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: 6-5 | Wt: 220 | B-T: R-RThe best high school third baseman in the class, Walker is a massive-framed, 6-foot-5, 220-pound slugger committed to Duke. He’s also the top-ranked prep prospect out of Georgia, which has been more pitcher-heavy than bat-heavy in recent years. Walker was one of the high school players who managed to get seen early and often during the shortened 2020 season. He performed at a high level against solid competition while all those eyes were on him. Walker has a solid feel to hit with plus raw power and plenty more projected as he grows into more strength. While there are some questions about his natural feel to hit thanks to the length of his arms and some swing-and-miss concerns, Walker has progressed in the right direction and could be an average or slightly better hitter. He moves remarkably well considering his size, though many scouts still think he will move to first base or a corner outfield spot in the future. Walker was something of a polarizing player last summer because of questions about his profile, but he performed at the right time this spring and could go off the board at the end of the first round or shortly thereafter. Scouts praise Walker’s heady, cerebral nature and believe he could be a tough sign away from Duke, where he could elevate his draft stock with a few years of ACC performance.
Age At Draft: 18.1More Less
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Jaylen PadenDecatur (Ga.) HS RHP/SSNotes:
Ht: 5-10 | Wt: 170 | B-T: R-RAn undersized two-way player who attends the same high school as potential day one pick Jordan Walker, Paden is a 5-foot-10, 170-pound shortstop and righthander committed to Georgia Southern. While he has a chance to play both ways at the next level in college, scouts prefer him on the mound, where he shows a solid three-pitch mix headlined by a sinking fastball that tops out in the low 90s. Paden has also shown good feel for a slider and a changeup, and brings impressive athleticism and a quick, whip-like arm to the table. While Paden might be harder to buy out of college in a five-round draft this year, unlike many high school players he should have been seen frequently enough by the right people for teams to feel comfortable despite a shortened season.
Commit/Drafted: Georgia Southern
Age At Draft: 18.4More Less