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2020 MLB Draft 1st Round Primer: Vanderbilt Edition

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Which Vanderbilt players and/or commits have a chance to hear their names called tonight?

College World Series - Michigan v Vanderbilt - Game Three Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

I don’t need to tell you that this year’s draft will be different, or why. I already did when they decided to shorten it to 5 rounds months ago:

What does this mean for Vanderbilt baseball?

Well... everything about this is terrible for minor league baseball (and for the signing bonuses of the majority of draft eligible players), but with fewer rounds, and even less time for MLB scouts to see high school prospects, there may well be a greater than normal influx of talented players to college baseball rosters.

For top prospects projected to be chosen in the first round, such as Vanderbilt junior CF Austin Martin and class of 2020 commits OF Pete Crow-Armstrong and OF Robert Hassell III, there is likely to be minimal to no change. The top guys will still get multimillion dollar bonuses and will likely sign with the teams who draft them.

Projected top 5 rounders like RHP Mason Hickman, LHP Jake Eder, and RHP Tyler Brown will likely get about what they would have received prior to this horrid pandemic, as well.

Players who have battled injuries, and hence will not be as safe selections, such as LHP Hugh Fisher and OF Cooper Davis, will likely go undrafted, and could return.

Teams are only allowed to give as much as $20K bonuses for all UDFAs this year, and those players will have no assurances on their minor league paychecks and per diems (which were not exactly high to begin with) until the pandemic subsides and the game can begin again.

As such, the bulk of college juniors, draft eligible college sophomores, junior college players, and high school seniors will be left fighting for spots on college rosters, hoping to enter the market in 2021—when, hopefully, things are closer to getting back to normal.

Largely, I stand by my take in March, though Hugh Fisher is back and throwing hard, so it is possible to likely a team will take a chance on his immense potential this year. Also, Tyler Brown had hinted on Instagram that he wants to come back for another year, so keep that in mind, as well.

With only 5 rounds (as opposed to the normal 40), there will only be 160 players drafted in total. Most years, we see lists of the top 500 prospects, and know that many more than that will hear their names called. Not this year. Still, here’s MLB.com’s list of the top 200 prospects.

Here’s MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo:

The five-round Draft will begin on Wednesday, June 10 at 7 p.m. ET, with both MLB Network and ESPN producing live coverage — the first time more than one network will provide live primetime coverage of the event. The first night of coverage will span the first 37 picks, covering the first round and Competitive Balance Round A.

Coverage continues on Thursday, June 11 on MLB Network and ESPN2 at 5 p.m. ET and will pick up with the start of the second round (pick No. 38) and run through the end of the fifth and final round of this year’s Draft. There will be a total of 160 picks in the 2020 Draft.The Draft usually runs 40 rounds but was shortened this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

His linked article also lets you know the bonus pools, draft order, top prospects, etc. Feel free to read it and then come back. I’ll wait.

*Note: Today’s article focuses on the likely 1st round prospects only. I will post another primer before the draft starts up again tomorrow to preview rounds 2-5.


So Which Current and Committed Players Could Hear Their Names Called in Tonight’s First 37 Picks?

The Current Players:

#16 Jr. OF/3B Austin “Bond Car” Martin

Martin profiles as a future all-star. The only question is where to put him defensively? In my mind, smart teams will put him in CF, keep him in CF, and have a top of the order bat for years to come. The only problem is the Orioles are not a smart team. I digress.

Nevertheless, Martin is about as can’t miss as prospects get, with the highest graded hit tool in the 2020 Draft. He’s good enough to win a batting crown down the road, as he has elite eye-hand coordination, a compact, repeatable stroke, great barrel to ball percentage, and... let’s just throw all the terminology out and say the man can hit. He’s a true 5 tool player, as well, with speed to burn. He has raked ever since setting foot on campus, and the power was emerging before the world ended and other people were poison.

There has not been a Vanderbilt player I’ve been this sure will make it in the pros since David Price. He should be the top pick, but I’ve been told the Tigers are likely taking Spencer Torkelson—who is a real person with a real human name, and not a wise-cracking 6th grader on The Disney Channel who wears sunglasses in class.

Range: Top 5.

MLB.com Top 200 Ranking: #2.

Prediction: #2 to the Baltimore Orioles.

Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 99.99%. In addition to this year’s draft being chopped down to 5 rounds, the bonus payout schedule has changed, as well. Players drafted this year will receive a max of $100,000 of their signing bonus this year, with the remainder guaranteed to be paid in 50% installments on July 1, 2021 and July 1, 2022. I only say that to point out that deferred money is worth less than money right now, so the agents of top prospects such as Martin might demand a bonus commensurate with what the “real worth” of the bonus is. In other words, strap in for some last second signings here. Expect Martin to sign for around $8 mil, but hey, if the team who takes him tries to pull some crap, he can always come back to Hawkins Field.

#39 Jr. LHP Jake “The Eder of Souls” Eder

You know Eder as the man with the ball in his hand, collecting the three inning save when we won our 2nd title last June. The truth is, Jake was always expected to be a starter when he passed up a pretty sizable MLB bonus to pitch at Hawkins Field, and MLB teams will likely draft him knowing that if he can’t hack it as a starter, they have a back end of the bullpen lefty for 10 years.

Extremely small sample size aside, Jake more than held his own in his 4 starts this shortened season, as he went 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA.

In a draft as uncertain as 2020, I could see someone taking Eder in the supplemental 1st round, as he’s more of a sure thing than a high school pitcher you haven’t seen throw since he was 17.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Baseball America had to say about the big lefty when they ranked him the #11 prospect in the Cape Cod League:

11. Jake Eder, LHP, Orleans (Junior, Vanderbilt)

Eder was one of Vanderbilt’s most-trusted relievers this spring and helped the Commodores win the national championship. After their triumph in Omaha, he reported to Orleans, where he pitched impressively in the rotation.

Eder certainly passes the eye test at a listed 6-foot-5, 220 pounds. He has a smooth delivery that generates easy velocity. His fastball sits in the low 90s and reaches 94 mph with the chance for more velocity down the line. He has a good breaking ball and is developing a changeup, giving him the makings of a solid three-pitch mix. He pitches with average control. Eder’s biggest knock right now is that he hasn’t proven himself as a starter for an extended period of time. He’ll likely have a chance to do so this spring at Vanderbilt, but the early look scouts got of him this summer as a starter for Orleans was an encouraging one.

Range: Competitive Balance Round A to Rounds 2-3.

MLB.com Top 200 Ranking: #59.

Prediction: Round 2.

Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 99.99%.


The Commits:

It should not surprise you that Vanderbilt has yet another excellent class scheduled to come to campus this fall. Here are the two players we don’t expect to make it to campus, as they are likely to be chosen in the 1st round.

OF Robert “Don’t Hoff The” Hassell

Hassell’s a local boy from Independence High School in Franklin, TN. Yes, he was on that Little League team. Yes, Mone Davis struck him out. While we would absolutely love to have him in our OF for the next three years, I’m not hearing any Kumar Rocker/Jack Leiter type chatter regarding Hassell spurning first round money to come play for Corbs. If he somehow does, we party, but usually we know by now if a kid this talented is going to make it to campus.

Range: Middle of the 1st round.

MLB.com Top 200 Ranking: #16.

Prediction: #10 to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 99.99%. Again, if he were to pull a Rocker, Leiter, or Beede, we’d likely have heard about it by now. I really want to be wrong about that.

OF Pete Crow-Armstrong

It really hurts to lose the California kid to the pros, as not only was he the #1 rated high school player coming into this year, but his mother is the actress who played the mom in Little Big League. I played on a Little League team with the nephew of the doctor who says, “Funky butt-loving” in Rookie of the Year. We would have had so much to talk about. Back to draft talk: the shine has come off PCA a bit this year, as he regrettably moved off his line-drive approach to prove he has power potential, but he’s still pretty much a lock to go in the 1st round. He’s got Christian Yelich type traits, and is likely a future CF.

Range: Mid to Late 1st Round.

MLB.com Top 200 Ranking: #20.

Prediction: #18 to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 99.99%. See above. All that applies to Hassell applies to PCA.


*Bonus good news:

Whenever a commit posts something like this and/or sends a letter to MLB, it is good news. It means Casas is definitely coming.

Casas is one of Vanderbilt’s 9 commits to be rated a 10 by Perfect Game.

*Bonus Bonus Good News:

In case you’re worried about the massive shrinking of the draft from 40 to 5 rounds creating irreparable roster crunches, we’ve gotten some relief.