Projecting the top 10 picks in the 2020 Draft

December 5th, 2019

The Tigers own the No. 1 overall pick for the second time in three Drafts, and just like in 2018, MLB Pipeline's top-rated prospect is a Southeastern Conference right-hander who combines premium stuff and polish.

However, in this six-months-in-advance prediction for the top 10 selections, we're thinking that Detroit won't grab Georgia's Emerson Hancock to pair with Casey Mize at the front of its future rotation. That's because the Tigers' farm system is much stronger in arms (Mize, Matt Manning, Tarrik Skubal, etc.) than bats (2019 No. 5 overall choice Riley Greene notwithstanding), and because there are two position players who stand out along with Hancock as the cream of the '20 crop.

Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson is the best power hitter in the 2020 Draft and is quite similar to Andrew Vaughn, who went No. 3 overall to the White Sox in '19 as one of the best offensive prospects in recent Draft history. Vanderbilt shortstop Austin Martin is the best hitter available and has the athleticism to play almost anywhere on the diamond.

Even if Hancock doesn't go No. 1, he will symbolize a resurgence in college pitching after that demographic was historically thin a year ago. The first college arm didn't come off the board in 2019 until No. 7 (Nick Lodolo to the Reds). Only one went in the top 10 and just seven cracked the 34 first-round picks. By contrast, we project five of the top 10 choices will be college pitchers, and there are at least 10 more who will draw first-round consideration.

1. Tigers: Austin Martin, SS, Vanderbilt

Martin played a starring role in a College World Series championship for the Commodores as a sophomore and is moving to shortstop as a junior -- just as Dansby Swanson did en route to becoming the No. 1 overall pick in 2015. He is a comparable hitter and runner who's maybe less a natural shortstop but a twitchier athlete.

2. Orioles: Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Arizona State

Baltimore general manager Mike Elias was involved with four top-two choices with the Astros, hitting big on a pair of position players (Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman) and taking two of the biggest busts in Draft history with a pair of pitchers (Mark Appel, Brady Aiken). Torkelson is less of a pure hitter than Vaughn, but he may have more power and he broke Barry Bonds' Sun Devils freshman home run record with 25 in 2018.

3. Marlins: Emerson Hancock, RHP, Georgia

At this point, Miami's choice would seem pretty easy: Just take whichever of the three elite prospects remains on the board. Hancock has three plus pitches (a 94-99 mph fastball, a mid-80s slider and a fading changeup), his curveball isn't far behind and he pounds the strike zone with all of them.

4. Royals: Nick Gonzales, 2B, New Mexico

Gonzales led NCAA Division I hitting (.432) while ranking second in OPS (1.305), third in slugging (.773) and fifth in on-base percentage (.532) as a sophomore, then proved those numbers weren't just the result of a favorable hitting environment by making a run at the Cape Cod League Triple Crown. He could be a more athletic version of Keston Hiura, whom the Brewers selected at No. 9 in 2017.

5. Blue Jays: Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M

After just one left-hander went in the first 18 picks in 2019, we're projecting three in the top nine in '20. The first of those is Lacy, who averaged 13.2 strikeout per nine innings (eighth in NCAA Division I) as a sophomore thanks to his 92-97 mph fastball, downer curveball and fading changeup.

6. Mariners: Garrett Crochet, LHP, Tennessee

Already considered a first-round talent, Crochet boosted his profile by adding velocity and throwing at 96-100 mph for most of fall practice. He also possesses one of the better changeups in the Draft as well as a solid slider with good spin rates.

7. Pirates: Jared Kelley, RHP, Refugio (Texas) HS

Kelley is the lone prepster in our projected top 10 picks, reflecting a first round that could consist of twice as many collegians as high schoolers. The best Texas high school arm since Jameson Taillon -- whom Pittsburgh took at No. 2 in 2010 -- he generates 93-98 mph fastballs with ease and backs them up with an advanced changeup and a hard slurve.

8. Padres: Garrett Mitchell, OF, UCLA

The best college athlete in this class, Mitchell could have plus tools across the board if he continues to develop. He batted .349/.418/.566 with 32 extra-base hits and 26 steals a sophomore, though his Type 1 diabetes is a concern for some clubs.

9. Rockies: Reid Detmers, LHP, Louisville

Detmers is similar to former Louisville star and 2017 No. 4 overall pick Brendan McKay, with an almost identical build and slightly less stuff. Perhaps the most polished pitcher in the Draft, he set school records for wins (13, first in NCAA Division I) and strikeouts (167, second in D-I) in 2019 by commanding a 90-94 mph fastball and flashing a plus curveball.

10. Angels: Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP, South Carolina

Mlodzinski missed most of the 2019 regular season with a broken left foot, but he asserted himself as the Cape Cod League's best pitching prospect during the summer. His fastball reaches 99 mph, his slider and changeup show signs of becoming plus offerings and he began harnessing is premium stuff while on the Cape.