2020 MLB Draft 1st-Round Preview: top prospects, Phillies strategy

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While it’s the least-viewed and least-heralded selection process of the four major North American sports, the 2020 MLB Draft takes center stage of the subdued sports world on Wednesday night as the top prospects begin their professional journey to the show. 

Baseball fans won’t see a majority of their favorite teams’ top picks in the majors for at least a few years as they are usually tasked with going through the rigors of minor-league ball — one of the main differences between the MLB Draft and the NFL or NBA Draft where players usually make an immediate jump to the pros. 

Even baseball’s draft has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, though. 

Normally containing up to 40 rounds of picks, the league decided to cut the draft down to just five rounds this year as a cost-cutting method. That’s 1,200 picks depleted to just 150. 

The fewer players selected, the fewer dollars teams will have to spend on contracts to sign these prospects — a shrewd move that has become commonplace around MLB lately as the league and players’ union are entrenched in a salary stalemate surrounding the 2020 season.

Regardless, dreams will come true for a number of promising young baseball talents around the United States on Wednesday night as the first round will take place virtually on ESPN, starting at 7 p.m. ET. 

Here is the selection order of the first round:

  1. Detroit Tigers
  2. Baltimore Orioles
  3. Miami Marlins
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Toronto Blue Jays
  6. Seattle Mariners
  7. Pittsburgh Pirates
  8. San Diego Padres
  9. Colorado Rockies
  10. Los Angeles Angels
  11. Chicago White Sox
  12. Cincinnati Reds
  13. San Francisco Giants
  14. Texas Rangers
  15. Philadelphia Phillies
  16. Chicago Cubs
  17. Boston Red Sox
  18. Arizona Diamondbacks
  19. New York Mets
  20. Milwaukee Brewers
  21. St. Louis Cardinals
  22. Washington Nationals
  23. Cleveland Indians
  24. Tampa Bay Rays
  25. Atlanta Braves
  26. Oakland Athletics
  27. Minnesota Twins
  28. New York Yankees
  29. Los Angeles Dodgers

*The Houston Astros forfeited their first-round selection as a part of their punishment for their sign-stealing scandal.

Considering the delayed arrival to the majors by many of these prospects, it’s difficult to predict who each team will take based on their current needs. Franchises will often take the best talent available or stick to their historical philosophies like building through pitching or finding the best bat available regardless of position. 

These are the top 30 prospects of the class of 2020, as ranked by MLB.com:

  1. Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Arizona St.
  2. Austin Martin, OF/3B, Vanderbilt
  3. Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M
  4. Emerson Hancock, RHP, Georgia
  5. Nick Gonzales, SS/2B, New Mexico St.
  6. Garrett Mitchell, OF, UCLA
  7. Zac Veen, OF, Spruce Creek HS (FL)
  8. Reid Detmers, LHP, Louisville
  9. Max Meyer, RHP, Minnesota
  10. Heston Kjerstad, OF, Arkansas
  11. Mick Abel, RHP, Jesuit HS (OR)
  12. Jared Kelley, RHP, Refugio HS (TX)
  13. Austin Hendrick, OF, West Allegheny HS (PA)
  14. Nick Bitsko, RHP, Central Bucks East (PA)
  15. Ed Howard, SS, Mount Carmel HS (IL)
  16. Robert Hassell, OF, Independence HS (TN)
  17. Patrick Bailey, C, North Carolina St.
  18. Garrett Crochet, LHP, Tennessee
  19. Tyler Soderstrom, C, Turlock HS (CA)
  20. Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
  21. Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP, South Carolina 
  22. Cade Cavalli, RHP, Oklahoma
  23. Cole Wilcox, RHP, Georgia
  24. Dillon Dingler, C, Ohio St.
  25. Bryce Jarvis, RHP, Duke
  26. Bobby Miller, RHP, Louisville
  27. Austin Wells, C, Arizona
  28. Tanner Burns, RHP, Auburn
  29. Chris McMahon, RHP, Miami
  30. Casey Martin, SS, Arkansas

Anything goes with the Phillies’ draft strategy as they try to pull off the rare feat of making the right choice with their top draft pick. 

“Picking at 15, you try to come up with who has some type of chance to get there, who you think is going to get there, who’s going to be gone for sure, and it’s really tough this year,” Phillies amateur scouting director Brian Barber told MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. “I have some comfort in about eight or nine guys for sure that won’t be there. And after that, it’s a group of about 10 to 12 that have a 50/50 chance, so we’re trying to work through all our scenarios with scouts.”

Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis at MLB.com have linked the Phillies with Tyler Soderstrom of Turlock HS (ranked #19 by MLB.com) and Garrett Mitchell of UCLA (#6). 

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