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.
- 161Last: 162Vanderbilt RHPNotes:
Ht: 6-6 | Wt: 230 | B-T: R-RIt’s possible that Hickman isn’t even the second-most famous pitcher on Vanderbilt’s 2020 staff, with underclassmen righthanders Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter drawing so much attention. But while he’s not as flashy as his 2021 counterparts, Hickman is one of the most reliable starters in the nation and Vanderbilt's Friday arm in 2020. His reliability goes back to his days as a high school pitcher. Hickman was a consistent performer on the summer showcase circuit back in 2017—when he punched out players like Mark Vientos and Drew Waters at Area Code Games—where he showed extremely advanced command despite middling pure stuff. That’s largely the pitcher Hickman is today. A 6-foot-6, 230-pound righthander, Hickman only touches 91 mph, and he more typically sits in the 88-90 mph range, but his ‘heater’ is an invisiball that frequently stymies hitters. Hickman also throws both a curveball and a slider and has shown the makings of a changeup as well, but all of his secondaries are fringey at best, to go along with well below-average fastball velocity. Despite his stuff, Hickman has a career 3.13 ERA at Vanderbilt over 29 starts and 189.2 innings, with 221 strikeouts (10.5 per nine) to 61 walks (2.9 per nine). Scouts say Hickman could have 60-grade command, which is extremely rare to put on amateur pitchers, but helps explain how he’s had the success he’s had in the SEC. A fun player to watch who grows on you the more you see him carve up lineups, scouts praise Hickman’s competitive nature and demeanor on the mound and believe his advanced feel for pitching will allow him to make the most out of his admittedly limited toolset.
Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
Age At Draft: 21.5More Less