The Mariners first pick of Day Two of the 2020 MLB draft is a position player, selecting OF Zach DeLoach out of Texas A&M University at 43rd overall. DeLoach was ranked the 87th overall prospect by Baseball America, 74th by FanGraphs, and 79th by MLB Pipeline.
DeLoach has a mixed portfolio at the plate, with legitimately bad numbers in 2019 as a sophomore in the SEC, running a .200/.318/.294 line in 193 plate appearances. Through spring of 2019, DeLoach had a flat swing that failed to access his power or intimidate pitchers.
High-contact hitters can of course have great success without significant power, but DeLoach was not there through his first two seasons of college. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but last summer, DeLoach made a s-s-s-swing change, adding loft and loosening what appeared to be a sizable arm bar, and primarily engaging a strengthened lower half far more effectively, leading to an absolutely torrid summer in the Cape Cod League, where he also incorporated a toe tap timing mechanism. DeLoach shocked observers as he tore up the wood bat summer circuit with a .353/.428/.541 line in 152 PAs, including five dingers and eight steals. Already, the swing showed signs of greater loft.
Along with the new swing came a renewed confidence. Falmouth hitting coach Brett Becker saw a talented player who had been struggling to enjoy the game suddenly begin to loosen up and have fun again. DeLoach’s numbers and confidence - apparently particularly with wood bats - carried right through into the start of 2020, as he was hitting .421/.547/.789 through 77 PAs with six dingers this year back at TAMU before the season ended.
You can see below how a slightly loftier swing, a la Jake Fraley, has unlocked power for the 6’1, 210 outfielder. His bat speed is excellent, and with a well-built, athletic frame, the pop could very well continue to play.
@zach_deloach7 preparing for the #MLBdraft. Whatever team is fortunate enough to draft this young man is getting an athlete with an unbelievable perspective and a desire to be the best player he can be! pic.twitter.com/9FrRbYKpFa— Brett Becker (@BrettDBecker) June 8, 2020
Zach DeLoach from Texas A&M is pretty interesting as a prospect— (@eccentricladdie) February 28, 2020
Ran a .424 wOBA on the Cape after making a tweak to incorporate more loft into his swing. Returns have been great to start this season too:
.609/.688/1.3, 8/0 BB/K, .715 wOBA
Tracking as a day one guy IMO. pic.twitter.com/lKjCADgW8J
Defensively, scouts generally regard DeLoach as a bit of a tweener, with decent speed and range, as well a strong right arm, so much like Fraley it may take some time to determine DeLoach’s defensive home. His speed has played decently on the bases thus far as well, with nine stolen bases in his college career without being caught, and good summer steal numbers as well.
The risk on DeLoach is clear: his track record of high-level success is shorter than that of many highly-regarded hitters, and without a clearly dominant defensive profile, he’ll have to hit to advance. It’s possible, with a profile much like 2018 2nd round pick Josh Stowers, DeLoach will sign a bit under slot value, which is $1,729,800, helping the Mariners lure another highly regarded talent to sign in the next few picks.
With this selection, the Mariners clearly see DeLoach’s adjustments as his new normal, and a full season at or near his 2020 levels would’ve vaulted him into the 1st round with ease, so the Mariners may consider this a steal. Once DeLoach gets into games this fall or next spring, we’ll get a better sense of what sort of hitter he has become.