2020 MLB Draft: Top 10 Prospects (Fantasy Baseball)
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The 2020 Major League Baseball June Amateur Draft is nearly upon us. The five-round format begins on Wednesday, June 10th at 7 PM ET and concludes the following evening. Due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s draft is just five short rounds (as opposed to the typical 40).
Note: The rankings below are not a mock draft. These are pre-draft player rankings for fantasy baseball dynasty leagues. Of course, Wednesday’s action could shift some names up and down. Unlike football, however, landing spot doesn’t matter quite as much for fantasy purposes.
Finally, keep in mind that college hitters are generally viewed as the safest type of prospect for fantasy leagues. Prep players are even farther away from impacting your dynasty team and that notion is reflected in my ranks.
1. Spencer Torkelson (1B – Arizona State)
We haven’t seen a first baseman go first overall in the MLB Draft since Adrian Gonzalez way back in 2000. Before A-Gon you have to return to 1967 when the Yankees selected Ron Blomberg. Both of these first base prospects were lefty bats out of high school. To put it another way — we’ve never seen a right-handed hitting college first baseman go 1.01.
That is how special Torkelson’s bat is. It is always a risk to select a first baseman so high in the draft because they have to hit in order to work out. There is nowhere else on the defensive spectrum for them to play. Torkelson is viewed as possessing a plus hit tool with plus-plus power. Think Pete Alonso fantasy upside, but with batting average.
The Arizona State product gets a bump over Austin Martin for me since we don’t care about his defensive prowess for fantasy purposes. Torkelson, seen as the favorite to be the Tigers’ choice at number-one overall, is thought to be close to the majors after batting .337/.463/.729 with 54 homers in 129 games in college. Oh, and he broke ASU’s record for most homers by a freshman. The previous holder of that record? Barry Bonds.
Spencer Torkelson broke Barry Bonds' freshman HR record at ASU and is seen as having as much offensive upside as any draft prospect since Bryce Harper
The heavy favorite to be Tigers' pick at 1.01 pic.twitter.com/3AXbki2Th5
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) June 6, 2020
2. Austin Martin (3B/OF – Vanderbilt)
While Torkelson has the best power in this draft class, Austin Martin is seen as possessing the best hit tool. The 21-year-old struck out just twice in 16 games before his season was suspended. Additionally, he was hitting .377 with 1.168 OPS, three homers, and three stolen bases before the shutdown.
It isn’t out of the question to view Martin as a superior fantasy prospect to Torkelson. The former Vanderbilt Commodore isn’t a blazer down the line but still has enough speed to become a stolen base threat in the pros. There are ultimately questions of where Martin will land in the field but his hitting/speed profile will play anywhere for fantasy purposes.
3. Nick Gonzales (2B – New Mexico State)
Nick Gonzales can swing the damn bat. A career .399 hitter during his college tenure, Gonzales was batting .448/.610/1.115 with 12 homers in 16 games before his NCAA season came to an end this year. Sure, he plays in one of the best offensive environments a college hitter can enjoy, but he also impressed in the Cape Cod League last summer.
Gonzales began this season as his team’s shortstop but most scouts think he’ll ultimately wind up as a second baseman. That is more than okay for fantasy purposes. The best comp scouts have given him is that of Keston Hiura, a plus hitter with above-average power and speed at a thin position. Gonzales gets the edge over the name below for being a more proven hitter at a higher level.
4. Zac Veen (OF – Spruce Creek HS)
Veen is viewed as the best high school player in this 2020 group thanks to an advanced hit tool and a 6’4″ frame that suggests the power will come as he fills out. His calling card is his elite bat speed, which helps him spray line drives to all parts of the field. Particularly this year (due to the lack of games because of the COVID-19 pandemic), it is risky to use a dynasty league draft pick on a toolsy prep player. However, the 18-year-old has as much upside as anyone in this class.
5. Asa Lacy (LHP – Texas A&M)
Asa Lacy had all the momentum within the draft community before his season at Texas A&M came to a halt. The southpaw had posted a 0.75 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 24 innings across four starts in 2020. Had the coronavirus pandemic not interfered — and had Lacy continued pitching at a similar level — his stock would’ve kept rising.
The risk with Lacy is that his command isn’t fully polished. Despite being such a dominant hurler over the past three seasons the lefty allowed a 4.0 BB/9 in his college career. This means he could ultimately end up as a reliever, though that is always a possibility for pitching prospects. Lacy’s “stuff” is worth the gamble if you want to take a pitcher from this class.
Texas A&M lefty Asa Lacy before the college season was shut down:
Vicious, vicious stuff pic.twitter.com/3YoFLh3TxB
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) June 6, 2020
6. Max Meyer (RHP – Minnesota)
If Max Meyer were Lacy’s size than he would be this year’s top pitcher in the eyes of almost every scout. Unfortunately for the former Minnesota Gopher, Meyer is barely six feet tall and weighs just 185 pounds. That isn’t a death sentence by any means. There are plenty of MLB success stories who overcame a smaller frame. Think Tim Lincecum.
The size is the only concern when it comes to Meyer. His wipeout slider sits in the 88-92 mph range and is regarded as single the best pitch in this class. Additionally, his fastball is a plus offering that has reached triple digits in velocity. His stature makes it possible (likely?) that he winds up as a reliever. If that’s the case then he certainly has closer “stuff” and would project as a dominant relief arm.
7. Emerson Hancock (RHP – Georgia)
Emerson Hancock came into the 2020 season as the favorite to be the number-one pick come draft day. It isn’t that he necessarily did anything wrong. It has more to do with Torkelson, Gonzales, and Lacy getting off to roaring starts. Hancock posted a 3.75 ERA across four starts before his season came to an end. In a much larger sample size the year prior he registered a 1.99 ERA with a 97/18 K/BB ratio spanning 14 appearances.
The Georgia product has the size, the pedigree, and the ability to throw four pitches for strikes — all of which add up to make him a safe “real life” draft pick for an MLB team in search of a reliable starter. He might not possess the mouthwatering project-ability of Lacy or Meyer, but it would be foolish to limit the ceiling on a player this talented.
8. Heston Kjerstad (OF – Arkansas)
I’d be more worried about Heston Kjerstad’s strikeout tendencies if this were a different era. If 2019 was any indication, however, we learned that strikeouts aren’t a major issue as long as a hitter punishes the ball when he makes contact. Striking out so frequently simply decreases a hitter’s margin for error.
Kjerstad is in this tier for me because he has a track record of success (career .343/.421/.590 slash line) while playing in one of the best conferences in college baseball. Power from the left side is his calling card as the 21-year-old swatted 37 homers in 150 career NCAA games. Keith Law of The Athletic describes the former Razorback as having elite hand acceleration, which helps make up for his busy swing. The 22% strikeout rate from 2019 concerns some but it appears to me as if Kjerstad will fit in just fine in today’s “three true outcomes” offensive environment.
9. Robert Hassell III (OF – Independence HS)
We’re closing things out with a couple of prep hitters. Robert Hassell’s lefty stroke is arguably the prettiest swing in this draft class. The all-around profile reminds me a bit of Andrew Benintendi in the since that Hassell should hit for a good average, possibly swat 15-20 homers, and chip in with double-digit stolen base totals when all is said and done. The only downside in using a dynasty league selection on this outfielder is how far away from the majors he is.
10. Ed Howard (SS – Mount Carmel HS)
Ed Howard possesses more “real life” value because he is one of the only true shortstops that could possibly go in the first round. That isn’t as big of a deal when it comes to fantasy considerations, but there is plenty to like in his profile.
Howard unfortunately never got to play this spring but he has all the tools scouts search for in a high school hitter. The 18-year-old has excellent bat speed and swing rotation. He could eventually hit for both average and power in the pro game. Additionally, his plus-speed on the base paths will make him a 30-steal threat if everything breaks right.
- Garrett Mitchell (OF – UCLA)
- Reid Detmers (LHP – Louisville)
- Pete Crow-Armstrong (OF – Harvard-Westlake HS)
- Casey Martin (SS – Arkansas)