Ok, let me preface this by saying I understand a million of these lists have now been published across the vast and spacious interwebs. I recognize I’m long-past due for a release like this. But I have my reasons. Yes, some publications are quick to rush out a set of rankings each year to appease the palate of the masses. These are fluid lists, grinding and churning out new rankings on a seemingly weekly basis. That’s fine! There’s a place for that. Hell, I myself am guilty of pushing out Top 10 lists for every position throughout the amateur baseball season. It’s human nature. We rank things. It’s what we do. It’s who we are.
But I was late to the Myspace game too, and when I finally joined that god forsaken platform, I quickly learned the societal value of a ‘Top 8’ and what it meant to be on it. I didn’t subscribe to that then, and I choose not to now. I have generally always chosen to release a final Big Board at the very tail-end of a draft cycle. I think the list in its finality represents a years’ worth of work and research, and thus shouldn’t be taken in jest. This list isn’t contrived by one good week or one bad. It represents a years’ worth of performance and development by these players — or what we more traditionally know as a years worth, I should say. 2020 has been a trip, ya’ll.
Before we dive in, let me set my parameters for you. Most lists commonly weigh ceiling above all else. While I do this as well, I place a lot of weight on a player’s floor too. If I tell you a guy like Heston Kjerstad is a surefire big leaguer, that means a great to me. There’s peace of mind with a bird in the hand... something something... offensive production in the bush. If we’re comparing a guy like Kjerstad to a prep outfielder who has a ton of seasoning and uncertainty ahead of him, that’s going to be weighed. I want value, and I want to be assured I’m going to get it.
Another fun exercise, on draft day, as the draft rolls along, I’ll be posting 280 character scouting reports on Twitter on each of these players as well as everyone’s favorite thing in the world — player comps! (They have a place in this game)
For my money, if Seattle ended up with any of the Top 6, it’s a massive win for the organization. So, let’s get into it. Without further ado...
1) Spencer Torkelson — 1B — Arizona State
I’m going to keep these short and sweet. Torkelson has all the makings of one of the best first basemen in baseball. He’s going to be a plus hitter with plus power and provide enough value on the base paths to stretch hits into extra bases and nab a few bags. The floor is a 2-win player. The ceiling is a Top 3 player at his position. Think Paul Goldschmidt circa 2013.
2) Austin Martin — IF/OF — Vanderbilt
The only question on Martin’s game is where the hell he’s going to actually play at the next level. This guy has true 5-tool potential. He’s average at every tool, if not above average or better in some. For my money, you try him out in centerfield or shortstop and let him prove he can’t do it. Third base is a fine fallback. 60 hit, 55 power, 60 run, 55 arm and 55 defender. Sign me up.
3) Asa Lacy — LHP — Texas A&M
As a lefty with the stuff Lacy possesses, he’s a no doubt top five talent. It’s a plus-plus fastball with a plus slider and an above average changeup. Quietly, the breaking ball is one of my favorites in the class. It’s not as loud and firm as some others in the class, but the way it tunnels and sweeps is absolute hellfire on lefties and right-handers alike.
4) Mick Abel — RHP — Jesuit HS (Oregon)
A product of the Pacific Northwest, Abel ranks just behind Lacy, and I do mean by a hair. Abel is my favorite pitcher on this list, bar none. But he has some things going against him when pitted against Lacy. He’s a prep righty, and that’s scary as hell. He’s also, well, a prep. Lacy is further along the development cycle. That being said, from this chair, tips cap, both have Cy Young potential. 5 pitch mix. 70 fastball with elite tail and sink. 60 slider, 60 changeup and two additional developing offerings in the curve and cutter. This kid is going to be special. Please stay healthy, young man.
5) Zac Veen - RF - Spruce Creek HS (Florida)
Much was made of Veen early in the draft cycle. Comps were being thrown around crowning him the next Cody Bellinger or Christian Yelich. Those comps are not fair. Every player has their own trajectory, and Veen has a far better power stroke than Yelich did at this stage and he’s a fraction the athlete Bellinger is. That being said, he’s got a sky-high ceiling. There’s quite possibly a .300 hitter with 30 home run power here. He’s also a solid average runner. Is he the next 20-20 guy in baseball? If I were a betting man...
6) Max Meyer — RHP — Minnesota
We don’t give nearly enough credit to relief pitchers these days. Their role has changed, yet our industry reputation for them lags behind. Alas, that’s the floor on Meyer. Not just a reliever, but one of the best in the game. It’s unlikely he ends up as a closer; his track record says otherwise. It is, and I cannot stress this enough, an elite fastball. 97-99 with run. His slider is, and I must enforce this, elite. It’s 91 out of the hand with sharp, firm late bite. It’s every bit the slider you’re formerly accustomed to with Edwin Diaz. There’s also a solid average changeup, ya know, for fun. A top of the rotation ceiling.
7) Nick Gonzales — 2B — New Mexico State
Here’s the thing with Gonzales... the ceiling isn’t nearly as high as some of the other guys on this list. At least I don’t think it is. As has been mind-numbingly publicized, Gonzales plays at elevation. His stats are a bit inflated. But how can you possibly inflate hitting over .430 two years straight, and parlaying that with a .351/.451/.630 performance at the Cape? He hit 12 dingers and only struck out ten times this season. In 16 games, no less! He’s been the best hitter in college baseball for two years, and his wood bat resume is just as bright. He’s not the best defender, but does it matter if he hits .315 with 22 home runs per year at the next level? Absolutely not.
8) Robert Hassell III — OF — Independence HS (Tennessee)
I suppose this is where things get shaken up a bit. If it weren’t for the power potential in Veen, Hassell might comfortably take the top spot atop my prep outfield pedestal. Hassell reminds me a great deal of Jarred Kelenic at this time 2 years ago. The swing and hit tool just ooze polish. There’s quite possibly a .300 hitter in him, and I think the power, like Kelenic at 17, will come. Most pundits see Hassell as a fringe average power a guy; a 10-12 home run peak. I see more. I think at his best, Hassell might be a .300 hitter who runs into 18-22 bombs in a season. He’s likely going to stick in centerfield thanks to an above average run tool and plus instincts. His arm will also be an asset up the middle. As far as preps go, I think the floor is pretty darn high with this guy. Do yourself a favor and watch this film. It’s majestic.
9) Emerson Hancock — RHP — Georgia
A year ago, this would have been unheard of. Hancock was the odds-on favorite to go 1-1 this year, but after a rocky start to 2020, some scouts questioned if his command had taken a step backwards. Some think the fastball is too hittable, regardless of its action at the plate. I don’t buy it. The fastball is mid 90s with run. He couples that with above average slider and changeup offerings. There’s also a curveball he throws on occasion. The mechanics are a thing of beauty and durability shouldn’t be a concern, for what that’s worth these days. Hancock still has ace potential, but it’s less likely now and he more than likely sits comfortably as a no. 2 or above average no. 3 in a team’s rotation.
10) Heston Kjerstad — OF — Arkansas
I’m such a big fan of Kjerstad’s game. He’s got a short, compact swing that’s quick to the ball with easy, natural loft. It has a little Freddie Freeman and/or Kyle Schwarber in it. The result is towering home runs to his pull side and the ability to drive balls out the other way. The hit tool itself is less inspiring than the power. There’s some swing and miss concerns in his game, but I think the swing is sound enough that those too should improve over time. He’s a corner OF with an average arm and average speed. His peak is probably a 55 hitter with plus power. Think .270 with 30 home runs. I think it’s doable. Kjerstad was the Mariners 37th round pick in 2017. It appears not signing was the right call.
11) Nick Bitsko — RHP — East Bucks HS (Pennsylvania)
Truth be told, nobody knows enough about Bitsko to realistically place an appropriate value on his stock. Up until 5 months ago, we didn’t even know he was going to be in the 2020 class. He reclassified to become eligible a year early. Then, after making such a drastic move, the season was shut down. Bitsko didn’t even throw a competitive pitch this spring. What we do know? His bullpens are electric. This kid touches 99 with a full arsenal of pitches behind it. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds he already quite comfortably looks the part. Five years from now, we may be looking back saying “11?! Really?!”
12) Tyler Soderstrom — C/3B/OF — Turlock HS (California)
For my money, Soderstrom’s swing holds up against just about anybody’s in this class. It’s just as sound and smooth as Veen’s, minus the long levers and dynamic profile to support it. Soderstrom may be announced as a catcher next week, but I think he ends up at third base. But that’s not where he’ll make waves. There’s a chance we’re looking at a plus hit, plus power guy here. Soderstrom may not play up the middle of the field, but he might end up hitting .280 with 28-30 home runs in a year. Think the silky smooth stroke of Lonnie Chisenhall with the gas can power of Jake Lamb. Fun as hell.
13) Reid Detmers — LHP — Louisville
I’m telling you, if Reid Detmers added 3 mph to his fastball, he’d be right ahead of Lacy on this list. The story on Detmers is the curveball, and by golly it’s a beaut. It’s definitely a plus offering, with some arguing it may be more. I tend to find myself thinking the former, wondering how the pitch will play against better competition. It’s a loopy curveball, but he throws it with conviction. It’s genuinely not too dissimilar from the bender employed by Clayton Kershaw, but Kershaw used to supplement it with a 95 mph heater, a cutter, and a devastating slider. I think Detmers has every bit the curveball that Kershaw has, but I wonder if his 91 mph fastball and accompanying cutter and changeup will compare to the southpaw that came before him. He’s a no. 4 at worst, and probably a solid no. 3 at best. But again, get this guy into Gas Camp™ and who knows...
14) Garrett Crochet — LHP — Tennessee
Didn’t I say earlier that we don’t give enough credit to relievers? Well, here’s your proof. Garrett Crochet is a reliever. He will not be a starter, but instead the second coming of one Josh Hader. There’s not a doubt in my mind. When stretched out to start, Crochet has had issues with command and in 2020 began dealing with some arm soreness. Fully healed, he popped into some bullpen sessions firing 100 mph missiles, blistering the Rapsodo readings, only to one-up the offering with a devastating slider that tunnels remarkably well at 89-90. There’s funk and deception in the delivery. He’s an absolute nightmare for lefties and no cakewalk for the alternative. Yes, I have a surefire reliever in my Top 15. Welcome to 2020, ladies and gents.
15) Austin Hendrick — OF — West Allegheny HS (Pennsylvania)
Cue the war paint. Hendrick, featured in the story’s header photo, is an eclectic fella. Not only does he sport copious amounts of colored eye black(?), but he also dons spectacles or goggles on the field. He also has a propensity to unbutton his shirt to the letters, akin to Felix Hernandez, sans the undershirt. Better yet, he’ll wear a bandana too, looking like a damn Ninja Turtle punching tanks. He embodies a warrior with some leather and a stick. How can you not root for that? As far as the player goes, Hendrick boasts plus power, but some question the hit tool. From this chair, it’s fringe average and should result in a .245-.250 hitter at the next level. He does draw his walks, and he’s got a plus arm in right field. It’s an enticing package, albeit a corner profile with some holes at the plate. Our friend Brian Sakowski at Perfect Game actually compared Hendrick to a modern day Bryce Harper. The real Bryce Harper. Not that outlier harbinger of mash from 2015.
16) Ed Howard — Shortstop — Mt Carmel (Illinois)
Tall, lanky, projectable true shortstop that should grow into a better hit tool and more power. A great frame to dream on. Swing has the makings of an above average package. Smooth and natural at the position with an above average arm that can make every throw from any angle.
17) Dillon Dingler — Catcher/3B/OF — Ohio State
Super athlete that likely won’t stay behind the plate. Plus runner with the ability for an above average hit and power tool. Can do a little bit of everything, just needs to find a positional home. Might be the biggest sleeper in the first round.
18) Jared Kelley — RHP — Refugio HS (Texas)
Big, hulking Texas right-hander with a fastball personified. It’s 96-97 and easy. Also sports an above average changeup. Hasn’t shown a consistent ability to spin a breaking ball. Spin rates have flashed, but often sit below average. Needs to develop the slider if he’s to reach top of the rotation ceiling.
19) Bobby Miller — RHP — Louisville
Monster frame and monstrous fastball. Easy 97 from an imposing 6-foot-5 frame. Smooth actions on the mound. Firm, heavy slider to go along with heavy heater. Bit of a pop up in 2020. May have risen up draft boards with a longer 2020 season.
20) Pete Crow-Armstrong — CF — Harvard Westlake (California)
Crow-Armstrong represents the best defensive outfielder in the draft and will have no problem sticking at the position. It’s solid average speed with elite instincts and routes to the ball. Solid average arm. Looks like a 55 hit tool and 45 power, though some underlying metrics suggest he could tap that into 50. Easy 3-win player if he does.
21) Bryce Jarvis — RHP — Duke
Another pop-up on our list, Jarvis was a virtual unknown headed into 2020, albeit still a guy expected to be selected in the first ten rounds. He turned what was traditionally an 88-91 mph fastball into a 93-95 offering this season, and his changeup and curveball took steps forward as well. Jarvis has been seen hitting 99 in bullpens, so you have to wonder what’s left untapped still. He doesn’t have the body some other starters have on this list, but that can be a misnomer these days anyways. Jarvis has an outside shot of hitting his no. 2 ceiling, but will likely comfortably slide in as a mid-rotation threat.
22) Cade Cavalli — RHP — Oklahoma
Cavalli looks like he should be the starting quarterback for the Sooners. 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Cavalli is a freak athlete for his size and generates incredible arm-speed. He’s dealt with some injuries in the past, but no tendons or soft tissue related. The fastball is 95-96, touching 98. It’s paired with two distinct breaking balls — a power curve and a firm slider. There are some command concerns here, but nothing terribly alarming. Cavalli is a good bet to be a big leaguer thanks to his athleticism alone.
23) Chris McMahon — RHP — Miami
McMahon is another sublime athlete on the mound. His heater is a mid 90s offering that he pairs with two solid average offerings, a changeup and a curve. The stuff has been a little inconsistent over the past two seasons, but his makeup and work ethic lead many to believe he’ll reach his ceiling as a mid-rotation starter.
24) Patrick Bailey — Catcher — NC State
I’ll be the first to admit I’m apprehensive rankings catchers these days with the impending changes coming to the position in the coming years. Bailey is a well-above average defensive catcher behind the plate with strong actions and a plus arm. His pop times are impressive and he figures to stay behind the plate with ease. He’s a switch hitter with a fringe average hit tool and above average power. Bailey is a surefire starting catcher at the big league level, but with the position seemingly being marginalized on an annual basis, it’s hard to gauge the value of a player who doesn’t possess a special bat.
25) Austin Wells — 1B/LF — Arizona
Another goggles-donning overlord. Wells draws incredibly praise for his leadership and attitude on the diamond. A catcher by trade, he’ll be forced to move off the position at the big league level, forcing his bat to hold his value. I truly believe in his ability to hit. Wells is likely an average-to-above average hitter with prodigious pull-side pop. He could be a .270 hitter with 25 home run power playing a multitude of positions along the way.
26) Jared Jones — RHP — La Mirada HS (California)
A prep right-handed pitcher with a small stature is not the type of profile most are accustom to finding on Top 30 lists, but here we are. Jones may be my second favorite prep arm in the class. It’s arm speed I haven’t seen since the late Yordano Ventura. The fastball is a free and easy 98, with an above average slider and developing changeup as well. He just started throwing a 12-6 curveball two months ago, and the pitch is already displaying the potential to be a fourth offering, albeit fringe-average. So long as Jones stays healthy and it given the opportunity to develop as a starter, he’s got my attention.
27) Cole Wilcox — RHP — Georgia
Wilcox has been a first round talent for the better part of four years now and 2020 did nothing to dissuade that notion. Command has been his biggest wart in recent years, and that took a step forward in the abbreviated campaign. Some wonder if Wilcox’s 96 mph fastball is more hittable that it should be, but I don’t buy it. The spin rates are impressive, it’s just an issue with command. If Wilcox learns to work the bottom of the strike zone with his slider and changeup, and go up-and-in with his tailing fastball on a more consistent basis, he could be a top of the rotation starting pitcher. As it stands, if the command hasn’t ultimately improved, there’s some reliever risk here.
28) Jordan Walker — 3B — Decatur HS (Georgia)
Walker is a mountain of a man, already standing 6-foot-5 and all of 230 pounds. For a guy his size, he moves quite well around the diamond, playing shortstop on a number of occasions for his high school. As you might imagine, Walker has plus-plus raw power and plus game power. The hit tool might be fringe average, but when you’re talking about a guy that might run into 35 home runs in a season, a .245 batting average can be acceptable. Hell, he may be an average hitter anyways. So long as he doesn’t grow off a third base, Walker represents in incredibly high-upside guy.
29) Tanner Burns — RHP — Auburn
Burns just oozes polish. He’s a three-pitch guy, all of which at above average offerings. The fastball is 93-94, the slider is consistent, and the changeup is a solid swing and miss offering when it’s on. Burns mechanics are sound and he’s going to move quickly. From this chair, Burns is the first guy on this list to debut in the big leagues. He’s likely nothing more than a mid-rotation guy, a no. 4 on a championship team, but that’s an awfully valuable card in your pocket.
30) Carson Tucker — SS — Mountain Pointe HS (Arizona)
Six years from now, Carson won’t be referred to as “Cole’s little brother” — it’ll likely be the other way around. While his brother has already debuted for the Pirates, Carson’s professional career has yet to even begin. Younger brother has a higher upside than Cole, and could be a dynamic middle-of-the-diamond presence with some development. Tucker put on 20 pounds of muscle this past year which resulted in more power and more speed. He now projects as a solid average hitter with potential average power at the plate and a plus run tool. These, coupled with the expectation he’ll stick at shortstop, makes me very intrigued by his future value. I think we’re just scratching the surface on this kid.
Just Missed The List...
Justin Lange — RHP — Llano HS (Texas)
Huge velo arm but really, really raw. One of the easiest 100 fastballs you’ll ever see. A player development program’s dream. (Please end up in Atlanta or Tampa Bay)
Alika Williams — SS — Arizona State
One of the few college shortstops in this draft destined to stick at the position. 60 arm and 55 fielder. I believe in the bat and it’s development. Could turn into a 55 hit, 45 power.
Garrett Mitchell — OF — UCLA
By now, most Mariners fans know the profile of Mitchell. He’s got loud tools across the board with the game power and raw power just not matching up. At this stage, he projects as an above average hitter with anywhere between below average and plus-plus power. The swing tinkering scares me. The health, admittedly, scares me too. I also wonder how the 70-grade speed will age with his bigger body and stronger lower half. I hope Mitchell turns into one of the best outfielders in the game. He’s just not worth my risk. I hope I’m wrong!
Kevin Parada — Catcher — Loyola HS (California)
The next in line in the great lineage of catchers to go through Georgia Tech; or so I think. Parada likely won’t sign if drafted. Could be a Top 10 pick in 2023. Better than 50/50 shot to stay behind the plate. Could legitimately be a 55 hit, 55 power catcher. Unreal.
Nick Loftin — Shortstop — Baylor
Loftin likely sticks at shortstop as his primary, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see a team employ him as a super-utility type. He has the versatility to player 2B, 3B and LF. Good athlete. 50 hitter, 45 power. Great player to have on roster.
Masyn Winn — RHP/SS — Kingwood HS (Texas)
Another guy with unparalleled arm speed. Wynn, like Jones, is undersized but makes up for it with 80-grade athleticism. A two-way player in the making. Wynn has a plus-plus fastball and a potential plus slider to go along with it. On offense, the there’s some pop in the tank, maybe 50-grade. Could be a .250 hitter with 15 home run potential as a back of the bullpen horse.
Justin Foscue — 2B/3B — Mississippi State
Foscue doesn’t have the upside of a lot of guys on this list, thus the “just missed” designation. What I am sure of with the player is he’ll be a big leaguer sooner rather than later and quietly post impressive offensive totals year in and year out. Probably a .260 hitter with 15-18 home run potential. Won’t win any gold gloves or steal many bases, but just a sound, polished, high floor guy.