2020 MLB Draft Stock Watch: Revisiting Preseason To-Do Lists
Back in January, we examined 30 potential first-round picks, and looked at specific areas for them to improve or solidify their game in order to improve or maintain their draft stock. Today, we’ll revisit each of those players and see if they addressed those areas or not.
Given the coronavirus pandemic and how much baseball it wiped out this spring, this will be more difficult to assess than the previous years we’ve done this exercise. But we’ll give it a try.
We’ll work down the list in the reverse order of the original BA Rankings, with each player’s updated draft rank listed as well.
Blaze Jordan, 3B/1B, DeSoto Central HS, Southaven, Miss.
Areas To Improve: Third base defense, continue improving body
Previous Rank — 30
Current Rank — 92
Jordan did a nice job maintaining his body this spring, but most scouts seem to think he’ll wind up at first base or potentially left field in the future. More important than his specified areas of improvement though was his hitting this spring, which wasn’t as loud as evaluators need to see from a bat-first corner player.
Max Meyer, RHP, Minnesota
Areas To Improve: Maintain stuff in starter’s role, develop third pitch
Previous Rank — 29
Current Rank — 10
Meyer flew up the draft board thanks to his performance over his first four starts of the season. Meyer ranked tied for fifth—along with Texas A&M LHP Asa Lacy—among Division I arms with 46 strikeouts, and while he still rarely used a changeup, his stuff more than held up in a starting role. His velocity held over his outings and his slider was its typical wipeout self. While teams would have liked to see that over a full season, they came away with little doubt this spring that his stuff could handle a starting role.
Victor Mederos, RHP, Westminster Christian Academy, Miami
Areas To Improve: Changeup, body maintenance
Previous Rank — 28
Current Rank — 46
Mederos worked hard over the offseason to improve his body and scouts thought he came out looking better physically, but his stuff and control was erratic. His velocity fluctuated more than it did over the summer and with the effort in his delivery and the issues he’s had repeating his delivery some scouts are more concerned about his reliever risk moving forward.
Carson Montgomery, RHP, Windermere (Fla.) HS
Areas To Improve: Third pitch, control
Previous Rank — 27
Current Rank — 36
Montgomery has fallen more thanks to college players passing him up than any fault of his own. Scouts have seen a solid changeup in his arsenal at times, but he doesn’t need to use it at the high school level enough for evaluators to have great feel for the offering. His control has been largely the same as last summer and fall, and scouts are likely split on whether he’s more likely to be a starter or reliever at the next level.
Zac Veen, OF, Spruce Creek HS, Port Orange, Fla.
Areas To Improve: Cut down swing-and-miss, add strength and power
Previous Rank — 26
Current Rank — 7
Veen added around 20 pounds of muscle over the offseason, so he more than checked off the second item on his list. That largely explains his prolific rise up draft boards. He could be the first high school player off the board, though there is still some swing-and-miss in his game that could scare his bigger critics.
Alex Santos, RHP, Mount St. Michael Academy, Bronx, N.Y.
Areas To Improve: Strike-throwing
Previous Rank — 25
Current Rank — 42
Strike-throwing is still one of the bigger questions with Santos. He made big strides in developing a changeup over the offseason in addition to adding more weight on his frame. Some scouts wonder if the weight he added was a bit too much, and he’s no longer in the top tier of prep that he was involved in during the preseason.
Cole Wilcox, RHP, Georgia
Areas To Improve: Strike-throwing, show ability to start
Previous Rank — 24
Current Rank — 24
Wilcox checked off both of his items by lowering his walk rate significantly and posting a 1.57 ERA in four starts. After walking close to six batters per nine as a freshman, Wilcox lowered his BB/9 to 0.78 this spring. While he didn’t get to continue showing that improvement against SEC competition, he showed marked improvement in the time he was given and also dominated Georgia Tech—7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 K—in his biggest challenge of the season.
Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, Harvard-Westlake HS, Studio City, Calif.
Areas To Improve: Show summer struggles were a fluke
Previous Rank — 23
Current Rank — 17
Scouts raved about Crow-Armstrong’s bat this spring and were excited with the impact he was showing, though power will likely never be a major part of his game. Scouts thought he looked much more like the player who gained notoriety as an underclassmen than the heavily-scrutinized version who struggled over the summer. How teams assess and weight those two versions will vary, but he was moving back up boards this spring.
Drew Romo, C, The Woodlands (Texas) HS
Areas To Improve: Righthanded swing, swing-and-miss
Previous Rank — 22
Current Rank — 38
Romo didn’t make any notable improvements with his offensive game this spring, with some scouts thinking he took a significant step backward in that area. His swing was too uphill at times and with questions about his offensive upside from most evaluators, it’s more difficult to see him in the first round even with his defensive prowess.
Tyler Soderstrom, C, Turlock (Calif.) HS
Areas To Improve: Hitting vs. lefthanders, defense
Previous Rank — 21
Current Rank — 18
It was difficult to get a read on Soderstrom’s improvement vs. same-side pitchers in particular, but some scouts thought he had taken steps forward as a defender. There are scouts who gave him a chance to get to an average defender. His arm strength is plus and could play at that grade in-game with a more efficient exchange and arm action, but he still has to improve as a receiver.
Austin Wells, C, Arizona
Areas To Improve: Receiving, hitting on the road
Previous Rank — 20
Current Rank — 21
Wells only got four road games this season. Arizona traveled to San Diego for games against Southern Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska and also traveled to Texas for one midweek game against the Longhorns. In that stretch Wells went 4-for-17 (.235) with six strikeouts and four walks. In total, Well hit .325/.527/.589 so it’ll be interesting to see if teams get critical of his performance away from Hi Corbett Field. His reputation as a defender is largely the same as it was during the preseason.
Tanner Burns, RHP, Auburn
Areas To Improve: Handle full season workload
Previous Rank — 19
Current Rank — 26
This one was impossible for Burns to check off, so it’s impossible to knock him for taking his four starts this season and continuing to do what he’s always done in college. At this point, Burns is one of the most reliable and consistent starting pitchers in the college class. Over 36 starts and 188.2 innings with Auburn, Burns has a 2.86 ERA, 210 strikeouts to 67 walks and a .218 opposing batting average. His resume stands up with any college pitcher you want to compare him with.
Robert Hassell, OF, Independence HS, Thompson's Station, Tenn.
Areas To Improve: Power, defense
Previous Rank — 19
Current Rank — 16
After only playing a few games this spring there’s not much of a different opinion on Hassell at this point. Some scouts believe he’ll get to average power and stick in centerfield, while others are more skeptical, but those evaluations are simply how different scouts see Hassell as a player rather than anything he was able to show this spring.
Patrick Bailey, C, North Carolina State
Areas To Improve: Avoid swinging and missing like the summer, hit for power
Previous Rank — 17
Current Rank — 14
After hitting just .231/.333/.308 in a nine-game stint with Team USA last summer, Bailey went back to his typical ACC production this spring. Through 17 games he was looking at the best OPS (1.151) and isolated slugging (.389) marks of his career, but that came with a career-high strikeout rate of 24.7 percent as well. Bailey struck out 14 percent of the time as a freshman and just 10 percent of the time as a sophomore. There’s no doubting the power he has, but his tendency to swing-and-miss lead many scouts to put a below-average or fringe-average hit tool on the switch-hitter.
Garrett Crochet, LHP, Tennessee
Areas To Improve: Handle starter’s workload, land slider for strikes
Previous Rank — 16
Current Rank — 13
Like every pitcher on this list, Crochet wasn’t able to show he could handle a starting role over a full season. His limitation in this area is more exacerbated however, as Crochet just appeared in one game for three innings. So the questions about his odds to start or relieve at the next level remain. With a strong season as a starter, it’s hard to imagine Crochet outside of the top 10. South Florida lefthander Shane McClanahan comes to mind with Crochet, as another southpaw with big pure stuff but reliever risk.
Nick Bitsko, RHP, Central Bucks East HS, Doylestown, Pa.
Areas To Improve: Maintain body, improve changeup
Previous Rank — 15
Current Rank — 19
Bitsko never got going in his high school season, so he remains one of the biggest wild cards in the draft thanks to that and his previous status as a member of the 2021 class. Teams could have less information on Bitsko than any player mentioned in this post.
Ed Howard, SS, Mount Carmel (Ill.) HS
Areas To Improve: Offensive approach, tap into power
Previous Rank — 14
Current Rank — 20
Howard was seen in a few practices, but wasn’t able to get scouting in games this spring. That means teams have no new information on his offensive ability and will have to rely on summer and fall looks.
Casey Martin, SS, Arkansas
Areas To Improve: Offensive approach, cut down strikeouts
Previous Rank — 13
Current Rank — 27
Martin didn’t address either of his biggest items this spring. After striking out 22-23 percent of the time as a freshman and sophomore, that rate blossomed to 31 percent over his first 15 games this spring, and Martin finished with a .271/.386/.458 slash line—career lows in each category. He did improve his walk rate to a career-best 14 percent, but when looking at his overall performance this spring, it was hard for scouts to be anything but disappointed.
JT Ginn, RHP, Mississippi State
Areas To Improve: Changeup improvement
Previous Rank — 12
Current Rank — 23
Ginn underwent elbow surgery and had his 2020 season after just three innings. He was largely seen as a no-doubt, top-of-the-first-round talent when healthy and now is something of a wildcard thanks to his health and status as a draft-eligible sophomore who has already turned down money after being selected in the first round.
Reid Detmers, LHP, Louisville
Areas To Improve: Changeup improvement
Previous Rank — 11
Current Rank — 8
With below-average fastball velocity, it was important for scouts to see a changeup that could be used as a weapon against righthanded batters. Scouts see at least an average changeup in his arsenal, while some go a step further and call the pitch above-average or better. Whatever the specific grade, it seems clear that Detmers’ changeup is good enough for the next level, helping to make him one of the safest prospects in the 2020 class.
Who Do Spencer Torkelson, Nick Gonzales Compare To? Draftpoint Offers Some Suggestions
Spencer Torkelson and Nick Gonzales both draw comparisons to players who have carved out noteworthy careers so far.
Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP, South Carolina
Areas To Improve: Health, Perform in the SEC
Previous Rank — 10
Current Rank — 25
Mlodzinski was perfectly healthy this spring and took each of his starts through at least the fifth inning. Teams would have liked to see a full season after he missed time previously with a foot injury, but the coronavirus made that impossible. While he never got a chance to test his stuff against SEC competition, Mlodzinski looked like more of a ground ball artist than an overpowering pitcher who collected whiffs left and right. His 7.8 K/9 rate was respectable and he throws more than enough strikes, but teams wanted to see more finishing stuff than he showed—particularly in the 2020 draft class.
Mick Abel, RHP, Jesuit HS, Portland, Ore.
Areas To Improve: Add strength, hold stuff over full season
Previous Rank — 9
Current Rank — 12
By all accounts Abel has gotten stronger and more physical over the offseason. However without playing any high school games this spring, it was impossible to see how his stuff would play over the course of five, six or seven innings. Abel did reach new peaks in fastball velocity, which is encouraging, but like Bitsko, evaluators simply weren’t able to see him pitch in game scenarios this spring.
Garrett Mitchell, OF, UCLA
Areas To Improve: Prove center field defense, tap into power
Previous Rank — 8
Current Rank — 6
Mitchell wasn’t able to fully prove either of his areas. While most scouts believe he’ll be a good center fielder in the future, that’s based more on his toolset than by actually watching him handle the position for any long amount of time. Mitchell has less track record in centerfield in college than most 80-grade runners would, but he showed nothing in his time at the position to worry evaluators. His game power is another question, as Mitchell didn’t homer once in 15 games, though his extra-base percentage was reasonably close to his career 2019 season. Mitchell will more than likely need mechanical adjustments at the next level if he’s able to tap into average or better game power.
Austin Hendrick, OF, West Allegheny HS, Imperial, Pa.
Areas To Improve: Defense, running
Previous Rank — 7
Current Rank — 9
While Hendrick likely won’t ever have the speed to be a center fielder at the next level, scouts have praised his decision-making, route running and arm strength in the outfield. He has the tools and offensive upside to become a prototypical major league right fielder. A Pennsylvania product, Hendrick wasn’t able to play his high school season.
Jared Kelley, RHP, Refugio (Texas) HS
Areas To Improve: More consistent breaking ball
Previous Rank — 6
Current Rank — 11
Kelley did get some time on the mound in front of scouts this spring as a Texas product, and he largely looked like the same power arm he was last summer. Teams were mixed on the improvement of his breaking ball. Some thought he showed progress with the pitch and that it was a solid-average to even plus future offering, while other evaluators are still skeptical it will be more than fringe-average. Regardless, Kelley should still be one of the first three prep arms off the board if signability isn’t a factor.
Nick Gonzales, SS, New Mexico State
Areas to Improve: Hit away from altitude, improve speed
Previous Rank — 5
Current Rank — 5
Gonzales played just four games away from the hitter-friendly confines of Presley Askew Field, and those games featured his biggest competition of the year—against Arizona State and Texas A&M. While it’s only four games, Gonzales went 2-for-13 (.154) with five walks and four strikeouts. As for his speed, Gonzales is cited as a solid-average or above-average runner, and while he moved to shortstop, most scouts still think second base is the best fit for him long term.
Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M
Areas To Improve: Improve control and command
Previous Rank — 4
Current Rank — 3
One of the biggest criticisms of Lacy entering the season was that he tended to let his pitch counts get away from him and wasn’t the most efficient in terms of getting quick outs. Part of that is simply a function of missing bats as frequently as Lacy does, but scouts still wanted to see him become more efficient and improve his command. While his pitch counts were still in the 90-100 range this spring, Lacy did post the lowest walk rate of his career—3.0 BB/9—over his first four starts.
Austin Martin, OF, Vanderbilt
Areas To Improve: Handle shortstop, hit for more power
Previous Rank — 3
Current Rank — 1
Martin started the season at third base and shortly moved positions for Vanderbilt, but it wasn’t to shortstop where many evaluators wanted to see him, but center field. Because of that, scouts have become increasingly skeptical of Martin’s ability to ever handle shortstop at the big league level, and don’t have a great feel for his best defensive home long term. After tapping into double-digit power as a sophomore, Martin was well on his way to more of the same in 2020, with three home runs and six doubles through his first 15 games while keeping his strikeout-to-walk rate well in line—10 walks to just two strikeouts.
Emerson Hancock, RHP, Georgia
Areas To Improve: Breaking ball development
Previous Rank — 2
Current Rank — 4
Hancock has an easy plus fastball and changeup, but the industry entered the year wondering whether or not his slider fit that categorization as well. The slider flashes plus at its best, but after four starts this spring, the consensus on the offering is more above-average than a true wipeout breaking ball. At times the slider lacks two-plane biting action and is more east to west, and scouts have pointed to a lower arm slot that might limit the effectiveness of the pitch at the moment.
Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Arizona State
Areas To Improve: Defensive profile
Previous Rank — 1
Current Rank — 2
Adding to Torkelson’s defensive profile is just a cherry on top of his profile, as every scout knows you’re taking an impact bat with the Arizona State slugger. He has the athleticism, hands and makeup to become an above-average defender at first base but some scouts believe he runs well enough to handle a corner outfield spot if necessary. While that’s not a consensus belief in the industry, evaluators are generally positive of the way he moves around the bag at the very least.