In an agreement between Major League Baseball (aka Rob Manfred) and the MLB Players Association (aka Tony Clark) a compromise was reached concerning the 2020 “June” Amateur Draft. This arrangement allows Manfred to move the draft back to as late as July 20th, to cut the number of rounds from 40 to as little as 5 (this can be increased to 10 at his and the owners discretion) and to set the rounds of the 2021 MLB draft at 20. As I had mentioned in a previous article this lines up perfectly with Rob’s Plan to contract Minor League Baseball, but I digress.
There are some additional consequences of the shorted draft; especially this year. In the past players picked in rounds 6 through 10 were slotted to receive $125,000 to $300,000 signing bonuses. This will be reduced to a maximum of $20,000 for players signed as non-drafted free agents after the first 5 rounds have concluded, if the draft is not eventually extended to 10 rounds. Many college juniors may return for their senior years and high schoolers may hold firm to their college commitments if they fall in this range, whereas both of these groups could have been enticed to enter professional baseball during prior years. However, at least these guys have an option. The group of players that are holding onto the short end of the stick are the college seniors that fall outside the projected top tier levels of talent. They also did not have an full spring season to prove themselves and potentially raise their draft stock.
A freeze was put in place on any MLB transactions as part of the deal, which as it currently stands also has some possible ramifications on the draft process. Due to this stoppage Competitive Balance Picks are not allowed to be traded at this time. I assume this will be lifted if baseball resumes prior to the draft date, but nothing is certain at this point. So as it stands presently the Pittsburgh Pirates will have the #7 and #31 picks in the “first” round of this summer’s draft, which includes Competitive Balance Round A.
These two picks are extremely important to Ben Cherington as they are his first as the Pirates General Manager, along what will be his next steps in acquiring talent to build the system from within. He took his first step by trading Centerfielder Starling Marte to the Arizona Diamondbacks for prospects Liover Peguero (SS) and Brennan Malone (RHP). Both players were in Arizona’s Top 10 and now slot in at #5 and #7 respectively in the Pirates Top 30 Prospects in MLB Pipeline. So what approach does GMBC take with the first pick at #7? As I see it he has one of three options: 1) The Safe/Low Risk/High Floor 2) The High Risk/Potential High Reward 3) The Out of the Box. Each of these choices have their benefits, but the one of them sticks out as the best option in my opinion. Of course all of these could change based upon availability due to possible surprise picks ahead of them.
With the 7th Pick in the 2020 MLB June Amateur Draft the Pittsburgh Pirates Select…
1) The Safe/Low Risk/High Floor Pick(s)
Reid Detmers (LHP)-Louisville
Detmers is possibly the most polished and MLB-ready arm in the draft. He has three pitches (a fastball, a nasty curve and a sinking change up) in his repertoire, all of which he can through with above average command and control. His fastball tops out at around 95, his curveball freezes hitters as it swoops into the strike zone at 75 and the curveball is a happy medium. In limited work this spring Detmers allowed only three runs, while striking out 48 and walking six in 22 innings. Did I mention he is a lefty? This isn’t a must, but it is totally a bonus. In my opinion he projects as a 3-4 starter in the rotation for years to come, a plug and play if you will and a true innings eater.
Jared Kelley (RHP)-Refugio (Texas)
Now I understand that college arms may be easier to tempt, but this young man is primed for the big time. At only 18 years old he already has a MLB ready fastball that tops out at 98, an above average changeup that sinks away from hitters and a slurve will take minimal work to perfect. During his junior year in 2019 he posted an 11-0 record with a 0.24 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 65 innings. He clearly has the potential to be the ace of any rotation and could reach PNC Park in less time than many other high school arms. A lot of projections have him reaching the majors before his 21st birthday.
Note: It has been pointed out to me that Kelley probably doesn’t fit in the “low risk” category as a high school pitcher and potentially not even the highest ranked HS hurler in the draft. I guess I just like Jared Kelley a lot, but I can see why I shouldn’t call any HS pitcher low risk; they are higher risk by nature. If picks changed in front of the Pirates, I would put at least two or three players in his place or possibly move Max Meyer up. Meyer only “scares” me because of the potential to become a bullpen arm. I tweeted this concern earlier in the week and maybe not so jokingly got called out by Matt Capps for it.
2) The High Risk/Potential High Reward Pick(s)
Austin Hendrick (OF)-West Allegheny (Pennsylvania)
Call me a homer, I don’t care; this young man has the potential to be a star in the MLB. His raw power is undeniable, his athleticism could possibly play in any of the outfield spots and the upside is higher than most of the other players that could be taken at this spot. The downside is the swing and miss, which has become an issue at times. I feel like adjustments can be made to reduce these concerns, so I would have no issue with the Pirates taking him with their first pick in the draft. Now if you want to say that they should pick a player such as Zac Veen in this spot over Hendrick, you won’t get much argument from me. Just don’t discount him just because he is a local boy and don’t think I am I including him for that reason either.
Nick Bitsko (RHP)-Central Bucks (Pennsylvania)
A late addition to this year’s draft; it wasn’t announced until January that he would be graduating this year, Bitsko is 6’4 and 220 pounds at only 17 years old. He consistently hits 92 to 96 on the gun with his fastball and has a lights out curveball that comes in at around 80 mph. Both pitches consistently flirt with the strike zone and produce a lot of whiffs. Add in a developing change up and this young man has all the makings of a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
3) The Outside The Box Pick(s)
Heston Kjerstad (OF)-Arkansas
Kjerstad was hitting .448/.513/.791 with six homers in 16 games prior to the abrupt stop to the season. Over the past few years he has been among the top performers in the SEC, one of the nation’s toughest conferences. His freshman year he broke the school record for home runs by smashing 14 and hit 17 more as a sophomore. As it is with most power hitters he has the potential to sacrifice average for the swing and miss, but I really don’t see this as a major concern. His only downside is a lack of speed, which more than likely relegates him to the RF position exclusively. However, there are worse fates as I imagine his home run total would makes us as Pirates fans forget all about this.
Note: After discussions with a trusted source (to me) I have come to the realization that this out of the box thinking in choosing a college bat, especially in this spot may only apply to my way of thinking and not GMBC’s. I have been a long time opponent to the Pirates selection of Travis Swaggerty in the 1st Round of the 2018 MLB June Amateur Draft, not because I don’t like Swaggerty as a player, but due to the fact that I just haven’t seen the type of production I have come to expect from a top 10 pick.
Patrick Bailey (C)-North Carolina State
Bailey is possibly the best all-around catcher in the draft, as far as defensive ability and offensive potential go. As a switch hitter, he has shown power from both sides of the plate and an uncanny ability to get on base. He has a live arm that will hold runners in check and is above average in framing and blocking. Prior to the remainder of the season being cancelled he was hitting 296/.466/.685 with six homers in 17 games.
With the 31st Pick in the 2020 MLB June Amateur Draft the Pittsburgh Pirates Select…
1) The Safe/Low Risk/High Floor Pick
Alika Williams (SS)-Arizona State
Sometimes you just look at a young player and say that kid can just flat out play. This is clearly the case with Williams. He attended the prestigious Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego, California. The Broncos are a staple in the top 50 of high school teams in the United States and have produced current MLB players (Trevor Williams), as well as Pirates Prospect Cal Mitchell. Drafted in 2017 he chose to attend ASU instead. In his last full season (2019) he slashed .333/.429/.474 with 4 home runs. He does not have overwhelming power, but he does show patience at the plate resulting in walks above strikeouts. In the field he has above average tools, Arm (55) and Field (55). All of these attributes combined should make him an everyday player in the MLB.
2) The High Risk/Potential High Reward Pick
Masyn Winn (RHP/SS)-Kingwood (Texas)
Winn is a legitimate two way player as far as potential, as well as in practice. He has a fast ball that tops out at 98 and a curveball that sits at around 80, both with above average spin and movement. His athleticism and arm allows him to play a consistent shortstop, which is where many scouts predict he will end up. The bat is his only concern as of right now, but not as far as power is concerned. Winn needs to learn composure at the plate, a skill that can be developed and comes with maturity. He is currently a strong commit to Arkansas. I believe this can be changed with a solid bonus offer and talks of a big league career.
3) The Outside The Box Pick
Blaze Jordan (1B)-DeSoto Central (Mississippi)
POWER! That’s it. That’s the assessment. But in all seriousness, this young man does have ridiculous power. How many people can say they hit a pair of 500 foot homers at the age of 13? My guess is not many and maybe only one. A combination of strength and speed in his swing often results in towering shots and high exit velocity, nearly 107 mph. Currently positioned at third base due to hard work and conditioning, a move to 1st base seems like the most likely landing spot for Jordan. At only 17 years old he still has room to grow, which is unbelievable seeing as he already supports a 6’2” 220 lb frame. It might be a little bit of a pipe dream or a shot in the dark, but I would love to see what he could bring to the table in a Pirates uniform.
Obviously I am not in the room with GMBC, Kevan Graves, Steve Sanders and the rest of the crew so I can’t know exactly what they are thinking. However, I have almost as much access as their scouts do right now, at least as far as videos go and just like them I have seen these guys play for years. Also as anyone knows, the draft is a little bit of a crap shoot, but super fun to speculate about anyway. Even though it is not a regular year there are still some assessments and predictions that can be made. With that being said, let me hear yours! (Or just tell me mine are awesome!)