The 2019 MLB draft was considered one of the weakest in recent memory -- ESPN draft guru Keith Law called it the weakest he's seen in his 18 years of scouting the draft for the Blue Jays and ESPN.
The 2020 draft, however, looks like it will be loaded. While this year's draft was particularly weak in college arms, next year's draft is particularly deep in college arms, including a couple of intriguing draft-eligible sophomores. Heck, scouts won't have to leave the SEC to see a bevy of first-round talent. The class also has some big-time prep talent and a power hitter who has put up huge numbers in the Pac-12. Here are just a few of the names to watch for 2020:
Emerson Hancock, RHP, Georgia
The name sounds like somebody who might have signed the Declaration of Independence, but his stuff is pure 21st century, with a high-90s fastball, curveball and changeup. As a sophomore, Hancock went 8-3 with a 1.99 ERA, striking out 97 in 90⅓ innings and holding batters to a .185 average. Hancock is the top-rated player on Baseball America's early 2020 draft board, and he has the size (6-foot-4) and velocity that could make him the No. 1 overall pick.
At this point, he's still more potential than polish, as he fanned barely a batter an inning. Compare that to Casey Mize, the top overall pick in 2018, also out of the SEC. Mize fanned 156 in 114⅔ innings. Hancock throws harder than Mize and does throw strikes, so it's probably more an issue of improving his command and offspeed pitches.
Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Arizona State
Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn just became the third first baseman in the past 20 years selected in the top three picks of the draft (joining Eric Hosmer and Adrian Gonzalez). Torkelson could become the fourth after hitting .353 with 22 home runs as a sophomore -- on the heels of hitting 25 home runs as a freshman. He was also a young sophomore, playing the entire season as a 19-year-old.
After breaking Barry Bonds' freshman home run record at ASU, Torkelson didn't improve much as a sophomore, hitting 33 points higher but with a little less power even though the Sun Devils moved the fences in at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Torkelson is also a right-handed hitter and is probably limited to first base, although he's played some outfield. Still, he'll enter 2020 as the top-rated college hitter in the draft.
Patrick Bailey, C, NC State
A switch-hitting catcher with sound receiving skills, Bailey should easily surpass the draft status of Wolfpack alum Andrew Knizner of the Cardinals, who went in the seventh round in 2016 and reached the majors this season. Bailey hit .288/.390/.513 with 10 home runs in 236 at-bats as a sophomore, with almost as many walks (41) as strikeouts (43). Those numbers were a drop from his freshman season, when he hit .321 with 13 home runs in 187 at-bats.
Pete Crow-Armstrong, CF, Harvard-Westlake High School (Los Angeles)
The top all-around high school position player, Armstrong should become Harvard-Westlake's fourth first-round pick since 2012 and maybe its highest overall, joining Max Fried (seventh in 2012), Lucas Giolito (16th in 2012) and Jack Flaherty (34th in 2014). That's a pretty good major league rotation, all from one high school.
A lefty swinger and thrower, Crow-Armstrong draws rave reviews for his plus-plus speed, hitting instincts and defense in center field. His approach is more line drives right now, but he's performed well against top competition and his 6-foot-1 frame should add some power as he matures.
JT Ginn, RHP, Mississippi State
The Dodgers drafted Ginn 30th overall in 2018 out of a Mississippi high school, but he spurned their offer to attend MSU. He went 8-4 with a 3.36 ERA for the Bulldogs as a freshman, with 103 strikeouts and 18 walks in 80⅓ innings. He'll be a draft-eligible sophomore. He throws in the mid-90s and fared well in the tough SEC -- a huge positive given the weak caliber of Mississippi high school competition. If he stays healthy, he'll go a lot higher than 30th in the 2020 draft.
Cole Wilcox, RHP, Georgia
Yes, another SEC right-hander with a mid-90s fastball that touches 98. Wilcox was a first-round talent in the 2018 draft out of a Georgia high school, but made it clear he was headed to college. Like Ginn, he'll be a draft-eligible sophomore, although Wilcox requires a lot more projection at this point than his teammate Hancock. Wilcox went 3-2 with a 4.07 ERA as a freshman, striking out 64 in 59⅔ innings but walking 38 batters. He pitched primarily in relief so questions like stamina and control will have to be answered next spring, but he has top-10 stuff.
Blaze Jordan, 1B/3B, DeSoto Central High School (Southaven, Mississippi)
Jordan just reclassified to become eligible for the 2020 draft instead of 2021, as he intends to graduate early and enter the draft at 17. He's committed to Mississippi State, but his huge raw power and hitting ability likely means he never gets to Starkville. Jordan is already a viral sensation with 50,000 followers on Instagram, and a YouTube video calling him the next Bryce Harper has more than 2.8 million views:
He's a right-handed hitter and just started playing some third base. If he can show he can play somewhere other than first base, that will improve his draft value.
Dylan Crews, OF, Lake Mary (Florida) High School
From the same school as Brendan Rodgers of the Rockies, Crews could join him as a top-10 pick on the strength of his power, hitting ability and athletic frame, although he's probably a right fielder in the pros. Crews has long been part of Major League Baseball's Product Development Pipeline and has played on Team USA under-14, U15 and U18 teams (even playing a little catcher). He's committed to LSU, but Perfect Game has him rated as the No. 2 high school player for 2020.
Jared Kelley, RHP, Refugio (Texas) High School
One of the top pitchers in the 2020 crop, the 6-foot-2 right-hander has hit 95 on the radar gun. He pounds the bottom of the strike zone with his fastball and shows feel for a plus curveball and changeup. He's committed to Texas. Kelley led his high school to the Texas Class 2A title game as the starting quarterback as a sophomore, but gave up football to focus on baseball.
Austin Martin, 3B/2B, Vanderbilt
Too bad his first name isn't Aston or he'd be ready made for a slick promotional campaign with the British luxury carmaker. Martin was hitting .410/.502/.603 as a sophomore with more walks than strikeouts (36 to 29) heading into the weekend regional play, and he added 18 steals in 23 attempts. After hitting one home run as a freshman, he improved to six as a sophomore, adding 19 doubles to showcase his gap power. Martin played third base for Vandy, but has the hands to play second. He benefited from hitting in front of 2019 fourth overall pick JJ Bleday, but as one of just a couple major conference players to hit .400, the hit tool is legit.