Everything about the 2020 MLB will be weird (if it ever begins), and that included the draft. Because COVID-19 shut down baseball seasons across the country, scouts got very few looks at high school and college prospects. Additionally, even some college picks, which are generally regarded as being safer than high school picks, had a little more risk because players did not have as much of an opportunity to prove themselves statistically. It is already difficult enough to predict the futures of young prospects, but it became even more difficult this year due to the circumstances.
One must look no further than 11th overall pick, Garrett Crochet to see this. Crochet has the size and the arsenal that scouts love. He is 6’6”, 218 pounds, and left-handed. Additionally, his fastball can touch 100 miles per hour to go with two other potential plus pitches in his slider and his changeup. However, while this sounds appealing, his statistics in college were not exactly great. He posted a 5.51 ERA as a freshman at the University of Tennessee, and then followed that up with a 4.02 ERA as a sophmore. Additionally, he was not even a full time starter in either of those years as he made just 12 combined starts. Because of this, he seemed like someone who needed a full season in which he could display his potential dominance. However, he made just one start this year due to COVID-19 and and shoulder soreness.
The story is the same for 25th overall selection Jared Shuster who finished his freshman year at Wake Forest with a 7.41 ERA and his sophomore season with a 6.49 ERA. Carmen Mlodzinski, the 31st overall pick, has a similar story as well with as he never posted lower than a 5.51 ERA before this season. All of these pitchers had varying levels of encouraging results in a very limited sample size this season, and sometimes it takes a few years in college for a player to really break out. Clearly the teams that drafted these players trusted their scouts, and believed that these players were much better than the picture painted by their statistics in the previous two seasons.
Despite this, it seems unusual for players with such a limited track record of collegiate success to be drafted in the first round. Obviously, they have dominating raw stuff on the mound, but typically first round picks have played well in college or in high school before moving on to the professional ranks. This does not mean that these players are bad, it simply means that there was more risk than usual with many selections in this year’s draft. Maybe these players would have gone on to dominate this year if the college season was allowed to continue playing, but that is something that can only be projected and obviously there is more risk involved with that.
However, at the end of the day, the draft is all about projection, so that much has not changed. It simply seems that there was more risk present in the 2020 draft than usual, and that can be seen by the limited statistical success of some of this year’s draftees.