MLB Draft: Grading Every First-Round Selection

The first 37 selections of the 2020 MLB Draft have come and gone – with 29 players fulfilling their dreams to be a first-round pick. Here’s a brief thought on each of those 29 picks, along with grades for each of the 37 selections made on Wednesday night.

R1 P1: Detroit Tigers select Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Arizona State
Expected pick here. The Tigers have a pitching-rich system, so the obvious choice was the premier power bat available in this year’s draft in Torkelson, who’s average exit velocity exceeded 96 mph, greater than Aaron Judge’s MLB-leading mark. Detroit didn’t overthink it, and they make a solid selection here. Grade: A

R1 P2: Baltimore Orioles select Heston Kjerstad, OF, Arkansas
This one was an early surprise. Austin Martin was considered the favored option for Baltimore here, but the Orioles were intrigued by the power-hitting outfielder out of the SEC, who hit 30 HR in his first two seasons with the Razorbacks. With a clear-cut top-3 prospects, this is a bit of a risk that will haunt Baltimore if Kjerstad doesn’t pan out. Grade: C-

R1 P3: Miami Marlins select Max Meyer, RHP, Minnesota
If you are going by draft rankings, this pick is very surprising, as the Marlins had their choice of pitching prospects, and #3 overall prospect Asa Lacy available here, but Miami goes for Meyer. I really like Meyer as a prospect, but Lacy projects more as a starter, so using a top-3 pick on a player that projects more as a reliever is definitely risky. Grade: C

R1 P4: Kansas City Royals select Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M
I thought the Royals may jump for Austin Martin, somehow still available at pick #4, but Kansas City opted to boost their farm system via the mound, snaring left-handed Lacy. Considered by many the best pitching prospect in the draft, there isn’t too much to second-guess on this pick. Grade: A-

R1 P5: Toronto Blue Jays select Austin Martin, OF/3B, Vanderbilt
Toronto was expected to have to make a potentially very difficult decision between several prospects, but Martin fell into their laps, and Toronto made the obvious selection. Great pick, and I consider this one of the top steals of the first round. Grade: A+

R1 P6: Seattle Mariners select Emerson Hancock, RHP, Georgia
Another very solid pick here, as the surprising selections by Baltimore and Miami pay dividends for the Mariners. Hancock was their top target, and the fourth-ranked prospect survives to the sixth pick, allowing Seattle to scoop up yet another SEC product, giving the conference four of the first six picks in the draft. Grade: A

R1 P7: Pittsburgh Pirates select Nick Gonzales, SS, New Mexico State
Gonzales was projected anywhere from Picks 4-9, and the Pirates gladly snare one of the best pure hitters in the draft class with the seventh overall selection. Gonzales was the Cape Cod League MVP this past summer with a .351 average and seven home runs, and he’s put up video game numbers at New Mexico State. Grade: A

R1 P8: San Diego Padres select Robert Hassell III, OF, Independence HS (TN)
Eh. I liked the Padres going for a hitter, which is what our mock draft had them doing. But with OF Zac Veen still on the board, I would have liked to see San Diego go in that direction, or maybe for Austin Hendrick or Garrett Mitchell, another pair of outfield prospects. Hassell is a bit more speed than power and definitely a very solid player, just not sure he was the best available here. Grade: C+

R1 P9: Colorado Rockies select Zac Veen, OF, Spruce Creek HS (FL)
The Rockies capitalize on San Diego’s surprising pick, grabbing Veen, who was projected to go as high as fourth overall. Only other prospect I considered a potential fit here was Garrett Mitchell at UCLA, but Mitchell brings a few health question marks, and Veen has extremely high upside. Grade: A-

R1 P10: Los Angeles Angels select Reid Detmers, LHP, Louisville 
The Angels were known to be targeting Detmers, and the eighth ranked prospect slipped just far enough for Los Angeles. With the possibility of expanded playoffs in the next few seasons, the Angels could be looking at the possibility of a return to the playoffs, and Detmers is one of the most major-league ready arms. Grade: A

R1 P11: Chicago White Sox select Garrett Crochet, LHP, Tennessee
The White Sox go with a high-risk, high-reward option in Crochet. Injuries are a concern, but the Tennessee southpaw offers three-above average pitches, leading with a fastball that plays up to 97 mph. I think Chicago could have gotten more upside and less question marks with one of the available high school pitching prospects. Not bad, but maybe a reach by the White Sox. Grade: C+

R1 P12: Cincinnati Reds select Austin Hendricks, OF, West Allegheny HS (PA)
The Reds become the fourth team of this draft to adhere to our mock draft, snaring Hendricks at twelfth overall. I didn’t anticipate Mitchell still being available at this point – I really think people are overblowing the concern surrounding him being a Type 1 diabetic – so I would have preferred the UCLA product at this point, but Hendricks is an excellent alternative. Grade: A-

R1 P13: San Francisco Giants select Patrick Bailey, C, NC State
I’m not personally extremely high on Bailey, and the Giants were thought to prefer high school prospect Tyler Soderstrom, but they elect for the more proven collegiate option in Bailey. The decision between those two may be a bit of a toss-up, so I can’t fault San Francisco too much. It just feels slightly early, but if they felt Bailey was their guy, it’s a decent pick. Grade: B+

R1 P14: Texas Rangers select Justin Foscue, 2B, Mississippi State
I thought I was bold when slotting Foscue at pick #29 in our mock, but the Texas Rangers are even bolder, jumping for the Mississippi State product at 14th overall. The Rangers were known to be targeting Crochet, but he is somewhat surprisingly already off the board, and Texas shifts gears entirely, not selecting a pitcher and preferring a second baseman in Foscue. To reach this high for Foscue and not address a seemingly more prominent need on the mound seems highly questionable. Grade: D 

R1 P15: Philadelphia Phillies select Mick Abel, RHP, Jesuit HS (OR)
The Phillies needed a pitcher, and they went out and got the best available, with Abel sliding to pick #15. No complaints here. Grade: A 

R 1 P16: Chicago Cubs select Ed Howard, SS, Mt. Carmel HS (IL)
I do think the Cubs got great value in Howard, who we had projected at #11, but I would have liked Chicago to pursue a pitching prospect with their first-round selection. Drafting for ‘need’ is always tricky in the MLB Draft, when dealing with prospects that are still years away from the major leagues, so it’s difficult to judge this pick too much. Grade: B+

R1 P17: Boston Red Sox select Nick Yorke, 2B, Archbishop Mitty HS (CA)
No words will suffice my absolute shock at this pick. I had seen Yorke’s name in creating our mock draft, but I never considered him a first-round possibility. With the Red Sox not picking again until 89th overall, it seemed like they would want a surer thing with their first-round selection. Multiple pitching prospects were still on the board, particularly high school products Jared Kelley and Nick Bitsko. But Boston went diving for a player I really believe would still have been available at pick #89, losing out on some premium prospects. Grade: F

R1 P18: Arizona Diamondbacks select Bryce Jarvis, RHP, Duke
Jarvis was definitely a first round talent, but there were a few college arms most draft boards had rated above the Duke righty, along with the aforementioned Kelley and Bitsko. Right position, but, in my opinion, not the right selection from the D-Backs. Grade: B- 

R1 P19: New York Mets select Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
Our mock had the Mets going after an outfielder, but our target for New York – Hassell – was taken off the board over ten picks ago, so the Mets grab the best available here. Crow-Armstrong was ranked the 20th-best prospect, and he truly feels like the right pick for New York here. Grade: A

R1 P20: Milwaukee Brewers select Garrett Mitchell, OF, UCLA
I knew our mock draft, which had Mitchell going fifth overall, may have been high on the UCLA outfielder, but his fall to #20 was absolutely shocking. Thought the Brewers may go for a pitcher, but Mitchell is just too good a prospect to pass up on here – best value pick of the first round. Grade: A

R1 P21: St. Louis Cardinals select Jordan Walker, 3B, Decatur HS
Our mock had Walker going to the Rays at pick #24, which may have been a reach, but the Rays have the best farm system in the league, so they can afford to draft for need. St. Louis’s system, ranked 24th, has not such luxury, and coming off a NLCS appearance, I would have preferred see St. Louis go with a college pitcher, or somebody that may make an impact sooner than a high school third baseman. Grade: D+ 

R1 P22: Washington Nationals select Cade Cavalli, RHP, Oklahoma
I was all over the map with who the defending World Series champions would pick here, and although I thought they may go after a bat, there wasn’t necessarily a clear-cut pick available at 22. I didn’t anticipate Cavalli to be on the board here, so it’s definitely a solid pick, although I still believe Bitsko and Kelley were the top options available, but I respect the decision to go with a college arm. Grade: B+ 

R1 P23: Cleveland Indians select Carson Tucker, SS, Mountain Pointe HS (AZ)
Got some major question marks surrounding this pick. Francisco Lindor is entrenched as a franchise shortstop for Cleveland, so it seems strange to draft one with their first pick. And if they were committed to going for a shortstop, there seemed to be other options available prior to picking Tucker. Cleveland later picked at 36th overall, and it’s likely Tucker still would have been there for the taking. They did not seem to address a priority, nor attain top-level talent with this selection. Grade: D 

R1 P24: Tampa Bay Rays select Nick Bitsko, RHP, Central Bucks HS East (PA)
It’s worth wondering whether the Rays even had Bitsko on their draft board, as he was projected to go roughly ten picks earlier. Regardless of whether they thought he or Jared Kelley would be available at this point, Tampa Bay had to be thrilled to have their choice of these two hurlers. My only argument is that the Rays have a pitching rich system, so drafting for a need may have been more prudent, but again, Bitsko is absurdly good value at pick #24. Grade: A-

R1 P25: Atlanta Braves select Jared Shuster, LHP, Wake Forest
Shuster, along with Yorke, was one of two first-round selections that didn’t appear anywhere in our two-round mock, so I was quite surprised at this selection. I didn’t think Atlanta would go for a pitcher, and if they did, Jared Kelley was far and away the highest ranked prospect available. And if they wanted a college arm, there were five other projected first round college pitchers available. And if they wanted a lefty, there were four more southpaws ranked above Shuster. However, Atlanta doesn’t pick again until #97, so if they truly felt Shuster was their man, it makes sense to get him here, as he likely would not have survived the second round. Grade: C-

R1 P26: Oakland Athletics select Tyler Soderstrom, C, Turlock HS (CA)
Sometimes in the draft, it’s hard to weigh value versus need. The Athletics have Sean Murphy one of the best catching prospects in the game, as one of their top prospects, so going for a catcher is strange. On the flip side, Soderstrom is superb value – as many mocks had him going at Pick #13 to the Giants. Hard to blame the Athletics going after the Cali product, but there may have been better ways to address their farm system needs. Grade: B

R1 P27:  Minnesota Twins select Aaron Sabato, 1B, UNC
Sabato only played one full season in college, but he absolutely mashed ACC pitching with the Tar Heels, and it’s no surprise to see a first round selection used on him. I considered first base and catcher the biggest needs in a deep Minnesota system, and I did feel there were some better catching prospects available, but Sabato was the best available 1B, so overall a very solid pick. Grade: A-

R1 P28: New York Yankees select Austin Wells, C, Arizona (AZ)
Our mock also had the Yankees going after a college catcher, but with 24th-ranked Dillon Dingler out of Ohio State still on the board, it was slightly surprising that New York opted for Wells, but nothing crazy like we saw in this first round (see: Red Sox). Addressing a need with a very solid prospect is a great use of their first round pick. Grade: A- 

R1 P29: Los Angeles Dodgers select Bobby Miller, RHP, Louisville
My original pick for LA’s selection here was Foscue, who ended up going fifteen picks earlier to the Rangers. Miller is definitely first-round value and a solid pick for the Dodgers, although they do have three top-100 right-handed pitching prospects. There were three available right-handers rated above Miller, including two college prospects and Jared Kelley, who is still inexplicably available. Our mock had Miller going one pick later, to the Orioles, but we also didn’t anticipate so many top right-handers still available. Some question marks, but not a bad pick by any stretch. 

Round 1, Supplementary Round

Baltimore Orioles: Jordan Westburg, SS, Mississippi State
Grade: B

Pittsburgh Pirates: Carmen Mlodzinski, P, South Carolina
Grade: A-

Kansas City Royals: Nick Loftin, SS, Baylor
Grade: A

Arizona Diamondbacks: Slade Cecconi, RHP, Miami
Grade: B+

San Diego Padres: Justin Lange, RHP, Llano (TX)
Grade: D

Colorado Rockies: Drew Romo, C, The Woodlands HS (TX)
Grade: B-

Cleveland Indians: Tanner Burns, RHP, Auburn
Grade: A-

Tampa Bay Rays: Alika Williams, SS, Arizona State
Grade: A-

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