Next up is a look at my favorite college bats in the 2020 MLB Draft. As I mentioned before, it’s a relatively weak class but there are more than a few hitters with untapped potential. Also, the later rounds have an abundance of good backup and utility caliber players although I believe those types of players are a dime a dozen. The main fear with college bats is that there are ton of players who hit well in college and the metal bat, only to see them scuffle and turn into quasi AAAA players. This is why I prefer a player have a few loud tools as opposed to many average or close to average tools. With this comes risk, obviously, but as far as my evaluations are concerned, I tend to prefer to aim for the ceiling or go down swinging trying to homer so to speak. With that said, it is interesting that I start off with someone like Arizona’s Austin Wells, who I think is one of the best hitters available at any part of the draft, since he is solid at every category but not yet amazing (possessing a 60 grade) at any one of them – yet. Before I get more into him, I should also put the disclaimer that I am less high on players like Garrett Mitchell who will need to have a makeover of sorts to tap into their full skillset. My rationale is somewhat obvious and has to do with the fact that players who have played 2-3 years of college with quality instruction seem harder to get to change, especially if they had some sort of collegiate success. They know themselves and may not be as keen to change as a high schooler would, why is a reason why high school bats have done comparatively well.
MLB.com rank: 27
Originally I had Dillon Dingler on this list but it felt wrong to grade him based on only the handful of swings that I have seen. Teams will undoubtedly get to analyze more of his games than I did thanks in large part to an unimaginable amount of video and film at their hands available in their database systems. Also, I was able to find two similarly athletic catchers in later rounds who could play catcher and hit without raw pop in Zavier Warren and Tyler McDonough. What makes Wells special if the fact that his bat and power may only get better. No matter what happens to him defensively, Austin stands to benefit. If he gets off catcher because of defense, his bat will improve and play at left. If robot umpires are instituted, he could stay at catcher and still be above average offensively and get low strike calls, with framing being less of an issue. Only 20, his sweet swing and stance could make him one of the better catchers in MLB, resulting in an high average and power that he does not sell out for but can without becoming an all or nothing hitter like fellow Vegas kid Joey Gallo.
MLB.com rank: 30
Austin is not the only Martin blessed with serious gifts. Casey is also a college shortstop who could easily make the move to centerfield. Arkansas’ sparkplug is one of the most exciting players I have watched in years but does not come without concerns. He seems to swing out of his shoes and do anything to get the ball over the fence when he would be better served with a new approach. This could well change once he makes the switch to a wood bat full-time and I would like to see him use his top grade speed more in the way of stolen bases. Still, I think the hit tool will be fine if he can temper some of his aggressiveness that also makes him the player he is as one who plays like he’s literally on fire. He is rather small and it remains to be seen if his body will hold up his style but he is a leader and plays with joy, reminding me of Dustin Pedroia in his prime. There’s some potential for a 20-20 player here if you think the power is real and not due to a number of factors. He will need to cut down on strikeouts for this and get on base on a high clip for this to ultimately happen but it’s possible.
MLB.com rank: 32
I am happy that scouts and teams have been able to see Justin Foscue’s hitting talent and hope it lands him squarely in the first round with Wells. He has done nothing but hit at Mississippi State and will absolutely be a major league regular at second base. I consider Foscue’s hit tool to be closer to 60 than 50 and that is why I’m pretty bullish on him. There is a lot of DJ LeMahieu in him, the Rockies version and not the Yankees MVP anyway, and he has the chance to tap into his power a lot early. He won’t be the gold glove defender DJ is but is more than serviceable defensively with him likely playing all over the diamond. His teammate Jordan Westburg, and double play partner, has peaked my interest as well since Westburg could stay at shortstop and move over to third with his considerable raw power – that is if his bat improves more than it has in college. Foscue has no such concern and the need for projection is quite little, as is the bust potential or turning into Yunel Escobar which is why he is here.
MLB.com rank: 41
With Foscue’s helium rising, it has been disappointing to see Sabato not get the same recognition. I am as high on Aaron as anyone I have mentioned so far and think he is a sure fire first round talent. As a freshman, Sabato dominated almost as well as Spencer Torkelson and is an intimidating presence at the batter’s box. When I think of him, I see what Pete Alonso was at Florida. The New York State native has not got the respect he deserves since I would be more scared to face him as a pitcher than anyone in America not named Tork. His hit tool is better than he gets credit for and he can hit the ball to the moon with regularity. It is my hope that teams will be more willing to take difference making offensive talents even if they’re right handed first basemen and think the selection of Torkelson as the first college player with that profile to be picked that high will do a lot to change that for future draftees. There are no more than three college hitters better than Sabato, if there are even that many and one would think that’s enough to guarantee him a spot in the first round.
MLB.com rank: 105
As you can tell from the large dive of more than sixty spots into MLB’s rankings, there do not seem to be many quality hitters after the first or second round. It is going to take a lot of digging to find a hitter worth that type of selection and I could be talked into it with Soularie. He is my biggest loser from the early shutdown of the college season because he was following up an amazing first campaign with Tennessee with another great season. You could be fooled into thinking that you are scouting Adam Jones but it’s Alerick. A large part of Jones’ falling out of the league was his inability to draw walks or take pitches. Alerick is excellent at both and has a similar kind of swing, except that he is fine hitting line drives and letting power come to him. He should still be able to hit 20 homers annually and is just as good a hitter as Jones was, who beats him at running. Soularie could have raised his stock more if given a full college season but his loss is a team’s gain and he should be able to play three outfield spots, which makes him a steal if he shows what he did in junior college and college.
MLB.com rank : 108
If there is a bigger player in this draft class, I have not seen him. Nwogu is Frank Thomas big and has the power you would expect at that kind of size. What makes him unique, however, is the amount of speed he has and how well he can run. He can hit a fastball a long way and knows what pitches and when to lay off. If you are looking to hit on a pick like the Yankees did with Aaron Judge, Nwogu is that guy. Defensively, movement for him is more difficult so he won’t be Judge on that regard but teams eye him because he can hit bombs. His swing is not as pretty as Judge’s and unorthodox and better suited for homerun derbies but it has worked decently enough for him. Like with Sabato, there are not many humans who can hit the ball farther and harder. Those things cannot be taught and are a natural talent, as opposed to learning how to play the field and learning to get better jumps with quality outfield instruction. You will struggle to find baseball players brighter than this Michigan man and like Soularie, he is worthy of a second round pick and backed up by production.
MLB.com rank: 117
Casey is a pure scouting pick here as he has done little in college to merit what I see as his potential. He looks the part as a slugger who should have many more homers than he does, kind of like Jordan Westburg who will go higher. It’s pretty clear he is trying to emulate Josh Donaldson at the plate with his mannerisms and is similar to JD Davis for playing third base and pitching. He is a perfectly fine relief prospect in his own right but taking him off the mound is the first step to getting him right as a hitter. Focusing on hitting exclusively should help him get the most out of his bat since I value a good defensive third baseman with serious power a whole lot more than an average at best reliever. There is definitely risk here, even more so compared to the next two hitters but the payoff could be enormous as even Donaldson needed time to figure it out. If it does not work out after some time, he can transition back into a pitcher as two-way players before him have done. Giving him a shot to save energy and dedicate himself to finding a way to make the power play in games is worth it.
MLB.com rank: 127
It is hard to have performed better than Keenan did to the open Ole Miss’ season as they were borderline video game type numbers. He has comparable power to Nwogu, except from the left side, and scorches whatever he squares up. Tyler stands to have better bat to ball skills but may be pushed off the field if he can’t play first, which could diminish his value. It’s hard to see any path of him staying at the hot corner because of a lack of foot speed despite his arm. However, if a DH is implemented across baseball soon, he could easily be a serviceable one who could move decently quickly as he has a very mature bat and approach at the plate. Keenan’s pro comparison for me is an easy one and is Mitch Moreland, who has had more than a couple respectable years in his time with Texas and Boston as one of the Majors’ under appreciated players. Tyler figures to be a quality third round pick if he doesn’t go higher with his bat and there can be a strong case made for why he should if he brings savings.
MLB.com rank: 130
I thought long and hard about Parker Chavers here and expect him to go higher but had no way of knowing how he has progressed from shoulder surgery. Regardless, I like Hauver better because I believe in his power a whole lot more. Chavers has the more compact swing but the hit tool is similar and not far off. Simply put, Trevor is less of a tweener which is what we’re trying to avoid. He has not reached his ceiling yet and protected Torkelson in Arizona State’s lineup. He seems to be a student of hitting, tinkering with his swing in the cage whenever possible and that does not have to necessarily be a bad thing. It shows he is receptive to trying methods until he gets to where he wants to be, and project that to be a big league regular, a hell of a bargain for the third round. Trevor is athletic enough to play all over the infield and outfield, and has the bat to do so. He may be someone years from now that teams could miss on due to being distracted by his teammates when he was crucial to them himself.
MLB.com rank: 146
Emshoff is a true wildcard in this year’s draft because of his injury history as a catcher with Tommy John surgery. He has shown no ill-effects as far as his offense is concerned and is the same power hitting backstop he was before. Like most catchers, he is well built and does not run well but has no problem getting down to block balls. His arm was strong enough for the position before his elbow tore and he is expected to bounce back well. Drafting a catcher with his offense and power in the fourth round or later has to appeal to some teams. It’s possible he signs for a large enough discount that enables a team to make a run at a talented prep pitcher or hitter that has a high ask to forego college, like some of the players I‘ll be mentioning shortly, making for a nice win-win. Kale didn’t look like he belonged at Arkansas-Little Rock as a man among boys.
Honorable mentions: Astute observers will see that I did not jump on the bandwagon of college performers like Tyler Gentry. I weighed doing so for Hudson Haskin as the potential is there with the bat but for him to pan out, changes need to be made to his swing unless he is an anomaly like Hunter Pence. I seriously considered Zach DeLoach but could not get past his college struggles in years past to bite the bullet in this particular draft. I still like him a lot and expect at least a fourth outfielder if not more. He has one of my favorite swings in college baseball and would have made the cut if not for the high upside players I chose to highlight. Anthony Servideo is the same way as I was a big fan too of his game and expect him to be a safe choice as well. The best case is an Adam Eaton kind of player who can wreak havoc on the bases and be extremely pesky to face. Hayden Cantrelle oozes swag when he takes the field but struggled mightily in a brief 2020. I would like to see him drop switch hitting and become a primary left handed hitter because he is so weak hitting from the right side. His value is best served moving around position-wise and he definitely has the motor for it. Finally, Trei Cruz has the height and bloodlines with his dad and grandfather to overachieve. Cruz hits a lot like his dad, mainly, and it makes sense why with the type of career José Jr. had. Trei has some of his power and becomes more valuable if you believe he sticks at short, which there’s a chance for.