Much has been written about the upcoming June 10 draft, and the Jays’ #5 overall selection. Surprisingly, even with no college or high school ball, the top names are still shifting. What is the current buzz?
Mock drafts and draft analyses continue to come out, and the ranking of the top 5 names continues to be fluid. Let’s look at some of the top prospects, and examine the current buzz.
2020 will be an unusual draft, and not only for the obvious corona-related reasons. While the top prospects are good, there is no Rutschman or Mize-level talent who teams will want at any cost. That, and the dynamics surrounding team finances and the 5-round mini-draft, make the unlikely that much more likely. So it is very possible that the actual draft could be very different from the “consensus” picks I show below.
#1 – Spencer Torkelson to the Tigers (BA#1, ESPN #1, MLB #1)
The S.Tork is the consensus first overall. The only way he does not go #1 is if his agent (can you say Boras?) demands crazy-high money and the Tigers see better value elsewhere. But rumour has it that the Tiggers and Boras are close to a deal, and Stork-to-Detroit is even more likely now than it was two weeks ago.
Toronto Blue Jays
#2 – Austin Martin to the Orioles (BA#4, ESPN #2, MLB #2)
Here is where it gets interesting. There is speculation that the Orioles (rumoured to be hurt more than most by the coronavirus shutdown) are hesitating to pay a full $7.79 million slot (again, can you say Boras?) for a player who does not even have a definite position. Instead, they speculate, the O’s might want to sign a player here for underslot and use the savings to target a harder sign in later rounds. As Keith Law put it, “I still think it’s whichever of Torkelson or Martin doesn’t go No. 1, but there are some rumblings they would take Heston Kjerstad on a discount. I have heard a few times they won’t go with a pitcher here“. But Martin would pretty clearly be the best player available at this point.
#3 – Asa Lacy to the Marlins (BA #3, ESPN #3, MLB #3)
Concerns about his motion and injury/bullpen risk aside, Lacy has risen to the top of the pitching ranks – due in part to Emerson Hancock’s fall (see below) but also due to his own excellent start to 2020. If Martin were still available, many think that Miami scouting director (and former Vanderbilt assistant coach) D.J. Svihlik would take him over Lacy, and there are rumours that the Fish are intrigued by Heston Kjerstad as a below-slot sign, but Lacy is the most likely choice.
#4 – Zac Veen to the Royals (BA #2, ESPN #4, MLB #5)
Veen was fortunate to play his high school ball in Florida, where baseball starts earlier than colder states. As a result, scouts were able to see (briefly) the very positive results of an off-season conditioning program. Veen was originally expected to be drafted in the 8-15 range, but there is considerable speculation that he would be open to an underslot deal if signed in the first 5. There are not many players in this year’s draft who have legitimate 7-win upside, but Veen is one of them.
As good as he is, Veen is likely not a top-4 talent at full slot. There is just too much risk. But many draft analysts believe that there will be some real opportunities to get first-round level talent in the second and later rounds, if you have the budget to overslot. And a Veen at #4 (or #5!) could be a very good pick in its own right.
#5 – Emerson Hancock to the Jays (BA #5, ESPN #9, MLB #6)
Hancock is probably the biggest wild card in the draft. At one point, he was in serious discussion for first overall, but a combination of factors have dropped him (in most drafts) out of top 5 discussions. As Kiley McDaniel put it
"Hancock is the player sliding most in this projection, and there’s a reason. His TrackMan data is just OK, he’s unusual in that he’s a righty with a changeup as his out pitch, his 2020 performance was just OK, and most top scouts didn’t see him in 2019 because he didn’t pitch over the summer or at the SEC tournament. A clean medical could help him rise or could make Colorado feel better about taking him [at #9]."
One concern is that Hancock’s poor finish to 2019 and slow start to 2020 could have medical reasons – which is why the medical checkup results he is expected to make public this week matter more than for most players. But this uncertainty could work to the Jays’ advantage if they still believed in him. Might Hancock be open to a below-slot deal at #5, given all of these concerns? Slot for #5 is $6.18 million, but slot drops quickly after that – to $4.95 million for pick #9.
#6 – Nick Gonzales to Seattle (BA #7, ESPN #6, MLB #4)
How teams see Nick is all about how they see his bat transitioning to the big leagues. He is almost certain to move from short to second base, and with a marginal arm, he is unlikely to excel defensively even there. And at 5’10 and 190 pounds, his power and speed are very much in question. His one game against Asa Lacy has raised questions about how well he will do when he is facing Lacy-level pitching every day. So still almost definitely a top-10, but maybe/likely/probably more of a 6-10 than a 1-5?
That said, there is some speculation that Baltimore could sign Gonzo instead of Martin if the price were right (Kiley McDaniel puts the odds of Nick at #2 at 40%). And Nick’s hitting ceiling is as high as any player in the draft
#7 – Max Meyer to Pittsburgh (BA #6, ESPN #5, MLB #8)
Meyer has been considered a 6-10 level talent for some time now. With the health whispers about Hancock, his stock has risen by default to the point where he is – right now – the second-best pitcher on the board in some eyes, and there is speculation that he could be the Jays’ pick at #5 if they have doubts about Hancock.
The bottom line
It is common to talk about “just taking the best player available” in the amateur draft. But it is not that simple. Questions about signability, or health, or risk are all valid in making the choice. And in a 5-round draft, a team wants to “get it right” with early picks even more than in a 40-round one. Only certain thing is that this should be a fun draft!