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2020 MLB Draft: College Class Could Make Draft History

Image credit: (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Scouts knew a year ago that college players would dominate the top of the 2020 draft board.

They probably didn’t realize the 2020 college class has a chance to make history.

Technically speaking, no draft ever has begun with the selection of six consecutive college players—but there is one technicality worth revisiting later.

The 2020 draft could see six and possibly seven college players drafted to lead off the first round. 

The Baseball America pre-draft ranking sees collegians Austin Martin, Spencer Torkelson, Asa Lacy, Emerson Hancock, Nick Gonzales and Garrett Mitchell occupy the top six spots. Throw in Reid Detmers at No. 8 and collegians comprise seven of the top eight draft prospects. 

To see that many college players shoved up the BA draft board is rare.

In the 40 years BA has ranked draft prospects, just twice before this year have as many as five collegians ranked as the top five prospects in the class. It happened first in 1986, when Jeff King, Greg Swindell, Matt Williams, Scott Hemond and Kevin Brown led the way. It happened again in 2006, when Andrew Miller, Tim Lincecum, Brad Lincoln, Evan Longoria and Greg Reynolds topped the ranking.

If the 2020 draft were to see collegians drafted with the top six picks, it would break the official record of five set previously in 1992 and 2018.

The 1992 draft began with the Astros taking Cal State Fullerton third baseman Phil Nevin first overall. The picks continued with North Carolina righthander Paul Shuey going to the Indians, Mississippi State lefthander B.J. Wallace to the Expos, Stanford outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds to the Orioles and Central Florida outfielder Chad Mottola to the Reds.

A Michigan prep shortstop named Derek Jeter interrupted the run of college players when the Yankees drafted him sixth overall.

The other draft to begin with the selection of five straight college players happened just two years ago. The Tigers used the No. 1 pick in 2018 to draft Auburn righthander Casey Mize. Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart went to the Giants next, followed by Wichita State third baseman Alec Bohm to the Phillies, Oregon Stage shortstop Nick Madrigal to the White Sox and Florida third baseman Jonathan India to the Reds.

Drafting sixth overall, the Mets selected Wisconsin high school outfielder Jarred Kelenic to break the string of college players.

But about that technicality referenced earlier . . . a strong case could be made that the 2006 draft holds the record for most college players taken at the outset. The 2006 draft class was renowned for its college pitchers, with 11 of them taken in the first round, including three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and two-time winner Tim Lincecum.

But Scherzer was drafted 11th overall and Lincecum 10th. The first player drafted in 2006 was actually righthander Luke Hochevar, who was pitching in the independent American Association after failing to sign with the Dodgers as a 2005 supplemental first-round pick. 

Hochevar led Tennessee to the College World Series in 2005, when he was a candidate to be drafted No. 1 overall, but signability concerns dropped him out of the first round. A contentious negotiation with the Dodgers resulted in Hochevar turning down nearly $3 million and heading to indy ball in 2006 to showcase himself for the draft.

This occurred before the summer signing deadline was instituted for the 2007 draft, which put an end to prolonged, year-long holdouts and players’ forays into indy ball.

The Royals, headed by first-year general manager Dayton Moore, agreed to sign Hochevar for $3.5 million as the first overall pick in 2006.

Hochevar turned 23 the September after he signed and pitched three years in the Southeastern Conference, so it’s fair to classify him as a college pitcher. And if we classify him as a collegian, then the first six picks in the 2006 draft were all college players.

Following the Royals’ selection of Hochevar at No. 1 overall, Stanford righthander Greg Reynolds went to the Rockies at No. 2, followed by Long Beach State third baseman Evan Longoria to the Rays, Houston righthander Brad Lincoln to the Pirates, California righthander Brandon Morrow to the Mariners and North Carolina lefthander Andrew Miller to the Tigers.

Once again, the high school player who broke up the college party was notable. Drafting seventh overall, the Dodgers took Dallas prep lefthander Clayton Kershaw.

Even if five, six or seven collegians are drafted consecutively at the top of the 2020 draft, one gigantic caveat must be considered: the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on baseball.

With all levels of professional and amateur baseball shutting down in mid-March, few high school players were able to showcase themselves in front of scouts in any meaningful way this spring. Neither were any college players able to play their way out of the top of the first round. Most schools had not even begun conference play.

The overall strength of the college class, combined with the longer track record and familiarity scouts have with those players, not to mention the lack of updated looks at the high school class, could result in as many as seven collegians being drafted consecutively to start the 2020 draft.

And that would make history. Unconditionally.

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