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.
- 57Last: 58Notes:
Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 195 | B-T: L-RA 6-foot-3, 195-pound infielder, Keith made a name for himself as an underclassman and was named the Gatorade 2018-19 Mississippi Player of the Year after hitting .527 with eight home runs. Keith showed a knack for putting the barrel on the baseball last summer against the top pitchers in the 2020 class and scouts believe he has an impressive array of plus tools. He has plus raw power, is a plus runner and also has plus arm strength. He has gotten on the mound and throws in the low 90s, but he’s definitely a pro prospect as a hitter. A shortstop now, Keith might be forced to move to another position as he fills out his frame and gains strength. Some evaluators think he gets by defensively because of his natural athleticism and wonder if he has the hands for the position. Some scouts believe third base or an outfield position could be better fits, and he has the arm strength to hang at the hot corner or right field. Keith could be an average hitter, with good impact ability now and more on the way. He drives the ball hard to the opposite field and can easily pull the ball out of the park. Keith has an upright stance with some hand movement that prevents him from getting fully extended all the time, but when he does, he can do plenty of damage. His pure tool set fits in the second round or better but what a team thinks of his most likely defensive home and the quality of his hit tool will determine if he gets signed or makes it to campus at Arizona State.
Commit/Drafted: Arizona State
Age At Draft: 18.8More Less
- 113Last: 114East Tennessee State RHPNotes:
Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 220 | B-T: L-RKnack is the top-ranked senior in the class and a good bet to be the first member of that class selected in 2020. A 6-foot-2, 220-pound righthander, Knack spent two years at Walters State (Tenn) JC, where he showed solid strike-throwing ability and average stuff. The same was the case in 2019 at East Tennessee State, where Knack posted a 2.60 ERA over 15 starts and 97 innings. What changed from the last three seasons in 2020 is the pure stuff. Knack’s fastball velocity made a big jump, going from a pitch in the low 90s to a fastball that bumps 97-98 mph at his best and is 92-95 deep into his outings. His offspeed stuff is more fringy at this point, with all of his secondaries flashing average at times but not in that range consistently. His curveball is his best secondary pitch at the moment, again flashing average at times. There’s some effort in Knack’s delivery and it’s not the loosest or most fluid one you’ll see, but he repeats it well and has a lengthy track record of throwing strikes. His 2020 numbers in 25 innings and four starts are ridiculous, as he racked up 51 strikeouts (the most of any Division I arm) to just one walk. While Knack is right at the top of the list of priority senior signs, his age could limit how high he climbs in the draft. He should go off the board at some point in the third or fourth rounds.
Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
Age At Draft: 22.9More Less
- 393Last: 394
Samuel StricklandSamford LHPNotes:
Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 210 | B-T: L-LA three-year starter with Samford, Strickland has performed each season at the collegiate level and could see his draft stock elevated because of that long track record of performance in a shortened draft environment. A 6-foot-2, 210-pound lefthander with fringe-average-to-average stuff across the board, Strickland is a pitchability lefthander more than an overpowering arm. He throws a fastball, slider, changeup and an eephus-esque curveball that allows him to project as a low-ceiling, back-of-the-rotation type arm. He posted sub-3.00 ERAs as a freshman and sophomore over 29 combined starts, and through four starts and 23 innings this spring, Strickland had a 1.17 ERA with 30 strikeouts to just one walk. That strikeout-to-walk ratio was good for second among Division I arms behind only East Tennessee State’s Landon Knack. Scouts saw Strickland as an early day three talent in a typical draft year, but in a draft with only five rounds he doesn’t have a clear spot.
Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
Age At Draft: 21.2More Less