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2020 BA 500 Draft Rankings

Torkelson Martin Effect
Austin Martin and Spencer Torkelson. (Photos by Bill Mitchell (left) and Zach Lucy/Four Seam Images)

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.

7 Matches
Expand Collapse All Updated on: 6/9/2020
  1. 5

    Nick Gonzales

    New Mexico State SS
    Video
    Notes:

    Ht: 5-10 | Wt: 190 | B-T: R-R
    Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
    Age At Draft: 21.1

    A lightly recruited walk-on to New Mexico State, Gonzales turned himself into one of the nation's top draft prospects through sheer hard work. He hit .432/.532/.773 as a sophomore, leading the nation in batting average, and was named an All-American. He continued to post video game-like numbers with 12 home runs in 82 plate appearances this spring before his junior season ended. Gonzales' big numbers came playing in extreme hitting environments, but he proved his bat is for real with a star turn in the Cape Cod League last summer. He hit seven home runs and was named league MVP, alleviating concerns he would struggle against better pitching. Gonzales is the prototypical baseball rat, though he has more innate hitting ability than most gritty, gamer types. He has elite bat-to-ball skills and plate discipline, and his strong hands allow him to make hard contact to all fields. He consistently finds the barrel and has excellent natural timing, allowing scouts to project 15-20 home runs even though he's undersized. Gonzales has above-average speed and good baserunning instincts, which should help him steal plenty of bases as well. A second baseman his first two seasons, Gonzalesmoved to shortstop this year to showcase himself prior to the draft. Opinions are mixed whether he can handle the position, with most observers wanting to put him at second base and just let him be an elite hitter at the position. While he has solid arm strength, scouts believe he might be stretched in the hole, and he lacks the short-area quickness teams prefer in their shortstops. He’s a solid defender at the keystone, with improving footwork and hands and the ability to throw from various arm slots. With his tremendous track record of hitting and a strong Cape performance, Gonzales should go off the board among the first five picks. Scouts see him developing into an All-Star level second baseman who competes for batting titles at his peak.
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  2. 17

    Pete Crow-Armstrong

    Harvard-Westlake HS, Studio City, Calif. OF
    Video
    Notes:

    Ht: 6-0 | Wt: 175 | B-T: L-L
    Commit/Drafted: Vanderbilt
    Age At Draft: 18.3

    Crow-Armstrong has fame and baseball in his blood. His mother, Ashley Crow, is an actress who played the mom of the lead character in the 1994 baseball movie "Little Big League." His father, Matthew Armstrong, is an accomplished television actor as well. Crow-Armstrong starred for USA Baseball’s 18U national team two years in a row and entered last summer as arguably the top high school player in the 2020 draft class. A disappointing summer dropped his stock, but he rebounded with a sensational spring before the season shut down. Crow-Armstrong has a sweet lefthanded swing geared for contact. He hits both lefties and righties, stays balanced in the box and lines the ball to all fields. Evaluators see at least an average hitter and possibly plus, with the potential to hit at the top of a lineup. Scouts differ on Crow-Armstrong’s power projections. Some see below-average power, while others believe he is a good enough hitter that he’ll run into more home runs than his raw power would indicate. Crow-Armstrong should stick in center field as a plus defender with a plus arm and above-average-to-plus speed. He plays fast and hard and has an advanced feel and intellect for the game. Crow-Armstrong’s tools and instincts have teams interested in the first round even with questions about his power. He is committed to Vanderbilt.
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  3. 126
    Last: 127
    Notes:

    Ht: 6-0 | Wt: 189 | B-T: R-R
    Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
    Age At Draft: 20.8

    Powell won the Stopper of the Year Award as college baseball’s best reliever as a sophomore. He was on track for a repeat bid this spring with eight scoreless appearances and a 20-to-2 strikeout-to-walk mark as UCLA’s closer before the season shut down. Evaluators consider Powell arguably the top reliever in the 2020 draft and expect him to move quickly to a major league bullpen. Powell’s fastball ranges from 91-96 mph, sitting 93-94, and he backs it up with a wipeout power slider that draws consistent plus grades. He commands his slider better than his fastball and has had flashes of control problems in the past, but he threw plenty of strikes this spring to alleviate those concerns. Powell has shown the ability to close or pitch multiple innings, giving him multiple pathways to a major league bullpen. He is a pure reliever with no chance of starting, but his stuff and competitive, closer mentality give him a chance to be an impactful late-inning arm.
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  4. 153
    Last: 154

    Levi Prater

    Oklahoma LHP
    Notes:

    Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 175 | B-T: B-L
    Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
    Age At Draft: 21.0

    A lawnmower accident when he was 2 years old left Prater with only two fingers on his right hand. To adjust, he just cinches up the strap on his glove significantly tighter—he has made only one error in his time at Oklahoma. He even showed he could switch-hit in high school. He’s been an extremely effective competitor on the mound. He went 10-0, 0.35 ERA as a high school senior and led the Sooners’ starters in ERA (3.26) as a sophomore after a solid freshman year pitching out of the bullpen. Prater has long impressed with his toughness and competitiveness. He’s a sum of the parts pitcher. All three pitches will flash average, but everything plays up because he creates solid angle (especially against lefties) working from the first base side of the rubber, and he creates some deception with his closed-off delivery. Prater’s fastball sits 90-91, but can touch 93-94. His slider gets a little loopy at times, but it’s tough for lefties to pick up and he’s shown he can back foot it to righties. He also uses a moderately effective changeup. Prater is small (6-foot, 184 pounds) and his slender frame won’t likely allow him to add much more weight. Prater projects as a back-end starter in pro ball who may eventually be better off as a mid-inning reliever, where his fastball may tick up a little bit.
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  5. 212
    Last: 211

    Levi Wells

    La Porte (Texas) HS RHP
    Notes:

    Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 195 | B-T: R-R
    Commit/Drafted: Texas Tech
    Age At Draft: 18.7

    The early shutdown of the 2020 high school season did Wells no favors and makes it more likely he’ll get to Texas Tech. With a normal season, Wells may have gotten a chance to show the consistency he lacked on the summer showcase schedule. In short flashes, Wells showed he can get to 93-94 mph and spin a 12-to-6 sharp high-70s plus curveball. But he rarely has been able to match that velocity with command and control, and sits 88-92 in other outings. Wells struggled to find the release point on his curveball at times and finishes his delivery with some recoil. He’s not close to being a finished product, but his velocity and ability to spin a breaking ball make him a name to remember.
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  6. 224
    Last: 223

    Levi Thomas

    Troy RHP
    Notes:

    Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 185 | B-T: R-R
    Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
    Age At Draft: 22.0

    A three-year starter with Troy, Thomas moved into the team’s Friday night role this spring and was looking to have a career year after impressive physical and mental development with the program. Through four starts before the season ended due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound righty posted a 0.39 ERA with 42 strikeouts and six walks in just 23 innings. While he doesn’t have overpowering fastball velocity, sitting mostly in the 90-93 mph range, Thomas gets terrific carry on his four-seamer. The riding action helps it play above its velocity and rack up whiffs. Thomas has improved the consistency of his solid, 78-82 mph slider after the pitch was more erratic in previous years. Thomas also has a developing changeup. While Thomas doesn’t have the biggest frame or the loudest stuff, he has quietly put together a strong three-year career at Troy, has an impressive history of throwing strikes and his fastball seems to have qualities that teams love.
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  7. 312
    Last: 313

    Dominic Johnson

    Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe HS OF
    Notes:

    Ht: 5-9 | Wt: 175 | B-T: R-R
    Commit/Drafted: Oklahoma State
    Age At Draft: 19.3

    One of the faster runners in the 2020 high school class, Johnson has plus-plus speed, but there’s enough concern about his offensive approach that he’s likely to get to Oklahoma State. Johnson has quick wrists and a loose swing, but he has struggled at times to hit against quality competition and projects as a below-average, bottom-of-the-order hitter with well below-average power. He’s 5-foot-9, 175 pounds without much strength to his swing. The hope was that a strong spring could alleviate some of those concerns, but he never got a chance to do so. His speed gives him the tools to be a center fielder, but he has to work on reads and routes.
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