There is no normal in sports right now. The MLB Draft is not an exception. Due to the COVID-19 shutdown and some previous dealings, the 2020 version of the draft will see what is normally a three-day event with 40 rounds sliced down to two days with only five rounds. Teams will still have a certain figure they can spend on players based on the number of draft picks and where they are selecting, and they can sign any undrafted player for a maximum of $20,000.
With that primer out of the way, let's take a look at the players. While there's no surefire star in this draft, there are several high-ceiling players that have a chance to make a major fantasy impact in the coming seasons.
Last week, we took a look at the top hitting prospects in the class. This week, a look at the top pitching prospects eligible to be drafted on June 10.
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1. Max Meyer, RHP, Minnesota -- If you’re a draftnik, you may be expecting a couple different names to take this top spot, but from a fantasy perspective, Meyer is the top pitching prospect in my eyes by a considerable margin. The right-hander was only able to make four starts before the COVID-19 shutdown, but he was able to post an impressive 46/8 K/BB ratio and 1.95 ERA for the Golden Gophers. On the 20-80 scale, Meyer has two pitches that grade 70 or plus-plus: A 94-98 mph fastball that has been clocked in the triple-digits, and a slider that might be the best pitch in the entire draft. On top of that, the 21-year-old has a change that gets above-average grades, and he throws all of these pitches for strikes. The issue with Meyer is size; he’s listed at 6-foot, 185-pounds, and the six-feet might be generous. If he has to move to relief he’s a future closer, so either way, I would want to add Meyer to my fantasy roster as soon as it’s possible to do so.
2. Emerson Hancock, RHP, Georgia -- Hancock was considered by some (me) to be the best player in the draft coming into the year, but some outstanding performance by others -- and a couple of so-so starts from the right-hander -- has seen his stock slide ever-so-slightly. There’s still a lot to like, and in a much bigger sample size in 2019, he posted a 1.99 ERA in the loaded SEC with a 97/18 K/BB ratio. There are four swing-and-miss pitches at his disposal, and he generally throws them all for strikes. He also has 6-foot-4, 213-pound size, so Hancock is a lock for the Top 10, and he has a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation starter.
3. Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M -- After a strong sophomore season for the Aggies in 2019, Lacey was pitching as well as any hurler in college baseball before the shutdown with a 0.75 ERA and 46/8 K/BB mark in his four starts for Texas A&M. He gets his fastball up to 97 mph with downward plane, and he also will throw two breaking balls that get plus grade along with one of the best change ups in the class. The reason I rank Lacy behind Hancock is that his command is behind the control, and there is a bit of effort to his delivery. Still, Lacy has star potential in his left arm, and there’s a good reason why he’ll likely be the first arm off the board come June 10.
4. Jared Kelley, RHP, Refugio HS (TX) -- Yep, there are prep pitchers in this class, too. Kelley has loads of arm strength, and his 94-96 mph fastball that touches triple-digits could be an 80 pitch when all is said and done. He has the same arm speed on a plus change, and his slider -- while inconsistent -- has a chance to be a strikeout offering, as well. On top of the premium stuff, Kelley also can throw strikes, and he should have above-average command in a couple of years. His high price tag could see him end up at Texas, but he’s a must-have dynasty prospect if someone is willing to give up the goods to grab him.
5. Garrett Crochet, LHP, Tennessee -- Crochet is probably the most volatile of the pitching prospects in this class, and one of the most divisive. One of the reasons is that the southpaw only made one start this season because of shoulder soreness, and he didn’t pitch all that well the previous two seasons with a career 4.64 ERA for the Volunteers. Those stats don’t tell the story of Crochet’s talent, however. He can get his fastball up to 100 mph, and if you’re a fan of spin rates, he’s up there with the best of them. He’s also a 6-foot-6 hurler, so he gets downhill to make this an 80-grade pitch, potentially. His secondary stuff is inconsistent, but when he’s at his best, the 20-year-old shows a plus slider and change. The command needs work, but as long as he can throw strikes at an average rate, he has a chance to be an impact starter.
6. Reid Detmers, LHP, Louisville -- Every draft has a southpaw that scouts believe can reach the majors quicker than others, and this year, it’s Detmers. While the floor is higher than the ceiling, that’s not to say that the Louisville ace is lacking in the latter. You don’t strike out 48 hitters in 22 innings without having swing-and-miss stuff, and Detmers does with a plus curveball and 91-94 mph fastball that plays up because of its command and deception. He pounds the strike zone with those two pitches and a change, and the command isn’t far behind the control. Detmers is not a future ace, but his ability to locate and keep hitters off-balance could see him make his debut in 2021 -- maybe sooner.
7. Mick Abel, RHP, Jesuit HS (OR) -- Many have Abel ahead of Kelley as the top prep pitching prospect, and while I prefer Kelley, I can understand why. He’s still projectable from his 6-foot-5, 190-pound frame, but he already gets his fastball into the mid-90s. He shows a plus change and above-average slider, and for someone of his age (18 until August), he does a fine job of repeating his delivery and throwing strikes. Abel will also need a big number to buy out his commitment to Oregon State, but assuming he does go on the first day of the draft (37 selections), he likely joins that organization and is a very solid fantasy prospect.
8. Bryce Jarvis, RHP, Duke -- Jarvis improved his stock as much -- if not more -- than any pitcher in his four starts with a 0.67 ERA and 40/2 K/BB ratio in 27 innings. Yes, you’re reading that strikeout-to-walk mark correctly. The son of former MLB hurler Kevin Jarvis, Bryce has a swing-and-miss change that comes from the same arm speed as his 93-95 mph fastball. He also mixes in an above-average slider, and he’ll even show a curveball that gets solid-average grades. Like Detmers, this is more about the floor than the ceiling, but Jarvis keeps improving, and if he takes another step under professional instruction, he has a chance to pitch near the top of a rotation.
9. Tanner Burns, RHP, Auburn -- Burns was the top prospect on my 2017 board that ended up not signing, and it’s probably fair to say that he made the right call -- albeit one that saw him not get paid for three years -- in terms of improving his stock. When healthy, he throws 93-96 mph, and he does a solid job of locating it to all parts of the plate. His best pitch might be his slider, but he’ll also show a solid change to keep left-handed hitters honest. The concern with Burns is that he’s dealt with shoulder issues, but he’s still likely to be a first-round selection because of his ready-to-go stuff.
10. Chris McMahon, RHP, Miami -- McMahon, like Burns, was a highly thought of prospect coming out of high school, but he decided to honor his commitment to Miami rather than go the pro route. A knee injury cut his freshman season short, but he pitched well in 12 starts as a sophomore, and before the pandemic shut things down, he owned a 1.05 ERA with 38 strikeouts against five walks in 25 2/3 frames. His fastball is a plus offering that can touch 98 mph, and he has an above-average change along with a usable curve. McMahon is unlikely to ever be a dominant MLB starter, but it’s very easy to see him pitching in the middle of a rotation for a long time. You can do a lot worse.
Others to watch: Nick Bitsko, RHP, Central Bucks East HS (PA); Cole Wilcox, RHP, Georgia; Carson Montgomery, RHP, Windemere HS (FL); Dax Fulton, LHP, Mustang HS (OK); Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP, South Carolina