Pick: SS Austin Martin, Vanderbilt ($8,415,300 slot value)
The Tigers hold the No. 1 pick for the second time in three years (Casey Mize in 2018) and this is a draft with five players who had a chance to play their way into the top selection had the season not been shut down. Rather than let things play out and gather as much information as possible, the Tigers will instead have to rely on the information they already have, and make the best possible decision.
“When you prepare for the draft, you don’t just start preparing and scouting in February,” GM Al Avila told MLB.com’s Jason Beck last month. “It starts the year before, and in some cases even longer. After speaking to (assistant GM) David Chadd and (scouting director) Scott Pleis, we have over 600 reports for this year’s draft already. We have video on every player. We have a system where I can push a button and the scouting report pops in there.”
Martin hit .377/.507/.660 with three homers and more walks (10) than strikeouts (2) in 16 games before Vanderbilt halted its season. He played mostly third base last year and mostly center field this spring, but he’s a gifted defender who projects to play shortstop long-term. Martin has power and discipline, and is arguably the best pure hitter in the draft. He projects as an impact five-tool guy.
Teams do not draft for need, especially not this high in the draft, but it is fortuitous the top draft prospect is a middle infielder. Detroit’s farm system is heavy on pitching (Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal) and light on high-end position players. Martin would give the Tigers a future star at a key up-the-middle position to build around going forward.
Pick: 2B Nick Gonzales, New Mexico State ($7,789,900 slot value)
When he ran drafts for the Astros, O’s GM Mike Elias had great success manipulating his team’s bonus pool. Houston pioneered the practice of cutting underslot deals with high picks and using the savings on later picks. They signed Carlos Correa below slot with the No. 1 pick in 2012, and used the leftover bonus pool money to pay Lance McCullers Jr. with the No. 41 pick.
The Orioles have the largest bonus pool and an extra pick this year, and I think it’s possible they’ll go underslot with the No. 2 pick, and use the savings on a top talent that falls to their extra pick (No. 30 overall). Gonzales is no slouch — he is widely expected to go in the top 4-5 picks this year — but, among the top draft prospects, he may be most likely to take an underslot deal ($6.5 million?) at No. 2.
Gonzales put up absurd numbers this spring — he hit .448/.610/1.155 with 12 homers in 16 games — though he plays at altitude and in a not great conference. More importantly, he demolished elite competition in the wood bat Cape Cod League last summer (.351/.451/.630). Gonzales is not a standout defender but he projects to be solid at second base. Keston Hiura is the obvious parallel.
Pick: 1B Spencer Torkelson, Arizona State ($7,221,200 slot value)
The Marlins have had three first-round picks in the Derek Jeter/Bruce Sherman era and they’ve used all three on hitters (Connor Scott in 2018, J.J. Bleday and Kameron Misner in 2019) and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. In recent years, teams have emphasized bats at the top of the draft because they carry considerably less injury risk than pitchers.
In our mock draft Torkelson,, falls to the Marlins with the No. 3 pick. It would be hard to pass up the most devastating offensive force in the nation — Torkelson hit .340/.598/.780 with six homers in 17 games this spring and has 54 homers in 129 games as a Sun Devil — even if Miami believes it already has its first baseman of the future in Lewin Diaz.
If the Marlins pass on Torkelson — the reasons for passing would be his lack of defensive value and the poor track record of right-handed hitting/right-handed throwing first basemen — then either one of the top two arms, Georgia’s Emerson Hancock or Texas A&M’s Asa Lacy, would be the pick here. There’s little chance Martin stays on the board beyond this pick.
Pick: RHP Emerson Hancock, Georgia ($6,664,000 slot value)
The Royals would probably love Martin or Torkelson to make it to this spot, but that didn’t happen in our mock draft, so Hancock is the selection. Hancock had a chance to pitch his way into consideration for the No. 1 pick before the shutdown and he has the highest upside of any pitcher in the draft class. A poor 2020 debut (six runs in four innings) hasn’t scared teams away. It was just a bad night.
Hancock struck out 34 and walked three in 24 innings prior to the shutdown and he takes three swing-and-miss pitches (fastball, curveball, slider) to the mound on his best days, plus a good fourth pitch (changeup) and control. Kansas City had 13 first-round picks from 2012-19 and used 10 on pitchers. The Royals emphasize arms early in the draft and Hancock would fit with the trend.
Pick: LHP Asa Lacy, Texas A&M ($6,180,700 slot value)
Coming into the spring, five players had a chance to play their way into the No. 1 pick. Four came off the board with the first four picks in this mock draft and Lacy is the fifth. Also, the Blue Jays have used seven of their last eight first-round picks on college players, so Lacy is an obvious fit. He has mid-90s gas and two good breaking balls, and he allowed just two runs with 46 strikeouts in 24 innings prior to the shutdown. Toronto would likely go with Hancock or especially Torkelson over Lacy if they’re still on the board here.
Pick: OF Garrett Mitchell, UCLA ($5,742,900 slot value)
The board starts to open up a bit after the top five players. The Mariners have drafted only one high school player in the first round since 2011 (Alex Jackson in 2014) and the bet here is they’ll stick to the college ranks with Mitchell. Mitchell is a tools freak with big power, top-of-the-line speed, and excellent center field defense. He authored a .355/.425/.484 batting line in 15 games prior to the shutdown. Mitchell’s ability to make consistent contact is the greatest long-term question on the field — he has been a Type I diabetic since childhood but teams are comfortable with his ability to manage his disease — but the tools and potential are there for stardom.
Pick: RHP Mick Abel, Jesuit High School (Oregon) ($5,432,400 slot value)
The Pirates have a new front office regime and that renders their recent first-round trends (just one pitcher in the first round since 2012) meaningless. We’ll give them Abel here and make him the first high schooler selected in our mock draft. The 6-foot-5 righty has the best combination of size, stuff, and command in the high school ranks, and he impressed enough on the showcase circuit last summer to get picked in the top 10 this year despite not playing a single game prior to the shutdown this spring. Abel has legitimate ace upside and could be a No. 1 pick candidate after three years at Oregon State. The fact he didn’t play this spring could lead to an underslot bonus, allowing the Pirates to spend big with their competitive balance lottery pick (No. 31 overall). Pittsburgh could be tempted by Austin Hendrick, a Pittsburgh-area high schooler, here.
Pick: OF Austin Hendrick, West Allegheny High School (Pennsylvania) ($5,176,900 slot value)
Under GM A.J. Preller, the Padres have focused on pure upside in the first round. They don’t mess around. They take the player with superstar potential even if it comes with significant risk. Hendrick has enormous power and he’s shown it in games against elite competition in showcase events, and the innate hitting ability is there for him to be an MVP-caliber hitter. There are also days Hendrick will fall out of sync at the plate and pile up strikeouts. It’s a boom-or-bust profile and gosh, the upside is considerable. Hendrick has the prototypical right field profile defensively and will add some value in the field.
Pick: LHP Reid Detmers, Louisville ($4,949,100 slot value)
The Rockies are in perpetual need of pitching and, at this point in our mock draft, the best players on the board are pitchers. It’s a pitching-rich draft class and Detmers is the most polished and MLB-ready arm available. He’s a three-pitch southpaw (fastball, curveball, changeup) with an ideal pitcher’s frame (6-foot-2 and 210 pounds) and pitching know-how. Detmers allowed three runs with 48 strikeouts against only six walks in 22 innings prior to the shutdown. The upside is not sky high, but Detmers could reach MLB as soon as the second half of 2022, and spend the next decade chewing up innings at a better-than-league-average rate.
Pick: RHP Jared Kelley, Refugio High School (Texas) ($4,739,900 slot value)
Clearly, the Angels feel pressure to return to the postseason and soon. They’ve played three postseason games in the Mike Trout era (all losses) and they just gave Anthony Rendon a $245 million contract. That could push them to target a player who could reach the big leagues quickly with this pick — Detmers would be the dream scenario in that case — but the bet here is they stay the course and take the best player available, and that’s Kelley. The big right-hander has easy mid-90s gas and a great changeup, especially for a high schooler. Kelley also has enough pitching smarts to climb the minor-league ladder quicker than a typical high schooler.
Pick: RHP Max Meyer, Minnesota ($4,547,500 slot value)
A two-way player for the Golden Gophers, Meyer’s future is on the mound and he has an electric fastball/slider combination. He has dominated as a starter in college — Meyer allowed six earned runs with 46 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings prior to the shutdown — though there is some concern he’ll be a reliever long-term because he’s a bit undersized. The White Sox have never shied away from the unconventional in the draft, be it Chris Sale’s wiry frame or Carson Fulmer’s funky delivery or Nick Madrigal’s tiny stature, and the 6-foot-0 Meyer fits. If they put him in the bullpen full-time, he could help their big-league club in short order.
Pick: LHP Garrett Crochet, Tennessee ($4,366,400 slot value)
The Reds are always difficult to pin down going into the draft because they’ve shown no discernible bias with their recent first-round picks. They’ve gone high school, college, pitcher, position player, whatever. The best player on the board here is Crochet, a 6-foot-6 lefty with a fastball that shows elite velocity and elite spin, as well as a quality slider and improving changeup. A shoulder problem limited him to one appearance this spring (six strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings), which pushes him out of the top 10 in our mock draft, but Crochet looked good in that outing and has the kind of stuff that’s hard to find from the left side.
Pick: OF Robert Hassell, Independence High School (Tennessee) ($4,197,100 slot value)
This is Year 2 of the Farhan Zaidi regime and we don’t have enough information yet to know the Giants’ draft tendencies under his watch. The run of arms in the last six picks means the best available players are hitters at this point, and Hassell might be the best pure hitter in the draft class. He has the innate ability to get the fat part of the bat on the ball from the left side of the plate. There are questions about how much power he’ll have long-term and where he’ll fit defensively, but it’s a hit tool you can dream on. Hassell is committed to Vanderbilt, arguably the best player development school in the country. If he winds up on campus, he could be a candidate to go in the top five in three years. The Giants have two extra picks after losing Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith to free agency, giving them a nice big bonus pool to play with ($9.2 million).
Pick: OF Zac Veen, Spruce Creek High School (Florida) ($4,036,800 slot value)
The Rangers used their two first-round picks on college players last year (Josh Jung and Davis Wendzel), but nine of their previous 11 first round picks were high schoolers, and I have them going back to that well this year. Veen looks like a grown man physically (6-foot-4 and 200 pounds) and he has a sweet left-handed swing with power and plate discipline. He’s probably a corner outfielder long-term, which is fine, because the bat will always be his carrying tool. Given his success on the showcase circuit last summer, it’s possible Veen could’ve played his way into the top five or 10 picks had the season not been shut down.
Pick: OF Heston Kjerstad, Arkansas ($3,885,800 slot value)
With the understanding that the jury is still out on 2018 (Alec Bohm) and 2019 (Bryson Stott), the Phillies have had some terrible first-round picks the last 15-20 years. Aaron Nola (2014) is a stud and Adam Haseley (2017) looks like a nice ballplayer, otherwise Philadelphia hasn’t had a first rounder have a substantial career for them since Cole Hamels in 2002. Kjerstad might have the most raw power in the draft class — he hit .448/.513/.791 with six homers in 16 games prior to the shutdown — enough to make teams overlook the swing-and-miss in his game, and only adequate corner outfield defense. He’s been a top performer in college baseball’s toughest conference the last few years and that track record will land him solidly in the middle of the first round.
Pick: C Patrick Bailey, North Carolina State ($3,745,500 slot value)
This is a good catching draft — there is no Adley Rutschman-caliber prospect in this draft class, but as many as four catchers could go in the first round — and Bailey has the best combination of offensive potential and defense at the position. He’s a switch-hitter with power and on-base ability, and he’s a very good defensive catcher with a strong arm. At worst, Bailey should have a long career as a backup catcher, and he has the potential to be much more than that. He hit .296/.466/.685 with six homers in 17 games prior to the shutdown.
Pick: RHP Nick Bitsko, Central Bucks East High School (Pennsylvania) ($3,609,700 slot value)
The Red Sox are on their third different front office regime in the last five years and that means we shouldn’t read much into their recent draft trends. Bitsko is graduating a year early — he was slated to be a top 2021 draft prospect — and he will be only 17 on the original draft date (June 10). He’s a big-bodied righty with an upper-90s fastball and a wipeout breaking ball. The shutdown could hurt him because it wasn’t until January that it was announced he would graduate early, and teams had not yet begun to really bear down and scout him. The upside is tremendous though, and I believe Bitsko did enough in showcase events last year for some team to roll the dice in the first round this year. Boston is as good a bet as any.
Pick: RHP Cole Wilcox, Georgia ($3,481,300 slot value)
The Bulldogs have two first round caliber arms in Hancock and Wilcox, a draft-eligible sophomore who would’ve gone in the first round in 2018 had he been considered signable. He works with a sinking mid-90s fastball and a sweepy slider, and his changeup is coming along nicely. Wilcox has a lower-than-usual arm slot, creating starter vs. reliever questions, though concerns about his control were alleviated prior to the shutdown (32 strikeouts and two walks in 23 innings). The Diamondbacks have a competitive balance lottery pick (No. 33 overall) and thus plenty of money to sign Wilcox, who can reenter the draft as a junior next year and has leverage.
Pick: OF Pete Crow-Armstrong, Harvard-Westlake High School (California) ($3,359,000 slot value)
The Mets were very aggressive in GM Brodie Van Wagenen’s first draft last year. They manipulated their bonus pool to land two premium talents in Brett Baty and Matthew Allan, and I think we’ll see more of the same this year. Crow-Armstrong comes from a baseball hotbed — Harvard-Westlake has produced Jack Flaherty, Max Fried and Lucas Giolito — and he’s been on the radar a very long time. He’s a lefty hitter with power and is maybe the best defensive outfielder in the draft class, and he plays with an aggressive “gamer” style that is endearing to scouts and fans alike. There is some swing-and-miss risk here, but Crow-Armstrong offers quite a bit of upside in the back half of the first round.
Pick: C Drew Romo, The Woodlands High School (Texas) ($3,242,900 slot value)
The Brewers have taken only three pitchers in the first round since 2012 (Kodi Medeiros in 2014, Nathan Kirby in 2015, and Ethan Small in 2019), instead focusing on position players with high-end tools, either at the plate or in the field. Romo is the best defensive catcher in the draft class and he answered questions about his bat against premium competition on the showcase circuit last summer. He may only be an average-ish hitter long-term, but league average offense with elite defense behind the plate equals All-Star upside.
Pick: RHP Carmen Mlodzinski, South Carolina ($3,132,300 slot value)
Had the season not be shut down, Mlodzinski might have found himself in the top 10. He wowed against elite competition in the wood bat Cape Cod League last summer and allowed only eight earned runs with 22 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings this spring. Mlodzinski does it with an upper-90s fastball and a good slider, and he’s very athletic with a good delivery. In the back half of the first round, he’d be great value no matter where he lands. The Cardinals scoop him up in our mock draft.
Pick: RHP J.T. Ginn, Mississippi State ($3,027,000 slot value)
The defending World Series champs have never been shy about drafting risky players in the first round. They took Lucas Giolito in 2012 knowing he’d likely need Tommy John surgery soon after the draft (he had it weeks later) and Erick Fedde in 2014 even though he had Tommy John surgery a few weeks prior to the draft. Ginn, a draft-eligible sophomore who didn’t sign with the Dodgers as the 30th overall pick in 2018, blew out his elbow one start into his 2020 season. He was a potential top-10 pick before the injury with three quality pitches and athleticism. Ginn is a chance for the Nationals to land a premium talent late in the first round.
Pick: RHP Tanner Burns, Auburn ($2,926,800 slot value)
The Indians develop pitching as well as an organization and Burns has all the ingredients necessary to become a high-end starter. At his best, he operates with a mid-90s fastball, a swing-and-miss breaking ball, and a good changeup. A shoulder problem limited Burns during Auburn’s College World Series run last summer, but he showed he was healthy this spring, allowing six earned runs with 32 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings prior to the shutdown. Burns seems right up Cleveland’s alley.
Pick: SS Casey Martin, Arkansas ($2,831,300 slot value)
Martin (Austin, not Casey) and Gonzales are clearly the top two middle infielders in the 2020 draft class. Martin (Casey, not Austin) headlines the second tier. He’s an exceptional athlete with game-changing speed and sneaky power (28 homers in 133 games from 2018-19). There are some questions about Martin’s ability to hit high-end pitching — he authored a .271/.386/.458 batting line in 15 games prior to the shutdown, which is underwhelming for a first-round caliber prospect — but the natural gifts are among the best in the draft class. The Rays are a great player development organization and Martin is someone with a lot of untapped potential.
Pick: C Tyler Soderstrom, Turlock High School (California) ($2,740,300 slot value)
The Braves used their 2019 first-round pick on a catcher (Shea Langeliers), but there’s no such thing as too much catching depth, and Soderstrom has the athleticism and skill set to play elsewhere on the diamond. He’s a bat over glove player with power and on-base ability. His defense is still developing, and if catching doesn’t work out, the outfield is a viable alternative. Steve Soderstrom, Tyler’s father, played briefly in the big leagues, so he has good baseball bloodlines.
Pick: C Austin Wells, Arizona ($2,653,400 slot value)
When they pick early in the draft, the Athletics tend to shoot for the moon (A.J. Puk, Austin Beck, Kyler Murray). When they pick in the back of the first round, they tend to play it a little safe with college bats (Matt Chapman, Richie Martin). Wells is an offense-minded left-handed hitting catcher — he put up a .375/.527/.589 batting line in 15 games prior to the shutdown — who figures to get ample opportunity to remain behind the plate despite work-in-progress defense. It should be noted Wells has leverage as a draft-eligible sophomore and the A’s have the fifth smallest bonus pool ($5.2 million). If they take him here, they have to be damn sure they can sign him, otherwise they’ll lose all the slot money tied to this pick if he goes back to school.
Pick: SS Ed Howard, Mount Caramel High School (Illinois) ($2,570,100 slot value)
This is not a great draft for high school shortstops. Howard is the best of the lot thanks to his raw hitting ability and slow heartbeat. He takes at-bats like a veteran. The expectation is he’ll grow into power as he matures, and Howard has the defensive chops to stay at shortstop long-term. There’s a chance he’ll be a player who does everything well but nothing exceptionally, and hey, a guy who can contribute in many different ways is awfully valuable. Near the end of the first round, Howard’s skill set would be a nice get for the Twins.
Pick: LHP Jake Eder, Vanderbilt ($2,493,900 slot value)
The Yankees forfeited their second- and fifth-round picks to sign Gerrit Cole over the winter, so they have the second smallest bonus pool ($3.5 million) and aren’t really in position to roll the dice on one of several draft-eligible sophomores who fit into the back of the first round, like Miami righty Slade Cecconi or North Carolina slugger Aaron Sabato. Eder has an out-pitch curveball and a fastball that will sit anywhere from 90-97 mph. He’s a signable college starter — Eder struck out 27 in 20 innings prior to the shutdown — with upside if he can stabilize his velocity closer to 97 than 90.
Pick: RHP C.J. Van Eyk, Florida State ($2,424,600 slot value)
The Dodgers have been college heavy in the first round during the Andrew Friedman era — seven of their nine first rounders under Friedman have been college players — but they tend to target college players with untapped potential, like Walker Buehler or 2017 first rounder Jeren Kendall. Van Eyk already has a quality three-pitch mix (fastball, slider, changeup) and the makings of a good fourth pitch (curveball), though he raw stuff is a notch below the draft’s other premium arms. Los Angeles is exactly the kind of organization that could get him to that next level.