What you need to know about the top picks in the 2020 MLB draft

Mark TownsendYahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports

The 2020 Major League Baseball draft kicked off Wednesday with the first of five rounds.

In total, only 160 players will be drafted this season. From there, the remaining undrafted players will have an opportunity to sign anywhere for a maximum of $20,000. As Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown recently noted, that could create a “wild, wild west” scenario.

Rounds 2-5 will be held on Thursday.

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As always, there is an intriguing group of prospects with big potential who are now positioned to take MLB by storm in the years ahead. Below is a capsule look at the top 10 picks and some other notable prospects. We will be posting updates throughout the night.

No. 1: Detroit Tigers — Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Arizona State

College stats: In 129 games at Arizona State, Torkelson hit .337/.463/.729 with 54 home runs.

What the experts are saying: The power-hitting first baseman projects as a fast mover through the minor leagues and a long-term force in the middle of an MLB lineup. His selection also bucks one of the most interesting trends in MLB draft history. Since 1961, only two right-handed hitting, right-handed throwing first baseman — Dave McCarty (No. 3 in 1991) and Andrew Vaughn (No. 3 in 2019) — have been selected within the top five picks. Torkelson is the third and the highest drafted among them.

No. 2: Baltimore Orioles — Heston Kjerstad, OF, Arkansas

College stats: Kjerstad hit .343/.421/.590 with 37 home runs in 150 games at Arkansas.

What the experts are saying: If Torkelson is the best power hitter in the draft, Kjerstad isn’t far behind. The corner outfielder flashed raw power at Arkansas, and did so against some of the best competition at the college ranks. The question is whether he’ll hit for average at the professional level. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was also less than desirable, which indicates he could take a longer path to MLB. The Orioles are committed to a long-term rebuild, so they have time to let him develop.

No. 3: Miami MarlinsMax Meyer, RHP, Minnesota

College stats: In 46 games (15 starts) at Minnesota, Meyer posted a sparkling 2.03 ERA. He struck out 187 batters in 148 innings. 

What the experts are saying: Meyer might be the most interesting player selected in the first round. The 6-foot, 185-pound right-hander only made 15 starts during his college career. That's a fairly small sample size. However, he did flash strong upside thanks to a fastball that topped out at 101 mph and a slider that reached the low 90s. The concerns surrounding Meyer are durability due to his smaller frame and consistency because of his limited time on the hill. But his upside was intriguing enough for the Marlins to make him a top three pick.  

No. 4: Kansas City Royals Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M

College stats: Lacy posted a 2.07 ERA in 42 games (21 starts) at Texas A&M. He struck out 224 batters over 152 innings. 

What the experts are saying: Lacy is a true four-pitch pitcher with a mid-90s fastball and a wipeout slider that helps him put hitters away. The issue for the 6-foot-4 left-hander is often his control. During his college career Lacy either walked or hit 14.3% of the hitters he faced. It's a concern, but any improvement will cement his upside for Kansas City.

Vanderbilt's Austin Martin is poised to join a loaded Blue Jays infield. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Vanderbilt's Austin Martin is poised to join a loaded Blue Jays infield. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

No. 5: Toronto Blue Jays Austin Martin, 3B/OF, Vanderbilt

College stats: Martin hit .368/.474/.532 across three seasons at Vanderbilt. He was previously drafted by the Cleveland Indians (37th round, 2017).

What the experts are saying: While some view Torkelson as the surest bet to succeed, others view Martin as a more well-rounded player who has more room to grow. There are concerns about Martin's size (he's 6'0", 185 pounds), power potential and where he'll fit in defensively. But his raw abilities — quick bat, pitch recognition, good hands and excellent speed — give him a solid foundation to build off of. He’ll fit well alongside Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio.

No. 6: Seattle Mariners — Emerson Hancock, RHP, Georgia

College stats: Hancock posted a 3.80 ERA over career 33 starts at Georgia. He struck out 206 batters in 192 innings. 

What the experts are saying: Hancock might be the most polished pitcher in this draft. His fastball, slider and changeup are all plus pitches. Most importantly, he has good command of all three pitches. His readiness and steadiness adds some extra appeal. There will be less need for maintenance, which could allow him to reach the Mariners rotation in short order.  

No. 7: Pittsburgh Pirates — Nick Gonzales, 2B/SS, New Mexico State

College stats: Gonzales hit .399/.502/.747 with 37 home runs in 128 games at New Mexico State. 

What the experts are saying: Gonzales is a pure hitter. After finishing just one hit shy of being a .400 career hitter in college, the general feeling is his bat is already close to ready. The question is where he'll fit defensively. Gonzales manned shortstop in college, but didn't show enough range or arm strength to cement it as his primary position. Second base is his likely destination. Once that transition is made, he should be ready for Pittsburgh. 

No. 8: San Diego Padres — Robert Hassell III, OF, Independence HS (Tenn.)

What the experts are saying: Hassell is the first high school player selected in the 2020 MLB draft. Understandably so, considering that most scouts believe he or Zac Veen is the top position player prospect among the prep prospects. Hassell doesn't project as a pure power hitter, but his hit tool rates highly. He’s an above-average runner who should be able to handle center field duties for San Diego.

No. 9: Colorado Rockies — Zac Veen, OF, Spruce Creek HS (Fla.)

What the experts are saying: Veen is considered the best high school prospect in the draft and a potential five-tool player at the MLB level. No pressure, or anything, kid. Despite baseball being shut down, Veen has continued impressing evaluators by adding 20 pounds to his 6-foot-5 frame. He's currently listed at 200 pounds. Between his size, strength, bat speed, throwing arm and his willingness to work, there's a chance he could emerge as the best player in this draft. Playing in Coors Field won’t hurt.

No. 10: Los Angeles Angels — Reid Detmers, LHP, Louisville

College stats: In 41 games (30 starts) at Louisville, Detmers posted a 3.25 career ERA. He struck out 284 batters in 191 innings. 

What the experts are saying: Detmers is not an overpowering pitcher. His fastball sits in the low 90s and his curveball in the mid 70s. But he is excellent at keeping hitters off balance, as evidenced by his final four college starts when he posted a 1.23 ERA and struck out 19.6 batters per nine innings. The key is the movement on his 12-to-6 curveball and his excellent control. He's frequently ahead in the count, which allows him to dictate. He may project better as a reliever for the Angels, though there's mid-rotation upside as well.

Here's a quick look at the top prospects who were selected in the 2020 MLB draft.(Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Here's a quick look at the top prospects who were selected in the 2020 MLB draft.(Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

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