2020 MLB Draft Stock Watch: 10 Sleepers Who Could Pop Up This Spring
Welcome to Baseball America’s Draft Stock Watch. A recurring feature throughout draft season, we’ll use this space to explore rising and falling prospects in the 2020 draft class and also dive into various themes and topics at greater length. Today’s edition dives into 10 sleepers who have traits that could shoot them up draft boards this spring. You can see previous installments below:
Last week we expanded our draft rankings to the top 200 prospects in the country. While we’re confident in the reporting and the accuracy of that list now, there’s no denying that many things change throughout the season.
Players get better. Players get injured. Players change drastically within the span of only a few months—especially when we’re talking about amateurs who are between 17 and 23 years old who are still growing or are just getting into the weight room with a serious plan for the first time in their life.
So we certainly don’t expect that top 200 list to remain static. That’s why we constantly re-evaluate and re-shuffle throughout the season as we talk with scouts and watch players around the country. We’re always looking for the sleeper prospects who’ve transformed themselves from a Day 2 or 3 consideration into a first-round lock.
One of the most prominent recent examples is Orioles righthander Grayson Rodriguez. Entering the spring of his senior season with Central Heights High in Nacogdoches, Texas, Rodriguez was not a listed among our top 200 draft prospects. While Baseball America saw him at several events throughout the summer prior to his senior season, he was a large, slightly dumpy pitcher with a fastball that topped out in the low-90s.
But very soon into the high school season, we heard from scouts that Rodriguez was an entirely different player during the spring than he was over the previous summer. His body looked different. His command was sharpened. His stuff went from mediocre to some of the best in the country. Rodriguez went from unranked to the No. 24 overall prospect in the 2018 class and in June was the third prep pitcher selected when the Orioles took him with the 11th overall pick.
Now, Rodriguez sits as the No. 35 prospect in pro ball and has legitimate No. 1 starter potential, with a fastball up to 98 mph and impressive control.
So today we thought it would be worthwhile to look at 10 players who could be sleepers in the 2020 class. While three players below made the back of the top 200, the rest are currently unranked, but have shown either tools or projection that could lead to them popping up this spring.
Perhaps O’Guinn wouldn’t be ranked low enough to merit sleeper consideration if he had a fully healthy summer in the Cape Cod League. The, 6-foot-4, 220-pound third baseman showed a lot of toughness by playing through an oblique issue and still put up a solid .259/.415/.405 line with Chatham in 37 games. There are some similarities with O’Guinn and 2019 first round pick Hunter Bishop in that both are physical, toolsy Pac-12 hitters with very loud raw tools but a questionable hit tool. O’Guinn hit .240/.392/.302 in his freshman season with a 23.1 percent strikeout rate and then improved as a sophomore with a .281/.401/.452 line with five home runs and a 17.6 percent strikeout rate. O’Guinn has improved his body over the years and is physical, with plus raw power and a plus arm at third base, where he’s improved defensively. If he taps into more power as a junior like Bishop did a year ago, he could find himself being drafted on the first day.
It’s a down year for middle infield talent in the high school class, which gives players like Foster a chance to stand out with a strong spring. While he doesn’t jump out with standout tools, he does everything on the field well, and should have a chance to hit against some solid high school pitching in the Dallas-area. A switch-hitter who has always acquitted himself well against velocity and is a strong defender as well, if Foster performs and adds strength he could wind up going a lot higher than the 5-6 round range we currently have him slotted in.
There’s a pretty big drop-off between righthander Mick Abel (No. 9) and the next prep arm in the northwest, MacLean. However, the two workout together in the offseason and with more strength this spring, MacLean could make a jump and make that gap a bit smaller. Last summer at the Area Code Games, MacLean saw his velocity drop off into the mid 80s as soon as the second inning, but he has a lot of traits to like. He’s got a clean delivery from the left side and a lanky, projectable frame that can add plenty of strength and weight. On top of that, MacLean is a good strikethrower now, who’s shown potential with a curveball that has impressive, 12-to-6 shape and good depth with a 2500 rpm spin rate. He’ll need to add power to his game to make a jump, but the quality of the lefthanded pitching in the high school class has taken a hit—with Nate Savino enrolling early at Virginia and Daxton Fulton undergoing Tommy John surgery—which could allow him to stand out.
Carter Baumler, RHP, Dowling Catholic HS, West Des Moines, Iowa — unranked
Baumler is a classic, high school projection righty who has solid stuff now, but a terrific frame and immaculate delivery and arm action. It’s fluid and clean throughout and scouts love his present pitching ability, though Baumler was mostly in the 88-92 mph range last summer. He can spin a breaking ball in the 78-80 mph range and also has shown some feel to drop a changeup into the zone. However, take a look at the stuff that Day 1 prep righties have. It’s better than below-average fastball velocity. So Baumler will need to see his stuff tick up to jump into that range, but he has plenty of starter traits to like right now.
Owen Caissie, OF, Notre Dame Catholic SS, Brampton, Ont. — unranked
A handful of Canadian prospects are drafted and signed every year, though at the moment only outfielder David Calabrese ranks among the top 200 prospects in the country. The most exciting prospect after Calabrese is Caissie, who has big raw power, a handsy lefthanded swing, solid straight-line running ability and a chance to stick in center field. As a member of Canada’s junior national team, Caissie will get a chance to face professional pitching this spring in Florida and if he performs well could jump significantly. He’s got a large, 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame to dream on and the tools are there, but scouts will need to have more conviction in how usable those tools are. Caissie will also turn 18 just a month after the draft, making him one of the younger players in the class. He also recently posted the highest exit velocity (105 mph) at Prep Baseball Report’s Super 60 showcase.
2019 Cape Cod League Top Prospects: 31-50
Ranking the top college prospects from the Cape, which includes one of the summer's biggest surprises, notable names and more.
Nick Chittum, RHP, Grosse Ile (Mich.) HS — unranked
Chittum topped out around 90-91 mph last fall when he played in Perfect Game’s Jupiter tournament. He threw four innings at the event, striking out four batters and walking three. His fastball velocity has ticked up over the offseason, and he’s touching 93-94 mph now with a high spin rate that allows the pitch to play up even more. With continued growth, as well as refinement of his secondary offerings he could impress in a state that’s currently dominated by college prospects. Chittum recently pitched 92-93 and showed a four-pitch mix with two breaking balls at Prep Baseball Report’s Super 60 showcase.
Caden Grice, LHP/OF, Riverside HS, Greer, S.C. — unranked
A lefthanded pitcher and outfielder, some scouts had Grice turned in as a pitcher after his showing over the summer thanks to hit tool questions. But over the offseason Grice added even more strength and mass to a huge, 6-foot-6 frame and showed near top-of-the-scale raw power in a recent Diamond Prospects showcase batting practice. On the mound, Grice threw a fastball in the 89-92 mph range at last summer’s East Coast Pro, with a slider that flashed above-average with good bite, but his upside may very well be higher with the bat thanks to his enormous power. He’ll have to convince teams that he can get to that power during games this spring, but he’ll be a player to keep an eye on if only for his immense physicality.
Storm Hierholzer, RHP, Lake Travis HS, Austin, Texas — unranked
Would a draft sleeper list be complete without a prep pitcher out of Texas? No, we surely don’t think so. There seems to be one every single year. Rodriguez in 2018, Josh Wolf in 2019 … could Storm Hierholzer be next? He certainly has the name for it, and playing at a powerhouse prep program like Lake Travis—the school 2019 draftees Brett Baty and Jimmy Lewis attended—will help get him seen enough this spring. Hierholzer is a projectable righthander with athleticism and strength, and an already solid, 91-94 mph fastball that has good running life. He pairs that with an interesting, power slider that has potential, but could take his game to another level with improved control and development of a third pitch.
Carson Seymour, RHP, Kansas State — unranked
Seymour will pitch this spring in his first season with Kansas State after transferring from Dartmouth. Because of transfer rules, Seymour had to sit out during the 2019 season, but will be an important piece to the starting rotation this spring. Big and physical at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, Seymour has a powerful fastball that sits around the 93-95 mph range and has touched 98-99, with two separate breaking balls including a downer curve in the 77-80 mph range that has good depth. He’s improved his body over the last few seasons and pitched in the Cape Cod League last summer. Strikethrowing is a question mark, but if he can improve in that area this spring, he could get drafted fairly quickly.
Shay Whitcomb, SS, UC San Diego — unranked
Whitcomb has produced at a high level in each of his first two seasons with D-II UC San Diego. He reached base in each of his first 31 collegiate games as a freshman and also had a 14-game hitting streak, and then began tapping into more power as a sophomore, hitting 11 home runs and 25 doubles. He showed an ability to hit for power against better competition with a wood bat last summer as well, with eight home runs and nine doubles in 34 games in the Cape Cod League. Whitcomb plays shortstop for UC San Diego, but might profile better at second or third base. Either way, he’s developing a long track record of production with solid power.