Here are 10 undrafted players to keep an eye on
The 2020 Draft is now complete, with all five rounds and 160 picks finished on Thursday night. But that doesn’t mean all 30 teams are done looking for talent to add to their respective systems.
Under the rules for this year’s Draft, any undrafted player can now sign with any team, but for no more than $20,000. So it’s like a free-market system, but with a hard cap. Some scouts have likened it to a college recruiting process, with each organization putting together proposals of what it has to offer that might help set it apart from other interested teams.
There were 75 players from our Top 200 list who didn’t get drafted, led by high school right-hander Carson Montgomery (Windemere HS, Fla.) at No. 34 overall, prep shortstop Cade Horton (Norman HS, Okla.) at No. 47 and high school catcher Kevin Parada (Loyola HS, Calif.) at No. 48. None of the top high school talent is going to sign for the limited bonus teams can offer, so we’ll have to wait to talk about these guys for a few years. The top two college players available are both pitchers: No. 50 Seth Lonsway, a lefty at Ohio State and No. 69 Tommy Mace, the Florida right-hander. Both are expected to go back to campus for another season.
Just who are the kinds of players who could draw interest? Almost all will hail from the college ranks. There almost certainly will be a pool of players put together by analytics departments, lesser-known amateur players who have registered high spin rates or launch angles. There could be some passed over seniors or juniors typically drafted after the 20th round or so in a normal Draft and there could be a handful of college players who just decide they’re ready to start their pro careers, though many scouts feel the juniors from major programs are very likely heading back for another season.
The following is a look at some intriguing options for teams as they begin the recruiting process. There’s no way of knowing who among this crop will be willing to take $20K to sign until the period opens on Sunday, and players can opt out completely to return to school, but here are some names teams could be reaching out to to gauge interest.
Tanner Allen, 1B, Mississippi State (Jr.): Twice drafted previously, Allen got only 25 at-bats this spring before having surgery to repair a broken hamate in his left hand. He's a solid hitter from the left side of the plate and controls the strike zone well, though he might not have more than gap power. He played all over the field for Mississippi State.
Oraj Anu, OF, Kentucky (Jr.): Anu is a switch-hitter who homered from both sides of the plate in a game for Kentucky this year. His mother, Oralee, was an Olympic sprinter for the Bahamas who competed in the women's 4x100 meter relay in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
Tanner Bibee, RHP, Cal State Fullerton (Jr.): A command specialist, Bibee opened this spring as Fullerton’s Friday night starter with successful results. He does it with average stuff across the board at best, which plays up because of his ability to command all three, though there's not a ton of margin for error and his ceiling is somewhat limited.
Billy Cook, OF, Pepperdine (Jr.): Extremely athletic, Cook has speed that will allow him to stay in center field, though he’s played both the outfield and infield. He’s shown above-average power at times, though there is some swing and miss to his game. Scouts haven't gotten as many looks at Cook as some other college performers because he came from the Colorado high school ranks and missed a chunk of his sophomore season with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder.
Wil Jensen, RHP, Pepperdine (Sr.): Jensen was off to a very good start as a sophomore in 2018 until he needed Tommy John surgery. He was off to a very good start as the Waves' Friday night starter this spring. There's some projection to his 6-foot-3 frame and he has a potential four-pitch mix, with a fastball up to 93 mph, a changeup that has the chance to be a plus pitch, and a distinct curve and slider, all of which he's shown the ability to command fairly well.
Cullen Kafka, RHP, Oregon (Jr.): A reliever as a freshman, Kafka started as a sophomore and was the Ducks' Friday night starter this spring. Big and strong, he looks like a future workhorse with a potential three-pitch mix with a fastball that touches 94 mph, a slider and a changeup. Command issues have held him back, however, leading some to think he might best be suited for a bullpen role.
Niko Kavadas, 3B, Notre Dame (Jr.): Kavadas is all about left-handed power, and he tied for the Atlantic Coast Conference lead with seven homers in 13 games this spring after tying for first in the Cape Cod League with nine dingers last summer. He scores very well in various hitting metrics, producing impressive launch angles and exit velocities while earning well-above-average grades for his raw pop from some scouts.
Chris Lanzilli, OF, Wake Forest (Jr.): Lanzilli slammed 16 homers as a sophomore-eligible at Wake Forest last season but fell to the Giants in the 39th round of the 2019 Draft because he wasn't particularly signable. He went deep six times through 18 games in 2020, though there still are some questions about how well his right-handed pop will play with wood bats against quality offspeed pitches at the next level. A fringy runner with solid arm strength, he has made strides with his corner-outfield defense but looked overmatched at third base when he played there this spring.
Braden Olthoff, RHP, Tulane (Jr.): An unheralded transfer who went undrafted out of high school and during two years at Palomar (Calif.) JC, Olthoff recorded a 0.32 ERA in four starts this spring, ranking third in NCAA Division I in strikeouts (47) and sixth in WHIP (0.54). He stands out more for his sink, command and deception than his pure stuff, usually operating at 88-92 mph with his fastball and generally adding in an average curveball, slider and changeup.
Noah Skirrow, RHP, Liberty (Jr.): In the past, Skirrow was known mostly for his 90-93 mph fastball with ordinary secondary stuff. But he's added a cutter, thrown 88-90 mph, that should be at least average in the future. He does have an average changeup and a below average breaking ball, so a team could send him out as a starter, but he might be suited best for a relief role where his fastball-cutter combination would play up a bit.