2020 MLB Mock Draft: End Of The Season 'Way Too Early' Edition
A few months after our first “way-too-early” 2020 mock draft we’re back at it again. Now, we have a finalized draft order. So even if we get the players wrong, we’re at least picking in the appropriate team order.
Back on June 5, when our first mock draft was released, the Tigers were sitting in the No. 6 spot with a 23-36 record. After that, the team went a disastrous 26-76 for the remainder of the season, including a total of nine wins during the rest of June and the entirety of July. For those efforts, the Tigers were awarded the top pick in the draft for the second time in the last three years.
Unlike a year ago, there’s no clear-cut favorite in the high school or college classes. Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman and Colleyville (Texas) High shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. were the no-doubt leaders of the college and prep classes, respectively, at this point last year, and they wound up being selected in that order.
By all accounts, the 2020 draft class is deeper than the 2019 edition, and the pitching should rebound in a big way after we saw a new low for arms just a few months ago. The college pitching, in particular, is loaded, and the high school class has improved from a year ago as well, meaning we should again see an arm taken among the top-six picks.
On the hitting side, there’s intriguing shortstop depth in the college ranks, while the high school class is deep in the outfield. Both classes have several catchers who could wind up going in the first round as well.
Last year's first way-too-early draft had six of the eventual top-10 picks in the top 10. This year, it will be difficult to equal that feat as the high school class is much more muddled at this point.
Here’s a look at how the first 10 picks could go next June. This is more of an interesting thought exercise than a true mock draft—true mocks are based on information we are hearing about which players are linked to certain teams—but we hope it’s fun regardless.
1. Tigers — Austin Martin, SS/OF, Vanderbilt
It’s tempting—very tempting—to go with Detroit’s status quo here and give them Georgia righthander Emerson Hancock. The Tigers have had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft on two occasions and both times they dipped into the college righthander demographic, selecting Rice righthander Matt Anderson in 1997 and Auburn righthander Casey Mize in 2018. Hancock checks most of the boxes of a No. 1 overall pick, with plus pitches throughout his arsenal, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame, high school pedigree and SEC performance.
However, wouldn’t it make more sense for Detroit to add an impact bat to a system in dire need of one? Martin gives the Tigers that sort of bat with a terrific SEC track record over the past two years (.376/.479/.521). He took a big step forward in the power department as a sophomore, and he has the potential to handle a premium defensive position, whether at shortstop or in center field.
2. Orioles — Spencer Torkelson, 1B/OF, Arizona State
Hancock should be in play here as well, but we’d lean towards Baltimore’s group simply taking the bat they believe in at this spot, regardless of defensive profile. Right-right first baseman have a bad reputation in the draft, despite the fact that first basemen drafted high have a tremendous success rate. Torkelson has the biggest power in the 2020 class and has hit .337/.443/.723 with 48 home runs over two seasons with Arizona State. If he is drafted here by the Orioles, don’t be surprised to see him taken as an outfielder. This decision-making group drafted Seth Beer as an outfielder in the first round in 2018, and Torkelson is much more athletic than Beer was at the same time.
3. Marlins — Emerson Hancock, RHP, Georgia
The Marlins moved away from targeting high school players at the top of the draft in 2019, and the 2020 class should give them plenty of collegiate options at No. 3 if they choose the same route. It’d be fun to see the team reunite Vanderbilt teammates JJ Bleday and Austin Martin, but with Martin being taken, let's grab the best pitcher in the class and add Hancock to a system that has just two righthanders among its Top 10.
4. Royals — Nick Gonzales, 2B, New Mexico State
Bobby Witt Jr. was the only exception to Kansas City’s recent college-heavy approach during the first two days of the draft in 2018 and 2019, and at this moment the 2020 draft class doesn't offer a talent like his. In that case, the Royals could take their pick of the college pitching crop sans Hancock, or go with the best available bat. That could very well be Gonzales, who led the nation in hitting this spring before becoming the No. 1 prospect in the Cape Cod League this summer. This pick would make Gonzales the second-highest drafted second baseman ever, behind Rickie Weeks, who was drafted No. 2 overall out of Southern University in 2003 by the Brewers.
5. Blue Jays — Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M
Lacy has struck out 178 batters in 128 innings (12.5 strikeouts per nine innings) so far in his collegiate career and posted a 2.32 ERA over two seasons. He could get even better if he improves his control a bit—he has a career walk rate of 4.2 batters per nine with Texas A&M—and gets more power out of his lower half. Either way, a mid-90s fastball from the left side with natural ability to spin a sharp slider and Lacy’s track record of performance put him among the top arms in the class. In this scenario, Lacy would be the first lefthander the Blue Jays have selected in the first round since 2006, when the team drafted Ricky Romero out of Cal State Fullerton.
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6. Mariners — Casey Martin, SS, Arkansas
If the Mariners continue to target college players like they have in recent years, Casey Martin makes a lot of sense here. He’s an athletic infielder with pop in his bat—13 home runs as a freshman and 15 in his sophomore season—and a chance to play shortstop. If the draft unfolded with six college players going off the board in the first six picks, as we are predicting here, it would be the first time since 2006 that high school players were avoided with each of the first six picks. A college player fits the Mariners’ recent draft tendencies and also lines up better with the sort of rebuild that GM Jerry Dipoto has talked about, with a goal of being competitive in 2021 or 2022.
7. Pirates — Jared Kelley, RHP, Refugio (Texas) HS
Pittsburgh was one of just three teams to select a high school pitcher with a first-round pick in 2019, and the club has a history of liking power-oriented arms like Kelley. The Pirates took the first prep pitcher in the 2019 draft with righthander Quinn Priester at No. 18, but Kelley’s overall profile is a much more traditional fit for a top-10 high school arm—though it’s also a profile that comes with plenty of risk. The physical, 6-foot-3, 215-pound righty from Refugio (pronounced Reh-fury-oh) has the best now-stuff in the class, with a fastball routinely up to 98 mph and a future plus changeup. Kelley has a pretty easy delivery and impressive command in addition to his pure stuff.
8. Padres — Mick Abel, RHP, Jesuit HS, Portland
It’s tempting to give the Padres a college player here, given the current state of San Diego’s farm system and their burgeoning competitive window. But would AJ Preller balk at having his pick of the high school class, outside of Kelley? San Diego has been one of the most aggressive clubs in targeting high-upside prep products, and Abel certainly fits that bill. A 6-foot-5, 180-pound righthander who oozes future potential as he continues to fill out, Abel has been up to 97 mph with his fastball—though he more regularly pitches in the low 90s—and has one of the better breaking balls in the prep class as well. Virginia lefthander Nate Savino checks a lot of the same boxes and wouldn’t be a surprise either given how the Padres have coveted prep lefties. Either way, this might wind up being a great spot to pick for a team that isn’t afraid to go after high school players.
9. Rockies — Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP, South Carolina
Colorado has taken the exact opposite approach of the Padres over the last two years. The only high school player the team signed in its last two draft classes (out of 64 total players) was high school first baseman Grant Lavigne in 2018. If they continue that path again in 2020, there should be a number of interesting college arms to choose from here, including Mlodzinski, who had high school pedigree but isn’t as famous as some of the other college names on this list after breaking his foot this spring and making just three starts for the Gamecocks. After getting back on the mound in the Cape Cod League this summer, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound righty wowed with an electric fastball and a swing-and-miss slider that helped him strikeout 40 batters and walk just four in 29.1 innings.
10. Angels — Austin Hendrick, OF, West Allegheny HS, Imperial, Pa.
The last time the Angels picked in the top 10, they took Ballard High product Jo Adell with the No. 10 overall pick in 2017. Despite serious swing-and-miss concerns, that selection has looked pretty good for Los Angeles, as Adell now ranks as the No. 2 prospect in baseball. Hendrick isn’t the athlete that Adell—or 2018 first-round pick Jordyn Adams—is, but he has a high ceiling with some of the loudest raw power in the prep class, elite bat speed and plus arm strength. There are some swing-and-miss concerns here, but grabbing the No. 2 prep player in the class and the top-ranked high school bat could wind up being a steal if he hits.