By Nick Recchia
MLB Draft Studio
Photo Credit: Major League Baseball and MLB TV
As the tumultuous year of 2020 continues, with pandemic, social unrest, and political upheaval all in the current, people have looked to sports for a brief respite. Unfortunately, while some leagues have collaborated with its players to bring sports back to the fans (thanks NBA), others have been arguing in the media about money. When roughly 25% of the nation is unemployed or underemployed, it's a bad look and poor judgement to mediate in the public the battle between billionaires and millionaires about their perceived grievances monetarily. Suffice to say, as the MLB and the MLBPA continue their bitter negotiations, one lone bright spot is around the corner in the MLB Draft, which will be held this Wednesday, June 10th, starting at 2PM Pacific on MLB Network.
Even the draft will look a little odd from its predecessors in it only being a five round affair compared to the 40 rounds it usually is. On top of that, teams will be limited to signing any players outside of the first five rounds to a cap of $20k per player which is sure to push a lot of players back to the college/JC route if not selected within the first five rounds. College baseball will be in its strongest form in decades with the influx of talent that would otherwise have chased the dream of professional baseball earlier than usual. This will have an impact on the draft for the next handful of years as the players that head to a four year university will be draft eligible during their Junior seasons. The 2023 college class will be loaded suffice to say.
But back to the MLB Draft, with the Padres selecting 8th overall. The current draft class seems to be heavy on college pitching and highschool outfielders. We are going to highlight some of the projected players AJ Preller and company might be targeting for their top two picks which are 8th and 34th. The typical Preller draft strategy is to aim for potential which is usually accompanied with more risk than Padres draft pre Preller. Outside the 2016 draft which saw the team draft Cal Quantrill and Eric Lauer in the first round, it has been a prep heavy strategy early on. We here at Friar Lounge believe that will continue with the abbreviated 2020 draft.
With the #8 overall pick, the team will target one of the HS OF bats such as Zac Veen or Robert Hassell, a sliding college player (Emerson Hancock) or will take the riskiest selection in popping a HS arm earlier than anticipated to cut an under slot deal to go above at #34 to someone who slides due to signability concerns. A few of the HS arms in reference would be Oregon prep righty Mick Abel or Pennsylvania prep righty Nick Bitsko. Bitsko in particular is a unique case in which he was actually the top prep pitcher from the 2021 class and graduated early to enroll in Virginia, thus making him draft eligible for the 2020 class. He has top of the rotation potential but is a gamble since he never made it to the mound this spring.
Bitsko gives you a combination of top of the rotation potential with the unknown of where he goes in the first round of the draft making him an appealing target to cut a deal at #8 and allowing you to go after another signability prep or one of the few high end college pitchers who are draft eligible sophomores like JT Ginn out of Mississippi State or Cole Wilcox out of Georgia with the #34 selection. Ginn was projected to be a possible top 10 pick before he succumbed to TJ surgery out the gates this college season. I could see a draft day scenario where the cut a deal at #8 with Bitsko that guarantees him top 15 money and allows them to go overslot at #34 to entice Ginn to go pro. The ability for the Padres to bring two pitchers of the caliber of Bitsko and Ginn into the fold in a shortened draft would be a boon to the organization and doubling down on pitching is a sound strategy. The old adage that you can never have enough pitching is tried and true and we will see what direction the Padres go. The one thing that is certain, is that nobody in baseball knows exactly what AJ and co. will do. Tune in and watch the fun this Wednesday.
Longtime baseball enthusiast who tries to incorporate new age analytics into old school baseball strategy and how the two can coexist in winning harmony. Also a minor league aficionado who delves deep into the farm to share the love of the game from the lower rungs of the minor leagues and up. Always up for sports talk.