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.
Tanner BurnsAuburn RHPVideoNotes:
Ht: 6-0 | Wt: 215 | B-T: R-ROther pitchers in the 2020 class have bigger pure stuff and more physical frames than the 6-foot, 215-pound Auburn righthander, but Burns has one of the higher baselines of any pitcher in the country. He’s been a reliable workhorse over two-plus years with the Tigers in a full-time starting role, taking the bump 32 times and posting a 2.86 ERA in 188.2 innings. That sort of track record in the SEC speaks for itself, and Burns’ pitch mix is solid-average or better across the board. His fastball sits in the 92-94 mph range consistently, with more in the tank when he wants it. It’s a plus pitch that plays up because of his ability to locate it consistently. He dots the pitch wherever he wants, which allows him to set up his offspeed offerings. Burns throws an above-average curveball and a changeup that gets some above-average grades as well, though it fluctuates more around average than the curve or fastball. He also throws a slider, though some evaluators believe the two breaking balls blend together. Either way, he gets swings and misses from lefties and righties with his breaking stuff and is an above-average strike thrower. His career walk rate with Auburn is just 3.16 batters per nine, and if he stays healthy he’s got a high likelihood to impact a major league club. Some teams may question his durability and endurance thanks to his size, but he’s done all he can in college to show he can handle the workload. Burns has the upside of a No. 3 or 4 starter and should be taken in the middle or back of the first round.
Commit/Drafted: Yankees '17 (37)
Age At Draft: 21.5More Less
- 241Last: 240
Max CarlsonBurnsville (Minn.) HS RHPVideoNotes:
Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 175 | B-T: R-RThe younger brother of Mariners righthander Sam Carlson, Max doesn’t have Sam’s consistent premium velocity, but he shows more polish at the same age. The younger Carlson sits 88-92 mph with the ability to land his 75-79 mph future above-average curveball for strikes, and his advanced changeup has solid deception. None of his three pitches is plus, but all have average or better potential. Carlson can touch 94-95 sporadically, but when he does he is prone to overthrowing. Carlson is a North Carolina signee.
Commit/Drafted: North Carolina
Age At Draft: 18.8More Less
- 486Last: 487
Connor BurnsDon Lugo HS, Chino, Calif. CNotes:
Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 180 | B-T: R-RBurns is one of the better defensive catchers in the 2020 high school class. He is a plus receiver with good footwork behind the plate and has a plus, accurate arm. He is a good athlete who has a quick release, gets down quickly on blocks and is generally quick in all aspects of catching. Burns hit for a high average in high school and shows flashes of power, but he still has a lot of development left as a hitter. It’s unlikely a team will take a flyer on him in a shortened draft. He is committed to Long Beach State.
Commit/Drafted: Long Beach State
Age At Draft: 20.5More Less