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Inbox: Potential new No. 1's, Draft steals

June 24, 2020

While we look forward to some MLB action a month from now, Draft questions continue to dominate the Pipeline Inbox. Let's get to them. **I will ask it again -- which members of this year's Draft class immediately become their teams' new No. 1 prospect once they sign? -- J.P.

While we look forward to some MLB action a month from now, Draft questions continue to dominate the Pipeline Inbox. Let's get to them.

I will ask it again -- which members of this year's Draft class immediately become their teams' new No. 1 prospect once they sign?
-- J.P. S., Springfield, Ill.

J.P. has asked me this question for several years, starting when I answered reader questions in Baseball America's "Ask BA" column. The number is usually smaller than you might suspect.

As I mentioned in my last Pipeline Inbox, I'd put No. 1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson at the top of our Tigers Top 30 Prospects list. That would move the Arizona State corner infielder in front of 2018 No. 1 overall choice Casey Mize, who's in the discussion of baseball's best pitching prospect, but Torkelson might be the best offensive prospect to come out of the Draft in the last two decades.

This Draft should be one of the best of the 2020s, but there isn't another top-five selection who will shoot to No. 1 on their team Top 30. Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad (Orioles, No. 2) won't topple Adley Rutschman, the top choice in the 2019 Draft and one of the best catching prospects in recent memory.

Minnesota right-hander Max Meyer (Marlins, No. 3) has electric stuff but I'd have a hard time putting him ahead of righty Sixto Sanchez or outfielder JJ Bleday this early. Texas A&M left-hander Asa Lacy (Royals, No. 4) was the consensus top pitcher in the 2020 class and Vanderbilt outfielder/infielder Austin Martin (Blue Jays, No. 5) was the best pure hitter, but they'll fall in behind shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. and righty Nate Pearson on their respective lists.

I only see one other obvious new No. 1, with UCLA outfielder Garrett Mitchell (Brewers, No. 20) supplanting shortstop Brice Turang. Mitchell had arguably the best toolset among college players, but slid out of the top 10 amid concerns about his Type 1 diabetes and his signability. Two other tempting options would be New Mexico State middle infielder Nick Gonzales (Pirates, No. 7) over right-hander Mitch Keller, and Florida high school outfielder Zac Veen (Rockies, No. 9) over infielder Brendan Rodgers.

Let's break this down by the biggest steal by round, starting with the first, where getting Mitchell at No. 20 was a great value for the Brewers. Texas high school right-hander Jared Kelley (second round, White Sox) and Georgia right-hander Cole Wilcox (third, Padres) had first-round-worthy arms but dropped because of signability concerns.

There wasn't a heist as noteworthy as those in the fourth round, though Vanderbilt left-hander Jake Eder was drawing first-round buzz in the fall and wound up going 104th overall to the Marlins. Mississippi prep third baseman/right-hander Colt Keith (fifth, Tigers) could have fit two rounds earlier based on talent. We'll come back to both of them in the last question of the Inbox.

Based on pure upside, Mitchell would be the biggest steal of the Draft. Based on where he went relative to his talent, Wilcox would be the answer.

Both Kelenic, who went sixth overall to the Mets in 2018, and Hassell, the eighth overall pick by the Padres this June, ranked as the best pure hitters in their high school classes. We gave them almost identical grades on the 20-80 scouting scale -- 60 bat, 50 power, 55 speed, 50 defense in center field -- with Kelenic (60) rating slightly ahead of Hassell (55) in terms of arm strength. Kelenic was listed at 6-foot-1 and 196 pounds, compared to 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds for Hassell.

All of this bodes well for Hassell and the Padres. The Mets regrettably traded Kelenic to the Mariners, and in his first season with his new organization he batted .291/.364/.540 with 23 homers and 20 steals while reaching Double-A at age 20. He has shown more power and speed than expected, and his chances of remaining in center field have increased.

Who did you take in your annual hypothetical self-draft?
-- Jim C., Winnetka, Ill.

Yes, I'm asking my own question here. Since 2003, in an attempt to see how difficult it is to select quality players, I've shadowed a team through the first 10 rounds of the Draft while adhering to realistic budget constraints.

In my first 17 drafts while never picking higher than eighth overall, I've selected 47 future big leaguers, most notably Chris Archer and Jason Heyward. My best recent choices have been Kyle Lewis, Dakota Hudson, Bryan Reynolds and Jon Duplantier from 2016, and my pretend farm system includes Top 100 Prospects Brady Singer, Xavier Edwards and Brett Baty.

I randomly got the Rays as my team to mirror in 2020, which left me with six choices in five rounds and a bonus pool of $7,474,600 that I can stretch to $7,848,330 without forfeiting any future first-round selections. I went with the same first-rounder at No. 24 that Tampa Bay did and followed up with one of the best catchers and one of the best athletes in the Draft with my next two selections. Here's my draft:

Round: Player, Pos, School (Actual pick)
1st: Nick Bitsko, RHP, HS/Pennsylvania (TB, 1st)
Supp 1st: Dillon Dingler, C, Ohio State (Det, 2nd)
2nd: Casey Martin, SS, Arkansas (Phi, 3rd)
3rd: Jake Eder, LHP, Vanderbilt (Mia, 4th)
4th: Colt Keith, 3B/RHP, HS/Mississippi (Det, 5th)
5th: Parker Chavers, OF, Coastal Carolina (undrafted)

Jim Callis is a reporter for Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly MLB Pipeline Podcast.