Week two of college baseball is in the books, and while we’ve still only gotten limited looks at the top-end prospects, it was still enough to change the Draft Board. The last mock draft I did was nearly one month ago, and like that one, this one will be an attempt at scoring points and projecting picks. I’ll repeat myself, this isn’t what I would do, this is what I believe the various front offices would do. Full Reports are included with Grades, Numbers and Comp’s. This one will be shorter, with only 29 Selections, but I’ll be diving much deeper into those 29 Prospects.
1st Overall – SS Austin Martin, Vanderbilt
Since 2001, all of the 19 First-Overall Selections were among the group of premium positions and that won’t change this year. For the first time, Austin Martin is my 1-1 Pick. In his distinguished time as a Commodore, Martin has shown every trait deemed worthy of such a high selection including the ability to play seven different positions.
The Jacksonville native hasn’t stopped contributing since setting foot on campus, taking part in 127 Games – hitting .369, with a .472 OBP, and .521 SLG. His plate discipline and feel for the zone get elite marks with 78 SO to 75 BB in 604 PA. His college workload is as close as you’ll get to an MLB Schedule for an amatuer prospect, all against SEC-Level competition. Martin’s rise to glory has been one that seems rather familiar to those that follow the draft closely, growing up in the South and getting drafted out of High School as a Lottery token – Dansby Swanson can relate to all of that, coming out of a Georgia HS and also getting drafted out of HS as a Lottery Ticket. The two both had double plus-hit tools out of college with a near above average power-tool and the ability to play short at the next level. While Martin has shifted around defensively, numerous high end scout’s believe it’s fair from his inability to stick it in the dirt, but because of a true-team first leadership and the type of versatility desired by team’s looking to content.
The Argument for the first pick has widened drastically over the past few months. Emerson Hancock, Spencer Torkelson, Nick Gonzales, Asa Lacey, and Austin Martin have all put up resumes that the Tigers could be willing to invest a heavy amount of money into. If I was making the pick here, I’d probably go BPA – meaning Torkelson. But the Tigers could have numerous prospects graded equally, and take the player willing to take less. In that case, it might also be Torkelson, who’s working with a limited profile. If the Tigers want the most valuable player, and future face of their franchise – Martin is the guy. Financial’s aside, I’m as close to certain he’ll be the first overall pick come June 10th.
2nd Overall – RHP Emerson Hancock, Georgia
Like most organizations, the Orioles have often taken players at premium positions in the first round with their last 13 first-rounder’s all playing at a golden spot. Assuming the Orioles don’t value a RR-1B as much as a potential no. 2 starter with ace upside in Emerson Hancock, this pick seems like (to be blunt) an easy selection. While I’m all for the Torkelson Hype Train, you have to take whomever is available of the two (Austin Martin & Emerson Hancock). Hancock, like most Freshman Pitchers in the SEC, struggled in year one, with a 5.10 ERA, and 1.34 WHIP in 77.2 innings. There was one number that gave talent evaluators hope, his 75 SO. Thanks to a Plus-SL (that’s now double-plus) he threw 25% of the time, getting a chase 26% of the time and dropping it in for a strike 58% of the time – all well above average. He then proceeded to put the entire nation on watch, dropping a 1.99 ERA/0.84 WHIP Campaign in 90.1 IP as a sophomore. In that season, opposing teams hit .185, getting on 23.5% of the time with a jaw-dropping .261 SLG% against as well as an opposing OPS of .497, in the SEC. That is unheard of in this day in age. So like you’d expect, Hancock elbowed himself into 1-1 talks and hasn’t left the chat since.
Hancock’s stuff has been compared to nearly anybody imaginable, and the one name that (reasonably so) comes up most often has been 2009 First Overall Pick, Stephen Strasburg who’s had himself a substantial career. Emerson’s four-pitch repertoire is hilarious the deeper you dive. His double plus-fastball, in 733 Pitches as a SO & JR has been thrown 50%, glovestriked 69%, and chased 26%. His Hard-SL (working anywhere from 82-86, and even hitting 89) has been thrown 28%, for a strike 68%, with a chase-rate of 37.0%. His third best pitch, a “Bugs Bunny” changeup (thrown 182 times) thrown for a strike 57%, with a 33.0% chase-rate. And Oh, there’s more, his fourth pitch – a near plus-CB – was only thrown 9%, 60% for a strike, and a low (for him) 13.0% chase rate. That was a lot of numbers, mostly all nearly unmatchable from anybody in this class – hence why he’s going second overall.
We live in a reactionary world with Social Media and after a summer of high praise, lots of casual draft fans tuned into Georgia’s opening night match against the Spiders with expectations at an all-time high for the 20-year old. The ‘20 debut ended up as one of the biggest disappointments of an otherwise exciting night. Hancock took a tumble on some boards, most notably Baseball America’s who had him falling to the fifth pick the following day and even had Texas A&M LHP – Asa Lacey going third overall. Following some backlash on the internet, Hancock flipped the bird to everybody this past weekend with a 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 8 SO, 86 Pitch Day. To say he regained alot of faith is an understatement, he sat 94-95 after hitting 60 Pitches and even his 86th and final pitch was 94 on the gun – say goodbye to “Durability” Question Marks. Emerson’s the Real Deal, take him and reap the Rewards, Baltimore.
3rd Overall – 1B Spencer Torkelson, Arizona State
In the short time I’ve followed the Draft, no player has captivated the attention of Social Media like Spencer Torkelson. The Man some call “Tork” hasn’t stopped hitting since beginning his career in Tempe, Arizona. The California native is following in the footsteps of 2019 Third-Overall Pick, Right-Handed 1B, and California native Andrew Vaughn. The similarities are impressive. Torkelson’s 2019 statline was in the realm of numbers you’d put up in MLB the Show on Rookie Difficulty – with a .351 AVG, .446 OBP, .707 SLG. In 242 AB, he put up 85 H, 17 2B, 23 HR, 66 RBI, and only 45 SO to 41 BB. His power-tool gets easy double plus-grades, with a hit tool scoring just as highly. He works with a very low maintenance swing, that stays relatively quiet until the ball’s release, and has some of the easiest power, with natural loft. He’s a 2020 Analytic Department’s dream with a launch angle typically in the 20-34 (degrees) range. Exit Velo’s in triple-digits are rather common for him and Tork Bomb’s are more of an expectation on weekends now. Going into Sunday of weekend no. 2 – Torkelson has put up a .286/.531/.810 Line with 6 H, 2 2B, 3 HR, and 11 BB to 7 SO.
With Emerson Hancock and Austin Martin gone – the Marlins have no choice but to begin the Spencer Torkelson Era in Miami. You could make an argument for Nick Gonzales here, or even Asa Lacey. But my no. 1 player (Torkelson) has already slipped far too low, the Marlins will take him with gratitude here. He’ll join JJ Bleday in a system still on the ropes. The Marlins can’t afford to mess up another highend Draft Choice, and Torkelson’s as close to a surefire MLB Star as you’ll get in today’s world.
4th Overall – LHP Asa Lacy, Texas A&M
With Hancock, Martin, and Torkelson off the board. The Royals have a much shorter board to work with, and quite frankly – it’s still a good one. Nick Gonzales and Asa Lacy remain on the board as legitimate top 5 talents. The Royals, under General Manager Dayton Moore have welcomed prep talent more so than most, but in 2018 – when Brady Singer fell to them at pick 18, they went into the deep channels of the 2018 Pitching class to finish up their day one of the draft. Prior to 2018, the Royals struggled when selecting high schoolers and with the way the ‘18 class has shaped out, a shift to college pitching would make sense in this year’s class.
As a Sophomore, the Aggie product posted a 2.13 ERA with 130 K, 49 H, 43 BB, 13 HBP, and a .162 BAA in 88.2 Innings of work. In 2020, as a Junior. He’s thrown 11 IP, with only 7 H, and 2 ER. His 22 SO and 3 BB are just insane. Prior to his ‘20 debut, I viewed Lacy as a power-LHP with below average command and zero plus-pitches. While I still think he has below average command, his control is well above average and his Power-Slider is absolutely disgusting, a mid-to-high 80’s hook with late bite and heavy spin – it checks a lot of analytics department boxes. His Changeup doesn’t make many appearances, understandably as he’s gone up and down lineups with ease and only a two-pitch mix. In his time at Texas A&M he’s made the SEC look like a children’s league, but the relief risk is abundant, and that’s why I don’t view him as a top-10 talent. The closest comp I could find for Lacy is Robbie Ray, which was thanks to the help of MLB Draft Talk on twitter. He has a similar up & down delivery with a low posture that works extremely well.
Not only is Lacy a great match for the Royals, but he’s probably the BPA at a premium spot, and boasts a track record as good as anybody in the class. In Baseball America’s most recent Mock, an anonymous MLB Scout had the third selection and took Asa Lacy with it, so there’s a potential of MLB Scouting Departments valuing Lacy much more than we think, hence his climb to the fourth overall pick.
5th Overall – SS Nick Gonzales, New Mexico State
You couldn’t write up a better scenario for the Blue Jays with the fifth Overall Choice as one of the best bats in college baseball is still on the board. Garrett Mitchell might be some fans’ pick here as he helps clear out a system need, as well as possibly being the BPA on the Jays board. Other fans who’ve seen Gonzales’ college numbers – are all aboard the Nick Gonzales Hype Train.
After a summer where Gonzales was named the Cape Cod Player of the Year, he quickly immersed himself into top 5 talk. The Vail, Arizona product caught alot of attention early this year when he was spotted starting at shortstop, not second base for the Aggies. Though he’s still far from a capable shortstop at the next level, he’s surpassed alot of expectations in regards to his defense, especially mine. Once viewed as a bat-only prospect with far below average defense, Nick has since squashed those thoughts and might now be viewed as a below average shortstop with enough athleticism to potentially stay there if the Jays (or whoever drafts him) are willing to be patient.
In eight games this year, Gonzales has set the competition on fire. In 30 AB, he has 17 R, 17 H, 3 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 26 RBI, and 10 BB to 3 SO. His .567/.698/1.433 line is hilarious, with a SLG% higher than his OPS (1.305) last year. It’s worth noting that the competition he’s faced isn’t anywhere close to what the guys above have faced with Martin, and Torkelson both facing numerous Power-5 Programs. Another massive note to understand is that New Mexico State’s field not only has small dimensions, but the elevation is much higher than normal, so the ball flies – hence why New Mexico State has led the country in BA, and OPS numerous times in the past 5 years. Those asterisk’s on his numbers certainly make a cause for concern, but what he did in the Cape Cod League is why he’s so high, so any lack of faith can be put to rest – Nick Gonzales is here to stay, and some lucky franchise is going to enjoy the elite hitting abilites he brings to the table.
6th Overall – OF Garrett Mitchell, UCLA
The Seattle Mariners are on the clock, and boy are they thrilled to see (most likely) the best player left on their board and a prospect that fits the bill in Garrett Mitchell still there for the taking. Seattle hasn’t selected a high schooler since 2014 (Alex Jackson) and you’ll have to go all the way back to 2009 to find the last high schooler they took prior to Jackson in Nick Franklin. Neither have worked out, so the Mariners have reasonably so been biased towards more ‘pro-ready’ players with much easier to read profiles, and while they may seem easier to read – the Mariner’s have still struggled badly in the draft. The last time they took an (college) outfielder this high was in 2009, with Dustin Ackley, the no. 2 selection out of North Carolina. With their struggles behind them, the Mariners have taken a college arm the past two years, and while it’s a deep pitching class and guys like Reid Detmers, and Cole Wilcox are on the board – Mitchell is much less volatile.
Jerry Dipoto and his staff are getting a classic “five-tool” prospect with a profile that fits the direction baseball is going – is a well above average defender in CF with plus-power, plus-speed, and a plus-hit tool. It’s remarkable how under-the-radar Mitchell has gone, a relatively low-risk player with tools that in the worst case scenario could have him end up as a 4th outfielder. In his short but successful 2020 campaign, Mitchell has 8 R, 8 H, 4 2B, 4 BB, and 2 SO in 24 AB. As expected, he has flourished on top of UCLA’s lineup in a leadoff role. This Pick is probably the turning point in the draft, as Seattle could go with nearly anybody, from Garrett Mitchell and Cole Wilcox, to Patrick Bailey and Reid Detmers. A Prep player is probably the last profile they’d consider, so whoever is left between Martin, Torkelson, Lacy, Gonzales, Hancock and Mitchell is probably who they go with.
7th Overall – RHP JT Ginn, Mississippi State
Prior to this pick, it didn’t take much time to decide on the selection. But this one took some time thanks to a new hierarchy beginning in Pittsburgh with Ben Cherington taking over as the General Manager and Steve Saunders taking over as the Amatuer scouting director as well as being named the Assistant General Manager. The Pirates could go in so many different directions. Austin Hendrick, Pete Crow-Armstrong, and Zac Veen made some sense as high end prep outfielders with tools that the Blue Jays targeted under Cherington. I thought Reid Detmers, or Cole Wilcox could make sense here, with Saunders possibly wanting to stay safe and take some no-doubt prospects in a deep pitching draft. I even considered taking Patrick Bailey, the best player at the most important position. But alas I went with one of the more puzzling prospects in part to an early season injury that’s hindered his stock.
Ginn, a sophomore eligible prospect by age was once a first round pick out of high school. Since his sophomore year of high school he’s been viewed as a top 20 talent and hasn’t let us down. Ginn’s comp is Jake Arrieta, a low to mid 90’s RHP with heavy run, three above average pitches and fast actions on the mound. I agree, Ginn seems like a risky selection with a history of injuries. Including a late exit to his regional start last spring as well as arm soreness that led to a short pitch count on opening night of ‘20 and a trip to the injury report days after. Reid Detmers is a legitimate candidate for this selection, as well as Cole Wilcox, but Ginn is just too good to pass up on.
8th Overall – OF Pete Crow-Armstrong, Harvard-Westlake HS
Under AJ Preller and Mark Conner, the Padres have selected in the top 8 in all of the four drafts they’ve taken part in. In their first draft (2016), they had three selections and took two college arms and a prep shortstop. Since then, they’ve taken three straight prep prospects, with two of them being pitchers. A possible change in direction, or just a coincidence? Either way, Pete Crow-Armstrong makes sense at 8 for the Padres. He’s my no. 5 player in the class and would be the BPA at this spot, he has the ideal makeup for a big leaguer as well as the instincts and tools desired by analytically-driven teams like the Padres.
The Vanderbilt Commit and Southern California Native has been on Draft Radars since he was a sophomore. A two-time USA alum, and Baseball America All-American – Pete, also known as PCA has checked every box on his to-do list. In 9 Games for the 18u team overseas, Pete hit .364 with a .405 OBP, and .606 SLG. He batted leadoff in eight of the nine games, and had a team-leading three triples and two home-run robbing grabs that caught the attention of the twitter world. In a class where college pitchers are a dime-a-dozen, taking a prep outfielder that’s still raw could be a mistake and while I agree Reid Detmers or Cole Wilcox make alot of sense here, I think the Padres – who took CJ Abrams, Pete’s teammate for Team USA last year – are very intrigued by the positives even with the risk that’ll come. Last year they passed on Nick Lodolo (Similar to Reid Detmers) for a raw toolsy prospect in CJ Abrams, so Pete is not only a great fit, but a perfect selection for the Padres.
9th Overall – RHP Cole Wilcox, Georgia
The Rockies haven’t selected this high since they took Kyle Freeland, a LHP out of the University of Evansville. In the past two drafts, the Rockies have gone with two college players in Michael Toglia and Ryan Rolison. The selection of Cole Wilcox is rather simple, the Rockies play in a park where pitchers go-to-die. So it seems fitting that the Rockies use this draft as a way to find players to break that stereotype, even if it’s a near-impossible feat.
Wilcox was a first-round type talent out of high school and is now sophomore eligible because of his age, which will be 20.9 on draft day. The Saturday Night Starter for Georgia has hid under the shadows of projected top 3 pick and the no. 2 pick in this mock draft, Emerson Hancock. In his Freshman campaign, he threw 59.2 innings allowing 46 H, 27 ER, 3 HR, and striking out 64 while walking 38. His control was a problem as a 19 year old, and in his two starts this year, he’s shown as much progress from his command that you could ask for. Going into week 3 of college baseball – Wilcox has gone 11 innings, allowing 11 H, 4 ER, 1 2B, 2 HR and striking out 15. Only 2 BB, and 0 HBP were the main reason he’s jumped all the way from a low-20’s rank to no. 14 in the class.
10th Overall – OF Zac Veen, Spruce Creek HS
Prior to 2017, the Angels took four straight college prospects in Matt Thaiss (Virginia, 2016), Taylor Ward (Fresno State, 2015), Sean Newcomb (Hartford, 2014), and CJ Cron (Utah, 2011). All four of those selections flopped, so in 2017 with the selection of Jo Adell, the Angels began a new philosophy in drafting and after taking Jordyn Adams in 2018, the pattern was clear. While neither of those players have started in the MLB, Jo Adell is currently 6th on MLB Pipeline’s top 100 Prospect Ranking and Jordyn Adams has garnered some prospect interest. Last year, the Angels took one of the more puzzling selections in Will Wilson – not only was he a massive reach, but he put up one of the worst displays at the NCAA Tournament for NC State.
Veen could’ve gone fourth overall to Kansas City instead of Hendrick, he could’ve gone sixth overall to the Mariners over Lacy. Instead, the popup prep outfielder falls into the lap of a team that’s targeted athletic prep prospects with all five tools. Veen joined Blaze Jordan and decided to bypass the USA 18u team this summer which raised questions towards his competitiveness, and confidence. Since then he’s been the biggest riser on draft boards, showing off plus-power, plus-speed, and a plus-hit tool. The uber-projectable 6’4/180 outfielder has the athleticism to play centre field, and the arm to play right field. The possibilities are endless for the Florida commit that’s drawn comparisons to Atlanta Braves prospect Drew Waters.
With Veen on the board, there aren’t many players who can boast a better resume to the Angels who could lean towards the top catching prospect and no. 9 player on my board, Patrick Bailey – but as their past shows, college catchers haven’t worked out for them. Robert Hassell III would also make sense here, a Vanderbilt commit and high end toolsy outfielder could be a backup route if Veen or Pete Crow-Armstrong aren’t available. As stated numerous times already, it’s a deep pitching class, so Reid Detmers or Carmen Mlodzinski make sense for an organization looking to stay safe. Veen is probably the Angels’ top player left and seems like a relatively easy pick here for the Halos.
11th Overall – C Patrick Bailey, North Carolina State
2012, that’s the last time the White Sox have taken a high schooler in the first round and while Ed Howard is local kid that makes sense here, so does Patrick Bailey – I went back and forward on this pick for an hour, originally pencilling in Howard, then taking Reid Detmers, and finally landing on Patrick Bailey. If you haven’t seen my article on Patrick Bailey where I tabbed him as the most underrated prospect in the entire draft, you should scroll down and find it. He could be a steal. Under the White Sox’ leadership, they’ve taken a college prospect in the first round for each of the last 7 drafts including Carlos Rodon in 2014, a North Carolina State alum. In 2016 the White Sox took Miami catcher, Zack Collins whose gone under-the-radar in a system that’s added Nick Madrigal, Andrew Vaughn, and Luis Robert since then.
In the article mentioned above, Bailey has the power to hit 20-25 HR at a position that had only 5 catchers with 25 home runs last year. Catching prospects are a diamond in the rough, when you can find one as talented as Patrick Bailey with the ability to hit with power and contact from both sides. Behind the plate, the story says the same – Bailey is an average defender with solid receiving abilites and an above average arm. The USA collegiate team member draws similar to fellow Wolfpack draftee and Cardinals catcher, Andrew Knizer.
With the selection of Patrick Bailey, the White Sox are assembling a talented crop of college players to fill their infield with. Bailey will join Madrigal, Anderson, Vaughn, and possibly Burger in what seems to be one of the MLB’s dark-horse farms.
12th Overall – LHP Reid Detmers, Louisville
After taking the player some thought was the no. 1 prospect in the 2017 MLB Draft, the Reds believed they figured it all out. But injuries have since derailed the once (still plenty of time) promising arm. So in light of avoiding highly volatile prospects, they took Florida infielder Jonathon India in 2018, and TCU LHP Nick Lodolo in 2019. Following up those two selections with Louisville’s Reid Detmers sounds like a plan that could succeed in the long-term and short-term.
Detmers works in the 90-92 range, getting up to 95 while flashing a plus-hook that is somewhat inconsistent but when it’s on it’s an out-pitch. His delivery is up tempo with heavy intent and an arm that works well. The young for the class junior was 19 in his sophomore season where he threw 107.1 Innings allowing 68 H, 34 ER, 27 BB, and 11 HR. His 162 SO were second in the country behind 2019 28th overall pick, Ethan Small.
Come draft day, Detmers will be nearly 21 years old so his workload hasn’t been as heavy as some other college pitchers. Typically as we work into this part of the draft, picks take extra time to think – this one on the other hand was simple. He fit the Reds past selections and is the BPA unless you view Mick Abel as a better option, which some (including me) could. Ed Howard the top SS in the class and second best player on my board could also be an option for the Reds but I don’t see the Reds taking a prep infielder given the fact that the last one they took was David Espinosa in 2000.
13th Overall – RHP CJ Van Eyk, Florida State
In his first draft as the amateur scouting director, Michael Holmes went with Arizona State’s Hunter Bishop. Van Eyk’s climb to the upper half of the first round was relatively similar to Bishop’s, starting as a day one prospect w/ elite traits that he didn’t always display. Van Eyk flashes three plus-pitches but rarely all at the same time – because of the inconsistency he was tabbed as a potential breakout candidate and in his debut for ‘20 he went 5, allowing none with 1 hit, 2 BB, and 8 SO. As he did last year, he flashes three plus-pitches with a much desired delivery and arm that works fast. The Florida State product is just another high end arm in a long line from this year’s class.
Van Eyk took a step back in his sophomore year which had people in the industry worried, going 99.1 innings allowing 42 ER, 89 H, 41 BB and striking out 129. His .234 OBA was adequate, and the 3.81 ERA was far from a let-down in the ACC. This is probably the first pick that I would listen to other possible selections. College Pitchers Carmen Mlodzinski, and Tanner Burns all make sense here and it wouldn’t shock me if the Giants went with one of the many prep players available in Mick Abel, Robert Hassell III, Ed Howard, or even Jordan Walker. So many choices and I went Van Eyk though I think I’d go with Mick Abel if I was the Giants here, given he is my no. 7 player and the BPA but all in all, I went with CJ Van Eyk.
14th Overall – RHP Jared Kelley, Refugio HS
Prior to underslotting Josh Jung with the eighth overall selection last year, the Rangers were one of the more prep heavy drafting departments, using both of their 2017 selections as well as their 2018 and 2016 first round picks on high schoolers. Dating all the way back to 2010, the Rangers have used ten of their thirteen first round picks on prep prospects – the highest of any organization in baseball. Of the thirteen, only five remain in the organization – those being their five most recent first rounders, of course. To say the Rangers have been the worst team in baseball on the first day of the draft in this decade would be an understatement, as they’re the only team to go all of the 2010s without drafting a single player with a career WAR over one.
It’s fitting that I project the most high risk/high reward prospect in this year’s crop of pitchers to the Rangers of all teams – the Refugio, Texas native is committed to the University of Texas, because, of course. Kelley, a 6’2/200 righty working into the high-90’s has a filled-up frame with next to no projection left, he works off a plus-FB with below average command as well as a plus-CH that could be a double plus-pitch in the near future. The highly advertised Texas product has relief risk in a less desirable frame with a well below average breaker.
I have to admit, being a homegrown talent made me go with him over Abel. Kelley’s currently the no. 25 player on my board and would be the lowest graded player to get taken thus far. Abel, who’s still around, is 18 spots higher. Aside from the two obvious selections already mentioned, if the Rangers want to go uber-safe, Mississippi State’s Justin Foscue or LSU’s Daniel Cabrera would more than likely get similar underslot deals to their 8th overall pick last year. I considered Justin Foscue heavily, a similar selection to Braden Shewmake last year at the backend of the first who took a heavy underslot deal. But in the end, Kelley was such a good fit.
15th Overall – RHP Carmen Mlodzinski, South Carolina
In October, the Phillies hired longtime Yankees cross-checker and the scout behind the selection of Aaron Judge – Brian Barber. With this being his first draft and high end college prospects all over the place, Carmen Mlodzinski is such an easy take here. In 2018 and 2019 the Phillies under-slotted two college players at the top-half of the first round and in 2017 they gave College outfielder Adam Heasley just over the slot – so the Phillies have enjoyed safe college prospects in recent times. The only other player I considered here was Mick Abel, mainly because he’s the no. 7 player in the class and undeniably the top player on the board.
Mlodzinski’s career in Columbia started in a typical fashion for a freshman – working as a swingman for the Gamecocks and throwing 45.2 innings in 19 appearances and 7 starts. In those 19 APP, he allowed 47 H, 28 ER, 21 BB and struck out 43 – a relatively typical first-year for an SEC freshman pitcher. As expected, Carmen went into 2019 with some heavy expectations on a USC staff looking to regain it’s mid 2010s magic – but the year ended quickly for Mlodzinski who left the game in his third start and wasn’t seen from again until he set the Cape Cod on fire this summer and got into top 20 talks. In Mlodzinski’s first two 2020 starts (14 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 SO), he looked like himself and re-displayed everything that had scouts excited for his sophomore year.
Mlodzinski is sophomore eligible because of his redshirt last spring, so he’ll have some leverage in negotiations that will more than likely get offset by the injury that ended his ‘19 season. Lots of slam dunk first round talents remain with Tanner Burns, and Max Meyer all on the board. Cade Cavalli, Cole Henry, Chris McMahon, Slade Cecconi and Tommy Mace could all get looks at this spot in the draft but none of them have risen through the adversity like Carmen Mlodzinski.
16th Overall – OF Heston Kjerstad, Arkansas
Theo Epstein and staff have used their last seven first round selections on college prospects. Of the 7, they took a LHP, C, 3B, OF, SS and RHP x2 – aside from Kris Bryant (who was the unanimous top hitting prospect), the Cubs have targeted safe prospects at premium positions. While Heston has put up numbers from the left side that only 2019 4th overall pick JJ Bleday could match, there’s still some risk in an unorthodox swing that sees him raise his leg, drop his bat and swing heavily upwards.
In his time at Arkansas (prior to this year), Kjerstad has put up a .331/.414/.560 line in 129 games, and 507 AB, with 168 H, 27 2B, 1 3B, and 29 HR. His 116 SO to 46 BB are extremely scary but nonetheless, he’s hit the laces off the ball in the SEC and has seen himself play for USA’s collegiate team as well as come up in first round talks. I considered taking fellow-teammate Casey Martin with this pick, a similar plus-power, swing-and-miss prospect with much more tools all at shortstop – but Kjerstad made much more sense, even if I’d take Martin over him in a heartbeat. Heston is the no. 43 player on my board, 18 spots lower than the previously lowest ranked projected draft pick, Jared Kelley. The easiest comparison for Kjerstad is 2018 second rounder Griffin Conine, both project as average defenders in RF with a ‘good enough’ arm and athleticism.
17th Overall – OF Robert Hassell III, Independence HS
Thanks to their ridiculous payroll in 2018, the Red Sox’s top pick dropped ten spots from 33 to 43 and had to settle for Arizona infielder Cameron Cannon. At this point in the draft, numerous of the top prep prospects have fallen with Mick Abel, Ed Howard, Jordan Walker and Dylan Crews all available, so they instead go with standout US outfielder and 2019 International Player of the year, Robert Hassell III. The Vanderbilt commit gets comparisons to long-time MLB veteran Nick Markakis, because of a plus hit-tool and natural feel to hit.
Hassell worked in a duel-role for USA this summer, occasionally stepping on the mound and throwing high-80’s heat, so there’s a legitimate case for him in RF as an above average defender even if he lacks a quick first step. The 6’2/190 Franklin, Tennessee product still has mass to add and was probably the best offensive player in the entire summer showing off loud bat-to-ball skills. Boston has been all over the place in the draft as of late with next to no clear profile they target, so virtually everybody is a possibility here. Had I not gone with Hassell, I probably would’ve put Tanner Burns here.
18th Overall – SS Ed Howard, Mount Carmel HS
When the Diamondbacks ended up with four first round selections in last year’s draft, the expectation was that the later three selections would be college guys for low bonuses. Instead, after taking uber-athletic outfielder Corbin Carroll, they took two high schoolers for near slot deals and finished off the day with the selection of Drey Jameson, who got a well below slot deal. Corbin Carroll’s tumble to pick 16 resembles Ed Howard’s draft day slide in this mock draft – both top 10ish talents loaded with mostly average tools (Except Corbin Carroll’s Speed/Defense) for every category at premium positions.
Ed Howard’s slide in this mock draft was a strange one, given the fact that he’s the undisputed top prep shortstop as well as an Illinois native, one would’ve thought the Cubs and White Sox who had picks in the teens would have welcomed him with warm hands – instead they went with college players like many of the teams that selected before. Like Blaze Jordan and Zac Veen, Ed Howard didn’t play for USA’s 18u team – the difference is that instead of bypassing any involvement, he instead started on the team and left right before the biggest tournament of the summer. I was told it wasn’t injury related, but more of a last second ditch to save a drop on his draft stock.
The top high school shortstop in the draft has an above average hit tool, above average power tool, average defensive tool, somewhat above average speed and well above average bat speed. He’s got a sweet stroke from the right side that projects extremely well as a middle of the order bat that could hit for contact as well as put 12-17 balls in the stands. The Diamondbacks in this fictional draft would have to decide between Howard or Abel, both top 10 talents that have fallen, if Arizona doesn’t want Howard, Abel is an absolute steal at the later-half of the first round.
19th Overall – RHP Tanner Burns, Auburn
Nothing screams New York like Tanner Burns – who was set to be 2018 no. 1 overall pick Casey Mize’s heir apparent at the top of Auburn’s rotation. With all the pressure on Burns to fill in the void left in the rotation, he put up career numbers as a sophomore, going 79.2 innings, allowing 65 H, and 25 ER with 101 SO to only 23 BB. His 2.82 ERA/1.10 WHIP against high-level competition were enough to have his name brought up into first round talk and even top 10 talk.
Burns is a fierce ultra-competitive pitchability righty with low-90’s heat (gets up to 97), he’s faced durability questions that some believe are in part to his 6’0/215 Frame. Unlike most, I truly don’t care for the height of a college pitcher, with some of the shorter ones (Sonny Gray, Walker Buehler, Jack Leiter) having much whippier arms. While Burns has a filled out frame, there’s room for growth of a third-pitch, his CH currently gets well below average grades and his curveball only gets average marks. Though he’s a control-first pitcher, his command is still advanced and leaves hope for a possible fringe no. 4 starter role. Burns is among a still talented group of college pitching left; Cade Cavalli, Max Meyer, and Garrett Crochet could all be getting high end looks as of this point in the draft.
20th Overall – LHP Garrett Crochet, Tennessee
Since 2016, the Brewers have targeted extremely low-risk college players with the lone exception being Bryce Turang, who fell into the Brewers’ lap at pick 21 and was given pick 17 money. With Burns, Ginn, Wilcox, Mlodzinksi, Detmers, Lacy, and Van Eyk all gone – Crochet might be the last of the top tier of college pitchers in this draft, to get him at pick 20 is highway robbery. The risk with Crochet is no history of first round success on the mound and a start to the ‘20 season on the injury report. Crochet is viewed as top 10 by some, with a plus-CB, plus-FB, elite spin numbers that progressive organizations favor. He works in a quick delivery where he rides his front-leg all the way down the mound before throwing from a high-slot that gets great extension, all the while creating an extremely tough plane on the hitter.
The worst case scenario with Crochet is a high-leverage reliever role with an elite three-pitch-mix. He worked up to 100, sitting 97-99 in short stints this fall prior to the injury, that’s the worst case scenario – the best case is a no. 3 starter with three future plus-pitches, and mid-90’s velo deep into outings. At this point in the draft, financials become the make or break for a draft pick, and with Crochet’s past, there’s a shot he takes a slot deal or less. The only other college prospect with the upside of Crochet is Arkansas’ Casey Martin, and the Brewers haven’t shown affection for risky prospects like prep pitchers, or Jordan Walker and Austin Hendrick.
21st Overall – OF Austin Hendrick, West Allegheny HS
Since 2000, the highest St. Louis has selected is 18th overall, they’ve made a living off late first round picks like Jack Flaherty, Marco Gonzales, Michael Wacha, Kolten Wong, Shelby Miller, and Colby Rasmus being some of the headliners. In recent years, they’ve taken a prep bat in three of their last four first round selections, all of which were typically the undeniable BPA or an underslot. Hendrick, my no. 14 player in the class and otherwisetop 10 pick in a normal draft year.
Hendrick, a 6’1 Right Fielder, has undergone lots of changes to his swing in response to a late-summer slump. He once stood in an upright, open stance with a double toe-tap and hand wiggle before a long powerful stride. He now starts in an athletic base with a much shorter stride, and less (unwarranted) movement pre-pitch. While his mechanics have come and gone, the power he’s displayed has not. A Perfect Game Home Run Derby participant, USA alum, and Baseball America All-American – Hendrick has checked off every box imaginable. His Plus Plus raw power is one that no high schooler in this class can match, which is the reason High Schoolers as talented as Hendrick come with flaws that can be easily fixed and tools that can’t be taught.
The profile of Hendrick is reminiscent to 2019 Royals first rounder Bobby Witt Jr – an old-for-the-class prospect with a near plus glove, plus plus-power, an above average hit tool, swing and miss concerns and a very strong matured swing. Every single one of those could be listed under Hendrick and you wouldn’t think twice. Sure, Austin Hendrick doesn’t play at position as valuable as Bobby Witt Jr, but you can’t deny the similarities between the two. St. Louis could be getting a top of the order bat with perennial all-star potential, at the backend of the first – the risk is worth it.
22nd Overall – RHP Cade Cavalli, Oklahoma
Washington has a thing for 6’4 pitchers, taking a pitcher in the first in six of their last seven choices. Of the six, only one was under 6’4, and he was 6’3 – Cavalli a 6’4/218 RHP with USA experience has been up on 98, sitting 93-96 with below average command, but when it drops to 91-92, he shows well above average control. In his two 2020 starts, Cavalli has gone 11.2 innings allowing just 3 runs, with 10 H, 2 BB and 17 SO. Those outings against UVA, and Illinois State – two fringe top 25 teams make his 17 SO all the more impressive. Prior to this season, Cavalli had only thrown 77.1 innings, a small workload at a highly volatile position where workloads typically under a tight leash is all the more value to a pitcher who’s seen his velocity climb of late and results grow in response.
The power-oriented pitcher with overwhelming stuff isn’t a finesse pitcher but more of a “I bet you can’t hit me” type of arm. He’ll have to fine-tune his command at the next level, while also keeping his velocity up to stay in the rotation, which he’s highly capable of. Mick Abel, who’s draft day slide continues makes a lot of sense here for the Nats, a massive projectable pitcher that draws similarly to Nationals 2019 first overall pick, Jackson Ruthledge. The pass-up of Mick Abel is somewhat questionable, his fall in this mock draft can be credited to the college class, which Cavalli in part has contributed too.
23rd Overall – RHP Mick Abel, Jesuit HS
Last year, Daniel Espino – my no. 4 prospect in the draft and no. 1 prep pitcher – fell all the way to pick 24, which was held by Cleveland. In this scenario, my no. 1 prep pitcher and no. 7 prospect in the class tumbles his way into the hands of Cleveland once again. I guess you can call it luck. Mick Abel, a 6’6/185 uber-projectable pitcher is already working in the mid-90’s with plenty of mass to fill-up. It’s truly scary to imagine how much velo can be added to a pitcher who regularly hits 98 in showcase outings, usually sitting in the 93-96 range.
Abel works with a plus-CB that is one of the better breaking balls in the class with advanced spin and some heavily-desired late action. His delivery is somewhat slow, with minimal explosion – even more potential for velo increase with a speeded-up delivery and leg-usage. It’s hilarious to look at how much potential the USA 18u member has in his near future. The Indians will probably need to give Abel top 12 money for him to sign away his Oregon State commitment, which I’m sure they’re perfectly fine with given his upside.
24th Overall – C Drew Romo, The Woodlands HS
Up to this point of the draft, only two selections have remained the same as my last Mock Draft, those being Tanner Burns to the Mets, and Drew Romo to the Rays. Tampa Bay is the only team since 2010 to select more than one prep catcher in the first round (Nick Ciuffo, Justin O’Connor). With high school catchers being the most volatile pool of talent in the draft over the past decade, guys like Drew Romo and Tyler Soderstrom who have elite traits are tough to read because of the history of prep catchers.
Ignoring prep catcher risk, Romo is a top 10 talent with a plus plus-arm, above average receiving abilities, above average hit tool from both sides, and slightly above average power from both sides. Switch-hitting catchers like Romo are much more valuable given the added-bonus of being able to platoon at other positions if they do end up switching positions. While Romo is without-a-question the top defender behind the plate in the draft this year, there’s too much risk to take him any higher than this spot. The Woodlands, Texas product comes from a high school that’s produced numerous high end draft picks like Jameson Taillon and Kyle Drabek – Romo faces highly competitive competition as expected in a state that breeds MLB Players. The two-time USA 18u member is part of an exclusive club, being one of only two players (Pete Crow-Armstrong is the other) on this year’s 18u program were on it the year before. Romo was lauded a leader for the young US roster with intangibles some teams value enough to ignore the prep catcher risk. Tampa Bay has looked to the draft for answers to their low-payroll, somebody like Drew Romo could help out.
25th Overall – 2B Justin Foscue, Mississippi State
One of the more draft-friendly executives, Alex Anthopolous, has built many of his teams from the value he’s gained on draft day. As the Blue Jays GM, the Jays targeted safe-college players, and when he took over the Braves they took HS Pitcher Carter Stewart and then failed to sign him – so in 2019 they took college catcher Shea Langeliers, and college shortstop Braden Shewmake. Both signed for relatively inexpensive bonuses.
From the surface Foscue seems similar to Shewmake, both listed as middle infielders from SEC Programs. Though they’re far from the same – In Foscue’s sophomore-campaign, he put up 14 HR, 32 SO, 30 BB, and a .391 OBP, while Shewmake put up only 6 HR, 27 SO, 23 BB, and a .374 OBP in his junior-year. Foscue, a power-threat from 2B, adds value from numerous aspects of the game while Shewmake is basically average at everything with a well below-average power tool.
Foscue seems to be one of the safest prospects in the draft, his success in the SEC speaks volumes on its own. Mississippi State has produced a steady amount of high end bats of recent with Hunter Renfroe (2013), Brent Rooker (2017), Jake Mangum (2019) as well as Foscue, and Jordan Westburg set to join them in this year’s draft.
26th Overall – SS Casey Martin, Arkansas
The general consensus behind college bats is the low-risk profiles they’re typically attached with, Martin is an error-prone shortstop with massive swing-and-miss concerns that might turn off some old-fashioned scouts who love defense and high-contact bats. Luckily baseball’s going in the opposite direction and Martin fits into the new analytically-driven age of baseball extremely well. The uber-athletic shortstop didn’t make Team USA’s collegiate team but played some CF in the trial-period and looked up-for-the-task, as expected he showed double plus-speed and instinctive actions. From the offensive side, he’s highly-touted in part to plus-power at a premium position (whether that be CF or SS). He stands in a low-stance that starts with an open front leg, similar to Adley Rutchsman – though the results may differ, he produces heavy bat speed with loud contact usually generated.
In his time at Arkansas, Martin has gone through a roller-coaster of results. He saw his BA (.345 to .287), OBP (.418 to .369), SO (64 to 71) and FLD% (.907 to .905) all get worse. He saw his 2B (14 to 19), 3B (0 to 3), HR (13 to 15), BB (27 to 29) and SB (8 to 10), in only 9 more ABs. The Lonoke, Arkansas talent has seen his name get brought up in top 5 talks alittle over a year ago, and then tumbled down boards because of hit-tool concerns. Some still view Martin as an early-teens talent that could go to a team like San Francisco who favors prospects like Casey, though others view him as a late first rounder because of the insane amount of college pitchers available.
27th Overall – RHP Max Meyer, Minnesota
This is far from the last time I projected the Golden Gopher to go 27th overall to his hometown team. Though Minnesota has tended to take toolsy bats in the first round, how can they pass up a local kid with an arm that hit triple-digits on opening night? Another USA Collegiate member, Meyer is one of most electric arms in the draft – with a fast-paced delivery in the mold of Sonny Gray, a fellow undersized mid-90’s starter. The difference, of course, being one came from a Northern program that hasn’t developed a first rounder since Glen Perkins in 2004, while Vanderbilt has had seven first rounder since Sonny Gray went 18th overall in 2011.
Max is coming off back-to-back sub 2.00 ERA/1.05 WHIP campaigns. His junior campaign started off with a bang (5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 SO) as he sat 97-99 in the first inning and then dropped into the 94-95 range by the fifth inning, durability typically being a question for guys like Meyer whose 6’0/165 frame scares off some teams. Of course, Meyer will battle the height question marks until he finally proves them wrong – and while there’s nothing he can do to outdo himself and what he’s already accomplished in Minnesota, he could continue it all in the place he’s called home.
28th Overall – 3B Jordan Walker, Decatur HS
Under Brian Cashman of late, the Yankees have gone into the high school ranks to funnel talent onto the Yankees exciting roster. In spirit of the Bronx Bombers, the Yankees grab the third highest power-tool (High School) in the class and a physical specimen.
Walker is an interesting prospect in the sense that he could move to LF, RF, 1B or stay at 3B, his 6’5/220 frame could become 6’7/240 and look like a similar profile to Face of the Franchise, Aaron Judge. Yankees fans might be more intrigued after hearing that, and with Blaze Jordan on the board, another great fit for the team known for its offense – the options for casual draft followers are extremely long.
Walker’s plus plus-power comes with some contact-issues and stiffness in upper-body movements, his defensive actions though are shockingly graceful at third with a plus-arm that’s probably best suited for right field. I think some Yankee fans would quickly gravitate towards Walker if the Yankees took him, similarly to young-phenom Jasson Dominiguez.
29th Overall – RHP Cole Henry, LSU
The final selection of the first round always displays a clear-image for how good of a class it was, though Cole Henry isn’t an exciting pick with Tyler Soderstrom, Alejandro Rosario, Jared Jones or Nick Bitsko still on the board. The sophomore eligible righty is similar to Michigan’s ace in their 2019 CWS Run, Tommy Henry. The Dodgers have seen plenty of success on draft day recently with Gavin Lux and Will Smith in 2016, Walker Buehler in 2015, and Corey Seager in 2012 all making impacts on their roster in 2019. They’ve used three of their last four selections on college prospects, as well as six of their last eight. As stated numerous times, most teams will lean towards college pitchers this year and the Dodgers are no different.
Henry worked in a protected role as a freshman in the SEC, only throwing 58.1 IP in 14 APP (11 GS), allowing 50 H, 22 ER, and striking out 72 to 18 BB. He’s somewhat flown under-the-radar for some odd reason, possibly because of being a sophomore? Either way it doesn’t matter, Henry’s already made it clear he’s here to say starting the ‘20 spring (9.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 11 SO) off guns-blazing. If he keeps this current trajectory up, he could join fellow sophomore eligible pitchers (Cole Wilcox and JT Ginn) in top 10 talks. Until then, the Dodgers are getting a bargain at the final selection of round one.