Top 2020 MLB Draft Picks... Where Are They Now?
The top 10 draft picks did not have their typical first year in professional baseball
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. -- So, the Los Angeles Dodgers won their first World Series in 32 years during the biggest economic crisis, which forced MLB to change their rules drastically. Great, right? Yes, the Dodgers were able to adapt and embrace the adversity and be declared World Champions, but what about those players that were unable to adapt? Or even have a season at all? The MiLB canceled their 2020 season, which left potential big-leaguers out to dry. In this article, we are going to take an in-depth look at the top 10 MLB draft picks from the 2020 draft and breakdown their professional status, what they did during the 2020 season and what their future looks like with their respective clubs.
1) Spencer Torkelson (3B) - Detroit Tigers
After an impressive career at Arizona State, where he slashed a career .337/.463/.729, and finished 2nd all-time in career HR (54) at Arizona State, Torkelson was drafted 1st overall by the Detroit Tigers; the 6'1" third baseman was the first player at his position to be the top draft pick since Pat Burrell in 1998. Also, keep in mind that if he had a full season in 2020, he would have easily passed ASU legend Bob Horner's career record for HR's (56).
Due to the delay of the 2020 MLB season, Torkelson was invited to the second "Spring Training," where he got to practice with the big-league team and show Al Avila, Detroit Tigers GM, and coaching staff what he can bring to the table. Due to the lack of a college season and no MiLB season, it was safe to assume that former ASU third baseman would not be ready to play in the bigs quite yet. After the second "Spring Training," Torkelson was assigned to an alternate site, where he could still practice and prepare in case the Tigers came calling. His future looks bright with the Tigers, so I would not be shocked to see him in a Detroit Tigers uniform in late 2021 or early 2022.
2) Heston Kjerstad (OF) - Baltimore Orioles
Even with a small sample size of 16 games, Kjerstad was able to slash .448/.513/.791, where he tallied six homeruns and 20 RBI's. It is safe to say that the Baltimore Orioles got a versatile player with pop in his bat, where the club drafted him second overall.
Kjerstad officially signed with the Baltimore Orioles on June 30, 2020, inking a $5.2 million deal; the former Razorback was assigned to the GCL Orioles the same day. Austin Hays, current Orioles OF, holds the CF position, but there is plenty of opportunities within the next two years for Kjerstad to make a direct impact in the outfield.
3) Max Meyer (RHP) - Miami Marlins
With the archetype of current Reds Pitcher Sonny Gray, Meyer shows extreme similarities with the seasoned veteran. Standing at or below 6'0", the former Minnesota Golden Gopher will not overpower hitters with his fastball, but he will get hitters swinging out of their shoes on a nasty slider that starts in Maine and ends in Calif.
Subjectively, this is the best pick of the draft because there is room for more improvement on his fastball. Also, in his three seasons with Minnesota, the righty hurled a career 2.13 ERA in 46 appearances; he had no trouble finding the strike zone due to pitch-to-contact tendencies as well as getting batters to swing out of their shoes, where he tallied 187 strikeouts in 148 innings pitched. Meyer was invited to the second "Spring Training" as a non-roster invitee. Expect the righty to make a big-league appearance within the next couple of years with an up and coming Miami Marlins franchise.
4) Asa Lacy (LHP) - Kansas City Royals
The second pitcher taken off the board in the 2020 MLB draft was the southpaw from Texas A&M. Lacy was a Golden Spikes Semifinalist in 2019. This award is the Heisman Trophy in NCAA Baseball. The lefty tallied 70.1 innings pitched with an elite 1.53 ERA, where he fanned 116 hitters and only walked 27. Baseball critics and enthusiasts draw similar comparisons between Lacy and Clayton Kershaw. Lacy gets his fastball up to 97 MPH and has a devastating slider; his motion even looks similar to Kershaw's, which is something baseball fans would love to see for years to come.
The 6'4" southpaw was drafted fourth overall by the Kansas City Royals, who are in desperate need of young arms. The Royals have three left-handed pitchers in their current rotation with two of the three being over the age of 32. It will be interesting to see Lacy's development in the next couple of years. I expect him to be a part of the big-league club in mid to late 2022.
5) Austin Martin (SS) - Toronto Blue Jays
It was surprising to see Martin fall down to the fifth selection, but he is a perfect fit for the Toronto Blue Jays, who is an up and coming team with tons of promise. The perennial Shortstop is best known for his clutch home runs in the College World Series against the Louisville Cardinals in 2019. This stud from Vandy is a five-tool player that can do it all (i.e. throwing, hitting, stealing, fielding, high baseball IQ). In his short stint in 2020, he managed to slug .377/.507/.660, while stealing three bags and hitting three homeruns.
The former Vandy Shortstop is expected to go through the Minors as a Utility player. This will be an interesting adjustment for Martin, due to being a solidified Shortstop in college. Toronto's infield has a young core with Bo Bichette (22 years old), Cavan Biggio (25 years old), Vladimir Guererro Jr. (21 years old), and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (27 years old). Since Martin did not play in the Minor League this year, it will be a challenge for him to get into the big-league club anytime soon. Expect the former Commodore to make his appearance, at the earliest, 2023.
6) Emerson Hancock (RHP) - Seattle Mariners
Staying in the SEC, this former Georgia Bulldog was a dog of his own. Hancock only appeared in four games this past season, where he tossed 24 innings. In these innings, the righty punched out 34 batters and only walked three; he is no stranger to finding the strike zone when you need him the most. In his three-year career with the Bulldogs, he tallied 16 wins and a 3.47 ERA.
Again, another great pick by an MLB team who desperately need arms in their farm system. Picking Hancock sixth overall was perfect for them and the opportunity for Thomasville, Ga. native is enormous. The Mariners have been in a rebuilding phase for the past 10 years it feels like. Therefore, they are hoping that Hancock will get them over the hump in the next two to three years. I would say that he has a good chance of making the big-league club at the earliest 2023, but it would not surprise me to see him during Opening Week in 2024.
7) Nick Gonzalez (SS) - Pittsburgh Pirates
Subjectively, this former New Mexico State Aggie is one of the best players in the entire draft. People tend to sleep on Nick Gonzalez since his alma mater does not play in a notable conference with high talent. However, how could you not be romantic about baseball? He has his future ahead of him and his story has just started. Gonzalez only stands at 5'10", weighing in at 190 lbs, but he mashes the baseball. In his collegiate career, he launched 37 homeruns, 152 RBI's, and had a .747 slugging percentage. The only part of his game he needs to work on is his defense; the Vail, Ariz. native had a career .960 fielding percentage.
The bright side of Gonzalez is that he will be able to work with professional coaches to improve his fielding. There is no doubt that his bat is 'Major League' ready, but knowing the tribulations of the Pittsburgh Pirates defensively, they will want to be sure that Gonzalez is 'Major League' ready when it comes to defense. Expect him to progress quickly in affiliated ball, with the potential of making the big-league team by 2022-23.
8) Robert Hassell III (OF) - San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres decided to go all-in with their eighth pick in the 2020 MLB draft when they selected high school Outfielder Robert Hassell III for $4.3 million. The 19-year-old Outfielder surfaced in the media early in his high school career with his accolades. He was a two-time Gatorade State Player of the Year, he was the Player of the Year in his summer league, and International Player of the Year for Team USA.
The young prospect has plenty of years ahead of him to develop, especially since he did not have a true Senior year season in high school due to COVID-19. Do not expect Hassell III with the big-league team anytime soon. The Padres will spend their time scouting him and other young prospects extensively for the next three to four years. A possible time frame for Hassell III is late 2023-24.
9) Zac Veen (OF) - Colorado Rockies
To no avail, the Colorado Rockies decided to draft an Outfielder to help their depth for the foreseeable future. Veen was an interesting selection, but a great one at that. Veen was the highest-ranked high school baseball player in the nation, according to Perfect Game. At 19 years old, he stands at 6'4" 190 lbs, and has a 99 MPH exit velocity, which puts him in the 98th percentile. The Spruce Creek High School graduate shows similar characteristics as Bryce Harper, which could lead to an early MLB promotion.
The Colorado Rockies finally got their stud prospect. Subjectively, I think Veen's future could go two ways. First, the Rockies are entering a rebuilding phase with the inevitable possibility of losing Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story. Veen is a player that teams will be looking to get and the Rockies might shop him. If they do not shop him, expect him to make a splash in the big leagues by 2023.
10) Reid Detmers (LHP) - Los Angeles Angels
There is no doubt that Detmers has what it takes to be a big-league pitcher. Throughout his career, the southpaw received numerous awards such as ACC Pitcher of the Year, All-American First Team, and All-ACC First Team. Detmers spent three years with the Louisville Cardinals, where he appeared in 41 games, tallied 191 innings, punched out 284 batters, and held opponents to a .193 batting average.
The Los Angeles Angels are going to have a tough time finding arms in free agency due to the contracts of Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon. However, drafting Detmers early is a huge step. The Chatham, Ill. native is a solidified ace that will eat you innings with good command of his pitching arsenal. The readiness will be determined by the Angels' upcoming 2021 and 2022 seasons. If they are still struggling in late 2022, I would not be surprised to see a September start from the lefty, but I would look more at mid-2023 to early 2024.
It is imperative to mention that these are subjective projections and can alter depending upon injuries and performance. Without MiLB in the 2020 season, it will be interesting to see how these prospects will perform. There is a heavy advantage for the Pitchers in this list because they are able to pitch in indoor facilities or outside in warm weather and concentrate on locating pitches in their arsenal. However, it is going to be harder for hitters to adapt, especially the high school draft picks because they are going to see high velocities and more break, in offspeed pitches. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section!