College Baseball's Winners And Losers Of The 2020 Draft
While this week’s draft was just five rounds instead of the typical 40, it still had significant implications for college baseball teams around the country. How teams navigated the draft both in terms of current college stars and incoming recruits will shape the game for the next few seasons.
While this year’s signing deadline isn’t until Aug. 1, in a five-round draft it is more imperative than ever for MLB teams to have drafted players they are confident they can sign. This analysis is done with the assumption that all drafted players will sign, though surprises are still possible until the ink is dry on all the contracts.
More analysis on the best 2020 recruiting class can be found in the Top 25 ranking.
As it stands, here are some of college baseball’s winners and losers from the draft.
The Gators were already the top-ranked team in the Never Too Early Top 25, released last month. Coming out of the draft, they’re looking like the clear-cut favorites going into the 2021 season. Florida did not have a player drafted, as both righthanders Tommy Mace and Jack Leftwich, who both ranked among the top 160 players on the BA 500, seemingly bet on themselves and will return for another season in Gainesville. Florida also went into the draft with the third-ranked recruiting class in the country and the most recruits ranked on the BA 500 (11). Its top two recruits—outfielder Zac Veen and third baseman Coby Mayo—were both drafted, but the rest of the class stuck together and it still boasts the most BA 500 recruits. Put it all together, and Florida looks to have the deepest roster in the nation.
Outfielders Michael Guldberg and Baron Radcliff were both drafted but notably shortstop Luke Waddell and lefthander Brant Hurter, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, were not. Waddell will return to anchor the Yellow Jackets’ infield, as he has done for the last two years. Hurter will be 20 months out from surgery by Opening Day and should be ready to return to the rotation. Georgia Tech also kept its 17th-ranked recruiting class intact, holding on to headliners Kevin Parada, Marquis Grissom Jr., and Jake Deleo. It’s the second year in a row the Yellow Jackets have appeared on this list after not losing a recruit to the draft and that could pay off on the diamond in 2021.
The Hurricanes lost a trio of players in the draft—righthanders Slade Cecconi and Chris McMahon and shortstop Freddy Zamora—and senior righthander Brian Van Belle, who pitched in front of Cecconi and McMahon in the rotation, may be tempted by a nondrafted free agent deal. But it was still a good week for Miami. First, it shepherded its seventh-ranked recruiting class through the draft with only one player selected (Samuel Infante). The Hurricanes now lead the country in top-100 commits with three—righthanders Victor Mederos and Alejandro Rosario and shortstop Yohandy Morales. To top it off, slugger Alex Toral is set to return to anchor their lineup. Losing so much starting pitching hurts, but a new wave of talent is arriving for the Hurricanes.
From both its current team and its recruiting class, South Carolina lost its top-ranked player. Ace Carmen Mlodzinski was drafted 31st overall and flame-throwing lefthander Luke Little, who was set to transfer from junior college, followed in the fourth round. But, otherwise, South Carolina made it through the draft unscathed. That leaves its 12th-ranked recruiting class in a strong position, headlined by outfielder Brandon Fields, who removed himself from draft consideration last month. It also means righthanders Thomas Farr and Brannon Jordan, who both ranked in the top 200 of the BA 500, are returning. South Carolina joins Florida and Vanderbilt as the only schools to return multiple top-200 players.
It was a rough year on the diamond for the Cardinal, as the team went just 5-11, but things went much better this week in the draft. No Stanford player was taken, meaning it'll get back ace Brendan Beck and lefthander Jacob Palisch, who did not pitch this spring due to lat soreness and the shortened season. None of the Cardinal’s recruits from its 14th-ranked recruiting class were drafted either. The trio of Drew Bowser, Ryan Bruno and Tommy Troy all ranked in the top 200 of the BA 500 and gives Stanford a strong infusion of talent. Things are looking up again on The Farm.
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The Sun Devils led the nation with five players drafted, led by No. 1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson. Both of those are feathers in coach Tracy Smith’s cap and will no doubt be a part of Arizona State’s recruiting pitch going forward. But the loss of Torkelson, shortstop Alika Williams, outfielder Trevor Hauver, third baseman Gage Workman and righthander R.J. Dabovich still leaves a hole. Arizona State knew this was coming and signed a big, talented recruiting class that ranks 10th, but it also saw its top two recruits – shortstop Colt Keith and righthander Hunter Barnhart, both ranked in the top 100 of the BA 500, get drafted. The Sun Devils still have a solid recruiting class and lefthander Justin Fall and righthander Boyd Vander Kooi will return to lead the pitching staff, but the losses do take a toll.
Going into the draft, the Blue Devils knew ace Bryce Jarvis was headed to pro ball and top recruit Jordan Walker would likely follow. Both turned out to be first-round picks. What Duke couldn’t have expected was for the Rangers to draft outfielder Evan Carter in the second round. Duke didn’t have a particularly large recruiting class to begin with, so losing two of its best players, especially one unexpectedly, is a tough blow. The good news for the Blue Devils is that they didn’t lose anyone else from a team that had pushed into the top 10 when the season ended.
The Sooners swung big in their 2020 recruiting class and had three recruits ranked in the top 100 of the BA 500. But Oklahoma lost its top two signees as shortstop Ed Howard went 16th overall and lefthander Dax Fulton was picked early in the second round. The Sooners’ class was quantity over quality and while they still have two highly regarded recruits in Cade Horton and Jace Bohrofen, their ninth-ranked recruiting class took a real hit. On top of that, Oklahoma saw its entire rotation drafted. The Sooners are the only team in the nation that can say that this year, but now they’ll have to start fresh in 2021.
The Longhorns had the top-ranked recruiting class going into the draft thanks to having five recruits that ranked in the top 100 of the BA 500, the most in the country. After getting through the first round with just one drafted (shortstop Carson Tucker) and Gatorade Player of the Year Jared Kelley still on the board, Texas seemed to be walking the tightrope well. But, ultimately, it was too good to be true. Kelley, Jared Jones and Petey Halpin all followed Tucker off the board, knocking the Longhorns’ top four recruits out of the class. Texas still has a strong group of newcomers, now headlined by Tanner Witt, and only ace Bryce Elder was drafted off the current team. But it’s still all too easy to think about what could have been.
The Bruins were second only to Texas with four recruits in the top 100 of the BA 500. But UCLA was unable to hold on to any of them and Tyler Soderstrom, Kyle Harrison, Jake Vogel and Milan Tolentino were all drafted. It’s still a good recruiting class for the Bruins, but it’s well short of what it could have been. UCLA also saw outfielder Garrett Mitchell and closer Holden Powell drafted off its current team. Neither was unexpected, but Powell was one of a very few of the top college relievers drafted, which makes it sting perhaps just a touch more. No one is going to feel too badly for the Bruins, however, as they remain the Pac-12 favorites next season.