, SS/UTL, 21 years old, Baylor
Loftin may not be viewed as a first-round talent by most evaluators, but him being arguably the top college shortstop in an already unique draft could ultimately lead to him being selected towards the end of the first round. That’s not any knock on him at all, he’s a talented player with an advanced glove and feel to hit, but it’s just an overall down year for shortstop prospects in general. He brings plenty of defensive versatility to the table as well, originally starting his college career off as a left fielder and also playing both third and second base throughout his three seasons with Baylor. Loftin’s approach at the plate is simple and to the point. He doesn’t try to do too much with the ball, focusing on making contact, minimizing swing-and-misses, and spraying line drives. This isn’t someone who’s going to provide much power, but he’s going to get on base and use all fields. Loftin’s ceiling is fairly capped because of his limited power production, although there’s certainly an avenue where he makes it to the big leagues as a versatile asset.
4. Alika Williams, SS, 21 years old, Arizona State
A serious case can be made that Alika Williams is the best collegiate shortstop in this class. At 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, Williams is on the lighter side but has the shoulders to suggest there’s more good weight on the way. Probably the most likely candidate to play shortstop at the big league level, the Sun Devil has smooth actions at the position and shows off a very accurate throwing arm. Williams has quick feet and a good first step that allows him to get in a good position defensively where his soft hands can do the talking. At the plate, Williams looks similar to Trea Turner; a slender build with a smooth gap-to-gap swing. The jury is still out on whether he can ever hit for enough power to become an impact player on offense. If his predecessor Turner can run into 19 home runs at the big league level on a 185-pound frame, so too can Williams with proper development.
5. Jordan Westburg, SS, 21 years old, Mississippi State
Westburg, to me, is one of the more intriguing players in this class. A physical and strong 6-foot-3, 190-pound shortstop, Westburg and Justin Foscue formed arguably the country’s best middle-infield duo this season. Westburg doesn’t have a refined approach at the plate, he swings at absolutely everything and primarily hits the ball to his pull-side, and it’s a below-average hit tool right now. He’s got some bat speed with strong hands and enough raw bat strength for me to comfortably say he has enough power to hit 25+ home runs at the professional level. That number will only be reached if Westburg drastically improves his approach and cuts down on the swing-and-miss numbers. Should he end up getting picked by the right team that can fully develop his tools, Westburg could be an intriguing draft day steal in a few years down the road.
6. Colt Keith, SS/3B, 18 years old, Biloxi HS (MS.)
If you’re a fan of Chase Utley, Colt Keith might just be your next favorite player. A sweet, compact left-handed swing has many comparing the Biloxi HS product to the former Philly great. Keith has a very loud barrel for his age and controls the strike zone with ease. Already 6-foot-3 and pushing 200 pounds, he’s a force at the plate. The hit tool already projects at least average and the game power could touch plus. That being said, his size may ultimately force him off the position. As it stands, he certainly has the range and arm to be given the opportunity to stick at shortstop. Whether or not Keith can continue to develop his footwork and the reliability in his hands will determine his future home on the diamond. Even if pushed to third base, Keith’s bat is more than capable enough to handle the expectations of the hot corner. An Arizona State signee, this future Sun Devil will garner more than his fair share of interest in the draft. It’s pretty up in the air whether he’ll go pro or report to Tempe.
7. Drew Bowser, SS/3B, 18 years old, Harvard Westlake (CA.)
A teammate of potential top-15 pick Pete Crow-Armstrong, Bowser is another intriguing prospect hailing from the perennial California powerhouse. He’s a proportional 6-foot-3, 205-pound athlete with plenty of room to fill out his frame. Bowser has made significant improvements in his swing over the last two seasons, shortening it up completely and driving the baseball with more authority. His hit tool projects to be a slight tick below average, but there’s no doubt that he has plus raw power in that athletic frame with room to add more should he continue to grow. As things stand right now, Bowser has played shortstop for most of his amateur career and even on the summer circuit last year. The actions and limited athleticism scream that a move to third base is coming soon. That won’t be the worst thing in the world for Bowser, where his limited lateral range and above-average arm strength will play up. He’s an intriguing prep talent and a name-to-know moving forward, but Bowser’s commitment to Stanford is fairly strong. It’s highly likely that we see him on campus this fall.
8. Carson Tucker, SS, 18 years old, Mountain Pointe (AZ.)
You can’t start a conversation about Carson Tucker without mentioning his brother, Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Cole Tucker. Unfortunately for the latter, that may change in a few short years. Carson is every bit the defender his brother was coming out of Mountain Pointe in 2014. Tucker is already a plus runner with above-average actions at shortstop. The arm grades out above average. At this point, it’s just a matter of whether he’s done growing. At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, Tucker looks like a shortstop right now. Whether that remains the case is to be determined as Tucker is in the midst of quite a growth spurt. Over the past year he’s gotten taller and much stronger. At the plate, the bat has become far louder. It’s a short, compact swing that produces plenty of gap-to-gap power, but Tucker also ran into more balls over the fence this year, especially pull-side. There were more question marks surrounding his brother’s value six years ago and Carson may end up having the greater upside when all is said and done.
9. Anthony Servideo, SS, 21 years old, Ole Miss
Servideo and his big, loud blonde head of hair will represent a very fun pick for whoever lands him. A smooth defender, Servideo gets high marks for his lateral ability, as well as the ability to plant and throw. He’s dealt with some focus errors in the past but looked much improved over the abbreviated 2020 season at Ole Miss. The bat is going to be what dictates his ceiling. After a brutal summer in the Cape Cod League, Servideo slashed .390/.575/.695 over 17 contests in Oxford, plugging five home runs — more than his freshman and sophomore years combined. He’s also a plus runner who figures to snag his fair share of extra bases if given the at-bats. At worst, he’s a fringe-average hitter with below-average power — a solid backup. At his best, you may be looking at an above-average hitter with fringe-average power. Couple those ceilings with an already impressive defender and Servideo has the makings of an above-average regular at the big league level.
10. Freddy Zamora, SS, 21 years old, Miami
Had it not been for a nasty knee injury in 2020, Freddy Zamora may very well have been the first shortstop off the board in this years’ draft. The Miami Hurricane can do it all. He’s an above-average defender with an above-average arm. Prior to the injury, he was an above-average runner who could comfortably handle the position. At the plate, Zamora was showing above-average potential and the possibility of average power. It’s a sound approach at the plate that results in his fair share of walks and a lack of strikeouts, a rarity in Miami’s aggressive philosophy. The whole package is very intriguing, especially if a team can look past the injury concerns. It should be noted, Zamora was suspended for the first four games of the 2020 season for a violation of team rules, so it’s not the most pristine resume off the field. That’s not to say it’s anything worth worrying about, but it’s not spotless, cut and dry. If the knee heals to 100%, it wouldn’t shock us whatsoever if Zamora ended up the best pro shortstop on this list.
11. Cade Horton, SS/RHP, 18 years old, Norman HS (OK.)
Much like San Diego State’s Casey Schmitt, Horton is a legitimate two-way prospect in this class. He’s going to find his way onto our starting pitcher ranks, that will come out later in the week, and could honestly be drafted as a shortstop alone were he not a pitcher. He’s a highly athletic 6-foot-2, 190-pound prospect that has room to add muscle onto his frame. Horton’s a power-over-hit type of bat with raw pull-side juice. His offensive game needs more work, but Horton’s glove and athleticism in the field are big-league caliber. His hands are soft, his feet field in a fluid rhythm, and he moves well laterally to cover enough ground. Pair all that with a true 60-grade arm that can touch 96 mph on the mound and you have a guy capable of sticking at shortstop throughout his professional career. We’ll have to wait and see how teams value him, or if he even gets drafted, but most evaluators like Horton as a pitcher more.
12. Hayden Cantrelle, 21, Louisiana
Hayden Cantrelle is just the type of player that has enough tools to make an impact on the field on any given night. Just 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, he’s not the most imposing figure, but what he lacks in size he makes up for with intelligence, instincts, and grit. Cantrelle was a stalwart at the top of Louisiana’s lineup for the last two years and performed well during the Cape in 2019. With that helium, Cantrelle came into the 2020 collegiate year with a good bit of expectation but struggled mightily out of the gates. The day-one buzz has faded a bit, but Cantrelle still figures to be selected in the first three rounds of the draft. He’s a 60 runner and a fringe-average hitter, though he’ll probably never be much more than a single-digit home run guy. He’s a good reliable defender and there’s a lot to like in the makeup of the player. It’s easy to see Cantrelle carving out a big-league role for himself down the road.
13. Milan Tolentino, SS, 18 years old, Santa Margarita (CA.)
Tolentino is a name that’s been heating up in draft circles over the last few weeks and rightfully so. He has an interesting skill-set that could ultimately pave a path to the big leagues for the 18-year-old UCLA commit. Tolentino’s a pest at the plate, working deep counts and not trying to do too much. His bat travels on a level path through the zone and produces steady line drive contact to all fields. You’re not going to get much power production out of him, mostly because he doesn’t try to elevate or lift the ball at the plate. He projects to have an average hit tool, but will consistently compete at the plate and not strike out much. Tolentino’s glove is his calling card to the big leagues. He’s a virtual lock to stick at shortstop with excellent lateral range, quick feet, and a plus arm. All in all, Tolentino is a gamer-type player that is going to grind out at-bats, all while providing excellent defense at an up-the-middle position. His signability is a question mark as a SoCal kid committed to UCLA, but don’t be surprised if he ends up being like Nick Ahmed down the road.
14. Jimmy Glowenke, INF, 21, Dallas Baptist
Dallas Baptist has become a bit of a hotbed for big-league infielders of late and Glowenke figures to continue that trend. Following in the footsteps of fellow Patriot infielders Ryan Goins and Ben Zobrist, Glowenke has a good chance of breaking onto a big-league roster someday thanks in large part to his bat. Glowenke has a chance to be a 55 hitter and register 10-15 home runs per season. He’s not the defender Zobrist is, but he should be able to stick on the dirt, albeit probably at second base. Glowenke has a below-average arm and is a below-average runner. He is finally fully recovered from Tommy John surgery that took place in the summer of 2019 and should be ready to go when baseball resumes. Barely 21 years old for this draft, Glowenke does have a little bit of leverage should he want to return to school and prove he’s a capable defender.
15. Yohandy Morales, SS/3B, 18 years old, Braddock HS (FL.)
‘YoYo’ Morales is another extremely exciting shortstop that likely profiles well, not at shortstop. At 6-foot-4, Morales is an impressive specimen, especially at the plate, but in the field, he lacks a quick first step and struggles with body control while moving to his left and right. There’s more than enough arm for the profile, and the routine plays are made with ease, but Morales almost certainly projects to move to third base before debuting. The frame is super projectable and provided a good player development program, it’s not hard to see Morales turning into a plus power guy at shortstop. The hit tool needs refinement as he too often finds himself chasing breaking balls away, but when he gets a hold of one, they’re ripped. The swing is still a little disjointed and long at times, but there’s a lot to like in what the final package could look like here. Morales is committed to Miami and could really go in either direction — sign or go to campus. If a team loves him, he’d be a sound investment.
16. Cole Foster, SS/2B, 18 years old, Plano Senior HS (TX.)
A true sleeper prospect in this class, Foster is one of my personal favorite prospects. He isn’t a hulking figure by any means but don’t let that discourage you from him. He’s a true switch-hitter that does damage from both sides of the plate with a 55-grade hit tool and 45-grade power. It seems like he elevates the ball more from the left side, while his right-handed swing is more gap-to-gap. He isn’t an uber-athlete like others on this list, relying on natural instincts and a strong arm to stick at shortstop moving forward. Foster is committed to Auburn and it’s pretty likely that he gets to campus unless a team gives him a lucrative offer he can’t refuse. If that’s the case, remember this name for the 2023 MLB Draft as a potential top 50 pick.
17. Nick Yorke, 2B/SS, 18 years old, Archbishop Mitty (CA.)
Yorke was on the rise prior to the coronavirus shutdown, performing well against the always talented California high school competition. His feel to hit and pure hit tool are right up there with any prep bat. He consistently makes solid line-drive contact from the right side of the plate and even flashed some up-the-middle power prior to the nationwide cancellation. That power tool could improve as he gets older and Yorke could one day be a 60-hit, 50-power type of player. Yorke primarily played shortstop throughout his high school career but he profiles best as a second baseman moving forward. He’s also still recovering from a shoulder injury suffered during his junior season. An Arizona commit, Yorke could be a sneaky third-or-fourth round sign if a team offers him the right number. If not, he’ll blossom with the Wildcats.
18. Shay Whitcomb, INF, 21 years old, San Diego
If we’re being totally honest, Shay Whitcomb should probably be getting more respect than he is. The biggest wart on Whitcomb’s profile is the doubt surrounding his ability to stick at shortstop. Already 6-foot-3 with broad shoulders, Whitcomb has the body of an impact player but lacks the arm and probably the hands to play baseball’s most demanding position. As a result, the San Diego product will more than likely slide over to second base where his stature will resemble that of industry mainstay DJ LeMahieu. The latter’s profile isn’t too dissimilar from Whitcomb either. A bat-first slugger, Whitcomb may have an average hit tool and average game power. That’s no small feat for a second baseman, and it may be enough to force his way into a big-league lineup someday. He was a high-performer in the Cape this past summer and continued to mash into the 2020 collegiate campaign. If given another 8 weeks, it’s possible Whitcomb could have slugged his way into the Top 50 picks in the draft. As it stands, there’s a strong likelihood he’s selected June 11 and will make for an intriguing offensive option in a team’s system.
19. Luke Waddell, INF, 21 years old, Georgia Tech
Waddell made a name for himself with Team USA last summer after slashing .300/.419/.417 over a 16-game span. There’s basically no projection left to his 5-foot-9, 180-pound frame, but the left-handed-hitting Wadell is an absolute gamer that just flat-out grinds at-bats. He walked nearly four percent more than he struck out in college and his bat-to-ball skills are some of the best in the class. His approach is advanced, even for a college bat, and rarely swings at pitches you’d expect someone of his age to swing at. As you could probably imagine, Waddell has virtually no power to his game. He sprays line drives to all fields and just tries to make contact instead of selling out for power when he just doesn’t have it. Defensively, Waddell doesn’t project as a future shortstop and will likely play second base or all over the diamond. It isn’t a sexy profile at all but one that should get the job done.
20. Harold Coll, SS, 18 years old, Georgia Premier (GA.)
Another sleeper prospect in this class, Coll burst onto the draft scene after an electric performance at the PBR Super 60. He put up ridiculous metrics, running a 6.80 60-yard dash, and also threw 97 mph across the infield at the event and has reportedly been up to 102 mph in the past weeks. Coll doesn’t have much projection left in his frame, but he’s added roughly 22 pounds of muscle this off-season and that’s unlocked a new power level for him. He doesn’t have ridiculous bat speed, but his swing is short and he stays inside the baseball producing steady line-drive contact. Scouts have noted some swing-and-miss issues in the past and Coll, unfortunately, wasn’t able to prove them wrong this season. It’s difficult to predict whether or not he joins the professional ranks this season, but Coll and fellow North Carolina Tar Heel commit Mac Horvath could be two major recruits should they find themselves on campus this fall.
With the 2020 MLB Draft on the horizon, our extensive draft coverage here at RotoFanatic continues. We kicked off our evaluations of this year’s draft-eligible prospects by diving into a deep catcher crop and our assessments continue today with an in-depth look at the corner infielders whose names could be called come draft day.
This is a somewhat talented group headlined by the top prospect in the entire class, Spencer Torkelson. He’s clearly on a tier of his own, but following him on this list are a number of high-upside power threats and some unique athletes, too.
Each of these blurbs was evenly written by both of our draft analysts: Diego Solares and Joe Doyle. After several hours of churning through video and information, these are the consensus rankings agreed upon by our staff. Without further delay, let’s get into it:
1. 1B Spencer Torkelson, 20 years old, Arizona State
Torkelson represents one of the highest floors of any slugger to come through the draft in a few years. At 6-foot-1, ‘Tork’ is an inch taller than 2019 draftee Andrew Vaughn who carried a similar profile. Both have beautifully sound swings, though the Arizona State product has a much more compact cut. Torkelson is also a better athlete than Vaughn. While the floor is high, the ceiling is just as tantalizing. Torkelson has an easy 60 hit tool, quite possibly more. He also owns a comfortable 60 power, that too may reach 70 when all is said and done. At the end of the day, you’re looking at a guy who should have no problem hitting .280 at the big league level with 30+ home runs. Again, he may eclipse both of those figures. On the diamond, he’s an average defender with good athleticism for the position. He probably has the ability to shift to third base or left field, but why expose his profile to defensive warts? Torkelson has every chance to be one of the best first basemen in the game.
2. 3B Jordan Walker, 18 years old, Decatur HS (GA)
The top third baseman in this class, Walker is a physical specimen standing at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds. He’s an impressive athlete, moving well for his size and showing a strong control for his body. The clear appeal with Walker is the jaw-dropping power potential that could come once he’s fully matured in a few years. There’s going to be unavoidable swing-and-miss issues because of his long levers, but Walker does have feel to hit with at least an average hit tool to pair alongside his massive raw power. Despite the arm strength to stick at third base moving forward, Walker’s pure size alone makes a transition to either first base or the outfield inevitable. Touted by evaluators as a smart kid with high academic pedigree, Walker is expected to be a tough sign out of Duke. Look for a team that chooses to under slot their first pick to take a chance with him either in the competitive balance round or later in the draft. If he makes it to that highly analytical Duke program, Walker could end up being a monster come the 2023 MLB Draft. Going to the right professional team, however, may unlock a new element to Walker’s game and turn him into an absolute menace.
3. 3B Gage Workman, 20 years old, Arizona State
In selecting Workman, you’re buying high on potential. A switch-hitter, Workman’s bat is still a work in progress. There’s easy 60 raw power in the tank, though he’s had a difficult time getting to it in-game. The approach at the plate needs some work as strikeouts and weak ground balls have been too prevalent. As it stands, he projects as a fringe-average hitter with solid-to-average power. Again, he could surpass both of those marks. A supreme athlete, Workman could play a passable shortstop with his soft hands, solid range, and a plus arm. At 6-foot-3, Workman is built exactly how scouts want to see them. There’s a ton of projectability in his profile and if given plenty of time to develop, three or four years, he could legitimately turn into one of the best third basemen in baseball. The bat will ultimately dictate how high his profile can ascend.
4. 3B Justin Foscue, 21 years old, Mississippi State
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a prospect out of the first round with a safer floor than Foscue. A highly decorated college career that included All-American honors and complete dominance of the SEC, Foscue boasts an impressive hit tool. He makes contact at a steady rate and doesn’t strike out much, a skill that’ll certainly bode well in his favor moving forward. There’s natural pull-side power in his strong 6-foot frame and it’s not hard to see a scenario where he hits 15-20 home runs on an annual basis. He’s an experienced second baseman with an average glove that may ultimately play better at third base, which is where we project him to play at the next level. Foscue is a high- floor, low-ceiling prospect that could be one of the first players to make his major league debut from this class.
5. 1B Aaron Sabato, 21 years old, North Carolina
Sabato has all the makings of one of the better sluggers in pro ball. Frankly, Pete Alonso probably opened the door to his stock surging in 2020. Sabato is a boom or bust bat that has a track record all too similar to his predecessor. Sabato has a longer track record of power than Alonso did, but Alonso also struck out a little less during his days at Florida. At the end of the day, Sabato will have to write his own script. As it stands, the Tar Heel projects a fringe-average hitter with plus-plus power. He has no problem getting to it in-game. Sabato should easily eclipse 30 home runs per year should he get the at-bats to do it. Sabato crushes mistake pitches but can struggle with breaking balls away. He’s a well-below average defender and a 30 runner as well. There’s no doubt he’s a first baseman and likely a designated hitter if the National League adopts the position in the coming years.
6. 3B Cayden Wallace, 18 years old, Greenbrier HS (AK)
The top prep prospect out of Arkansas in this class, Wallace has slowly crept up our composite rankings as the draft approaches. He truly balled out at the Perfect Game National Showcase in Arizona last June, where he posted borderline elite exit velocities for his age with a wood bat. It’s a short and simple swing with easy bat speed that helps him drive the ball to all fields. There’s 60-grade power potential in Wallace and the ball just sounds different off his bat when he finds the barrel. His hit tool will likely never be anything more than average, which could hinder Wallace’s production, but he makes enough contact to still be a threat at the plate. Defensively, Wallace has a true 60-grade arm across the diamond and has even been up to 93 mph on the bump. He’ll likely stick at third base in the future with an average glove that is capable of holding its own. Luring a hometown kid away from a hometown commitment is never an easy task, so it’s possible we see Wallace make it to Arkansas in the fall. If a team matches his price, however, they’ll be taking on a raw prep prospect with a high offensive ceiling.
7. 3B Tanner Witt, 18 years old, Escopisco HS (TX)
The biggest question surrounding Witt is whether or not he’ll actually play third base at all. A force on the mound, Witt already has 95 in the tank with his fastball. The heater pairs well with a hammer curveball that projects 60. It’s been clocked consistently in the 2800 RPM range… damn near elite. At 6-foot-6, Witt is a tall, imposing force on the bump with a clean, easy delivery. Many scouts think he’ll be a free and easy 94-96 at his peak. That being said, at the plate, Witt has huge pull-side power from the right side. It’s definitely more power than hit right now. He’s athletic enough to stick at the hot corner, but whether or not he’ll hit enough to be a big-league regular remains in question. As it stands, he’s probably a below-average hitter with plus power and fringe-average actions at third base. There are certainly teams that may try him as a two-way player, but from this chair, his future home may be on the mound.
8. 3B/RHP Casey Schmitt, 21 years old, San Diego State
This year’s top two-way talent, Schmitt has a legitimate chance to do both for at least the first few seasons of his professional career. He’s a polished bat that can hit for both average and contact, driving the ball with authority when he finds the barrel. Schmitt should hit for more home run power than he does, especially given the all-around strength in his frame, but he was slowly starting to tap into that right before the season-ending cancellation. Tapping into that plus raw power that we all know is there would put Schmitt on another level in terms of pure polished bats from this class. Schmitt has all the actions of an above-average third baseman. His feet field in rhythm and his silky smooth hands do an excellent job of corralling the baseball. Like the aforementioned Wallace, Schmitt also owns a true 60-grade arm with borderline elite velocities across the diamond from the hot corner. An injury-free track and the right organization could develop him into an absolute masher.
If Schmitt flails out offensively he’ll be able to continue his professional career on the mound. He controls a low-to-mid-90s fastball that jumps out of his hand and works comfortably up in the zone. His go-to out pitch is a splitter with natural downward tumble and he’ll mix in a simple breaking ball with gradual depth. Schmitt’s arsenal isn’t overpowering, but it resembles that of current Padres’ closer, Kirby Yates, because of its effectiveness. He mixes speeds effectively and tunnels his fastball/splitter combo efficiently, making him a tough at-bat for any opponent. Schmitt is a unique talent that will be drafted somewhere between rounds two and four come June 11th.
9. 1B Tyler Keenan, 21 years old, Ole Miss
At 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, Keenan is a big-bodied third baseman with the accompanying power you’d expect from a player of his size. Scouts are pretty sure he’ll move off third base in pro ball and over to first base. Defensively, he profiles as one might expect. He has soft hands and receives the ball very well, though his lateral ability is limited. The arm is fringe-average to maybe average with consistency being the biggest piece in question. Keenan has a sound approach at the plate, limiting strikeouts. He has shown an ability to drive the ball to all fields and hit for plenty of power while he does it. He likely projects as an average hitter with above-average game power. Like Sabato, a universal DH would help his big league value.
10. 3B Coby Mayo, 18, Stoneman Douglas (FL)
Hailing from a high school that’s produced several highly talented big league players, Mayo could potentially be on pace to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors. He’s a physical 6-foot-5, 215-pound corner infielder with pure raw strength throughout his build. There’s easy double-plus raw power to the pull-side in his swing and Mayo’s power potential alone will make some high-end talent evaluators fall in love with him. His hit tool is where the questions start to pop up as there are concerns about whether or not he’ll hit enough to truly tap into that power. There are swing-and-miss issues as well and right now you’re looking at a player who’s likely going to strike out a ton if he makes his way into the professional ranks. Mayo has arguably the strongest arm of any prep corner infield prospect, but his hands are average and his footwork gets a bit stiff at times. A move over to first base could come sooner rather than later, but he has enough pure power that it doesn’t matter which corner infield spot he plays. Mayo is a hometown kid committed to Florida that could end up being a tough sign. He’d be better off going to a pristine college program like Florida and improving his all-around offensive game.
11. 1B Blaze Jordan, 17 years old, Desoto Central (MS)
Jordan has been on, well, everyone’s radar for the better part of four years. A viral sensation, Jordan was once labeled “The Next Bryce Harper” by No Day Off, a popular baseball YouTube channel. While he almost certainly won’t reach such heights, Jordan does represent an intriguing corner power bat profile at the next level. There’s little doubt he’ll get to his plus, maybe plus-plus power in pro ball. Just 17 years old, Jordan will almost certainly have to move off third base and over to first base once he gets to Mississippi State or into a big-league organization. The arm is more than strong enough to handle the hot corner, though his footwork and mechanics need a lot of refinement to stick if he hopes to stay on the left side of the infield. Jordan is still growing into his body, shedding baby weight the last couple of years and getting into better shape. He’s still young enough to conceivably stick at third, but it’ll require patience and plenty of player development. Defense aside, the bat is his calling card. He’s potentially a solid average hitter with plus, maybe plus-plus power depending on what direction he takes his body.
12. 3B AJ Vukovich, 18 years old, East Troy (HS)
An All-State basketball player with ridiculous athleticism, Vukovich is a tantalizing prospect hailing from the Badger state. He’s the next big prospect to come out of Wisconsin, which has apparently become a breeding ground for electric draft prospects over the last five seasons. Nonetheless, Vukovich is a lanky 6-foot-5, 210-pound prospect with massive raw power and minimal feel to hit. His overall setup and swing are unconventional but he somehow still manages to get the job done. Seeing him crush home runs at the high school All-Star game last summer was impressive and there’s easy pull-side pop there that he hasn’t fully tapped into because of his 45-grade hit tool. Vukovich has moved all around the diamond over the last year and could make the full-time move to right field sometime soon. A five-round draft hinders his chances of being drafted and it’s looking increasingly likely that he’ll make his way to Louisville this fall. Vukovich is the type of prospect that could absolutely blow up after his college career is over and solidify himself as a first-round pick in 2023.
13. 1B Alex Toral, 21 years old, Miami
Toral is no stranger to big-league scouts. When he arrived in Miami may thought he’d hit his way into the top of the first round in 2020. That hasn’t materialized, but there’s still projectability in his profile that may certainly be worth paying a draft pick signing bonus for. Toral has huge pull-side power. It’s light tower pop by some evaluations. There have always been some issues with hitting breaking balls, but Toral seemed to take a step forward in his abbreviated 2020 campaign hitting five home runs, slashing .296/.435/.593, and only punching out nine times. Toral, like the names before him, is a below-average defender and below-average runner, so much of his value leans on the bat. If a team believes in the bat, he may be worth a fourth or fifth-round selection. More than likely, Toral will return to Miami and revitalize the draft sheen he lost during his freshman and sophomore campaigns.
14. 3B Jamal O’Guinn, 21 years old, Southern California
O’Guinn, like several others on this list, is a massive human being. He’s got pure physicality in his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame with proportional all-around strength. O’Guinn has flashed plus raw power in batting practice videos, but he has yet to consistently tap into it during gameplay because of a 45-grade hit tool that hasn’t shown signs of improving. He played third base for the Trojans this season out of pure necessity and doesn’t project their long term with a move over to first base being the most likely outcome. O’Guinn has the raw power in his swing and some upside for a corner infield spot but it’s pretty unlikely that he hits enough to show it. He’ll be back in college this fall unless he decides to sign with a team as an undrafted free agent.
15. 1B Niko Kavadas, 21 years old, Notre Dame
Kavadas is an extremely large and strong first baseman. The anchor in the middle of the Fighting Irish lineup, Kavadas is a bit of a boom or bust profile at the plate. He’s hit plenty of home runs in South Bend, but he’s also run a 22 percent punch out rate. Even more troubling, it hovered around 30 percent in the Cape Cod league. That’s not the type of bat-to-ball skills pro scouts want to see. Still, Kavadas is a better athlete than some of the names before him. He’s a fringe-average defender with a fringe-average arm. He moves well for his 6-foot-1, 235-pound frame. He’ll be 22 years old before the end of 2020, so there won’t be much leverage left in the 2021 draft should he elect to return to school. It may behoove Kavadas to get into a pro organization now and secure his spot with minor league contraction potentially on the horizon. He may be worth a fifth-round pick in this draft, especially as an under slot option.
16. 3B Cole Fontenelle, 18 years old, Skyline (WA)
Arguably the best pure athlete on this list, Fontenelle was a three-sport standout in high school and has played all across the diamond. He’s not built like your prototypical power-hitting corner infielder but moves well and his athleticism plays in short ranges on the field. Fontenelle has played shortstop in the past and his smooth actions will play just fine at third base in the long-term. His swing plays from both sides of the plate and his feel to hit is advanced for a high school kid. While he doesn’t hit for much power right now, Fontenelle does have plenty of room to fill out his 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame. Scouts didn’t get a chance to see him at all this spring because he’s in the Pacific Northwest and he’s a safe bet to be at Washington this fall. This is a sneaky name to remember for the 2023 MLB Draft as a potential top-round pick.
17. 3B Jacob Berry, 18 years old, Quinn Creek (AZ)
Committed to the University of Arizona, there’s little chance Berry ends up getting drafted or signing a pro deal in 2020. There’s a lot of tools scouts are intrigued by in Berry, specifically his bat speed and ability to switch-hit. At 6-foot, 200 pounds, Berry is a muscled up physique with some projection left. He makes solid contact and has shown above average-to-plus power. He’s a fine defender, but his footwork needs a good bit of work. The arm is average at best, and he’s a below-average runner at this stage. There’s definitely a solid profile here to project a future early-round draft pick in 2023, but as it stands, Berry will likely end up in Tucson to continue his development.
18. 1B Bobby Seymour, 21 years old, Wake Forest
Seymour destroyed the ACC as a sophomore slashing .377/.439/.576 and leading the NCAA with 92 RBI en route to Player of the Year honors. A physical freak at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Seymour is a hit-over-power first baseman with an above-average hit tool. He finds the barrel at a steady rate and sprays the ball to all fields. His overall approach at the plate for a first baseman is impressive, but Seymour doesn’t hit for nearly enough power as you’d think someone of his size would. We’ve seen him flash a raw power tool in batting practice, meaning that it’s there, but he just can’t consistently translate it into games. Seymour’s strikeout struggles at the Cape Cod league last summer don’t help his cause, either. He’s a limited athlete that’s glued to first base in the future and could ultimately be a DH early on in his career. Seymour’s bat is going to have to overcompensate for the little defensive value he provides.
19. 1B Ray Gil, 21 years old, Miami
Gil entered 2020 as a third baseman with some of the better helium of the class. He’s a bat-first profile that may end up moving to first when his below-average mobility and hands will be less obvious. Gil has plenty of pop in the bat having hit 13 home runs in 2019. He was off to an awfully slow start in 2020 when play shut down and the strikeout issues that have plagued him in the past were painfully present. If a team is willing to take a chance on Gil in the draft, he should be an easy sign with little leverage heading into 2021 and his best stat lines may be behind him. For his plus power to get the respect it deserves, he’ll need to improve his approach at the plate and find a way to get on base at a higher clip.
20. 1B Michael Brown, 18 years old, Vacaville HS (CA)
Rounding out this list is a Brown: a 6-foot-5, 230-pound left-handed-hitting first baseman with plenty of room to mature. He’s athletic in the box with a smooth setup and stays in rhythm well through contact. Brown has plus raw power that stems from his pure raw bat strength and strong hands. His swing is flat at times, staying on a level plane and doesn’t elevate the ball as much as someone with his power potential should. A swing adjustment has to be made that’ll enable Brown to hit the ball in the air more, increasing his power output and making him a legit threat at the plate. Brown is a limited athlete with a below-average arm and doesn’t move particularly well for his size, locking him at first base for the future. He’s an interesting prospect that would likely get over slot money in the later rounds of a normal draft based on projection alone but will make it to campus this fall because of the uncertainties surrounding his game.
With the MLB Draft on the horizon, our extensive coverage of baseball’s unique draft kicks off today with our initial catcher rankings. We’ll be rolling out position-by-position rankings here at RotoFanatic in the days leading up to the draft with an in-depth analysis of each specific prospect that is analyzed.
Headlining a deep and talented crop of backstops is NC State standout, Patrick Bailey. A switch-hitter that hits for power and shows excellent actions behind the plate, Bailey’s unique abilities on both sides of the ball make him the easy pick at number one.
The rest of this list is made up of several intriguing prospects. Tyler Soderstrom may end up having one of the highest pure hit tools in the entire draft when it’s all said and done. Both Dillon Dingler and Austin Wells are uber-athletic behind the dish with positional versatility to move around the diamond. Drew Romo’s projects to be an elite defensive catcher at the big league level and Kevin Parada could possibly be the first overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft should he go to college.
Each of these blurbs was evenly written by both of our draft analysts: Diego Solares and Joe Doyle. After several hours of churning through video and information, these are the consensus rankings agreed upon by our staff. Without further delay, let’s get into it:
1. Patrick Bailey, 21 years old, NC State
Widely regarded as the top catching prospect in this draft, Bailey brings a unique skill-set to the table that somewhat resembles that of last year’s number one overall pick, Adley Rutschman. He’s a switch-hitter that embraces the power-over-hit type of approach at the plate and is capable of crushing the ball to all fields. Bailey’s swing looks smoother from the left side, showing a natural ability to elevate the baseball while his right-handed swing is more line-drive oriented. He controls the strike zone well and is more than capable of walking at an above-average rate at the next level despite some strikeout concerns over the summer circuit. Even with the improvements in his bat, Bailey should be known for his advanced defensive abilities. He’s a natural receiver that regularly steals strikes on the corners and is quick to release the baseball. Bailey, like the aforementioned Rutschman, was one of the few catchers in college baseball this season to call his own game. That’s an impressive feat for a 21-year-old and something that teams will certainly take into consideration when making their evaluations. Bailey’s shown enough over the last three seasons for me to confidently say he’s a safe bet to be an everyday big-league backstop.
2. Tyler Soderstrom, 18 years old, Turlock HS (Calif.)
Tyler Soderstrom has one of the more impressive prep bats in the class. He will likely move off the catcher position, but that’s okay as the bat is the carrying tool anyway and should ultimately define his ceiling. He could move to either corner outfield spot, but his fringe-average run tool and lateral ability is probably best suited at third base. The hit tool projects at solid average, while the game power should reach 50. From this chair, Soderstrom should make the immediate move to a corner position and let the bat develop, though he has made it clear his passion for catching. Whomever selects may give him a year or so to sink or swim behind the plate, similar to the path Kyle Schwarber took when he was drafted. Placing him at third or left field may shave 18 months off his development schedule.
3. Dillon Dingler, 21 years old, Ohio State
A ridiculous athlete behind the plate, Dingler is an all-around catching prospect with an intriguing bat and the actions to stick behind the dish moving forward. His bat has come a long way since his arrival to Ohio State and he’s developed a profound understanding of the strike zone. We haven’t seen much home run power from the 21-year-old at Ohio State prior to this season, but he did set a single-season high this year prior to the cancellation and has flashed pull-side power in the past as well. A former center fielder, Dingler is arguably the best athlete of this group posting above-average run times and will easily be one of the more athletic catching prospects in baseball once he signs with an organization. His receiving skills are advanced with strong wrists that allow him to work under the baseball at times. Dingler boasts an above-average arm and uses that athleticism of his to explode out the crouch, recording above-average pop times as well. Even though he’s best suited behind the plate for the future, Dingler has played adequately in centerfield in the past and would be able to handle himself should he ever need to make a move. The finished product could end up being a power-hitting big league catcher with the speed to impact the game in multiple facets.
4. Austin Wells, 21 years old, Arizona
Wells, much like several other catchers near the top of this draft, likely won’t find a permanent home behind the plate. Also much like his contemporaries, the bat should carry him through the minors to and onto an eventual big league roster. Wells is a proven leader and an infectious personality in the clubhouse. He receives high marks for his attitude and ability to bring the most out of his teammates. As far as the tools go, it’s one of the more polished bats in the class. The approach is impressive, and the accompanying swing is compact and powerful. Wells has plus power to his pull-side but can get pull-happy at times. It’s a solid average bat with the potential for plus game power, especially to his lefty pull-side. Wells projects as a corner outfielder or first baseman at the next level. He should move quickly through the low minors.
5. Kevin Parada, 18 years old, Loyola (Calif.)
Parada is an intriguing prep talent that some consider an early frontrunner as a potential top pick come the 2023 MLB Draft if he doesn’t end up signing with an organization. An athletic 6-foot, 200-pound backstop with proportional strength to him, Parada’s feel to hit is advanced with easy bat speed and grades out as an above-average tool long term. He’s flashed above-average power in spurts at times, particularly to his pull-side where he does an excellent job of getting his bat head out in front and crushing the baseball. There isn’t much swing-and-miss to his game either, giving Parada a truly special offensive ceiling if he’s able to put it all together. The questions with him lie behind the plate, where Parada projects to be nothing more than an average defender with an average receiving ability and a strong arm. It’s likely that we see him move off from the position if he reaches pro-ball, but Georgia Tech actually has had success developing catching prospects over the last few seasons. That bodes well for Parada’s future draft value because improvements in his defense paired with the expectations we have for his offense make him a surefire first-round pick in three years. Getting a read on his draft value is difficult right now and it’s hard to project whether or not Parada will sign with a team. Regardless, he’s always going to be a bat-first prospect with a high offensive ceiling.
6. Drew Romo, 18 years old, The Woodlands HS (Texas)
Romo represents one of the best defensive prep catchers in recent history. His acumen for work behind the plate is nothing new, considered one of, if not the top defensive prep catcher in the state of Texas for the better part of two, maybe three years now. At worst, Romo is almost assuredly a big-league backup thanks to his 70 defense and 60 arm. His flexibility and lateral mobility lead most to believe he’ll have no problem sticking behind the plate and surviving the workload of 400+ innings. Romo’s ceiling will be dictated by how the bat develops. Currently it projects below average as swing-and-miss has been a problem in the past. There’s definitely some juice at the plate, though Romo has had a hard time reaching it against better competition. If a team is willing to table his debut for five years and allow him the time necessary to reach his potential, Romo could develop into one of the better catchers in baseball.
7. Daniel Susac, 19 years old, Jesuit (Calif.)
The brother of a former second-round pick and current San Francisco Giant catching prospect Andrew Susac, Daniel seems to fly under the radar when compared to other prep catchers in this class. He’s a strong 6-foot-3, 205-pound switch-hitting backstop that brings physicality and raw bat strength to the plate. There’s clearly power to dream on with his frame. Susac’s swing does get a bit long and he consistently struggles to get his upper and lower body in sync. It’s apparent that he’s more comfortable from the right side, showing most of his raw power on that side of the plate. He’s an average defender with an absolute bazooka for an arm and the ball simply explodes out of his hand. A move to right field could be in his cards at some point but he’s cemented behind the plate for now. One thing to note with him is that Susac just turned 19 years old a few weeks ago, making him older than your typical high school senior. There’s no denying that he has a high ceiling, as you’d expect from someone with his profile, but it’s hard to look past how raw he is from a pure prospect standpoint. Any team would be taking a gamble on him at this point.
8. Casey Opitz, 21 years old, Arkansas
All Optiz does is hit. He’s been a solid contributor for the Razorbacks for the better part of three years now, catching elite competition and calling his own games. Opitz has a sound approach at the plate and possesses a fringe-average hit tool that could develop into an average offering. There’s some pop in the bat too, grading out as below average with a chance to reach fringe-average as well. Opitz gets high marks for his leadership and ability to call a game. He has an easy plus arm that has been his calling card in the SEC for a couple of years now. Opitz likely projects as a platoon catcher from the left side.
9. Michael Rothenberg, 21 years old, Duke
A sleeper prospect from the catching crop in this year’s draft, Rothenberg is a strong switch-hitting backstop with plus raw power that just flat out finds a way to get on base. His swing does get a bit aggressive at times, but Rothenberg has easy bat speed and consistently elevates the baseball enough to drive it out of the yard. He doesn’t really swing-and-miss much for someone who is definitely a power-over-hit type of player and owns a career on-base percentage of .406 over three seasons with Duke. While the tools are undeniable, Rothenberg does have his fair share of question marks, one of which being that he’s almost certainly going to be making a positional change sooner rather than later. Some evaluators also point to Rothenberg’s pitiful .459 OPS in the highly competitive Cape Cod league last summer as another red flag. All it takes is one team to fall in love with his loud tools, however, for Rothenberg to get drafted in the coming weeks.
10. Jackson Miller, 18 years old, Mitchell HS (Fl.)
Nothing about Miller’s game will jump off the page to scouts. But as far as prep catchers go, he’s got some of the best polish of the bunch. Miller doesn’t have the loudest tools in the draft, but he really does everything well and projects to stick at the position. Shows soft hands and good pop times. His arm is solid average while his ability to help call a game, albeit at the prep level, has been impressive. Like Opitz, Miller has a sound approach at the plate that has yet to show much in-game power. The swing is quiet and geared more toward gap-to-gap power rather than home runs. There’s still some projections in Miller’s frame, and he’s still awfully young. A Wake Forest commit, heading to campus and putting on good weight with good instruction might boost his draft stock a good bit heading into his future 2023 eligibility. It’s easy to see Miller turning into a day-one pick down the road.
11. Zavier Warren, 21 years old, Central Michigan
Warren is unlike any prospect on this list because his primary position isn’t even catcher. He’s seen time at third base and shortstop for Central Michigan, on top of working behind the plate, making him the ultimate utility weapon from a defensive standpoint. He’s a capable third base prospect with the athleticism to move around the diamond, including back to catcher, if needed. That long-term corner infield profile is actually a problem for Warren because of the projected offensive production evaluators have on him. He consistently repeats his swing and maintains a level path, but his power plays more in the gaps instead of over the fence. Most organizations want big-time power production from a corner infielder and that isn’t what Warren brings to the table. If he was to move back behind the dish, however, Warren’s bat suddenly becomes way more valuable and the question would ultimately become how well that transition will go. There’s obvious intrigue with Warren given how unique he is but there’s obvious risk attached as well.
12. Carlos Perez, 18 years old, Florida Christian HS (Fl.)
As far as prototypical high school catchers go, Perez represents one of the better options in the draft. Physically mature for his age, Perez is a steady presence behind the plate, renowned for his ability to block balls in the dirt, as well as his catch-and-throw actions to second base. At 6-foot-2, Perez has the body that makes scouts believe he can develop into a player that supplies some pop at the plate. As it currently stands, Perez is a bit of a mechanical mess at the plate, lacking rhythm and tempo, especially at it pertains to seeing and hitting velocity. Put into a good player development system, there’s reason to believe Perez could turn himself into at least a 40 hitter with average power. That should be enough to carve out a big-league role, especially if his arm and prowess behind the plate continue to show out as they have so far. Perez is slated to enroll at Miami, where he’d fall under the wing of possibly the best offensive catcher in the country: 2021 eligible sophomore Adrian del Castillo.
13. Kale Emshoff, 22 years old, Arkansas – Little Rock
Emshoff is the small school prospect of this group that could eventually pop up onto people’s radars once he reaches the professional ranks. Standing at a hulking 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, Emshoff has easy 70-grade raw power and impacts the baseball with ferocity when he finds the barrel. He’s shown some feel to hit as well and could ultimately end up with an average hit tool; a massive boost for a power hitter. Emshoff did miss the entire 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery and he wasn’t given the opportunity to show that he was fully healthy this spring. He’s an adept receiver that works well behind the plate and projects to be an average defender at the next level. We’d never seen production from Emshoff that even sniffed what he was doing prior to the shutdown, so the legitimacy behind this offensive surge is pure speculation at this point. He’s an interesting prospect to monitor in the late rounds of this year’s draft.
14. Corey Collins, 18 years old, North Gwinnett HS (Ga.)
Collins, a University of Georgia commit, will likely arrive on campus a catcher but may transition out of the position by the time he leaves Athens. A big, strong, 6-foot-3 lefty, Collins is a bat-first profile with hulking power to the pull side. It’s an average arm, and average receiving ability, though injuries have reportedly stunted his flexibility and potential long-term chances at staying behind the plate. Injuries aside, the entire package profiles better in left field or first base. With only five rounds this year, Collins should be an awfully tough sign. Many think the Suwanee, Georgia product has a chance to turn into a special offensive player. A few years on campus under a premier collegiate player development program could vault him into a day one pick come 2023.
15. Jack Bulger, 18 years old, DeMatha (Maryland)
Bulger has pure physicality in his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame with all-around strength and massive forearms. There’s clear bat speed in his quick-twitch hands and he’s shown easy pull-side power during batting practice. His ability to occasionally go to the opposite field is impressive as well. Bulger’s athleticism plays behind the plate and he compliments it well with an above-average arm. Question marks surrounding Bulger’s raw receiving skills limit his ceiling as a prospect right now and put his long-term future as a backstop in question. He’s almost certainly going to Vanderbilt where he’ll need to significantly improve his defensive game or move off the position as a whole.
16. Calvin Harris, 18 years old, West Dubuque (IA)
Harris is going to be a bit of a project for Ole Miss. There’s a lot of projectability in the body and he possesses strong motions behind the plate. That being said, for a guy his size (6-foot, 200 pounds), Harris has a herky-jerky swing more oriented for hard ground balls. It’s a flat swing, bordering on a down-cut through the zone. The throwing arm and flexibility are there, so there’s a pretty good chance Harris sticks at the position during his collegiate career and beyond. With his defensive ability, Collins will certainly find himself picked once again come 2023. He’s virtually a lock to end up in Oxford this fall, especially with an abbreviated draft.
17. Matheu Nelson, 21 years old, Florida State
Nelson brings a former draft pedigree to the table as the Philadelphia Phillies selected him in the 39th round of the 2018 MLB Draft. He enters this year as a 21-year-old draft-eligible sophomore that struggled mightily in the Cape Cod league last season – .163/.280/.333 – and hasn’t tapped back into the offensive production we saw during his stellar freshman campaign. There isn’t one clear standout tool with Nelson and he’s an average backstop with an average arm. It’s likely that he finds himself back on campus this fall as a senior.
18. Alek Boychuk, 18 years old, Mill Creek HS (Ga.)
Another talented backstop from the Peach State, Boychuk compares favorably to the aforementioned Corey Collins. He doesn’t have the body projectability of his predecessor, but he’s every bit the current hitter. It’s a fluid right-handed cut and projects a fringe-average hitter with average power at the big league level. It’s still to be determined whether Boychuk has what it takes to stay behind the plate. The arm is every bit of a solid average offering, but Boychuk doesn’t yet receive the ball well and has a long way to go in consistently framing pitches. These are certain things that can be developed, which gives him a shot considering the natural tools are there. Boychuk will likely end up at South Carolina this fall where his talents may be utilized at a number of positions on the diamond. There’s a third base profile here as well.
19. Jake Deleo, 19 years old, Avon Old Farms (Conn.)
Similarly in some capacity to the aforementioned Zavier Warren, Deleo is an outfield first prospect that catches as well. He’s a physically mature 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-handed hitter with athleticism and some raw power. His tools speak louder than his production right now and there are holes in his offensive game that would be exposed by professional arms almost immediately. He’ll be at Georgia Tech this fall.
20. Jack Payton, 18 years old, Brother Rice HS (IL)
At 5-foot-11, 180lbs, Payton isn’t yet built like a big-league catcher. That being said, he does have a strong lower half that he leverages well in his swing, as well as popping out from crouch. As it stands, Payton’s hit tool is below average and potentially even a shade below that. His right-handed cut is smooth through the zone, but mechanically it needs some work. The swing is exorbitant in uppercut nature, and Payton dips his back should in order to achieve his loft. This will undoubtedly create infield fly balls and weak rollers on offspeed pitches, as well as striking out. Payton is an athletic build, and he runs well. He may not stay behind the plate, and could comfortably shift to a corner outfield spot. A Louisville commit, Payton will be privy to a strong player development program where he could see his name creep into the top ten rounds come 2023.
A couple of years ago the Blue Jays had a talent-rich system with two elite prospects at the top. One generational talent, and plenty of other young, talented players that offered big league upside.
Anytime a system is blessed with that level of talent, it’s usually going to be left in the dust after that group of players graduate. That’s somewhat the case with our neighbors to the North. While this system isn’t nearly what it used to be, there are still some intriguing prospects that are worth rostering. There are certainly some intriguing arms, including one of the game’s best pitching prospects, complemented by a handful of young J2 talent to give Blue Jays fans a dim light at the end of the tunnel.
Let’s jump right into the nitty-gritty of Toronto’s farm system:
1. Nate Pearson, RHP, 23 years old
An absolute physical specimen is truly the only just way of describing Pearson. He stands at an enormous 6-foot-6, 250 pounds with proportional strength and a certain physicality to him when he steps on the mound.
Pearson’s fastball regularly sits in the high 90’s and he hits triple-digits with ease. There doesn’t seem to be an issue with him holding his velocity deep into his outings, something that bodes well in his favor. His most effective off-speed pitch is a power slider with plus actions that play in the high 80’s and is already a swing-and-miss pitch. Pearson changes speeds effectively with a mid 70’s 12-to-6 breaking ball, although the slider is easily the more advanced pitch between the two. He rarely throws a changeup that projects to be nothing more than an average pitch. Even without the traditional four-pitch mix, Pearson has a powerful arsenal that is going to miss bats at a high rate regardless of level.
Despite all the positives surrounding Pearson, I do have my reservations. His delivery is “high effort” and for someone that throws as hard as he does, that tends to lead to inconsistencies and injuries. He’s done an ample job of keeping his mechanics under control but you have to factor in the wear-and-tear that’ll come on his body from consistently throwing as hard as he does.
Pearson doesn’t seem like he’s going to be much of an innings eater at the big league level despite having the frame to do so. He’s most effective in short, five-inning spurts where he can empty the tank and not have to worry about pacing himself out. Even then, however, this is a special pitching prospect with arguably one of the highest ceilings in all of baseball. He has ace-upside and if he flails out as a starter–which is the least likely scenario–he could become one of the best relievers in baseball.
2. Jordan Groshans, SS, 20 years old
The second prep bat taken in the 2018 MLB Draft, Groshans started 2019 off on a tear before going down with a foot injury that would eventually sideline him for the entire season. Still, what he showed in that 23-game sample size were major improvements from his draft year and solidified him as the No. 2 prospect in this system.
Groshans is a wiry athlete with a projectable 6-foot-3 frame. His swing is still somewhat raw from a mechanical standpoint, but his combination of pure bat speed and natural talent allows me to believe that he’ll figure it out as he continues to develop. Groshans doesn’t swing-and-miss much, and his ability to make contact with the baseball is advanced for his age. More power will come as he fills out his frame and the future outlook for him is somewhere consistently in the .280+ range with 20+ home runs throughout his peak years.
Toronto has two future staples on the left side of their infield for at least the next five seasons, meaning Groshans is a bit out of luck to stick there. We could see him transition over to second base or potentially even make a move to the outfield, too. If Groshans can continue to build off what he started this season he’s going to skyrocket up prospect lists at this time next year.
3. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP, 19 years old
We may have Simeon Woods Richardson ranked higher than most, but this is an all-in type of mentality on this kid and I completely buy into the breakout 2019 season he had.
Still just 19 years old, Woods Richardson was acquired by the Blue Jays from the Mets in the Marcus Stroman trade at last year’s trade deadline. Toronto promoted him to High-A after they acquired him, where he made six starts, posting a 2.54 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and .182 batting average against.
At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Woods Richardson looks the part of a starting pitcher and still has room to continue filling out his frame. What truly makes me buy into him moving forward is his polished and unique pitch mix. Woods Richardson throws two fastballs, a four-seam, and two-seam, with the former showing above-average vertical spin and the latter showing late run to his arm-side. He’s shown the ability to spin a 12-to-6 curveball that has a natural vertical break, pairing well with his four-seam fastball. His changeup is primarily used against left-handed hitters, fading away from them.
It’s a safe, above-average mix for a teenager that should start next season back in High-A and finish out at the Double-A level. Woods Richardson profiles best as a mid-rotation starter at the big league level and you should be buying into the hype now before it’s too late. He’ll be a consensus top-75 prospect in the game by this time next season, if not higher.
4. Orelvis Martinez, 3B/SS, 18 years old
Martinez signed with the Blue Jays for $3.5 million back in 2018 as one of the top international prospects from his respective class.
From a pure polish standpoint, Martinez has one of the highest floors from an international prospect that I’ve personally ever evaluated. Most international signees are fairly raw from a true baseball standpoint and provide tremendous upside, but Martinez is different. He possesses that unique combination of both polish and ceiling, making him as safe of a bet as a teenager could be.
Martinez has several intriguing tools, but the two that stand out to me are the bat speed and raw strength he possesses. His hands are quick enough to catch up to high velocities already and there’s already plenty of loud contact coming from his swing. As he adds muscle and weight onto his wiry 6-foot-1, 188-pound frame, more power will come for Martinez, making him a legit 25+ home run threat once he reaches the big leagues. He owns an advanced recognition of the strike zone as well, striking out at less than a 20 percent clip and walking at nearly a nine percent rate.
Martinez has split playing time between third base and shortstop thus far into his professional career, but the long-term fit for him seems to be at the hot corner. This could be Toronto’s replacement for Vlad Jr. if the young phenom ever makes the move away from third base. In Martinez, the Blue Jays are potentially getting someone with plus power that doesn’t strike out a lot and will get on base at a decent clip. Sign me up.
5. Alek Manoah, RHP, 22 years old
As I’m sure you’ll notice as we continue to dive into this list, the Blue Jays have a “type” when it comes to pitching prospects: large human beings that look like they could play offensive tackle in the NFL. Manoah, their first-round pick in 2019, is every bit of his imposing 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame.
Although he isn’t the greatest athlete, Manoah repeats his mechanics well for how big he is. He missed bats at an astonishing rate at West Virginia and did so again in his 17-inning professional debut, posting a 39.7% strikeout rate and 16% swinging-strike rate. His arsenal consists of a mid-to-high-90’s fastball with late life and occasional arm-side actions. A powerful slider is what makes him a strikeout machine, as it tunnels well with his fastball and flashes plus actions. He rounds out his repertoire with a changeup that still needs more development and could be an average pitch at some point in his career.
Part of the intrigue into Manoah is his frame projects to eat innings at the big league level. There’s also some concern that he isn’t athletic enough to hold up throughout a full 162-game season and that he’ll only be a two-pitch guy moving forward. Personally, Manoah profiles to me as an innings eater that can stick as a starting pitcher in the long run, especially as that changeup continues to develop.
6. Adam Kloffenstein, RHP, 19 years old
Guess what? Another gigantic pitcher here for the Blue Jays. Standing at 6-foot-6 and roughly 245 pounds, Kloffenstein signed with Toronto as a third-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft.
Kloffenstein throws two fastballs, a four-seam, and a two-seam, that typically sit in the low 90’s. You’d have to assume that more velocity will come given his age and projectability to his frame, but how much heat he tacks on could ultimately be the determining factor on what his ceiling truly is. He’s fairly polished for a teenager, throwing two distinct breaking balls in a slider and curveball, with the latter being the more favorable pitch moving forward. He’ll also throw a changeup with some dive to it that makes a particularly effective pair with that two-seam fastball of his.
There’s so much to like about Kloffenstein and I think he’s one of my favorite young pitching prospects in the game. He creates excellent extension downhill, making him an uncomfortable at-bat and will probably lead to high ground ball rates throughout his professional career. He is poised for a breakout season in the Midwest League whenever minor league play resumes and an uptick in velocity makes him more intriguing than he already is. Buy in now before it’s too late.
7. Miguel Hiraldo, MIF, 19 years old
Moving away from the pitching prospects, Hiraldo is one of three position players inside the top 10. He’s a bat-first prospect with a strong, physically advanced frame for a 19-year-old.
What Hiraldo can do at the plate for his age is impressive. He controls the strike zone well and owns an advanced recognition of the zone. Most teenagers strikeout at above a 20% clip, but not Hiraldo. He owns a swinging strike rate of 12.1% and strikes out at roughly a 14% rate.
Most teenagers in pro ball that don’t strike out a lot tend to not hit for much power, but Hiraldo is the exact opposite. His estimated fly ball distance of 320 feet last season was above-average and he’s shown plus raw power to his pull-side in gameplay already. We’re talking about a 19-year-old that doesn’t swing-and-miss much and has already shown flashes of hitting for plenty of power moving forward. Hiraldo will start next season in the Midwest League and he’s slowly becoming one of my favorite teenage bats in the game.
8. Kendall Williams, RHP, 19 years old
Throw another 6-foot-6 pitcher into the mosh pit of tall arms scattered throughout the Blue Jays system. Williams was a second-round pick out of the prestigious IMG Academy in the 2019 MLB Draft.
There’s a lot to like with Williams, starting with his highly projectable frame. He’s only 205 pounds right now and could easily add 10 to 15 pounds over the next few seasons, potentially upping his fastball velocity from that current low 90s band up to somewhere between 94-96 mph. Williams’ delivery works on a downhill plane, allowing his fastball to jump on hitters and play with tilt. His offspeed pitches have shown flashes of being quality offerings, primarily his breaking ball that can be his swing-and-miss pitch to pair along with that heater.
Williams is a pure projection prospect that will rely on the potential for increased velocity. If that never comes, it’s possible he’s nothing more than a long reliever or even fizzles out as a pitcher completely. This ranking suggests that’ll be the least likely outcome, allowing Williams to skyrocket up prospect boards once we start to see flashes of those. He’s worth taking a shot on in deep dynasty leagues.
9. Anthony Kay, LHP, 25 years old
Kay was the final piece acquired by the Blue Jays in the aforementioned Stroman deal and was viewed as the main piece at the time. He’s made improvements in his game since coming to Toronto and might be the safest pitching prospect in this entire system.
There’s not much flashiness to the 25-year-old Kay’s game, but he’s capable of eating innings while getting the job done. His fastball sits between 92-94 mph with high-spin rates, meaning that it’ll play up to a higher perceived velocity. When Kay initially made his professional debut his top secondary pitch was his changeup, but that is no longer the case. His high-spin curveball is now the better of the two pitches. With that being said, Kay’s changeup is still a sound offering that even flashes above-average actions at times when he controls it down in the zone. He’ll comfortably throw all three pitches for strikes, giving Kay a pretty reliable repertoire to work with.
Like I said earlier, Kay isn’t going to be flashy but he’ll certainly get the job done. He got his feet wet at the big league level last season and was expected to compete for a spot in Toronto’s starting rotation before the delay. Kay is a safe bet to be a back-end arm in the big leagues and those guys are valuable assets to fill innings. He’s someone I’d potentially look into targeting.
10. Gabriel Moreno, C, 20 years old
Moreno slots slightly above Alejandro Kirk on this list, but it’s an air-tight race between the two young catching prospects in this system. He signed for just $25,000 back in 2016 and strung together a quality season as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League, slashing .280/.337/.482 with 12 home runs.
There’s a lot to like about Moreno at the plate. He struck out at a below-average 11.1% rate in 2019 and owns a strong recognition of the strike zone, rarely swinging-and-missing at the dish. Moreno did show improved power this season in a relatively pitcher-friendly league and there’s more raw power in that wiry 5-foot-11, 160-pound build. It’s an advanced offensive skillset from a catcher, which has some appeal in the fantasy game.
Most people don’t take defense into account in fantasy baseball, but in this case, you should. Moreno’s future as a big-league asset relies on him sticking behind the dish and that is up in the air right now. Think about taking a shot on him in a deeper dynasty league as a potential breakout candidate at a position that lacks fantasy talent.
11. Otto Lopez, SS, 21 years old
Lopez is a prospect on the rise as a 21-year-old in the Midwest League last season. His skill set isn’t sexy but it’s intriguing from a fantasy standpoint and there’s an opened up path for him to be a valuable major leaguer for the Blue Jays.
Similar to another prospect on this list, Lopez owns a potential 70-grade run tool with strong contact skills from the right side of the plate. He doesn’t hit for power and may never do so, but his goal is to simply make contact with the baseball and allow his speed to take over. That speed translates to the basepaths well and helped Lopez swiped 20 bases in 2019, a number that is a relatively safe floor for him in that regard.
Lopez is a shortstop by trade but is a versatile defender that can shift around the diamond if needed and has even played some outfield, too. That defensive versatility paired with his speed and contact skills gives Lopez a relatively safe floor as Toronto’s potential utility-man of the future.
12. Alejandro Kirk, C, 21 years old
Kirk is the perfect definition of a fantasy prospect because he mashes at the plate but offers little-to-no defensive value. He’s a short, stout 5-foot-9, 220-pound backstop that won’t stick behind the plate long-term and will either be a DH or first base only type.
The one thing that puts Kirk on the prospect radar is his elite offensive skill set. He’s potentially a 60-grade prospect offensively, showing advanced recognition of the strike zone and walking nearly five percent more than he struck out–and owning a swinging strike rate of just 5.3%. There’s some raw pull-side power in his swing that hasn’t quite translated into game power yet, but he’s certainly capable of adding that in-game element rather quickly as he continues to develop.
Kirk may struggle to find a spot at the big league level because of his below-average defense. His bat will play, however, and being a prospect in an American League organization plays into his favor. This is someone worth taking a shot on purely based on his offensive profile.
13. Eric Pardinho, RHP, 19 years old
A pitching prospect in this system who isn’t 6-foot-5, Pardinho is quite the opposite of his organizational teammates. He’s a wiry 5-foot-10, 155-pound athlete with twitchy, proportional strength throughout his body.
Pardinho hails from Brazil and was somewhat of a highly regarded pitching prospect when the Blue Jays signed him back in 2017. He’s seen an uptick in velocity since joining the professional ranks, sitting in the mid 90’s with his fastball that shows late life into the zone at times. Pardinho’s best pitch is his curveball, a potential plus offering that could blossom into a swing-and-miss pitch as he continues to develop. He also throws both a slider and changeup, the latter of the two being the more advanced pitch and showing flashes of being at least an average pitch.
Unfortunately, Pardinho suffered an elbow injury this spring and will miss the entire 2020 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. I do have some concerns about his delivery as a whole, as it’s somewhat methodical and there is a pause in his motion before accelerating towards the plate. Some pitchers can get away with this because they’re exceptional athletes, but pausing your momentum and suddenly starting it back up again puts a lot of stress on an elbow ligament if it’s not consistently done right. It’s best to stay away from Pardinho for now despite there still being upside in this 19-year-old kid.
14. Leonardo Jimenez, MIF, 18 years old
Jimenez signed with the Blue Jays for $825,000 out of Panama back in 2017. He’s a fairly simple prospect to project, as there’s not much power to his game and it’s a tool that will likely be below-average at best once he’s filled out his lean 5-foot-11, 160-pound frame.
Jimenez owns strong control for his bat at the plate and his bat travels on a level plane, spraying line drives to all fields. There are some high swing-and-miss metrics attached to Jimenez right now, but remember that he’s an 18-year-old that is still developing his game. Expect those numbers to come down as he takes that next step in his progression and for the contact numbers to improve.
His glove will likely keep him up the middle somewhere moving forward, with second base being the most likely final destination. He hasn’t played above rookie ball since making his way stateside and you’re better off waiting to see how he performs before adding him to your dynasty stash.
15. Griffin Conine, OF, 22 years old
Toronto selected Conine as a second-round pick back in 2018 out of Duke after he burst onto the draft scene following an impressive Cape Cod League performance before his draft season.
Conine boasts a strong, athletic 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame that helps him tap into some prodigious raw power from the left-handed batter’s box. His game revolves around hitting for power, launching 21 home runs with a .566 slugging percentage, and an estimated fly ball distance of 320 feet last season.
Unfortunately for him, that uphill path meant for elevation typically leads to high strikeout numbers, which have plagued Conine since he entered the professional ranks. You can pencil him in for at least 15-20 home runs, if not more, each season, but there just isn’t much in his contact skills that suggest he won’t strike out at more than a 30% clip.
16. Dasan Brown, OF, 18 years old
An impressive athlete with raw baseball skills, Brown has legit 80-grade speed that allows him to impact the game in multiple facets, including on the basepaths and in the outfield defensively. From a pure baseball standpoint, Brown is extremely raw at the plate and needs several refinements in his swing for him to consistently make contact at the higher levels. His elite athleticism makes him capable of doing so, but it’ll ultimately come down to Brown being able to put it all together.
17. Chavez Young, OF, 22 years old
Young is a rare example of a high school signee that was a late-round draft pick signing with his team. He signed for $200,000 as a 39th round pick a few years ago, as a toolsy switch-hitting outfielder with athleticism and upside in his game.
Similarly to the aforementioned Brown, Young needs to improve his offensive game in almost every aspect. He has bat speed and twitchiness at the dish, but Young strikes out too much, and there just isn’t much power in his swing right now. He does have stolen base upside, swiping 24 bags last season, but that won’t be as effective unless Young can significantly increase his on-base percentage.
18. Will Robertson, OF, 22 years old
If there’s one prospect towards the back-end of this list that can shoot up lists shortly, Robertson has to be that guy. A left-handed 6-foot-2, 215-pound outfielder, Robertson was a second-round pick by the Blue Jays after a strong college career at Creighton.
He earned Northwest League All-Star honors last season after slashing .267/.365/.403 with eight home runs. Robertson has an innate feel for the zone and doesn’t strikeout or swing-and-miss much, possessing a rather impressive hit tool as well. There’s raw power in his athletic frame and he does a solid job of generating loft through contact. Once that power starts to translate into games, Robertson could potentially start mashing baseballs left and right with his hit tool.
We’re playing the “wait-and-see” game with Robertson right now and are in an unfortunate stalemate because of the delay. He is only worth a shot in deep dynasty leagues as a late-round flier and you’re bought into him tapping into that mouth-watering power potential.
19. Ryan Noda, 1B/OF, 24 years old
Noda started his professional career on somewhat of a tear, cruising through the first two levels of the minor leagues before reaching High-A last season. He strung together a disappointing 2019 season, however, and that caused him to drop down most prospect lists. Still, Noda is an interesting left-handed 6-foot-3, 215-pound first baseman. He’s got plus power in that physical frame but Noda’s bat path travels on a flat plane through the zone instead of taking an uphill route to elevate the baseball. That, paired with his inability to repeat his swing consistently, is the main reason why Noda’s power didn’t translate much into games last season.
For someone who owns a career on-base percentage of .422, Noda strikes out way too much for me to comfortably project that he’ll continue to do so at such a high level moving forward. A career strikeout rate of 33.4% just isn’t going to do it, especially for someone that hasn’t even reached Double-A yet. There’s some interest in what Noda can be if he figures it out, but it’s not worth taking a flier on him right now.
20. Kevin Smith, 3B, 23 years old
It’s become increasingly evident that Smith’s breakout 2018 season was nothing more than a fluke. He struck out at an enormously high rate last season in Double-A, didn’t walk nearly enough, and looked completely over-matched despite being a 23-year-old at that level. His inability to hit spin in an era where pitchers are increasingly throwing more breaking balls is the biggest negative for me. This ship has sailed and it’s time to move on.