2020 MLB Draft Stock Watch: To-Do Lists For 30 Potential First Round Picks
Welcome to the first installment of our draft stock watch series for 2020. We’re bringing the segment back and beefing it up this year, allowing you to follow along throughout the draft process and see who’s moving up and moving down.
We’re also excited to dive into bigger-picture draft topics, explore the strengths and weaknesses of the class and talk to as many experts as possible. At the end of January, you can expect a draft stock watch every Tuesday.
For now, though, with the recent release of the Top 100 draft prospects and Monday’s release of a mock draft for the entire first round, we’re looking at what the top prospects in the class have on their to-do lists.
It’s the third year we’ve done this, with the goal to identify specific areas of growth or weaknesses that potential first-round picks will need to address this spring to either solidify or improve their draft stock.
Vanderbilt outfielder JJ Bleday and Auburn shortstop Will Holland serve as two strong examples from last year’s to-do list.
At the time, Bleday ranked as the No. 29 prospect in the class and while he had shown impressive natural hitting ability, scouts wanted to see him tap into more in-game power in order to profile better in an outfield corner. He did just that, blowing away his previous career-high of four home runs with 26, and wound up being the fourth overall pick in the draft.
On the opposite end, Holland ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the class in January, but with his hitting having a spottier track record, scouts wanted to see better plate discipline and power from the shortstop. Holland’s strikeout rate bloomed to a career-worst 21.4 percent and he hit just .249/.377/.409 with nine home runs and fell to the fifth round.
Some players below have a wide range of outcomes, while others—like Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson—have shown enough high-level ability against good competition that it would take something catastrophic to push them out of the first round. But every player has something they can improve on, big or small.
Let’s dive in.
30. Blaze Jordan, 3B/1B, DeSoto Central HS, Southaven, Miss.
Areas To Improve: Third base defense, continue improving body
Jordan did a nice job cleaning up his body over the last year and a half or so, and he’ll need to continue maintaining that physique for teams to give him a chance to play third base in the future. Along that line of thinking, Jordan will also need to improve his glovework at third base. He looked fine at the position over the summer, but fine doesn’t cut it at the next level. First step quickness, throwing while moving in and to his left, consistent glove work and accurate throws will go a long way in complementing his outstanding natural hitting ability.
29. Max Meyer, RHP, Minnesota
Areas To Improve: Maintain stuff in starter’s role, develop third pitch
Meyer has one of the best sliders in the 2020 class, a wipeout offering that garners double-plus grades from scouts, along with a fastball that gets into the upper 90s. If Meyer is able to maintain that stuff over a full season as a starter (he was a reliever in 2018 and did both in 2019) he could go off the board quite a bit higher. Teams also haven’t seen much of a third pitch from Meyer, so establishing a changeup could go a long way in proving he has a chance to start as a pro.
28. Victor Mederos, RHP, Monsignor Pace HS, Miami
Areas To Improve: Changeup, body maintenance
Mederos has worked hard to improve his feel for landing both of his breaking balls and both a four-seam and two-seam fastball in any count. With impressive feel for those pitches, scouts would like to see improvement from his changeup as well. Mederos is also a big-framed righthander with a 6-foot-3, 220-pound body that he’ll need to maintain as he gets older.
27. Carson Montgomery, RHP, Windmere (Fla.) HS
Areas To Improve: Third pitch, control
Montgomery showcased an exciting fastball/slider combination throughout the summer, with the former getting into the mid 90s and the latter showing sharp, two-plane break. However, scouts would like to see him show more feel for a changeup this spring. He has also shown a tendency to lose the zone at times or overthrow, so taking another step forward with his control would help as well.
26. Zac Veen, OF, Spruce Creek HS, Port Orange, Fla.
Areas To Improve: Cut down swing-and-miss, add strength and power
Veen has a terrific understanding of the strike zone and a very patient, disciplined approach at the plate, but he did show more swing-and-miss than you would expect of such a polished hitter over the summer. Cutting down on those whiffs and also adding strength and power to a terrific, 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame could shoot him up to the top of the first round. Veen has some of the most exciting upside in the high school class and tapping into more of that this spring could raise his stock tremendously.
25. Alex Santos, RHP, Mount St. Michael Academy, Bronx, N.Y.
Areas To Improve: Strikethrowing
Santos isn’t going to be facing the best competition in New York, but fortunately his area of improvement is somewhat independent of the batters he’ll look to sit down. Santos has shown flashes of a plus fastball and changeup, and he’s got great athleticism as well, but he’ll need to improve his command and control. Scouts will bear down on how well he’s able to hit his spots and sequence pitches this year—even if his season is shorter than most high school seasons.
24. Cole Wilcox, RHP, Georgia
Areas To Improve: Strikethrowing, show ability to start
Wilcox has the chance to form the best 1-2 duo in the country alongside Hancock, with premium stuff at his best and one of the most imposing pitcher’s frames—6-foot-5, 232 pounds—you’ll see. That said, he needs to refine his control to make the most of a fastball he can run up into the triple-digits and he spent most of his freshman year at Georgia pitching out of the bullpen. These go hand in hand, as Wilcox needs to throw more strikes to lock down a starting role and prove he can do so at the next level.
23. Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, Harvard-Westlake HS, Studio City, Calif.
Areas To Improve: Show summer offense was a fluke
Unlike most prep hitters, Crow-Armstrong actually plays in an area where he’ll face consistently strong pitching. That’s good, because he whiffed with the bat throughout the summer a bit too much and didn’t look like the top-of-the-class hitter he was pegged as entering the summer. Showing that his summer play was simply a fluke could help elevate PCA into the middle or upper half of the first round, as he’s a lock to stick in center field, with 70-grade defensive potential there in the future.
22. Drew Romo, C, The Woodlands (Texas) HS
Areas To Improve: Righthanded swing, swing-and-miss
Romo is one of the most advanced defensive catchers we have seen at the high school level in several years. So naturally, his to-do list is more concerned with his offensive skillset. Some scouts have commented that Romo’s righthanded swing is a bit rigid, so making that more fluid might help him be more consistent, while cutting down his swing-and-miss from both sides could help him tap into his solid raw power more consistently.
21. Tyler Soderstrom, C, Turlock (Calif.) HS
Areas To Improve: Hitting vs. lefthanders, defense
Soderstrom is one of the better hit and power bats in the class, but teams would like to see him improve his approach and results against lefthanded pitching. There are also teams that currently believe Soderstrom will have to move off the position, so improving every facet of his defensive game will go a long way in elevating his draft stock as well.
20. Austin Wells, C/1B, Arizona
Areas To Improve: Receiving, hitting on the road
Wells has faced some criticism from teams about his receiving ability, so if he can improve in that area it might be a lot easier to project him behind the dish long term in pro ball. He has the arm strength to limit the running game, but stealing strikes is paramount in today’s game. Additionally, Wells has fairly large home/road splits, so performing with the bat outside of Hi Corbett Field will be important as well.
19. Tanner Burns, RHP, Auburn
Areas To Improve: Handle full season workload
Burns has averaged 16 starts per season in his first two years with Auburn, so no one is claiming he hasn’t been a college workhorse, but as an undersized pitcher the concern will be how durable he is in a full pro season. Having another year where he takes the ball every week and pitches deep into games could help alleviate any concerns teams could have with Burns’ size and ability to handle innings.
18. Robert Hassell, OF, Independence HS, Thompson’s Station, Tenn.
Areas To Improve: Power, defense
Hassell has an easy case for being the best pure hitter in the high school class, but has some corner outfield risk in the long term. If he can show more power potential this spring or improve in the outfield enough for teams to peg him as a future center fielder, he’ll profile better for every club in baseball.
17. Patrick Bailey, C, North Carolina State
Areas To Improve: Avoid swinging and missing like the summer, hit for power
Over two years with the Wolfpack, Bailey has put up strong offensive numbers with a .303/.403/.553 career slash line and 23 home runs. That’s terrific for a catcher with Bailey’s defensive ability, but with USA Baseball last summer Bailey struggled to a .231/.333/.308 line with 12 strikeouts to three walks. His struggles raised questions about his offensive ability and swing-and-miss rate, so he’ll need to get back to his ACC ways and also get to his power consistently in games. If he does that, he could easily go in the top half of the first round.
16. Garrett Crochet, LHP, Tennessee
Areas To Improve: Handle starter’s workload, land slider for strikes
Crochet spent most of his time as a reliever in both of his first two seasons with Tennessee, so stepping into the role of a starter as a junior will pose a big challenge. He’ll need to show he can handle that role and make the most out of his elite fastball. To do that he’ll need to be more consistent with his slider, and throw it for strikes consistently to prevent hitters from ignoring it and gearing up for his heater.
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15. Nick Bitsko, RHP, Central Bucks HS, Doylestown, Pa.
Areas To Improve: Maintain body, improve changeup
Bitsko looked like one of the better pitchers over the summer showcase circuit while playing as a member of the 2021 class. He showed an impressive, power fastball/curveball combination and has all the pure stuff, but as a physically mature, 6-foot-4 righthander who’s already 220 pounds he’ll need to maintain his body and make sure he doesn’t add any bad weight. If he doesn’t, he has an elite pitcher’s body to work with. Adding a third pitch to his fastball/curveball combination will further round out his repertoire.
14. Ed Howard, SS, Mount Carmel (Ill.) HS
Areas To Improve: Offensive approach, tap into power
Like Hendrick, Howard is playing in an area where the competition he faces is questionable, so there’s only so much he’ll be able to show offensively against quality pitching. Howard has shown flashes of being a high-level hitter, but needs to go out and dominate his Illinois competition and hit for some power, without sacrificing any of his standout defensive ability at shortstop.
13. Casey Martin, SS, Arkansas
Areas To Improve: Offensive approach, cut down strikeouts
Martin has a tendency to get a bit too aggressive at the plate, and after a strong freshman campaign saw his numbers fall a bit in 2019. In both seasons Martin had a strikeout rate higher than 20 percent, so lowering that number, showing more patience and a more advanced approach in the batter’s box could alleviate concerns about his hit tool. There are some similarities here with Will Holland from the 2019 draft class.
12. JT Ginn, RHP, Mississippi State
Areas To Improve: Changeup improvement
Ginn faced questions about his risk as a reliever out of high school and went a long way to dismissing those questions during his freshman season at Mississippi State, where he posted a 3.36 ERA and struck out 103 batters while walking just 18. Ginn has largely succeeded with an impressive fastball/breaking ball combination. Showing he has a third quality pitch that he can use to stymie batters would further eliminate any reliever questions.
11. Reid Detmers, LHP, Louisville
Areas To Improve: Changeup improvement
Detmers is one of the most polished arms in the class, with solid stuff and good control of his entire repertoire, but at the next level it will be even more important for Detmers to have a solid offering to attack righthanded hitters. His breaking ball is perhaps the best in the ACC, but as he faces more advanced hitters who are better equipped to handle that break, going to a solid third pitch to keep batters off-balance could be the difference-maker.
10. Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP, South Carolina
Areas To Improve: Health, Perform in the SEC
Mlodzinski has little-to-no impressive SEC track record to speak of. That’s in part because he missed all but 10.2 innings due to a foot injury as a sophomore, but when on the field Mlodzinski has posted a 5.59 ERA in 56.1 innings as a starter and reliever. His outstanding performance on the Cape was a glimpse of his talent, but teams will need more data points of success, and succeeding in the SEC over a full, healthy season is a big one.
9. Mick Abel, RHP, Jesuit HS, Portland
Areas To Improve: Add strength, hold stuff over full season
Where Kelley is physically mature and filled out, Abel has perhaps the best pitcher’s frame in the class, as far as future projection is concerned. A lanky, 6-foot-5, 180-pound righthander, Abel could add some more weight to his frame, which could help him hold his standout fastball velocity more consistently. Abel’s velo would come and go at times over the summer, so filling out his frame should be his biggest priority.
8. Garrett Mitchell, OF, UCLA
Areas To Improve: Prove center field defense, tap into power
Mitchell primarily played right field as a sophomore, but with Matt McLain moving to shortstop this spring, Mitchell has the keys to the middle of UCLA’s outfield. He has more than enough speed to handle the position, but showing the defensive acumen to stick there could elevate his toolsy profile. Mitchell has also showed standout raw power dating back to his high school days—lately scouts have put 70-grade raw power on him—but has never really tapped into that in-game. If he does both of these things, it’s hard to see him outside of the top five picks in June.
7. Austin Hendrick, OF, West Allegheny HS, Imperial, Pa.
Areas To Improve: Defense, running
Hendrick is going to hit against poor competition in Pennsylvania this spring, so he won’t be able to move the needle much in terms of his hit tool and power evaluation. Fortunately, he did an excellent job offensively during the summer showcase season and doesn’t have much to improve in that regard. With that being said, improving supplemental tools like his outfield defense and running ability could push him up boards—though he’s almost a lock to be a corner outfielder in the long term.
6. Jared Kelley, RHP, Refugio (Texas) HS
Areas To Improve: More consistent breaking ball
Kelley checks almost all the boxes for an elite prep pitcher: High-octane velocity? Check. Above-average control and command? Check. Great feel for a changeup? Check. A physical body and clean delivery? Check and check. What’s missing is a consistently above-average breaking ball. Chris Paddack provides some hope for a fastball/changeup pitcher making it to the majors, but he is still more an exception to the rule, and finding a consistent breaking ball would round out Kelley’s scouting report to an almost scary degree.
5. Nick Gonzales, 2B, New Mexico State
Areas To Improve: Hit away from altitude, improve speed
Gonzales is going to be nitpicked for his results in the hitter-friendly confines of Presley Askew Field, so it’ll be important for him to hit—and hit for power—when he’s on the road and away from altitude. Gonzales did well to hit with authority in the Cape Cod League last summer, and that should go a decent way in proving his juice is legit, but cementing that in the spring will be crucial. A less important area would be to show improved speed and stolen base numbers.
4. Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M
Areas To Improve: Improve control and command
Lacy has a dominant pitch mix from the left side, but the one area of growth that USA Baseball coaches cited after his summer with the team was in regard to his pitch efficiency. He tends to get into high counts and because of that, walks more batters than you would expect. Improving his strike throwing is one of the few areas that Lacy can improve to take his game to the next level. He walked 3.9 batters per nine as a freshman and primary reliever, and that mark went up to 4.4 per nine as a starter in 2019.
3. Austin Martin, SS, Vanderbilt
Areas To Improve: Handle shortstop, hit for more power
Martin is an exceptional athlete who can play all over the infield and outfield, but after playing third base for the entirety of his sophomore season, scouts will be bearing down on his ability to handle shortstop on an everyday basis this spring. He has all the tools to handle himself nicely there, but scouts still need to see it. His profile goes to an entirely different level if teams can project him as a long-term shortstop, obviously, and if he taps into more power—like his Vanderbilt teammate Bleday did last year—that’s just icing on the cake.
2. Emerson Hancock, RHP, Georgia
Areas To Improve: Breaking ball development
Hancock has plus offerings across the board, but some evaluators don’t think his breaking ball is the true, wipeout offering that the top pitcher in a draft class typically has. Hancock’s strong command of a deep pitch mix could make all of his offerings play up against college hitters, but if he takes his slider or curveball to another level this spring, teams would be even more excited about his chances to become a No. 1 starter.
1. Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Arizona State
Areas To Improve: Defensive profile
Torkelson is perhaps the safest bet in this year’s draft class thanks to his exceptional hitting ability and massive power. Even if he had an average season by his own standards at Arizona State this spring he would probably go off the board in the first five picks. But he is a first baseman, and if everything is equal, teams would prefer someone who’s able to play a more challenging defensive position. Torkelson is fairly athletic though, and if he shows he can capably play a corner outfield spot or turns into an exceptional defender at first, that could make teams feel even better about drafting him.