The cancellation of the college and high school seasons not only deprived clubs of two-plus months of additional time to scout amateurs, but it also put a severe crimp in the flow of Draft gossip.
Scouts and agents aren't bumping into each other at games and casually exchanging information. GMs aren't getting spotted in the stands, leaving us to read the tea leaves of exactly how deep their interest runs in the players on the field.
Even with less actionable intel than usual, the mock-draft beast must be fed, so we gamely project each of the 29 first-round picks below for the June 10-11 Draft. Just three of the first 15 selections hail from high schools, something that hasn't happened since 1992, when Derek Jeter and Preston Wilson were the only prepsters to go that early. That's more a reflection of the strength of this class, which is rich in college arms and has better college bats than most years, than the industry collectively getting ultraconservative in a Draft with just five rounds and less opportunity to evaluate players.
1. Tigers: Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Arizona State
The Tigers haven't finalized any decisions yet, but most clubs would be surprised if they don't pick Torkelson, who might be the best all-around college bat (hitting ability plus power) since Mark Teixeira in 2001.
2. Orioles: Austin Martin, OF/3B, Vanderbilt
Martin is the Draft's top pure hitter, but there are some questions about his arm and defensive home, so this is less certain than Torkelson going No. 1 overall. There's a school of thought that the Orioles could cut a deal with similarly skilled New Mexico State middle infielder Nick Gonzales to save money to go big at picks 30 and/or 39 (perhaps with Pennsylvania prep righty Nick Bitsko). They also could just take Texas A&M left-hander Asa Lacy, the best pitcher available, though the depth of college arms may make it more prudent to take a hitter here.
3. Marlins: Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M
The Marlins' choice could simply come down to whichever of Torkelson, Martin and Lacy remains on the board at No. 3.
4. Royals: Emerson Hancock, RHP, Georgia
The Royals are quite pleased with the early returns from taking three college pitchers (Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch) in 2018's first round, and Hancock would give them MLB Pipeline's preseason No. 1 prospect. There's talk that Hancock could slide because analytically minded teams think his career strikeout rate (9.7 per nine innings) isn't dominant enough, but that feels like a stretch.
5. Blue Jays: Zac Veen, OF, Spruce Creek HS (Port Orange, Fla.)
The best all-around hitter in the prep crop, Veen is a lock to be first high schooler taken with the Pirates, Padres and Rockies lining up behind the Blue Jays. Toronto also could be tempted by a college arm such as Hancock or Minnesota right-hander Max Meyer.
6. Mariners: Nick Gonzales, SS/2B, New Mexico State
Gonzales sandwiched leading NCAA Division I in batting (.432) last spring and homers (12 in 16 games) this year around winning Cape Cod League MVP honors in the summer. The Mariners also could consider the same college arms as the Blue Jays, in addition to Louisville left-hander Reid Detmers.
7. Pirates: Heston Kjerstad, OF, Arkansas
Word is the Pirates are hunting college bats, which would leave them perusing Kjerstad (the best lefty power in his class), UCLA outfielder Garrett Mitchell (the best all-around tools) and North Carolina State catcher Patrick Bailey (the top backstop).
8. Padres: Max Meyer, RHP, Minnesota
Meyer has arguably the best pitch (his wipeout slider) and the most electric arsenal available, and his athleticism trumps his 6-foot build in the starter versus reliever debate. The Padres also are looking at many of the college names mentioned above. This is probably the earliest a high school pitcher could go, with Oregon prep righty Mick Abel a possibility.
9. Rockies: Reid Detmers, LHP, Louisville
If the Rockies don't get a shot at Veen or Kjerstad, they should wind up with either the overpowering Meyer or the polished Detmers.
10. Angels: Robert Hassell, OF, Independence HS (Thompson's Station, Tenn.)
After using first-round picks in 2017 and 2018 on outfielders Jo Adell and Jordyn Adams, the Angels are linked to more outfielders: Kjerstad, Mitchell, Hassell (the best pure high school hitter) and Pennsylvania prepster Austin Hendrick (the top high school slugger). Any of the college arms above would make sense if they fell to No. 10.
11. White Sox: Patrick Bailey, C, North Carolina State
The White Sox might also like a crack at the Hancock/Meyer/Detmers group but in this scenario they wind up with Bailey. Chicago could be the high-water mark for Texas high school right-hander Jared Kelley.
12. Reds: Austin Hendrick, OF, West Allegheny HS (Imperial, Pa.)
This choice could come down to high school bats (Hassell, Hendrick, Illinois prep shortstop Ed Howard) versus college arms (Detmers, Oklahoma right-hander Cade Cavalli).
13. Giants: Garrett Mitchell, OF, UCLA
Mitchell is the biggest wild card among position players because while he has five-tool potential, he also has Type 1 diabetes and just six homers in 121 college games. Some teams believe he could drop into the 20s. If the Giants pass, they could opt for a high school position player such as Hendrick or a pair of Californians, catcher Tyler Soderstrom or outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong. San Francisco popped Soderstrom's father Steve with the No. 6 overall choice in 1993.
14. Rangers: Garrett Crochet, LHP, Tennessee
Another wild card, Crochet saw his stuff take a leap from top-two-rounds quality to top-10-picks material in the fall, but he missed the first three weeks this spring as a precaution with shoulder soreness and worked just 3 1/3 innings. If the Rangers want less risk, they could go with Cavalli. They might be the first team that would select Bitsko, who reclassified from 2021 to 2020 in January and never got to pitch in a game this spring.
15. Phillies: Cade Cavalli, RHP, Oklahoma
The Phillies hope one of the better college position players gets to 15, but Cavalli's explosive fastball/curveball combination would be a nice consolation prize if that doesn't happen.
16. Cubs: Tyler Soderstrom, C, Turlock (Calif.) HS
The Cubs need pitching but have had much more success drafting and developing hitting, especially in the first round. The track record of high school catchers in the first round is lousy -- the last two to stay behind the plate and accrue even 5 WAR are Joe Mauer (No. 1 overall in 2001) and Jason Kendall (No. 23 in 1992) -- but Soderstrom has a quality bat and the athleticism to profile at third base or on an outfield corner.
17. Red Sox: Mick Abel, RHP, Jesuit HS (Portland, Ore.)
High school catchers and right-handers are the Draft's scariest demographics, and this scenario would be the lowest the first prep arm got taken since ... way back in 2019, when the Pirates selected Quinn Priester at No. 18. The Red Sox don't appear to be going conservative despite losing their second-round choice for sign stealing, because they're also in on Crow-Armstrong and Howard.
18. Diamondbacks: Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF Harvard-Westlake School (Studio City, Calif.)
Crow-Armstrong entered last summer as the top-rated high school prospect, and while he had an uneven performance on the showcase circuit, he rebounded this spring and could be a plus hitter, runner and center fielder. He fits the smaller but sweet-swinging mold of recent D-backs prep outfielder picks Alek Thomas (second round, 2018) and Corbin Carroll (first, 2019).
19. Mets: Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP, South Carolina
A slew of right-handers from the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast conferences will go from the late first round through the early second round: Mlodzinski, Cole Wilcox (Georgia), Slade Cecconi (Miami), Tanner Burns (Auburn), Bobby Miller (Louisville), Bryce Jarvis (Duke), Chris McMahon (Miami), C.J. Van Eyk (Florida State) and Cole Henry (Louisiana State). Mlodzinski was the most impressive pitching prospect in the Cape Cod League last summer.
20. Brewers: Cole Wilcox, RHP, Georgia
Wilcox also drew first-round interest as a Georgia high schooler two years ago, and he did a better job of harnessing an arsenal with the potential for three plus pitches as a sophomore this spring.
21. Cardinals: Ed Howard, SS, Mount Carmel HS (Chicago)
The best true shortstop in the Draft, Howard has a high floor for a prepster as a reliable performer with the chance for solid tools across the board. He probably shouldn't last this long.
22. Nationals: Slade Cecconi, RHP, Miami
The Nationals are known for taking Boras Corp. clients and Tommy John repairs in the first round, so it would be too easy to give them Mississippi State right-hander J.T. Ginn here. With Ginn's signability in question, we'll give them a healthier college right arm with similar stuff in Cecconi.
23. Indians: Dillon Dingler, C, Ohio State
After taking last summer off to recover from a broken hamate, Dingler has shot up draft boards this spring by taking a step forward offensively. A center fielder as a freshman, he's more athletic and has more arm strength than most catchers.
24. Rays: Jared Kelley, RHP, Refugio (Texas) HS
The only one of the top three high school arms to pitch in an actual game this spring, Kelley wasn't as dynamic as he was last August at the Area Code Games. The Rays have an affinity for developing prep pitchers, so this could be a steal.
25. Braves: Tanner Burns, RHP, Auburn
Burns combines solid stuff with strike-throwing ability and a track record of performance in the SEC, and he could be one of the first college starters to reach the big leagues. The Braves also have interest in Bitsko, but their $4,127,800 bonus pool would make him a difficult financial fit.
26. Athletics: Bobby Miller, RHP, Louisville
A power righty complement to Detmers' lefty polish at Louisville, Miller pairs a mid-90s fastball with a mid-80s slider and keeps getting better as he gets more acclimated to starting.
27. Twins: Nick Loftin, SS, Baylor
The steady Loftin is one of the best contact hitters in the Draft and would give the Twins three first-round shortstops in four years, following Royce Lewis (2017) and Keoni Cavaco (2019).
28. Yankees: Austin Wells, C, Arizona
The Yankees put more premium on a catcher's offense than most teams, and Wells fits that profile with hittability, power and plate discipline, though he may wind up at first base or in left field.
29. Dodgers: Justin Foscue, 2B, Mississippi State
Los Angeles grabbed a pair of offensive-minded college infielders (Kody Hoese, Michael Busch) in 2019's first round and could do so again this June. Multiple clubs have wondered if Bitsko might make his way to the Dodgers, though the Orioles (who pick again at 30 and have the largest bonus pool at $13,894,300) appear to be in the best position to pay him.