2020 BA 500 Draft Rankings
The BA 500 is an attempt to capture the industry’s consensus on the talent of the 2020 draft class—not to predict where players will be selected. The list was compiled in consultation with major league scouts, front office executives, scouting directors, college coaches and other professional evaluators. Teddy Cahill, JJ Cooper, Kyle Glaser, Joe Healy, Bill Mitchell, Chris Trenkle and Carlos Collazo contributed to the reporting and writing.
By Carlos Collazo
June 2 Update: Final tweak to rankings made based on last-minute industry feedback. See how the class breaks down by the numbers.
RELATED: See our 2020 MLB Mock Draft
We didn’t take the expected route to get here, but after almost a year of evaluating the 2020 draft class, Baseball America is proud to release the BA 500.
A comprehensive ranking of the top talent in the 2020 draft class, the BA 500 is the result of almost a year of watching, evaluating and reporting on the most talented high school and college players in the nation. This list has been tweaked, adjusted, sent to MLB scouting departments for feedback and argued over for many months in an attempt to capture the industry’s consensus on the talent of the 2020 class.
The 2020 draft will be remembered as one of the most unusual drafts of all time. The novel coronavirus threw a wrench into the plans of scouts and players alike, giving Division I colleges just four weeks of action and many high school players even less than that. Because of that, the draft will be significantly shorter and teams will have to make picks based on evaluations from last fall and last summer more than spring performances.
It would be a shame for any draft class to be affected in this way, but it’s especially true for a 2020 class that was among the strongest in recent memory.
“(We) entered the spring believing the 2020 class was strong, but the class looked even better than expected in the first four weeks of the college season,” said one American League front office executive. “The upper crust of college talent is excellent on both sides of the ball, and a number of pitchers really elevated their stock early in the spring. We’ll never really know what the spring would’ve held now.
“But it was shaping up to be a special spring. It’s probably on par with the 2014 class, which has ended up being better than the industry expected, especially given the career outcomes of the first two picks. It could’ve been as good as the 2012 class with a strong remainder to the spring, which we’ll never know.”
The college class has a chance to make history in a variety of ways, with the top six players on the BA 500 hailing from the collegiate ranks. If six college players were selected to begin the draft this year, it would break the previous record of five straight collegians to start the draft (which happened in 1992 and 2018).
“Almost everything about the college crop is above-average for recent years,” the AL exec said.
Additionally, the 2020 draft could consist of the largest percentage of college players drafted ever, thanks to the expedited information disadvantage for high school prospects. Scouting departments have been drafting more and more college players since the start of the century for a variety of reasons, but the coronavirus could take that to a new extreme.
“There’s likely to be a flight to safety,” said the exec. “The high school class is going to take a hit, in particular, due to the lack of exposure relative to prior years. It’s absolutely going to have a ripple effect on how teams operate in the future.”
The draft will be five rounds and begin June 10. The length of the draft itself could have huge ramifications on how scouting departments operate, with the role of area scouts shifting dramatically depending on the length.
“Technology is not only more useful this year, it’s paramount.” the exec said. “The involvement of area scouts will likely depend on the number of rounds of the draft, which is still to be determined. If it’s only a five-round draft, area scouts will likely have less input than ever before. If it’s a 40-round draft—which is unlikely—area scouts could really make a huge difference throughout the depth of the draft. (We’re) waiting on pins and needles to hear the parameters of the draft from MLB.”
The 2020 draft class is led by a group of players at the top, rather than a no-doubt No. 1 prospect like we saw with the 2019 (Adley Rutschman) and 2018 (Casey Mize) draft classes. Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson and Vanderbilt outfielder Austin Martin top the list at No. 1 and No. 2, though scouts are split on who the best player in the class is.
We will continue to make tweaks and adjust the BA 500 as necessary as we get closer to draft day, and we’ll also regularly roll out scouting reports on every player ranked. Currently all 500 players have scouting reports available.
Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 205 | B-T: R-RUndrafted after his four-year high school career in Northern California, Torkelson exploded onto the college baseball scene at Arizona State with one of the best freshman seasons ever. He led the nation with 25 home runs that year, breaking Barry Bonds' ASU freshman home run record. He was just as strong in his sophomore and junior seasons, but the early end to what is expected to be his final season left him three homers short of breaking Bob Horner’s ASU career record. Torkelson has terrific hitting ability with an advanced approach and plate discipline, plus bat speed, and plus-plus power. He hits with power to all fields and showed an increased ability to pull pitches over the middle of the plate during his abbreviated junior season. At times he gets too much out on his front side and pulls off of pitches, so there are still some swing tweaks to be made. Even so, his power potential and hitting ability are that of a middle-of-the-order force. Torkelson is an above-average defender at first base thanks to his impressive agility and good hands, as well as his strong work ethic to continue improving. Torkelson played some outfield with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, where he ranked as the top prospect last summer. While he has below-average speed, he runs well underway and has improved his throwing technique. He could be at least adequate in left field, but most observers want him to stay at first base so he can focus on hitting. Torkelson may be the safest pick at the top of the draft thanks to his outstanding hitting ability and the most usable power in the draft. He draws comparisons to elite mashers like Mets first baseman Pete Alonso and should rise quickly through the minors. If Torkelson does become the first overall pick, he would be the first college first baseman to ever do so.
Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
Age At Draft: 20.8More Less
Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 230 | B-T: R-RSabato has some of the biggest raw power in the entire 2020 draft class, rivaling even Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson. A 6-foot-2, 230-pound first baseman, Sabato has a strong, bulky frame with massive forearms that allow him to consistently drive the ball hard to all fields. After going undrafted out of high school in 2018, Sabato loudly announced his presence in Chapel Hill in 2019, hitting .343/.453/.696 with a UNC freshman record 18 home runs. He led a team that included first-round pick Michael Busch in each triple-slash category and home runs and was positioned to further elevate his stock with another loud draft-eligible sophomore campaign. Sabato played in 19 games before the season was cut short, and in that time he hit seven home runs and six doubles with a .292/.478/.708 slash line. While Sabato has a patient eye at the plate and isn’t afraid to take his walks, teams are concerned with the number of strikeouts he’s racked up in his time with the Tar Heels. With almost all of his value tied to his powerful bat, teams will want to be convinced he is able to regularly tap into that power, but scouts typically put an average or solid-average hit tool on Sabato. Defensively, he’s limited to first base, where he’s a below-average defender and a well below-average runner. Considering his sophomore-eligible status, teams likely would have wanted a longer resume to feel confident in the bat, but he did as well statistically as teams could ask for in the time allotted. Sabato and his 70-grade power should go off the board at the end of the first or early in the second round if he is inclined to sign.
Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
Age At Draft: 21.0More Less