Inbox: '21 Draft, Crochet's performance and more

September 23rd, 2020

The 2021 Draft still is more than nine months away and the college players barely have been scouted, but will that stop me from trying to guess how the first 10 picks will play out? No, that will not.

I'm operating on the assumption that the 2020 results will be used to determine the Draft order, so these 10 picks are based on the standings through Tuesday. Vanderbilt right-hander Kumar Rocker, the subject of a recent MLB Pipeline Q&A, is the clear favorite to go No. 1 overall, but there isn't a lot of separation between the next five or six college prospects or the top high school players.

There's a very real chance that the Diamondbacks could take UCLA shortstop Matt McLain in the first round for the second time in three years after failing to sign him as the 25th overall choice in 2018. A high school pitcher didn't go in the top 10 in either 2019 or 2020, which is why I didn't include right-hander Andrew Painter (our No. 2 prep prospect) below.

1. Pirates: Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt
2. Rangers: Jud Fabian, OF, Florida
3. Red Sox: Jordan Lawlor, SS, Jesuit College Prep (Dallas)
4. Diamondbacks: Matt McLain, SS, UCLA
5. Royals: Adrian del Castillo, C, Miami
6. Tigers: Jaden Hill, RHP, Louisiana State
7. Orioles: Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt
8. Nationals: Jonathan Cannon, RHP, Georgia
9. Mariners: Alex Binelas, 3B, Louisville
10. Rockies: Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake HS (Chula Vista, Calif.)

While I'd love to see baseball's No. 1 prospect in the big leagues, I can't fault the Rays for not promoting Franco. He's 19 and has yet to play above Class A Advanced, and they can't just give him at-bats while they're jockeying for the best record in the American League (which would allow them to avoid the Indians and their strong rotation in the best-of-three first round). Willy Adames and Brandon Lowe are having strong years at shortstop and second base, Franco's best positions, and he doesn't have to be added to Tampa Bay's crowded 40-man roster until after next season.

That said, I bet Franco would hold his own if he got the opportunity. He's a switch-hitter with exceptional bat-to-ball skills, plus raw power and the quickness and arm to play all over the diamond. Unfortunately, there's just not much incentive for the Rays to give him a look.

The 11th overall pick in June and the first player to go from the Draft straight to the Majors since Mike Leake in 2009-10, Crochet looks like he'll be a formidable lefty bullpen weapon in the playoffs for the White Sox. He has recorded three scoreless appearances totaling three innings, with more strikeouts (three) than baserunners allowed (a single and a hit batter). He reached triple digits on 11 of his 19 pitches Tuesday night and also has flashed a plus power slider.

Three innings is too small a sample size to change impressions, but this stuff isn't a surprise. Crochet showed it during fall practice a year ago at Tennessee -- along with some well-above-average changeups -- and during his lone outing last spring. The Volunteers held him out of the first three weeks as a precaution when he came down with mild shoulder soreness, but if his junior season hadn't ended abruptly because of the coronavirus and he had gotten the chance to dominate in Southeastern Conference play, there's no way he would have lasted long enough to get to Chicago.

The reasons that Crochet didn't rank higher in MLB Pipeline's Draft Top 200 (No. 18) or our current Top 100 Prospects list (No. 93) are that scouts had some reservations about his health and also wanted to see if he could sustain his improved stuff over the long haul. Three innings won't fully answer those questions, so we won't rush him up the Top 100, but his stock is definitely rising.

While Bleday, the fourth overall pick in the 2019 Draft, is a defensible choice, I went with Jose Devers as the best pure hitter when we broke down the top tools among Marlins farmhands back in March.

A cousin of Rafael Devers who was acquired from the Yankees along with Starlin Castro and Jorge Guzman in the Giancarlo Stanton trade in December 2017, Jose has flown under the radar because injuries limited him to 134 games in 2018-19. He reached Class A Advanced at age 18 and has had no trouble making repeated contact against older pitching. He won't be a slugger but has a bit of sneaky power, and he also possesses plus speed and plays a quality shortstop.