If you’re looking for baseball action that takes place on this continent, this week might be your only opportunity for a while. The MLB Draft opens up at 7 p.m. EST on Wednesday evening, airing on ESPN and MLB Network, as well as streaming on MLB.com. Wednesday’s first round will be televised and theatrical, while the second through fifth rounds will take place on Thursday.
A typical MLB Draft consists of a whopping 40 rounds. Due to the impact of COVID-19, the still unsettled labor situation in baseball, and because they make generally poor decisions, this year’s draft has been reduced to a mere five rounds. The maximum bonus for non-drafted players who sign as free agents will be set at $20,000, when the scheduled bonus in baseball’s slotting system was due to be over $300,000. The difference those amounts make in a player’s ability to bet on his future is unquestionable.
This change is going to have a cascading impact across the baseball landscape which could reverberate for a generation. Players who would have been considered high-end picks in the sixth round will not end up selected at all. Careers and even a few Hall-of-Fame players may be lost to fate.
For those that think I’m exaggerating, Albert Pujols was a 13th-round pick. Jacob deGrom a ninth rounder, Mike Piazza 62nd round. Baseball is a sport that needs breathing room. Prospects develop and bust at glaringly different rates, and some superstars emerge from unexpected places.
This all makes this year’s draft tricky to nail down in the later rounds, but the early choices are a bit clearer. This list is a top 10 that MLB fans as well as season long fantasy or DFS players should know.
10 Names You Need to Know for the MLB Draft
Quick note, this is not a mock draft, although most of these players will go among the top picks.
Spencer Torkelson – 1B – RHH – Arizona State
Torkelson is expected to go among the top few picks of the draft, potentially as high as first overall to the Tigers. The 20-year-old has a bat with a lot of potential in it, scout drool over the combination of his hit and power tools, both of which rate well above average. If Torkelson goes first overall he will be the first college first baseman taken in the slot, and only the second first baseman overall.
In 628 college plate appearances, Torkelson mashed a slash line of .337/.463/.729 with 54 home runs, 130 RBI and 110 walks. Torkelson is your best bet if you’re making a fantasy league dynasty choice from among the 2020 draft class. After all, this is a kid who broke Barry Bonds’ ASU freshman home run record.
Austin Martin – IF/OF – RHH – Vanderbilt
Another slugging college infielder, Martin is right there with Torkelson on many scouting boards. The dynamic 21-year-old offers a tantalizing mix of hit-tool and speed, and has power that is expected to emerge. The hit-tool is what gets scouts really excited about this player, as does his ability to play all over the field. With positionless baseball coming into vogue, the ability to start at multiple spots in the infield and outfield adds immense value to a player with this kind of stick.
In 665 plate appearances at Vanderbilt, Martin posted a slash of .368/.474/.532, with 14 home runs, 76 RBI and 85 walks. Martin added 43 stolen bases in 57 attempts, so the kid has wheels but may need to work on his judgment. This is the kind of player that fantasy owners drool over, and he should be an early round fixture in re-draft leagues in just a few years.
Emerson Hancock – RHP – Georgia
One of two very well regarded SEC pitching prospects, the bloom has come off the rose a bit for Hancock in the last few months. The big right-hander was once regarded as the clear-cut best pitcher in this class, but has been outstripped in college on some scouting boards by Asa Lacy. The 6-foot-4Hancock has a four-pitch arsenal that features a plus fastball-change up combination that can be devastating when he’s on.
In 192 college innings, Hancock posted a 3.47 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP while striking out 26.4% of hitters and walking only 7%. Hancock profiles to be a front-of-the-rotation starter and could fast-track to an MLB rotation by as early as the end of 2021.
Asa Lacy – LHP – Texas A&M
The other big name starter, southpaw Asa Lacy, is probably going to be the first pitcher off the board. There’s a lot to like in this kid’s arm, and he has the same large frame as Hancock at 6-foot-4. Lacy has a four-pitch arsenal that revolves around a high-spin mid-90s fastball and a wipe-out slider. The curve and changeup are works in progress but should develop into weapons. The only reason Lacy would drop is lingering questions about his command and control. Getting away with allowing too many walks when you’re dominating college kids is one thing. With MLB hitters, that won’t fly.
In 152 innings at A&M, Lacy posted a sparkling 2.07 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and an eye-popping 36% strikeout rate. His 10.9% walk rate, however, is atrocious.
Blaze Jordan – 1B/OF – High School
The youngest player in the 2020 MLB Draft is also one of the biggest wild cards. The 17-year-old Jordan has been a name in baseball scouting circles for four years now, drawing frequent comparisons to Bryce Harper for his prodigious power ever since a video of him mashing 500-foot home runs at age 13 went viral. The young sensation was originally expected to be a top pick in the 2021 draft class, but has reclassified to enter this year’s draft. In some mocks he is going in the first round, in others he is going in the middle rounds.
In 100 varsity high school games, Jordan posted a .440 average with a .526 on-base percentage, 19 home runs, 96 runs and 98 RBI.
This is a bit of a draft and stash, but baseball teams are used to that. To put Jordan in dynasty league perspective, he was drafted in mine two years ago. One pick before me. Dammit, Lou.
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Zac Veen – OF – High School
This 6-foot-4 high school power hitter has rocketed up some draft boards with his tantalizing power upside which comes from tremendous bat speed. Some scouts have the 18-year-old Veen pegged as the highest-upside power bat in the draft, and his game power has been on display throughout his high school career in the form of line drives. The lefty outfielder should be among the first five players selected, but may be a ways out for dynasty owners.
Nick Gonzalez – SS/2B – New Mexico State
Another high-end infield bat, Gonzalez may have the best pure hit-tool in the draft. Gonzalez answered some questions about how his numbers have benefited from playing in hitter’s parks his entire amateur career by winning the Cape Cod League MVP award last summer. At only 5-foot-10, the power may not translate to home runs, but this should be a prototypical gap-power run producer who regularly draws comparisons to the Brewers’ Keston Hiura.
In 596 plate appearances in college, Gonzalez posted a slash of .399/.502/.747 with 37 home runs and 152 RBI.
Max Meyer – RHP – Minnesota
If Max Meyer were taller, he would likely be the first pitcher off the board in this MLB draft. Scouts seem unanimous that the 6-foot, rail-thin right-hander’s slider is the best single pitch in the entire draft. Sitting in the mid-80s with devastating action and working off a 70-rated fastball that can touch 100 mph,, there’s a ton to love about this arm. If he can overcome the questions about his size — which we’ve seen starters do in the past — he could be a front-of-rotation starter for years. This is someone dynasty owners want to be keenly aware of going into the prospect phase of fantasy drafts.
In 148 innings at Minnesota, Meyer posted a 2.13 ERA, 0.939 WHIP and 187 strikeouts against only 41 walks.
Heston Kjerstad – OF – Arkansas
Scouts rave about the power in Kjerstad’s bat even while struggling with that last name. Behind only Torkelson in most scout’s eyes in terms of 2020 MLB Draft power, the 6-foot-3 lefty has 60 rated power on the 20-80 scale, but the bat leaves something to be desired in the contact area. The outfielder has a big looping swing that generates a ton of bat speed and exit velocity, but takes time to get through the zone, leading to a high number of strikeouts. Kjerstad has the upside of a three-true-outcomes power hitter — a ton of home runs but also a lot of strikeouts to swallow. This is a bat for dynasty owners to monitor as home runs are king in fantasy baseball and he should hit a lot of them when he arrives in MLB.
In 691 college plate appearances, Kjerstad’s slash was .343/.421/.590 with 37 home runs, 129 RBI, and 129 strikeouts.
Mick Abel – RHP – High School
Another high school superstar whose MLB Draft spot is a bit tricky to nail down. Teams looking at Abel early in the draft will have to swallow the risk that he will turn down the money to follow through with his commitment to pitch for Oregon next year. The smart money is on him accepting a contract and moving into a professional system, however, and teams are eyeing him just outside the top 10 of the draft. With a dynamic arsenal featuring three plus-pitches and a potential fourth, this could eventually be the best pitcher in the draft. The 6-foot-5 starter weighs in at only 190lbs, so there should be room for his frame to fill out even further as he develops.
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