Spring sports were abruptly cancelled across the country to try and stop the spread of COVID-19 as we stopped large gatherings and started practicing social distancing. Just focusing on the impact to collegiate sports, we are left with some unanswered questions because of the sudden sports halt.
As such, this article series looks to discuss some of these unanswered questions and get your take (via a poll at the bottom of the article) on the sports questions that will have to go unanswered on some level since so many sporting events were cancelled.
Question #10 - What Happens to the Top Players as the 2020 MLB Draft Changes?
MLB made an agreement back in March with the Players Association that the 2020 draft would be, at least, 5 rounds. Normally, the MLB draft is 40 rounds. Just last week, the Players Association rejected a proposal by MLB that would have made the draft 10 rounds. The Players Association wants a longer draft than just the 10 rounds and is still hoping MLB will agree to a longer draft.
At this point, the MLB draft length is undecided. However, it is almost certainly going to be quite a bit shorter than usual. As such, I wanted to discuss the likely impact this will have on the draft prospects of the top ballplayers in the conference.
Baseball America ranked the top 10 prospects in the MWC back in February. As such, I’ll start there:
- Casey Schmitt, 3B, San Diego State - Junior. In 62 ABs in 2020, hitting .323 AVG & .386 OBP. Is a two-way player. Over 12 IP in 2020 allowed 13 hits, 10 Ks, 5 BBs & 3.75 ERA. Pitching and hitting stats were largely consistent with 2019. Exception would be 5 HRs in 2019 but none in 2020. However, the slugging percentage was very similar year over year (.450 in 2019 & .452 in 2020). Baseball America noted Schmitt as ‘an above-average defender at third with a plus arm’, adding that Schmitt ‘has a chance to be a top-two rounds pick in the draft’.
- Wyatt Hendrie, C, San Diego State - Redshirt Sophomore. Was a 10th Round selection of the Chicago Cubs in the 2019 Draft, coming from Antelope Valley College. Did not sign and elected to go to the Aztecs. Was having a solid 1st season with a .286 AVG & .417 OBP over 49 ABs. Did not show much of his power with only 1 2B & 1 HR over those same ABs.
- Josh Zamora, 3B, Nevada - Junior. Had a great 2019 season, finishing with a .320 AVG, 8 HRs & .381 OBP. Like the rest of the Nevada team, Josh struggled in 2020. Over 55 ABs, was hitting just .236 AVG, .276 OBP & 0 HRs.
- Jamison Hill, RHP, Fresno State - Junior. Only was able to get in 3 starts in 2020. Had a 4.67 ERA over 17.1 IP with 18 Ks & 5 BBs & 6 HBPs. Hill is known to have a good fastball, but has struggled with control. In 2019, Hill had 24 BBs & 7 HBPs over 38 IP. While the walks had improved in 2020, it is alarming that Hill had already hit 6 batters in his 3 starts.
- Wesley Clawson, LHP, San Jose State - Junior. Sort of a mixed-bag in 2020. Had thrown 14.1 IP with 12 Ks, 3 BBs, & 8 ER for a 5.02 ERA. Had a 3.62 ERA over 37.1 IP in 2019 with 27Ks & 21 BBs. While the ERA was up, the walks were down and the strikeouts were up.
- Daniel Ritcheson, RHP, San Diego State - Junior. 2019 showed his stuff but not the control. Over 29.2 IP had 32 BBs & 38Ks. Did not pitch in 2020. Was drafted out of high school by the Blue Jays in the 23rd Round.
- Drew Williams, 2B/3B, San Jose State - Redshirt Sophomore. Transferred from UC Santa Barbara where he hit for a .304 AVG and .396 OBP as a freshman. Struggled more in 2020 at the plate with a .222 AVG & .308 OBP.
- Matt Rudick, OF, San Diego State - Junior. Was putting together another good season with .313 AVG & .347 OBP. Has some speed and will steal a bag and stretch a double into a triple. Little power though. Also, a smaller player at 5’9” & 170 lbs.
- Cameron Jabara, RHP, Nevada-Las Vegas - Senior. Missed the season with an elbow injury. Stuggled some in 2019 over 88.1 IP with 109 H, 59 Ks, 25 BBs & 5.09 ERA.
- Jaylon McLaughlin, OF, Nevada - Senior. Really struggled in 2020 with a .115 AVG & .115 OBP over 52 ABs. Was really good in 2019 with a .339 AVG & .385 OBP. Is a threat when he gets on base as he had 25 steals in 2019. Smaller player at 5’11” & 165 lbs, but athletic enough to play CF. Little power.
Of these top players entering the season, only Casey Schmitt currently looks like a player that would go in the top 5 rounds. If the draft were 10 rounds, I still am not sure that any other player besides Schmitt is selected.
Of course, each year certain players rise and fall, so lets take a look at a couple of players that were rising in 2020 that were outside of the Top 10 for Baseball America.
- Zach Presno, C, Fresno State - Junior. Was having a real breakout season in 2020. Went into 2020 season as the 15th ranked prospect in the MWC for the 2020 Draft by D1Baseball.com. Was on the radar a bit before 2020 since he is a catcher with power. In 2018 over 152 ABs, hit .211 AVG, 8 HRs & 63 Ks. In 2019 over 208 ABs, hit .221 AVG, 10 HRs & 98 Ks. In 2020 over only 56 ABs, hit .321 AVG, 8 HRs & 24 Ks. If the improvement at the plate was real, Presno was likely to shoot way up the draft boards.
- Justin Armbruester, P, New Mexico - Junior. Transferred from Pacific Lutheran University at the DIII Level. While there, was Pitcher of the Year for his conference as a sophomore. In his first season at New Mexico, looked like the best pitcher in the MWC. Over 23.2 IP had 24 Ks, 3 BBs & 1.14 ERA.
While both of these players have improved their standing as prospects, it might be more for their senior seasons in 2021. I say this since the sample size for both is really small, and it is hard to know if the results would have continued into the season. The MWC baseball season never even got into conference play. Both players could have easily just been going through a good stretch and could have slumped later into the season. I’m just not sure how highly MLB scouts will value the 2020 season results.
If scouts do weigh evaluations prior to the season more heavily, it probably does not bode well for the majority of the MWC players. The Top 150 prospects for 2020 as listed on MLB.com has only Casey Schmitt listed (at #118). Should Schmitt actually be drafted at 118th overall that equates to the middle of the 4th round. If the draft does only go 5 rounds, that would be only 160 picks. Since no other MWC player is currently in the Top 150, it does not seem likely that any other player goes in the first 5 rounds.
If the draft goes 10 rounds, that would mean 310 selections. Unfortunately, MLB’s most recent proposal for 10 rounds included a reduction in slot values for signing bonuses to players picked from rounds 6 to 10 that would be half of the 2019 bonus amounts. MLB also proposed that teams could sign 5 undrafted players for a maximum $20k signing bonus and that any other unsigned players would receive a $5k maximum bonus.
MLB is clearly hoping to cut costs in this draft. That draft is scheduled to be held from June 10th through the 12th. The draft could be pushed back as far as July 20th, but June 10th remains the start date as of now.
I think we might see a draft with only 1 player, Casey Schmitt, selected from the MWC. I also think that the other top underclassmen will return to college for 2021 since the signing bonus pool looks like it will be reduced.
That said, what do you think happens?
What Happens to the Top Players in the 2020 MLB Draft?
This poll is closed
Only Schmitt is Selected & Underclassmen Return for 2021
Draft Goes 10 Rounds or More - Some Other MWC Players Get Drafted
Draft is Capped at 5 Rounds - Schmitt Goes Undrafted & No MWC Players Get Drafted
Also, please leave your thoughts in the comments below about what you think will happen with the upcoming MLB Draft.