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Inbox: Comparing Franco, Tatis Jr.

@JimCallisMLB
April 10, 2020

I had a lot of fun this week working on a story comparing Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Rays shortstop prospect Wander Franco in terms of hitting ability and long-term value. Playing off that, this week's edition of the Pipeline Inbox begins with evaluating Franco versus Padres

I had a lot of fun this week working on a story comparing Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Rays shortstop prospect Wander Franco in terms of hitting ability and long-term value. Playing off that, this week's edition of the Pipeline Inbox begins with evaluating Franco versus Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.

Franco currently ranks No. 1 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, sporting an 80 grade for his hitting ability and a career .336/.405/.523 slash line with 71 extra-base hits, 83 walks and 54 strikeouts in 175 games against much older competition. But I'm taking Tatis, who batted .317/.379/.590 with 22 homers and 16 steals in 84 games as a 20-year-old rookie last year.

Franco is the better hitter but Tatis also is skilled with the bat while all of his other tools are superior. Tatis has a bit more power and speed, a stronger arm and is a definite shortstop while Franco may wind up moving to second or third base. There's no shame in coming in second in this comparison, though, because both of these guys are going to be superstars.

An interesting question that I hadn't really considered. The first five Draft choices belong to, in order, the Tigers (whose top prospect is right-hander Casey Mize, No. 7 on the Top 100), Orioles (catcher Adley Rutschman, No. 4), Marlins (righty Sixto Sanchez, No. 22), Royals (Bobby Witt Jr., No. 10) and Blue Jays (righty Nate Pearson, No. 8).

As of now, I think the No. 1 pick comes down to Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson versus Vanderbilt outfielder Austin Martin, with Texas A&M left-hander Asa Lacy, Georgia right-hander Emerson Hancock and New Mexico State shortstop Nick Gonzales rounding out the top five prospects. And I agree with Clint that it looks like the only team whose 2020 first-rounder could immediately become their No. 1 prospect would be the Marlins, though I don't see Lacy, Hancock or Gonzales as locks to jump in front of Sanchez.

The Draft hasn't been finalized as just five rounds this year, though MLB can reduce it to as few as five. Even if that happens, I think teams will sign almost all of the top high school talent they would in a normal year.

Last year, 44 prepsters signed for more than $600,000: 40 in the first five rounds, three in the sixth and one in the 12th. Clubs won't be able to save bonus-pool money by loading up on college seniors in the sixth through 10th rounds, but will find ways to come up with enough cash to land a similar number of high-value high schoolers.

Under normal rules, picks in rounds six through 10 would come with assigned values ranging from $318,200 to $142,300, and any players after that could be signed for at least $125,000 (or more if teams had wiggle room in their bonus pools). But in 2020 and 2021, any players not drafted can't be signed for more than $20,000 and teams can't use pool savings to add to that amount.

A year ago, 395 players (mostly college juniors) received six-figure bonuses after the fifth round. Despite the $20,000 limit and the NCAA's decision to grant spring-sport athletes an extra year of eligibility, I believe that more undrafted college juniors will sign this summer than most believe. If they go back to school, they face an uncertain college baseball landscape and what should be a deeper pool of talent for a 2020 Draft that will last no more than 20 rounds and might be reduced.

The extra year of eligibility doesn't give players much added leverage. Most current juniors who return to college next year will be age 22, which doesn't make them attractive to big league organizations that are putting an increased premium on age. Yes, they could play an additional season in 2021, but they'd be 23 years old and of very little value to pro clubs at that point.

A third baseman at DeSoto Central High (Southaven, Miss.), Jordan reclassified from a junior to a senior eligible for the 2020 Draft, making him one of the youngest players available (he won't turn 18 until December). He also possesses as much raw power as anyone in the prep class. He won his first national home run derby at age 11, smacked a pair of 500-foot homers at another when he was 13 and prevailed in the High School Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game last July.

But Jordan is a tough evaluation for a lot of scouts. He struggled to make consistent contact against older competition on the showcase circuit last summer and most evaluators think he's a lock to wind up at first base, putting even more pressure on his bat.

Like all high school players this spring, Jordan didn't get much of a chance to boost his stock, and I've spoken to scouts who got both good and rough looks at him before the coronavirus halted play. The consensus would place him in the third round, though it's unclear if that would be high enough to sign him away from a Mississippi State commitment. His power could entice a club to take him as high as the second round, but the first round would be a stretch.

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