2020 MLB Draft: Top 10 Hitters

Christopher Crawford

There is no normal in sports right now. The MLB Draft is not an exception. Due to the COVID-19 shutdown and some previous dealings, the 2020 version of the draft will see what is normally a three-day event with 40 rounds sliced down to two days with only five rounds. Teams will still have a certain figure they can spend on players based on the number of draft picks and where they are selecting, and they can sign any undrafted player for a maximum of $20,000.

With that primer out of the way, let's take a look at the players. While there's no surefire star in this draft, there are several high-ceiling players that have a chance to make a major fantasy impact in the coming seasons.

We'll start on offense. Here's a look at the top hitting fantasy prospects eligible to be drafted starting June 10. 

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1. Austin Martin, OF/3B, Vanderbilt -- Martin is the top prospect in this draft in my humble estimation, but he may not be the first pick because of the name below. The 21-year-old owns a career line of .368/.474/.532 with the Commodores, and before the season stopped, he was hitting .377 with a 1.168 OPS, three homers and three steals. He has the best hit tool in the class because of his smooth, right-handed swing and ability to make contact -- he struck out just twice in his 16 games this year -- and there’s at least above-average power potential in his bat. It's a bit of an unusual profile because he doesn’t have the power of a typical third baseman nor the pure speed/power of a typical outfield prospect that goes this high -- not that he’s slow, he’s a 55-grade runner on the scouting scale --  but Martin can flat-out hit, and is a must-get in dynasty formats.

2. Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Arizona State -- Torkelson is considered the favorite to be the first player selected on June 10 -- albeit not a prohibitive favorite because of the name above -- and for good reason. After bursting onto the scene with 25 homers as a freshman, Torkelson hit .351 with a 1.153 OPS, and before the shutdown, the 20-year-old was slashing .340/.598/.780 with six homers in 17 games. Torkelson will be compared to Andrew Vaughn, and while that certainly isn’t an insult, Torkelson is the better prospect, in my eyes. He has a chance to have 70-grades in both his hit and power tools, and he’s a solid defender at first base. There’s risk because of his position, but Torkelson has the offensive upside to be one of the very best players at his position, and could hit in the middle of the order for some team (likely Detroit) very shortly.

3. Garrett Mitchell, OF, UCLA -- Mitchell is one of the more divisive prospects in this class, but in terms of potential fantasy production, he’s one of the best players in this class. A highly-touted prospect who fell to the 14th round out of high school due to signing concerns, the 21-year-old has slashed .323./395/.458 with the Bruins, and there’s reason to believe more offensive potential is coming. He’s an easy 70-grade runner who has a chance to steal plenty of bases at the highest level, and his smooth swing gives him a chance to hit for average; with above-average power potential in his left-handed bat as well. One thing to keep in mind is that Mitchell has Type 1 Diabetes, but it hasn’t been an issue so far. There’s a lot to like about Mitchell as a fantasy prospect. 

4. Zac Veen, OF, Spruce Creek HS (FL) -- Veen is the top high school bat in the 2021 group, and probably the top high school player overall. There’s power projection in his left-handed bat thanks in large part to a 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame, but his hit tool is ahead right now with outstanding bat speed and a swing that sprays hard-hit balls to all parts of the field. He won’t steal a ton of bases, but he’s a solid-average runner who gets good jumps. There’s obvious risk in a prep bat, but Veen has as much upside as any player in the 2020 group.

5. Ed Howard, SS, Mount Carmel (IL) -- If Howard’s name sounds familiar, you might remember him as one of the stars of the infamous Jackie Robinson West club from the 2014 Little League World Series. One of the reasons Howard ranks this high is he’s a lock to stick at shortstop with a strong throwing arm and well above-average speed, but he also has a chance to hit for average and power. This is more high-floor than high-ceiling, but there’s a chance Howard becomes an All-Star who can hit in the .280 range with 20 homers and 30 steals while playing a premium position. 

6. Nick Gonzales, INF, New Mexico State -- Gonzales gets to play in one of the most friendly hitting confines in all of college baseball, but the numbers are still impressive. He owns a career .399 average with the Aggies, and before the season came to a halt, he was slashing .448/.610/1.115 with 12 homers in just 16 games. In a word: Yowza. Both the hit tool is plus or 60-grade and he has put up above-average times as a runner, but it’s tough to see the 5-foot-10, 190-pound infielder putting up that kind of power. There are also defensive question marks here, and it’s more likely he’s a second baseman when he reaches the majors than a shortstop. If the power does translate this grade will look silly, but even if it doesn’t, Gonzales ability to hit for average and potentially steal bases make him a very good fantasy prospect. 

7. Robert Hassell, OF, Independence HS (TN) -- In terms of just pure offensive ability, Hassell is the best prep hitter in the class, and yes, that includes Veen. He has an aesthetically-pleasing swing from the left side, and he has outstanding hand-eye coordination. He isn’t a great defender, but there’s above-average speed at his disposal, so he should be able to provide some steals, as well. The power is a bit of a question mark, but assuming he adds some loft to the stroke, 20 homer seasons seem to be in reach. He doesn’t have the upside of Veen because of that power question, but Hassell has a chance to be a well above-average offensive weapon when all is said and done.

8. Heston Kjerstad, OF, Arkansas -- Kjerstad has been a standout for Arkansas since the moment he stepped on the field for the Razorbacks, and in his three years at the school, he owns an impressive 1.011 OPS while playing in arguably the best baseball conference in the sport. He has well above-average power from the left side, and he’s strong enough to take the ball out to all parts of the field. The 21-year-old will need to show more patience at the plate, but because the ball jumps off his bat, he has a decent chance of hitting for a (relatively) high average. Kjerstad’s power tool is going to have to max out, but based on what we saw over the past two-plus years, it has a chance to do just that. 

9. Casey Martin, SS, Arkansas -- You’ve likely heard me talk about a “fantasy over reality” prospect a few times if this isn’t the first time you’ve read my word (welcome, if is). Martin is that type of prospect. There are considerable contact issues in his right-handed bat -- the 21-year-old has struck out 165 times in 148 career games -- but there’s plus power in his right-handed bat, and he also possesses top-of-the-scales speed. He may never hit for a high average, but shortstops who can hit for power and steal bases are unicorns. Martin just might have a horn coming out of his head.

10. Dillon Dingler, C, Ohio State -- Speaking of unicorns. Dingler is the rare backstop who has above-average speed, and he stole 10 bases in 13 attempts over his 115 games with the Buckeyes. His stock improved considerably after his strong start to the 2020 campaign, as he was hitting .340/.404/.760 with five homers in 13 contests before the COVID-19 shutdown. Both the hit and power tools have a chance to be above-average, and his quickness along with a weapons-grade arm should leave him behind the plate. There are several quality catchers in this class, but in terms of fantasy upside, Dingler is the best.

Others to watch: Austin Hendrick, OF, West Allegheny HS (PA); Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA); Patrick Bailey, C, NC State: Jordan Walker, 3B, Decatur HS (GA); Daniel Cabrera, OF, LSU

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