Draft Prospect Watch: Two of the Top College Hitters in the 2020 Draft

We don’t have a set date for the 2020 MLB amateur draft yet, but we now know that it will be held between June 10th and July 20th, with fewer rounds and a signing deadline that will be no later than August 1st. We are going to continue the Draft Prospect Watch series as normal, even if the date gets pushed back to July 20th. Worst case scenario is that you know a lot about more draft picks than normal.

The Pittsburgh Pirates own the seventh overall pick in this draft, as well as the 31st and 44th overall picks. Their draft bonus pool for five rounds was announced yesterday. Each Saturday, we will take an in depth look at one prospect who could be a good fit for that seventh overall pick, as well as another who rates a little lower and fits better with those two lower picks. In case you missed it, here’s our draft preview article.

We have posted eight Draft Prospect Watch articles so far, which are all linked here:

Nick Gonzales and Jordan Westburg

Asa Lacy, JT Ginn and Emerson Hancock

Jordan Walker and Zac Veen

Garrett Mitchell and Freddy Zamora

Austin Wells and Patrick Bailey

Tyler Soderstrom and Drew Romo

Jared Kelley and Alex Santos

Max Meyer and CJ Van Eyk

Today we look at two of the top college hitters in this draft class according to the updated top 300 draft prospects from Baseball America.

BA based their updates on reports they received prior to the baseball stoppage and these two hitters both moved up the rankings. Starting with Heston Kjerstad, an outfielder from Arkansas, who jumped from 25th to 15th in the rankings. He’s a 6’3″, 200 pound switch-hitter, who just turned 21 years old. What you’re looking at here is big time power potential. BA gives him a 70 grade for power, while MLB Pipeline has him at a 60 grade.

Kjerstad comes with some question marks due to a complicated swing. He’s had some minor strikeout issues in college, but he’s also had nothing but big success as a college player, both in the regular season and summer ball. His power is a legit plus tool and he uses the entire field. He’s not fast, so that limits him to a corner spot. His defense plays up due to good instincts in the field and a strong arm.

The upside here is some of the best power in this draft class, possibly trailing only Spencer Torkelson, who has a chance to go first overall. You also have someone with a strong track record of success. He was off to a fast start this year as well before the stoppage in play. You’re going to get a solid corner outfielder. The possible worst case scenario is that the strikeouts increase in the pros to a point where he’s a low OBP guy and you don’t get the full impact of the power.

Here’s video from Prospect Live

Here’s a second video from Prospect Pipeline

For the second player, we look at Daniel Cabrera, an outfielder from LSU, who now ranks 28th overall for BA. He stands in at 6’1″, 196, and bats/throws left-handed. He’s a little old for a college player, turning 21 back in early September. While Kjerstad has the drool-inducing power tool, Cabrera brings the total package to the table, displaying five tools that are all at least average.

Cabrera has been on the scouting radar for quite some time. He was a potential high pick in 2017, but he had a strong commitment to LSU. He was briefly mentioned in our draft tiered rankings article for that 2017 draft. He has lived up to the hype in college thanks to his ability to do everything well. He’s down a little further in the draft rankings due to the fact there are no plus tools, and he’s most likely going to end up as a corner outfielder. He runs well, but won’t be a big threat on the bases.

The upside here is that his clean swing and excellent bat speed turns into more power and you have a nice combo of OBP and 20-25 homers, coming from a solid corner outfielder. The floor is that he remains more of a doubles hitter (10-15 homers) and you lose some slugging percentage points. It’s still a nice floor, but scouts see the potential for more.

Here is video from Baseball America

Here’s a second video from Perfect Game. Not the best quality of highlights, but it’s very recent work from him.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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