With dynasty drafts fast approaching or already underway and the 30 system rundowns in the rear view mirror, now is the perfect time to revisit and reshuffle the crew of young athletes entering our game this winter.
Tork is unique as a first overall pick in that it’s really just the bat Detroit drafted. They announced him as a third baseman on draft night, and Torkelson might be a good enough athlete to make that work, but it doesn’t matter all that much to his prospect stock if he has to slide back over to first base. The carrying tools are hit and power, and both could be plus plus depending how he reacts to premium spin. The clear #1 pick in dynasty First-Year-Player Drafts and an easy top ten prospect for fantasy.
I thought Gonzales would go off the board before the seven spot in the 2020 draft, but the Orioles’ selection of Heston Kjerstad created a domino effect that left Gonzales on the board for the Pirates. Yarr! They announced him as a shortstop on draft night and will likely develop him there, although most scouts think he’s a better fit at second base. It’s better for our game if he lands there, but I don’t care much where he plays. He’s always hit well, with both aluminum (or vibranium or whatever they make bats with these days) and wood.
I didn’t think he’d go earlier because he hit five home runs in one day this year. I thought he’d earned it by slashing .351/.451/.630 across 153 at bats in the Cape Cod League, where his seven home runs helped him take home the league MVP.
Oh and did I mention he steals bases? He’d swiped four in 16 games by the team the NCAA season ended. He’d also hit 12 home runs in those 16 games. 82 plate appearances. New Mexico plays at elevation, and Pittsburgh is tough on righty power, so there’s plenty of reason to doubt his ability to produce power in that park, but I’ll bet on him where I can in dynasty leagues and try to buy via trade if he starts out slow.
Toronto picked up some windfall profit when Baltimore reached down the board to save money on their second overall pick, pushing some evaluators’ top overall player, Austin Martin, down to fifth after Miami and Kansas City preferred pitchers Max Meyer and Asa Lacy. I’m not quite that high on Toronto’s top pick but do think he was a nice value for them at the five spot. His draft stock was volatile mostly because his defensive home is unsettled. He’s a good enough athlete to play up the middle, but his struggles with accuracy as a thrower have bounced him around the field a bit. I think this issue is among baseball’s toughest to fix. Toronto might try him at shortstop because he’s got good hands, but he’s more likely to follow his college path to third and then centerfield if he can’t find something that works. An underrated aspect of baseball is just how accurate infielders have to be on throws, and if Martin has just area code accuracy, he won’t play on the dirt. Doesn’t much matter for our purposes, where we care much more about his elite plate skills, plus-plus hit, plus run and average power.
4. OF Zac Veen | Rockies | 19 | HS | 2025
Veen is the rare plus-everything type. An uppercut lefty with tremendous explosion, his max-barrel speed of 78.107 mph landed him in the 96th percentile, according to perfectgame.org.
He’s an easy top five pick in first-year-player drafts this winter if you believe he’s good enough to overcome his circumstances, and he is perhaps the highest-upside piece in this year’s amateur draft. On a related note, I think the Rockies need to go the other way with their minor league affiliates, if possible. Most exist in wild offensive environments, except for AA Hartford which skews heavily toward pitching, so they don’t have any neutral home fields on the way up and then they get dropped into Coors. Well, they don’t get dropped in because this front office has little confidence in their own. No offense to Matt Kemp, but it’s a little much to be giving him at bats in a lost season while your young players ride the pine. I only travel this tangent to worry over the main reason to pass on Veen this draft season. I’d still like to have him on all my teams, but it’s weird to be rooting for a front office to get its walking papers.
5. SS Wilman Diaz | Dodgers | 17 | NA | 2025
For whatever reason (Yankees?), Jasson Dominguez was the first amateur international teenager to garner top-pick type publicity. No offense to his considerable gifts, but that shine was built largely by previous seasons making clear just how valuable these prospects have become. While that rising tide lifted all boats last off-season, this year’s international crop has taken a backseat to draftees. Makes no sense to me. Sure, we have less info about these youngsters, but it’s not like we have a whole lot to go on for all the draft picks, either.
I think Wilman Diaz is the best hitter in his international class thanks to elite hands. Preternaturally adjusts bat path to barrel pitches all over the hitting zone. Looks like he’ll navigate top-end velocity as well as any international signing in years. Headed to a top-level development team poised to maximize his talent.
Lacy was dominant in his abbreviated junior season at Texas A&M and deserves every accolade he receives. I was a little surprised to see Kansas City select him fourth overall this summer rather than banking the sliding positional value of Austin Martin, so General Manager Dayton Moore must really love what he sees in Lacy, a well-built power lefty (6’4” 215 lbs) with a plus-plus fastball-slider combo. Could probably compete in the majors out of spring but will likely spend the bulk of 2021 in the minors.
I’ve bumped him around this list a lot because I just don’t think I’d pick him inside the top ten, even as I really like his talent.
7. OF Heston Kjerstad | Orioles | 21 | NCAA | 2022
Selected second overall by Baltimore in the 2020 draft, Kjerstad was having an epic campaign when covid concerns cancelled the college baseball season, slashing .448/.513/.791 with six home runs in 16 games after posting a .327/.400/.575 as a sophomore and .332/.419/.553 as a freshman. I wish he’d played in a wooden bat league at some point, but everything he’s put on paper so far is elite. He’s even running at 100 percent efficiency, having never been caught in nine stolen base attempts across three seasons. The Orioles figure to be light on steals under the current regime, but I won’t be shocked if Kjerstad finds a way to chip in a handful year over year given his plus athleticism and on-field awareness. He’s 6’3” and 220 pounds and fits perfectly into this ballpark and organization.
The risk here is extreme from my perspective. His power and speed are real enough, but if Kim struggles for a few months out of the gate, you’ve essentially Tsut-sunk this pick. Just about every solid domestic and international prospect of note holds their value even though a tough couple seasons. People still rank Travis Swaggerty like he’s been rolling along. Kim’s a fine redraft play. He’s a sharp snag for a contender in a deep league seeking MI help. He’s incredibly risky for a builder.
Crochet is born from only the best ingredients: the lithe 6’6” 218 lb lefty generates deception from a three-quarters arm slot that pairs spicily with his upper nineties heat and salty slider. The real questions for fantasy come down to where you might take him in a first-year-player draft and whether or not he’s an option for draft and hold leagues.
To the first question, I think around the ten spot.
To the second, I say yes, for sure. I doubt he would win himself a full share of a closer job there, but doubt is part of my day to day, and Crochet, as we’ve discussed, is made of chocolate, and we all believe in chocolate. Plus there’s the chance he becomes a starter and dominates there. All I am saying is big league arms the world’s best hitters struggle to see or touch are rare and sort of break our molds for what we expect. It’s easy to mention Hader in a Crochet blurb, but that’s because the comps for a guy like Crochet are hard to find. Might as well throw in a Chris Sale and an Andrew Miller while we’re here. It’s fun.
A former shortstop, Meyer employs perhaps the best stuff in the 2020 pitcher class. MLB pipeline’s Jim Callis called Meyer the best athlete in the whole draft, and many thought his elite fastball/slider combination would lead Miami to bring him straight to the show. It seems clearer now that they’ll be careful about developing him as a starter, which sounds good to me, given the successes we’ve seen from Gary Denbo and his crew in South Beach.
Signed for $3 million standing at 6’2” 165 lbs with present loft and power, Hernandez puts on a show in batting practice and is the top player in his class according to many sources. I can see the logic in taking him over any of the pitchers if playing for some distant future.
12. SS Carlos Colmenarez | Rays | 17 | NA | 2026
If Hernandez or Diaz isn’t the top player in this year’s international class, it’s Colmenarez, a well-rounded athlete with present power in an uppercut stroke.. He’s a polished player for someone so young and certainly benefits from being in Tampa’s organization. I considered putting him quite a bit lower on this list because we won’t see him in the majors for a long, long time, but I left him here because his trade value could be immense.
I suspect I’m comparatively high on Sabato here, but I partly blame Hobbs for this outstanding write-up in his Top 25 College Prospects to Target in Dynasty Leagues.
“Sabato cranked 18 home runs and 25 doubles as a freshman in 2019 while slashing .343/.453/.696 across 230 at bats. Clearly, that line jumps off the page and his 55-grade hit tool and 60-grade raw power only exacerbate the drooling. Sure, there’s not much speed here and he’ll probably never provide anything in that category in the fantasy realm, but the upside from a pure hitting standpoint here is enormous. Sabato sits at the bottom of this list solely because he has only played one full college season and may elect to return for another. He may also spend a little added time in the minor leagues as a result of his lack of experience beyond high school ball. Despite that, the swing isn’t as raw as one might expect, stays through the zone well and is really under control for a guy with as much raw power as he possesses.
Bottom line: I love this bat and think it has potential to play at the professional level much more consistently and with more upside than maybe every other hitter on this list. Still, he only has 285 at bats at the college level and scouts were banking on seeing another full season of him in 2020, so it’s tough to say where he might get drafted (if he begins his pro journey at all). If he becomes available in your league this summer, he has incredible value as a sleeper prospect.”
Several scouts thought Hassell was the top prep hitter in the class, and San Diego must have agreed to pick him 8th in the 2020 draft, one spot ahead of Rockies OF Zac Veen. Although Veen was the more highly rated player, nobody blinked at San Diego’s decision because they’d been linked to Hassell for much of the process. He obliged by signing for $4.3 million, or almost a million less than the $5.18 million San Diego had for the draft slot–money they used to snag Cole Wilcox in the third round. All in all, it was a big win for the club even if I’d have taken Veen and been happy with whatever pitchers I could get. Hassell has a quick bat, a good idea at the plate and the kind of smooth uppercut lefty stroke that makes scouts smile. He also runs and throws well enough that he might get some run in center field early in his pro career to see how he handles the challenge.
Could make a case for several players here but none that can truly contend with DeLoach for topside. After slashing .200/.316/.294 in 56 games as a Sophomore in the SEC, DeLoach went nuts on the cape (.353/.428/.551 in 37 games) then jumped another level in his junior year at Texas A&M (.421/.547/.789 in 18 games). What a difference a year can make. Seattle has a good idea what they’re doing on the scouting and development side. Even before his sophomore struggles, DeLoach hit well with wooden bats in the Northwest League (.323/.409/.495 in 51 games), so I’m inclined to just give him a mulligan on his sophomore season and treat him like an elite college bat who struck out just thrice and walked 14 times over his final 18 games at the level.
16. OF Jake Vogel | Dodgers | 19 | HS | 2024
One of the fastest players in this year’s high school class (with his 6.15 60-yard-dash representing the fastest recorded time I can remember seeing), Vogel could not have asked for a better landing spot to develop his craft. The third round pick already has a plus hit tool and uses his base effectively, but if anyone can find the power to make him a fantasy dynamo, it’s the Dodgers development team. Two arrows way up here, but just for some cold water context, I will always love plus hit plus-plus speed players with power potential. I’d say something like “who doesn’t, am I right,” but experience tells me that plenty of prospectors don’t, or at least they don’t all bake that topside love into their fantasy lists.
Houston fell in love at first sight with this 5’10” 170 lb centerfielder from Havana, reportedly agreeing to a $4 million contract just hours after his first big workout for MLB teams. I’m having a hard time placing him because he’s older than the other players and less experienced over the past few seasons, but then again most players are less experienced than they’d normally be, and on fantasy tools alone (plus power, plus hit, plus speed), Leon could be top ten.
Thanks in part to his level bat plane and type 1 diabetes, Mitchell fell to the Brewers at the 20 spot in the 2020 draft despite being a top ten talent on most public-facing rankings. If the bat comes along, Mitchell is a true five-tool talent and plus defender in centerfield with plus-plus speed and athleticism. His MLB draft price could make him a nice value in most first-year-player dynasty drafts this off-season.
19. SS Ed Howard | Cubs | 19 | HS | 2024
At the 16th overall pick in the 2020 draft, Ed Howard represented a tremendous value for the Cubs. He was the top shortstop prospect in the group, and he figures to add skill with the bat as he gains pro reps thanks to his excellent hand-eye coordination, big frame (6’2” 185 lbs) and burgeoning strength.
Walker might’ve been the best pure athlete in this year’s draft. He’s 6’5” 220 pounds with the plus speed and a 92 mile per hour fastball from third base, where he’s also solid with his glove and footwork. The best among all his considerable tools is power, which is already elite. Might even be 80 raw. We’ll know more about his hit tool soon, but if it’s good enough to access his power in games, he’s about to rocket to the top of the Cards list when Carlson graduates.
Hendrick features plus plus power with solid speed and defensive upside in an outfield corner. I don’t love the mechanics of his swing, which is geared to trade contact for power, but I suspect he can learn to tone down the all-or-nothing approach if he’s getting dominated at any point in his journey up the development chain. That’s not a change I tend to bet on, but I also feel like we have to see him fail against elite spin before we worry too much about his ultimate contact skills.
A five-tool outfielder who’s always faced elite competition at Harvard-Westlake, Crow-Armstrong was seen as a top-ten talent by many evaluators and is a big win for the Mets in the 19 spot. He’s a better defender than a hitter today, but only because he’s elite on that side of the ball already and might need to add some loft, like many young hitters working with pro coaches in the launch-angle era.
23. OF Isaiah Greene | Cleveland | 19 | NA | 2024
Greene was one of my favorite players entering the 2020 draft and will be a First-Year-Player Draft target for me in all leagues because of his 30/30 topside. He probably won’t match PCA’s defense, but I think Greene, a third-round pick who signed for $850,000, could wind up the better hit, power, speed producer than Crow-Armstrong.
Detmers jumps Emerson Hancock for me among the pitchers (who I probably won’t take anyway) because I think he’ll translate well to the pro game. Here’s a novella built around Hobbbs’ short story for our Angels top ten in case you missed it.
“Several players on this list would be ranked ahead of Detmers if this were solely about upside, but it’s not. I’d be hard-pressed to tell you to pick up and hold a prospect not destined to reach the pro circuit for several years. So although many feel Detmers projects as a middle-of-the-rotation guy who sits around 90-94 MPH with his fastball, he has elite command and pitchability and should move more quickly through the minors than many of the arms that are drafted before him this June (or July? Or August?).
Detmers is a southpaw with three pitches that all grade at 50-plus on the 20-80 scale. As mentioned previously, he sits low-to-mid 90s with his fastball, which is paired with a mid-70s curveball and sinking changeup. He’s a strike-thrower with a smooth, repeatable delivery, meaning he already possesses many of the attributes most other college pitchers will spend added time in the minors smoothing out.
Still, his readiness as a MLB-caliber starter alone isn’t quite enough to rank him here. So why then? Because Detmers struck out 167 batters in 113.1 innings in 2019 (13.29 K/9) en route to a 2.78 ERA and .177 BAA, while setting 48 batters down on strikes in just 22 innings (19.64 K/9) to begin the 2020 campaign. At the college level, we don’t always possess the advanced metrics to evaluate players to the same ability as we do at the professional level, but allow me to unpack this one for you: we’re being told Detmers projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter with comps to a Brendan McKay with less stuff, yet the guy is sporting a curveball that eclipses 2,700 RPMs and sports elite K/9 numbers while showing an increased ability to miss bats as he matures as a pitcher.
Remember when Yu Darvish was being scouted by MLB teams in 2011 and was projected as a No. 3-4 starter in the big leagues? Or when Aaron Nola was drafted seventh overall in 2014 despite being saddled with a No. 3 starter ceiling? Yeah. I see room for steady and rapid growth by Detmers here, and if he fails, he can always pair that wicked breaking ball with a couple ticks up on the heater and become an elite bullpen weapon.
Jump on Detmers if you’re looking for someone primed to move more quickly through the farm, but be warned that he isn’t ranked as highly in other draft pools as many of the players to follow.”
I’m slightly less bullish than Hobbs but not much less. Command can be the great separator at the top level. Detmers can be a special pitcher. Couldn’t agree more with Hobbs on the No. 3 starter stuff. That’s just content. Short-hand jargon that represents the safest stance to take on just about any pitcher. But it’s notable that people don’t say back-end starter. No. 3 kind of means No. 2 but it’s tough to put that on most prospects so I’ll say he’s a number three.
Glowing reports from the training site suggest Soderstrom is a bat well beyond his years. While the team would certainly prefer to keep him at catcher, he merits a spot this high on the chance that he’ll bump to a different spot where he can race to the big leagues. If he’s so good with the glove he belongs behind the plate, I might sell him on the strength of his prospect stock, which will actually benefit from the slower timeline due to the non-fantasy lists rightly rewarding catchers.
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.