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2020 MLB Draft Recap

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Vanderbilt had the 2nd most current players and 4th most commits drafted, and I’m happy about it? See why.

College World Series - Michigan v Vanderbilt - Game Three Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Let’s begin with congratulations to the 4 Vanderbilt juniors who were drafted in the 2020 MLB (truncated) Draft: Austin Martin (1st round; #5 overall—Toronto Blue Jays), Tyler Brown (3rd round; #101 overall—Houston Trashcan Bangers), Jake Eder (4th round; #104 overall—Miami Marlins), and Mason Hickman (5th round; #154 overall—Cleveland Indians). We wish all of you all the success in the world as you begin your professional baseball careers.

Congrats go out, as well, to the two commits who were drafted in the first round: Robert Hassell, III (1st round; #8 overall—San Diego Padres) and Pete Crow-Armstrong (1st round; #19 overall—New York Mets).

Before there is any debate in the comment section, I fully expect all six to sign with the teams that drafted them. I’ll keep you updated when each signs, and for how much, but trust me, they’re all signing. In a normal draft year, pretty much everyone drafted in the first 10 rounds signs, all seniors sign no matter where they are taken, most juniors sign no matter where they are taken, and most high schoolers sign with teams who are able to finagle their bonus pools to be able to meet their numbers.

This year, with teams only having 5 rounds total, it’s going to take either a bad faith 1st round pick—I’m looking at you, Red Sox—or a Brady Aiken style last minute medical red flag to sully any deals. They’re all signing. There’s no way teams would waste a draft pick on a kid who had not previously indicated he would be willing to sign at a number they’re comfortable with. In fact, it would be major malpractice for teams not to know that exact number and already have informal agreements with the player’s agent before announcing their name. Again, they’re gone. It’s fine. Don’t waste your time debating it.

So with Vanderbilt losing the 2nd most current players and 4th most commits, why am I currently happy? Let’s start with the current players.

It’s no shock that Vanderbilt and Michigan—the teams who met in the 2019 CWS finals—would have many players that caught the eyes of the scouts. Arizona State had the #1 overall pick in wise-cracking Disney Channel 6th grader who wears sunglasses in class, Spencer Torkelson. As such, other players on his team got the benefit of extra time in front of the scouts. Oklahoma’s the one outlier here, but they had a bunch of pitchers—including one with one fewer finger on his right hand than Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown—and would certainly have been an NCAA Tourney team if not for coughing pangolins.

In 2019, after winning The National Championship for the 2nd time in the Corbin era—I know you know this; I just never get tired of typing it—we had a school and SEC record 13 current players drafted. Thirteen!

And of those thirteen, how many returned to Hawkins Field for 2020?

One.

Catcher Ty Duvall (chosen in the 25th round by the Oakland Athletics).

And even with that massive amount of roster turnover, we were trending towards being a lock as a #1 seed, and likely a National seed, with a pitching staff so deep and talented, we had way more than a puncher’s chance to repeat as National Champions. If our young bats heated up as they got more acclimated to SEC level pitching, other teams would have to abandon their faith and pray for the Destroyer of Souls to be able to slow us down.

Fate goes ever as fate must.

Looking forward to the 2021 squad, just as last year’s offense did not have a ready-made replacement for JJ Bleday’s power stroke, next year’s squad doesn’t have anyone who can come in and immediately replace Austin Martin’s offensive genius. However, Martin was our only position player drafted, and we’re likely only to lose seniors Harrison Ray and Ty Duvall to graduation/UDFA signings—though, of course, they are able to return if they choose to attend grad school due to the NCAA response to the cancellation of the spring season.

On the pitching side of things, yes it hurts to lose ice-in-his-veins closer Tyler Brown, the man who closed out game three of the CWS in Jake Eder, and our Friday Ace Mason Hickman, but if there’s any place on the roster that could bear the loss, it is our frighteningly good young pitching staff.

First, you don’t get to cry over losing your Friday starter when your Saturday and Sunday starters are Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter.

Second, both Hugh Fisher and Ethan Smith made it through the draft, and could easily step right into the back of the bullpen roles vacated by Eder and Brown.

Third, do you remember how devastatingly unhittable Sam Hliboki and Michael Doolin were as freshmen??? They’ll be back after having yet more time to work on their craft with Brownie. We still have more dominant starting pitchers than starting pitching slots, and whomever amongst Hliboki, Doolin, or Ethan Smith gets squeezed out of a starting role immediately becomes our closer. And that’s without factoring in the four pitching commits rated 10/10 by Perfect Game making their way to West End in August!

Fourth, did you forget that Spencer Jones is a future left handed Ace on the mound, just because he was largely at 1B, OF, or DH last year while he rehabbed his throwing arm?

Here’s what I wrote about Dr. Jones in last year’s draft preview:

LHP Spencer Jones

Why am I including the 6’7” LHP/1B in this article when I predict him not to be drafted until day three? Well, he was trending towards being selected in the top half of the first round until he fractured his throwing elbow. If I’m correct, and he makes it to campus, it will be interesting to see if he’s on the Shohei Otani plan—takes over for Julian “Chinfante” Infante at first base while he rehabs his throwing arm for the year. He has the talent to actually be a two way player for our team. That is a rarity.

Range: Rounds 20+.

MLB.com Top 200Ranking: #71.

Prediction: Not chosen tonight, but likely chosen in the later rounds as a team taking a flier on a top tier talent they have little chance of signing.

Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 5%. Had Jones not blown his arm out early this year, I would have had him as a near lock to go in the first 2 rounds and sign the contract. Like Jordan Sheffield before him, he will likely come to Vanderbilt, redshirt his freshman year, and be taken as a draft eligible redshirt sophomore after 2 years on the mound. Of course, his talent is not in doubt, and an MLB front office might look out at the sea of meh that is the latter half of this year’s first round and decide, “Screw it, I’m rolling the dice.” Hence the 5% prediction.

Now, let’s take a look at how we fared relative to other schools in terms of our incoming commits.

Franky, the above tweet by Baseball America’s Teddy Cahill should get you hard.

Here’s why. Our 2020 Class was ranked #1 by Perfect Game and #2 by Baseball America. Beyond that, Texas—the squad whose incoming class was hit hardest by the draft—was BA’s #1 class, so we have likely just moved into the top slot in both rankings post draft. Arky, one of the perennial SEC West contenders, lost one more player than we did, and we’re in the same boat with our top of the SEC brethren, Florida, LSU, and Clanga. Hell, even BRING ME MAH BARRELL rival Louisville took the same hit we did.

Sure we lost two really talented commits in outfielders Robert Hassell III and Pete Crow-Armstrong, but only losing two members of a Vanderbilt baseball recruiting class is an absolute coup. Don’t forget how immensely talented last year’s freshmen were... and we lost four members of that class to the 2019 MLB Draft. Here was my reaction article after last year’s draft.

Here are the commits I previewed yesterday who were either ranked 10/10 by Perfect Game or in the MLB.com Top 200 players in this year’s draft:

The Commits:

It should not surprise you that Vanderbilt has yet another excellent class scheduled to come to campus this fall. Here are the players whose names we hope not to hear today, as with 5 total rounds this year—hence no room for error from MLB teams—you have to assume everyone drafted will sign.

OF Enrique “Shockwave” Bradfield, Jr.

Here’s what you need to know about Bradfield—he’s fast. Faaaaaaaaaast. 6.26 in the 60 fast (for comparison, Pete Crow-Armstrong, who is also crazy fast, ran a 6.51). He’s the fastest kid in this draft, to be honest. True 80 speed. He’s also really thin right now—6’0” 155 lbs—and subsequently lacks strength.

We’re talking a Juan Pierre type player, but he’s far from ready for prime time. His bat speed and exit velo is... suboptimal. For comparison, Pete Crow-Armstrong, who is not exactly a power hitter, is at 99mph off the bat. Bradfield is at 83mph.

Bradfield’s max barrel speed (how fast he swings the bat) is even worse. He’s currently at 61mph, which is pitcher at the plate slow... and that pitcher is Hideki Irabu. His bat speed is in the 16th percentile relative to his peers.

If I were advising the kid, I’d tell him to go to college, get to the training table, bulk up, improve core, hand, and forearm strength, take every hitting tip from Astronaut Mike Baxter, and we’re looking at a 1st rounder three years from now. Luckily, that is the current scuttlebutt on Bradfield—that teams will have to buy him out of a “strong Vanderbilt commitment.”

Let’s hope it’s real skrong, tho.

Here’s what Perfect Game has to say about him:

Enrique A. Bradfield Jr. is a 2020 OF with a 6-0 155 lb. frame from Hialeah, FL who attends American Heritage. Slender athletic build, not the type of frame that is going to fill out much but has plenty of room for some wiry strength. Outstanding runner, 6.26 in the sixty, has game impacting speed on the bases and in centerfield on defense. Left handed hitter, hits from a straight tall stance with a hanging left lift load, has quick hands and a compact short swing, hands driven swing with contact to all fields, has consistently shown the ability to take pitches and square up the ball, prototype leadoff hitter. Has easy and fluid footwork and actions in the outfield, runs very good routes and charges the ball hard, playable arm strength with a quick release. Polished player who understands his strengths and plays to them. Excellent student, verbal commitment to Vanderbilt.

MLB.com Top 200 Ranking: #103.

Perfect Game Rating: 10.

Chance He is Drafted and Signs: 50%. He’s certainly fast enough to be drafted and developed, but has a strong commitment to the West End. If you don’t hear his name by the end of round 3, I think he’s ours. Cautiously optimistic on this one.

RHP Patrick “Life of” Reilly

Corbs has always done well with players from the Northeast, and Reilly’s from Freehold, NJ. Reilly isn’t as well known on the touring circuit as the other HS pitchers in the MLB Top 200 (again, Perfect Game doesn’t even have a grade on him), but he’s already been clocked at 96mph on the mound. As you saw from this year’s RHP freshman class of Leiter, Hliboki, Doolin et al, it’s a good thing to be able to throw that fast. Let’s sneak him through this 5 round draft and let Brownie work with him.

MLB.com Top 200 Ranking: #181.

Perfect Game Rating: Unranked.

Chance He is Drafted and Signs: 25%.

C Jack “Whitey” Bulger

Bulger is the polar opposite of Enrique Bradfield at the plate, as he can muscle anything over the fencing they’ve got set up. The exit velocity off his bat is an eye-popping 105mph. If we get him to campus, he might have a tough time taking catching reps from C.J. “Chi Chi” Rodriguez, but he’s got the power bat to get early ABs at 1st and DH.

Here’s what Perfect Game has to say about him:

Jack Bulger is a 2020 C/RHP/3B with a 6-0 205 lb. frame from Bowie, MD who attends Dematha Catholic. Very strong and athletic build, pretty mature physically, especially strong lower half. 6.79 runner, is very quick behind the plate, stays low and flexible in his set up, gets rid of the ball very quickly with plus arm strength, very clean overall actions, definitely has the physical tools to stay behind the plate defensively. Right handed hitter, rotational hitter with good use of his strong hips, line drive swing plane with a bit of lift out front, makes loud and hard contact with excellent exit velocity speeds, works the middle of the field and repeats his mechanics and timing well. Well rounded tool set for a catcher. Very good student, verbal commitment to Vanderbilt. Named to play in the Perfect Game All-American Classic.

MLB.com Top 200 Ranking: Unranked.

Perfect Game Rating: 10.

Chance He is Drafted and Signs: 25%.

SS/2B Jack O’Dowd

Here’s what Perfect Game has to say about him:

Jack O’Dowd is a 2020 SS/2B/3B with a 6-2 190 lb. frame from Nashville, TN who attends Lipscomb Academy. Long and lean projectable build, lots of room to get stronger especially in the upper half. Left handed hitter, hits from an upright and open stance with a high hand load, long power oriented swing with plenty of barrel whip, looking to pull and lift the ball, hands are loose and fast through the one, projects big power with this approach as he continues to get stronger and mature physically. 6.83 runner, works side to side well and is light on his feet for his size, soft hands out front, profiles to second or third base in the future. Very good student, verbal commitment to Vanderbilt. Named to play in the Perfect Game All-American Classic.

MLB.com Top 200 Ranking: Unranked.

Perfect Game Rating: 10.

Chance He is Drafted and Signs: 20%.

RHP/OF Grayson Moore

Here’s what Perfect Game has to say about him:

Grayson Moore is a 2020 OF/RHP with a 6-4 185 lb. frame from Longwood, FL who attends Lake Mary. Big athletic build, looks bigger and stronger than his listed weight, has filled out and got stronger over the last year. 6.65 runner, very athletic in the outfield with clean actions through the ball and soft hands, outstanding raw arm strength, makes very accurate on line one-hop throws, potential top level defender. Switch-hitter, has a bit better bat speed and barrel whip from the right side but creates leverage and torque from both sides, middle to pull approach, legit switch-hitter with projectable power. Also pitches, high leg lift delivery, slow pace through release, over the top arm slot with some body lean, deep arm action in back. Primary fastball pitcher, topped out at 91 mph, showed some feel for his change up and picked up a strike out on it, developing curveball. Excellent student, verbal commitment to Central Florida.

*Note: Moore switched his commitment to Vanderbilt last July.

MLB.com Top 200 Ranking: Unranked.

Perfect Game Rating: 10.

Chance He is Drafted and Signs: 20%.

RHP/OF Miles Garrett

Here’s what Perfect Game has to say about him:

Miles Garrett is a 2020 RHP/OF with a 5-10 160 lb. frame from Stone Mountain, GA who attends Parkview. Slender athletic middle infielder’s type build. Athletic multi-part delivery he repeats well, some energy at release, cross body release out front, plenty of deception for the hitter. Fastball worked mostly in the upper 80’s with good angle to the plate, topped out at 91 mph, good arm side running action at times. Throws both a curveball and a slider with distinct shapes, big downer shape to the curveball, slider has nice late biting action. Tends to drop his arm slot on his change up. Works all his pitches and throws strikes, has a long history of performance and maintaining his stuff deep into games. Good student, verbal commitment to Vanderbilt.

MLB.com Top 200 Ranking: Unranked.

Perfect Game Rating: 10.

Chance He is Drafted and Signs: 10%.

LHP Ryan Stefiuk

Here’s what Perfect Game has to say about him:

Ryan Stefiuk is a 2020 LHP/1B with a 6-4 195 lb. frame from Green Bay, WI who attends Preble. Tall well proportioned athletic build, lots of room to get stronger. Multi-part delivery with lots of moving parts and energy, holds it together well, lands a bit closed at release. Upper 80’s fastball, topped out at 91 mph early, worked down in the strike zone very well and missed low when he missed, fastball is mostly straight, worked to both sides of the plate well. Firm change up with nice life. Nice curveball with good depth, was consistently able to backdoor right handed hitters with his curveball. Interesting three-pitch lefty with deception and feel for mixing. Good student, verbal commitment to Vanderbilt.

MLB.com Top 200 Ranking: Unranked.

Perfect Game Rating: 10.

Chance He is Drafted and Signs: 20%.

There are 9 more members to this class, and if the draft was the normal 40 rounds, I would profile them more in depth. This is not to say no one from the remaining 9 commits will be drafted, but a lot of uber-talented high school players who would normally be tempted with MLB money will only be offered $20K after the 5th round is over. There is a quite good chance we will get all but Hassell and Crow-Armstrong to campus, and our worst case scenario is that we will lose only 1 or 2 of the names listed above. Be happy.

*Reminder: First Baseman Gavin Casas, another Perfect Game 10/10 rated Vanderbilt commit, has already informed MLB teams he is coming to Vanderbilt, and has requested they not draft him. He’s got a 100mph exit velo power bat. His name is Gavin Casas and he hits dingers. He’s ours.

Every singly one of them made it through the draft and will be playing at Hawkins Field next year.

Every single one.

If we’re not Preseason #1 in all publications—including Cat Fancy and Highlights for Children—I’ll be shocked.

Be happy.