Almost every 2020 Major League Baseball mock draft differs, even within the top 10.
While one-two-three seem locked (Spencer Torkelson, Austin Martin, Asa Lacy, in that order), picks four through 10 are anyone's guess. But even though the exact order is up for much debate, almost everyone can agree there are four clear-cut, top-10 pitchers in this year's draft.
Those are Lacy, Emerson Hancock, Reid Detmers and Max Meyer.
Lacy, a 6-foot-4, left-handed fire-breather out of Texas A&M who can touch 98 MPH with a wipeout slider, will not fall to the Pirates at No. 7 overall barring a massive, unexpected slide.
Those next three — Hancock, Detmers and Meyer — however, should be in play when the 2020 MLB Draft commences June 10. Various mocks have sent Hancock and Detmers to Pittsburgh already. Meyer has fallen to No. 8 in a few, too. He could be there if the Pirates want him.
So what sets them apart? Why should the Pirates choose one over another? Let's dig in and see what we've got with these three pitching prospects.
Crazy stuff happens in any draft, but the MLB Draft is by far the most unpredictable. Add in the coronavirus pandemic which cut short high-school and college seasons alike, and something will probably surprise us early on Day 1 of the draft.
For that, I think it's appropriate to give out some honorable mentions to a couple of pitchers who could potentially climb up to the Pirates at No. 7.
MICK ABEL, 6-FOOT-5 RHP, JESUIT HIGH SCHOOL
Taking a high school arm comes with its risk any year, but that is especially true in 2020, when scouts saw limited action from top high schoolers across the nation. For Mick Abel, though, scouts saw nothing from him in 2020 game action, because his Jesuit High School (Portland, Ore.) season never began at all.
The 18-year-old Abel is committed to Oregon State, but teams are going to want him immediately. He touches 97 with his heat, brings a plus-plus frame and showed vastly improved command as a junior, going 10-0 with a 1.26 ERA as his school won the Oregon 6A state title.
This is one of the ultimate risk-reward picks early in the draft. Abel looks like a stud. He projects perfectly. But do you trust an 18-year-old with no 2020 game tape and one ultra dominant high-school season with a top-10 pick?
NICK BITSKO, 6-FOOT-4 RHP, CENTRAL BUCKS-EAST HIGH SCHOOL
Some are calling Nick Bitsko the best player from the Philadelphia/New Jersey region since Mike Trout. So, yeah. There's some hype around this guy. Like Abel, the concerns are pretty obvious with Bitsko — no 2020 season, young, inexperienced, shaky command — but the upside is massive.
He's throwing 98.5 MPH, and he's only 17. 'Nuff said.
ONTO THE CONTENDERS
Now, let's see what separates that trio of Hancock-Detmers-Meyer — and what could potentially push the Pirates in the direction of one over another.
EMERSON HANCOCK, 6-FOOT-4 RHP, GEORGIA
There's a lot to love with Hancock. He looks pro-ready, bringing a four-pitch mix including 99-MPH heat, a mid-80s slider and a changeup that has shown flashes to potentially develop into his best pitch. His 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame is ideal.
He's experienced at the collegiate level, too, making 15 starts as a freshman, 14 as a sophomore and four in his coronavirus-shortened junior campaign.
In all, Hancock's pitched to a 16-7 record at Georgia with a 3.47 ERA (largely inflated by the 5.10 mark as a freshman adjusting to life at the next level) and a 1.068 WHIP. As a sophomore, Hancock went 8-3 with a ridiculous 1.99 ERA/0.841 WHIP, cementing his status as a future top pick.
So, what's the catch?
I mean, there's really no "catch" with Hancock. He did sit out some in 2019 with "arm soreness," which causes some concern. He also looked a little shaky in the action he did receive in 2020. Despite going 2-0, Hancock's ERA rose to 3.75, and his WHIP elevated to 1.042. He was striking out more batters — 12.8 strikeouts/nine vs. 9.7 strikeouts/nine as a sophomore — but he was getting hit more and hit harder, too.
All that said, Hancock seems to provide a safe floor with significant unexplored upside.
REID DETMERS, 6-FOOT-2 LHP, LOUISVILLE
Without a doubt, Detmers is the most intriguing pick of the bunch. That doesn't mean he's the best. It just means I can't quite get a handle on this guy.
In three seasons at Louisville, Detmers was a beast, going 20-6 with a cumulative 3.20 ERA and 1.084 WHIP. And unlike Hancock, Detmers actually showed improvement this year, firing out of the gates to a 3-0 record with a 1.23 ERA/1.000 WHIP before the coronavirus pandemic stepped in and put the clamps on the 2020 season. A strikeout machine, Detmers ranks fourth on Louisville's all-time list with 284 (this, despite playing just two-and-one-thirds seasons) and boasts an impressive 13.4 strikeouts/nine rate across his NCAA career.
Plus ... he's a lefty. The Pirates need a lefty. The Pirates want a lefty.
OK, OK ... GET TO THAT CATCH
Right, right. Everything we've said about Detmers to this point makes him sound like a clear-cut top-five pick. So why's he likely to slip to the Pirates at No. 7 or beyond?
For starters, his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame is nothing to get excited about, nor is his limited athleticism and explosiveness. Of the top pitchers in this draft, Detmers' fastball is by far the slowest, clocking 94 MPH on his best day.
His curveball is ridiculous, though, already a plus-plus pitch and by far his most potent offering. But is that enough?
Many feel Detmers' physical limitations and lack of pure power on the mound will hold him back at the major-league level. The results in college were as good as any scout could hope. But will it carry over?
There's a huge risk in that way with Detmers. His size plus his stats tell you he does not project to be great at the MLB level. The results tell you he will excel, efficiently striking out batters as he always has.
Which do you choose to believe? For many general managers in the 2020 MLB Draft, this is going to be a scary, difficult question they'll need to address when they take the virtual stage.
MAX MEYER, 6-FOOT RHP, MINNESOTA
The issue with Max Meyer is immediately clear. You probably already noticed it. He's 6-foot-nothing. And he weighs 185 pounds.
If Detmers' size is a problem, Meyer's is an automatic disqualification.
Except for one thing ...
Holy crap this dude can pitch.
He has 101-MPH heat. Yes. One. Oh. One. The fastball comfortably sits around 96 MPH, but the slider's even filthier, projecting as a plus-plus, wipeout pitch at the next level. In three seasons at Minnesota, Meyer compiled a 10-7 record with a cumulative 2.13 ERA/0.939 WHIP with 187 strikeouts coming at an 11.4 strikeouts/nine clip.
In the summer of 2019, Meyer showed that his stuff worked outside the Big Ten, too, recording a 0.64 ERA with 12 strikeouts across 14 innings for the USA Collegiate National Team.
The heat is flat-out vicious. It's the kind of stuff you expect to see at the next level.
THE CATCH, THOUGH, IS TWO-FOLD
The size is obvious. That's definitely not ideal.
But even more concerning, to me, is that his changeup is just "meh" and his command has failed him occasionally at the NCAA level. His fastball-slider combo is utterly elite, the best of any of these pitchers and, for my money, better than Lacy, too.
But there's little beyond that, and he doesn't have the type of athletic frame that inspires confidence he'll be able to make the necessary tweaks and adjustments at the next level. Meyer projects as a potentially devastating relief pitcher and maybe, just maybe, more. But do you take a reliever in the top 10 of the draft?
Talk about options, eh? These pitchers are all different, each bringing unique strengths and weaknesses to the table for Ben Cherington and company to consider.
I rank them as such:
Upside (most to least):
Floor (highest to lowest):
And even there, we need to discuss. I think Hancock clearly has the highest floor and is thus the safest pick. But after that, it's up for debate. I slot Meyer over Detmers because I see him succeeding almost for sure as a relief pitcher, but if we're talking as a starter only, Detmers would be the safer pick in my eyes.
If a team wants to be ultra-aggressive here, Meyer is the guy.
And that's exactly where I'm going if I'm the Pirates at No. 7.
Take the upside. Trust your new staff. Give him time to develop. He's never going to be 6-foot-4, but Detmers and Hancock are never going to throw 101-MPH, either. Meyer can hone his changeup and potentially work on a fourth pitch. Hancock and Detmers, though, can never touch Meyer's raw stuff.
Meyer's a project for sure, but he's one worth tackling. And if he doesn't work out as a starter, he has the makings of a fine reliever built-in. Not the worst fall-back option.
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