Each week, we publish a draft report listing some of the biggest risers and fallers in the 2020 draft class. This week, however, that would be an incredibly futile exercise. The class is absolutely loaded, and nobody’s slipping.
It’s no secret this year’s crop of talent is one of the better pools in quite some time. Some pundits have said it’s the best class since 2015. From this chair, it stacks more favorably to the 2012 class, though not quite as generational as the class of 2011.
Seattle is going to be in a very intriguing position with the sixth pick in the draft. The top five players in the draft appear to be setting themselves apart from the competition, establishing a tier just ahead of everyone else. There’s still plenty of time for things to change, but if the draft were to happen today, the Mariners would have a gluttony of talented names to select from.
Chances are, the allure of a college arm is going to appeal to Seattle as those line up with the rebuild timeline. It’s a particularly stacked group of hurlers, some drawing comparisons to the 2011 class that saw Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer and Sonny Gray all selected in the first couple rounds.
At this time, one can cautiously assume starting pitchers Emerson Hancock and Asa Lacy will be off the board. It’s also reasonable to predict slugging first baseman Spencer Torkelson, second baseman Nick Gonzales and versatile shortstop/centerfielder Austin Martin will be gone as well.
So who will be left? Who should Seattle expect to see on their big board when it’s their time to choose? Let’s examine seven names that make the most sense for Seattle this June.
Cole Wilcox - Starting Pitcher - Georgia
Wilcox has long been a name in amateur baseball circles. He features a mid- to sometimes high-90s fastball with excellent arm-side run and sink. His changeup is advanced, some going as far as calling it a plus, 60-grade offering. Wilcox’s arm action on the pitch is sublime. His slider continues to develop and it now grades as at least an average offering.
Cole Wilcox, Filthy 95mph and 96mph Two Seamers. pic.twitter.com/tmwTrUPvzR— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) February 15, 2020
However, scouts are split on Wilcox. Some fear the fastball is too hittable regardless of its velo and break. His 2020 campaign begs to differ. In four starts, Wilcox is 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA. His .209 opponent batting average reiterates just how dominant he’s been. Wilcox has thrown 23 innings this season and punched out 32 hitters. His two walks represent a big step forward in command.
At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Wilcox is built how you like ‘em. He’s projectable and physical on the mound. From this chair, he’s the best combination of a high-floor, high-ceiling arm the Mariners could land at 6.
Max Meyer - Starting Pitcher - Minnesota
Meyer really put himself on the map in 2019, starting 11 games for the Golden Gophers, posting a 2.11 ERA. He’s really taken his stuff to another level this season, and it’s showing in the box scores. In 27 innings over four starts, Meyer has struck out 46 batters and walked just eight. His 1.95 ERA is among the best in the nation for pitchers with at least 20 innings.
Meyer throws pure gasoline, topping out at 101 this season. His slider is a legitimate plus-plus offering, and it’s eliminating batters at an outrageous clip. It quite literally might be the best pitch in the entire draft.
The question marks on Meyer are his build and whether he can develop a third pitch to keep advanced, big league hitters off-guard. Just six feet tall, tipping the scales at 185 pounds, Meyer is a slighter build. He gets phenomenal extension down plane, drawing comparisons to Tim Lincecum. After working hard on it all summer, Meyer’s changeup sometimes grades as an average offering, flashing better than that at times, likely thanks to the gas in his right shoulder.
Put simply, if Seattle believes in the arm, the changeup, and Meyer’s ability to develop into a more well-rounded starting pitcher, there may not be a pitcher with better stuff in the draft. The floor, however, is a dominant bullpen piece. While that is never a bad thing, it’s not a good thing with the sixth pick in the draft.
Reid Detmers - Starting Pitcher - Louisville
By now you may have seen highlights on social media of the hammer Detmers has in his left arm. The curveball he offers draws comparisons to Clayton Kershaw’s famous yacker. It’s a plus offering, maybe more depending on who you ask. His control for the pitch is outstanding, getting ahead of hapless hitters on a regular basis. It’s not the firmest breaking ball, but the arm-slot and arm action Detmers produces on the pitch allow it to play up, making it one of the more formidable pitches in the draft.
Curveball Porn/NSFW— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 7, 2020
11 Reid Detmers Curveballs from Last Night's 15K/6IP outing. pic.twitter.com/my8YHoOXC4
The issue with Detmers is whether he has the ‘stuff’ to justify being the 6th overall pick in a loaded class. His fastballs, a cutter and a 2-seamer, get to the plate at 91 to 92 mph. He’s only added a few ticks to his fastball since arriving to campus three years ago, so it’s possible there’s more in the tank should he get to work with a professional development staff. Detmers gets extraordinary extension to the plate, so the fastball really explode and sneaks up on hitters, allowing the two pitches to play up. He adds a changeup that grades out favorably, drawing average grades from scouts.
Detmers has really improved the tunneling of his pitches this season and he’s striking out more hitters than ever before because of it. If Seattle believes in the curveball and thinks it’s an elite offering, and believes a ‘Gas Camp’ or two could get comfortably put the Cardinal into the 95 mph range, he’s a great option at 6. Detmers represents another reasonably high-floor option for the Mariners.
Garrett Mitchell - Centerfield - UCLA
I’ve publicly been the low-man on Mitchell for some time now. In my eyes, his inability to find his power stroke in-game limits his upside for me. That being said, the production can’t be undersold. He’s putting up another strong campaign this season, although the power remains absent.
B4 | Garrett Mitchell rips a fly ball off the top of the right-center field wall for a two-run triple, cutting the deficit to just one run!— UCLA Baseball (@UCLABaseball) March 7, 2020
TCU 4, UCLA 3#GoBruins pic.twitter.com/cMzeDY4uUh
Through 15 games Mitchell is slashing .355/.425/..484 with six doubles and a triple. He’s walked six times and struck out just thrice. He continues to play impressive defense, showing off his 80-grade speed and an above average arm. Mitchell has had a tendency to expand the strike zone, falling behind in the count on occasion, but that has improved since this past summer. He’s never produced alarming K-rates, it’s just a matter of Mitchell being more selective on which pitches to drive at the plate.
The batting practice juice can be a spectacle, and some say he has the chance to tap into 30-35 home runs per season at the big league level. I just don’t see it. The swing arc, the approach, it just doesn’t pan for me. His other tools are loud enough to warrant the first round draft stock though.
One scout I spoke with last week said “you just don’t draft Adam Engel with the sixth pick in the draft”, and while I don’t think that’s the perfect comparison, it’s not too far off.
Heston Kjerstad - Outfielder - Arkansas
Kjerstad, a former late-round pick by the Mariners out of high school, has shown one of the more advanced bats in the college class this year. It’s a projectable hit and power tool that should play at the next level, and should move quick.
In 13 games, Kjerstad is slashing .424/.485/.814 with six home runs and five doubles. He has just eight strikeouts in 59 at-bats. At 6-foot-3, Kjerstad projects as a 55- to 60-grade hitter with a legitimate 60-grade power offering.
Kjerstad hits a walk-off HR to win the series over South Alabama. pic.twitter.com/9VBGiPGovD— Hogtrough (@Hogtrough) March 8, 2020
The question on Kjerstad is whether he’s athletic enough to stay in the outfield. He does possess an above average arm, but lacks some natural outfield instincts. From this chair, the Arkansas Razorback projects as a below average left fielder or first baseman at the next level. His ascent is reminiscent of Hunter Bishop last season and Trevor Larnach from a year prior. Both of those guys went higher than anticipated as the bat was too hard for the Giants and Twins to pass up, respectively.
It’s hard to say if he’s quite tooled up enough for Seattle to take the leap again at 6.
Zac Veen - Outfield - Spruce Creek (HS)
No one player has soared up draft boards faster than Veen. At 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, Veen is uber-projectable and exhibits above average grades across the board. His raw power is prodigious, some grading it a 70. The Cody Bellinger/Christian Yelich comparisons aren’t doing him any favors, though they may end up making him a whole bunch of money.
Veen put on 20 pounds this offseason and it’s really showing out in-game. His exit velocities are regularly topping 100 mph, and he’s averaging a home run every 7 at-bats for his high school.
Zac Veen (2020) UNLOADS on a pitch and hits a line drive HR. The @PGAllAmerican does this with two strikes on him to open up the game. Huge crowd of scouts here to see the first match up between Veen and and fellow #PGAA Dylan Crews. #PGHS pic.twitter.com/nV8eGM7mRn— Perfect Game Florida (@Florida_PG) March 5, 2020
There are some questions over Veen’s swing-and-miss, though not considerable. At this stage, Veen may have the highest offensive upside of anyone in the entire draft. He’s a legitimate 55-grade hitter with 70-grade power and a 55-grade on the basis. He’s the type of player that could mess around and go 30-30 someday if his athleticism ages well.
Seattle should absolutely pick the best player available when it’s their turn. If they believe in Veen’s bat like most do, and believe he’ll move quick, a la Jarred Kelenic, he’s an easy choice at number 6. If there’s any doubts in the profile, with a pick as high as what Seattle possesses, they should go a safer route.
Mick Abel - Starting Pitcher - Jesuit HS
Abel really struggled to keep his velocity and command last summer pitching for Team USA. During his junior year at Jesuit, Abel regularly sat 94-96, touching 98 with a fastball that had excellent life on it. Abel’s heater has great sink and can be an out-pitch. By the time he was pitching overseas for the United States, the velocity had settled in closer to 92. The pitch became hittable, and he was walking batters at a high clip.
Mick Abel, 94mph Sinker movement. pic.twitter.com/XN71bIFuM6— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 15, 2019
Fastball aside, Abel has a truly elite slider, an above average curveball, and a changeup that is developing, flashing above average. At 6-foot-5, he’s got the frame to hold up over time, but he needs more seasoning and development.
The Mariners are very serious about Abel, and they’re planning on having a scout at every single one of his starts this spring. It’s unclear how serious he is about his commitment to Oregon State, but if he doesn’t require the biggest signing bonus, he’s a fantastic option to under-slot in order to go big in the second and third rounds as well.
A lot can change between now and June 10. There are other players that could emerge, such as Jared Kelley, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Aaron Sabato, Nick Loftin, and on, and on...
All signs point to the sixth pick in the draft coming from the lot above.
For what it’s worth, so long as Seattle doesn’t reach for an obscure under-slot guy, their selection will likely be a Top 75 prospect in MLB. As for Hancock, Lacy, Torkelson, Gonzales and Martin? They’re all likely Top 50 prospects immediately. If one were to fall to Seattle, the likelihood that Jerry Dipoto takes that player would be quite high.
If you’re into prospects, the time is ripe for Seattle.