Talented trio Spencer Torkelson, Asa Lacy and Austin Martin headline the college baseball prospect class for the 2020 MLB Draft, which airs at 7 p.m. EDT Wednesday on ESPN and MLB Network.
This year’s prospects are in a unique position, since they didn’t get to finish their 2020 college seasons, which were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Torkelson, from Arizona State, is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick. The power hitter with a short and compact swing obliterated Barry Bonds’ school record for home runs in a season as a freshman when he smashed 25 round-trippers in 2018, 14 more than the mark set by MLB’s career home run leader.
Torkelson is the top player in Baseball America’s 500 Draft Rankings. Martin ranks second and Lacy ranks third.
Georgia pitcher Emerson Hancock, New Mexico State’s Nick Gonzales, UCLA outfielder Garrett Mitchell and Spruce Creek High School (Fla.) outfielder Zac Veen also should be picked early in the draft.
MLB.com also has Louisville pitcher Reid Detmers, Minnesota pitcher Max Meyer and Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad ranked as top-10 draft prospects.
The Detroit Tigers have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. Detroit is expected to snag Torkelson, but Lacy and Martin are both under consideration for the second pick.
The Miami Marlins, Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays also have Top-5 picks. The Seattle Mariners, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Angels round out the Top-10 of the draft order.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers have the final five picks of the first round.
The Houston Astros are the only team without a first-round pick. Houston forfeited the selection as part of their penalty for illegal sign stealing.
New draft format
The 2020 MLB Draft will look a lot different than previous drafts. This year’s process includes just five rounds, instead of 40 like in the past. That will save MLB team owners millions of dollars in financial player commitments amid the pandemic, which has slashed revenue in MLB and MiLB.
More than 1,000 prospects will go undrafted as a result.
The MLB Draft is unlike the NFL Draft in terms of first-round selections who can make an immediate impact. Most players selected in the first round ultimately spend fewer than three seasons at the MLB level, and many in the draft spend years in the minor leagues and never make it to baseball’s highest level.
The draft order is the reverse order of last year’s MLB standings.
Players this year will also be drafted with uncertainty about when and where they will get to play in 2020 as the MLB season remains suspended and minor league seasons are expected to be canceled.
Spencer Torkelson — 6-foot-1, 220-pound first baseman — Arizona State
Torkelson, 20, had a broken hand when he showed up on campus in Tempe, Ariz. He hadn’t made an impact on coaches before he got healthy enough to stand in the batter’s box.
“I didn’t think much about him,” Sun Devils hitting coach Michael Earley said. “But I saw something that was different the first day he was on the field. His aptitude and ability to make adjustments and take coaching was off the charts.
“He is different than everyone else. That’s why he’ll probably be the No. 1 pick.”
Earley, a former Chicago White Sox prospect, said Torkelson’s approach at the plate is similar to that of Chicago Cubs star Kris Bryant.
He also compared aspects of his swing to Angels star Mike Trout’s. Torkelson hit six home runs in 17 appearances for the Sun Devils in 2020 before the season was canceled.
He also hit .340, was on pace to set a career high in walks and had a career-best .780 slugging percentage and .598 on-base percentage.
“It doesn’t matter who is on the mound, you just feel like something special is going to happen,” Earley said.
Asa Lacy — 6-foot-4, 215-pound left-handed pitcher — Texas A&M
Lacy had the build of an ace pitcher before he crafted an arsenal of pitches. The Aggies star is a sponge for knowledge for every detail of the art of pitching.
He studies tapes of the best MLB pitchers and is similar to Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer in his thirst for knowledge for how spin rate, velocity, metrics and mechanics can improve his pitches.
Lacy used his upper-90-mph fastball to get hitters out in bullpen stints for the Aggies as a freshman. He then went to the Alaska Baseball League the summer before the 2019 season and returned to campus with a new pitch, a cutter/slider he can tinker with for increased impact against hitters.
He also had more command of his changeup. Now the starter has four pitches, and a fifth if you count his 2-seam fastball, to take to the next level.
“He knows mechanics better than anyone,” Aggies assistant coach Kyle Simonds said. “He has great body awareness and is super athletic. He is bulletproof and doesn’t get injured. The dedication he has to everything is what sets him apart.”
Lacy, 21, had a 0.75 ERA and 46 strikeouts in three games in 2020. He was 8-4 with a 2.13 ERA in 15 stars in 2019.
“He has the dedication to dominate,” Simonds said.
Austin Martin — 6-foot-0, 170-pound infielder — Vanderbilt
Martin shined for the Commodores during their 2018-2019 College World Series run. The versatile infielder is also one of the best pure hitters in the 2020 draft class and can play in the outfield.
Martin, 21, hit .377 with three home runs and just two strikeouts in 16 games this season for Vanderbilt. He hit .392 with 10 homers, 46 RBIs, 18 stolen bases and 34 strikeouts in 65 games in 2019.
“He antagonizes his teammates on the field, and he’s not concerned about the repercussions of the relationship,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin told MLB Network.
“He’ll mend that inside the locker room. In a playing environment, he’s not worried about the touchy-feely stuff. He’d rather go through that than the angst of coming up short.”