Inbox: Looking ahead to the Draft

April 24th, 2020

We've just unveiled our new Draft Top 150 Prospects list, so naturally this week's Pipeline Inbox questions will focus on the Draft. And though there may not be 200 picks this year, we'll expand to our usual Draft Top 200 in the next couple of weeks.

If you were GM Al Avila making the first pick for the Tigers, whom would you select and why?
-- Daniel K., Grand Rapids, Mich.

If I was in charge of the No. 1 overall pick, it would come down to two players for me: Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson and Vanderbilt outfielder/third baseman Austin Martin. Torkelson is the best power hitter as well as one of the best hitters available, with almost all of his value deriving from his bat. Martin is the best hitter in this Draft, and while he comes with less power than the mighty Tork, he's a more well-rounded player with solid speed, arm strength and defensive versatility.

I go back and forth on which of the Draft's consensus top two prospects I prefer, but my choice is Torkelson, one of the biggest impact college bats in recent years. He could become a .280 hitter with 35 homers on an annual basis, similar to what we thought of No. 3 overall selection Andrew Vaughn last year -- and some scouts say Torkelson will be better than Vaughn.

No other school can even match Arizona State's current total of three No. 1 overall choices: Rick Monday (1965), Floyd Bannister (1976) and Bob Horner (1978). The Sun Devils also happened to be tied for the most No. 2 selections with two, Reggie Jackson (1966) and Mike Kelly (1991).

However, if Martin goes first to the Tigers, Vanderbilt will tie Arizona State with three No. 1 overall picks, as he'll join David Price (2007) and Dansby Swanson (2015).

There's so much uncertainty surrounding this year's Draft that almost nothing would surprise me ... but teams electing not to use their full bonus pools would surprise me. They're prohibited from using pool savings to pay non-drafted free agents more than $20,000 each, so they can only use their allotment on their picks in a Draft that figures to be five rounds and certainly no more than 10.

MLB's agreement with the MLB Players Association allows clubs to defer almost all of this year's signing bonuses. The Orioles would have the largest pool in a five-round Draft at $13,894,300, but they'll only have to pay up to $500,000 up front and will push $6,697,150 to July 2021 and another $6,697,150 to July 2020. In a drastically shortened Draft, it would be madness for a team not to spend its entire pool and limit its ability to land talent.