The 2020 MLB Draft took place last week, as short as it was. Here on Pinstripe Alley, we’ve spent the last few days breaking down how the Yankees did with their three draft picks. But those aren’t the only ones that matter to the Bombers, so let’s check in and see how New York’s rivals made off with their 2020 draft hauls.
With the second overall pick in the draft, Baltimore turned the entire draft sideways, eschewing the consensus number two prospect Vanderbilt infielder/outfielder Austin Martin. Instead, they selected Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad, who many expected to go roughly eight picks later. Some speculate that the Orioles may have gone for an underslot guy in order to move money around for later draft picks, but that remains to be seen until they actually ink these guys to contracts.
Kjerstad, mind you, is no slouch of a prospect, a 21-year-old lefty hitter with an aggressive approach at the plate and the potential to develop a power bat, although a weird swing may cause some timing issues.
Outside the first pick, for the second year in the row the Orioles went heavy on position players, selecting two more outfielders, two shortstops, and a third baseman; only in the fifth and final round did they pick a pitcher, Carter Baumler, out of Dowling Catholic High School — who FanGraphs calls a “two-way player!” We’ll see in a few years if that strategy works out for Mike Elias.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays certainly did not need an impact middle infielder, but that did not stop them from jumping on Austin Martin, the shortstop out of Vanderbilt expected to be drafted second overall but fell to Toronto at number five. So long as the Jays can get him to sign — and there’s no reason why he wouldn’t, because he’s expected to receive at least $6 million in signing bonuses — he will immediately become the best value pick in the draft, as many analysts, including Keith Law of The Athletic, had him ranked as the top overall prospect.
True, there are some concerns, namely defensively — he struggled throwing the ball to first base and the college season being cut short meant that teams did not get a good look at him as a center fielder — but his approach is described as “elite,” and he has the tools to play several positions on the diamond. There’s every reason to expect him to fly through the Toronto’s farm system.
After Martin, the Blue Jays selected three collegiate pitchers and an outfielder named Zach Britton (with an h). Their second round pick, CJ Van Eyk, is also widely applauded, but I’m going to be honest here: at least for now, the only pick that seems to matter to anybody is Martin.
Boston Red Sox
If the Orioles turned the draft upside down in the second spot, the Red Sox threw it up in the air, hit it with a bat, and put it back together with spit and duct tape with their selection of high school second baseman Nick Yorke at 17 overall, a player FanGraphs ranked at 165 on their board. In fact, the pick was so surprising that the MLB Network analysts were discussing whether or not the Red Sox were punting the 2020 draft immediately following the pick.
The Red Sox’ third round pick (they lost their second due to the sign-stealing scandal), Blaze Jordan, however, revealed a different strategy. Yorke was evidently an underslot signing, with Boston needing more than his slot value to lure the corner infielder (likely a future 1B/DH type) with immense raw power away from his commitment to Mississippi State. Still, I expect him to sign, because you don’t reclassify yourself into a high school senior to forego the draft and go to college.
Of course, taking a player 150 rounds earlier than expected to have enough pool money to sign a 17-year-old first baseman who can fake it at third is a very high risk, no matter how much raw power he has. In fact, until we know for sure if Jordan will sign, this draft is an incomplete.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays had the most “Rays” draft they could have, adding four pitchers and two shortstops to a farm system that is loaded with pitchers and shortstops. But that strategy has done nothing but work for them, as the Rays have continually been among the best in the league at developing pitching prospects, and we all know that shortstops can often be moved to other positions or used as great trade bait (which, again, the Rays love doing).
First pick Nick Bitsko, just 17 years old, marks a major risk for the Rays, as he has not actually pitched a single game after his sophomore year. Teams, nonetheless, love his mid-90s fastball and his breaking ball, and he profiled as a top-20 pick had he remained in the 2021 draft. Even so, there’s always risks in taking a high-school pitcher, even in a normal season, which this is not. However, the Rays have enough pitching depth in their farm to take such a risk, and if he pans out, they could have one of the best pitchers in baseball.