Pirates Prospects 2020 MLB Draft Tiered Rankings

The 2020 MLB Draft starts tonight at 7 PM, with the first 37 picks of the draft taking place live on MLB Network. The Pittsburgh Pirates pick 7th and 31st overall today. Rounds 2-5 follow tomorrow at 5 PM, and will also be broadcast on MLB Network. The Pirates have the seventh pick tomorrow (44th overall) when the draft resumes.

As we’ve done every year since the site has been running, we will be providing coverage of every single pick that the Pirates make in the draft, though it’s a lot easier this year with only six picks over five rounds. For the last seven years we have released tiered rankings for the top prospects in each draft. We start with an average of all of the major draft rankings, then arrange players into tiers, which are customized based on where the Pirates pick. Each tier is shown below, with a summary of the most notable guys in each group.

Check back on the site during the draft to read about who the Pirates picked. We will have player pages for every player who is drafted, along with instant analysis on each pick, and our Draft Pick Signing Tracker will be live later tonight.

Tier 1

Otherwise known as the “They Definitely Won’t Fall to the Pirates” Tier

Spencer Torkelson, Austin Martin

These two will be off the board before the Pirates pick. If they’re not, every draft source got it wrong.

Tier 2

Otherwise known as the “These Are the Guys Who Would be Strong Selections For the 7th Overall Pick” Tier

Asa Lacy, Emerson Hancock, Zac Veen, Nick Gonzales

These could end up being the players selected 3-6 in no particular order, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one of them still on the board when the Pirates pick. This tier is usually a bit better than tier 3 in normal years, and it’s also usually a little bigger most years. This year with the higher pick and a deep first round of top talent, it’s more like having a tier 2 and tier 2b. Gonzales, Veen and Hancock have all gone to the Pirates in recent mock drafts. Lacy hasn’t and he’s the least likely of this group to be available at seventh overall.

Tier 3

Otherwise known as the “These Are the Guys Who Are Good Fits For the 7th Overall Pick” Tier

Garrett Mitchell, Reid Detmers, Austin Hendrick, Nick Bitsko, Max Meyer, Mick Abel, Jared Kelley, Heston Kjerstad, Patrick Bailey, Garrett Crochet, Robert Hassell, Pete Crow-Armstrong

This tier is the guys who are more likely than the tier 2 players to be around for the 7th pick. Almost all of them have gone to the Pirates in a mock draft at some point over the last six months. This is a really good year for top talent depth, especially when you can go 18 deep to find players who would be good/great picks for the seventh spot. Even if the top six players go off the board in order, you still had a dozen very talented players to choose from.

There has been word that the Pirates are interested in a top college bat, which would be Mitchell, Kjerstad and Bailey in this group. Bailey would also fit the Pirates need for a top catching prospect in the system. The other two are outfielders, which is a well-represented position near the top of this draft class.

Hendrick is the local favorite, who was being named as a possible seventh overall pick early in this process. His lack of games this spring has seemed to hurt his stock just enough that he doesn’t get as much attention in the top ten picks anymore. Being from nearby West Allegheny HS means that he would be a popular pick, who would be good for drawing in some crowds at PNC Park. He definitely has the upside of a typical seventh overall pick, though there will probably be better choices still left on the board. Robert Hassell and Pete Crow-Armstrong are two other high school lefty bats who would work well in this spot.

Nick Bitsko, Jared Kelley and Mick Abel offer high upside high school pitching, while Reid Detmers, Max Meyer and Garrett Crochet offer more polished college pitchers, with Detmers leading the way in that area. Meyer has huge upside with his fastball/slider combo, but an average third pitch (changeup) and some stamina questions keep him from ranking higher. Crochet has elite velocity, a huge frame and three above average pitches. What keeps him from ranking in the higher tier is an injury that limited his 2020 work, plus the fact that he really improved everything during fall ball, so it’s a small sample size of elite offerings.

Tier 4

Otherwise known as the “Questionable For the 7th Pick, Great For the 31st Pick” Tier

Tyler Soderstrom, Ed Howard, Austin Wells, Cade Cavalli, JT Ginn, Cole Wilcox

These are players I don’t expect the Pirates to reach for seventh overall, while also not being available when they make the 31st overall pick. It’s a small group because these players don’t seem possible for either pick, but if either were possible, it would be the 31st pick, not the seventh. That being said, the Pirates would be very lucky to get any of them with that pick. The lone possibility in my mind is JT Ginn, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery now. If that didn’t happen, he would be in the third tier. He was a draft-eligible sophomore, so he’s probably not going to be a cheap signing due to his remaining eligibility.

If Cade Cavalli dropped, it would be due to questions about his control. His upside is easily that of a top ten pick, with three plus pitches and a huge frame. He’s about to turn 22 years old, though he has minimal pitching experience for his age, so there’s a little more projecting going on than your normal major college junior.

Tier 5

Otherwise known as the “These Are the Guys Who Are a Good Fit For the 31st Overall Pick and Strong Picks at 44th Overall” Tier

Carmen Mlodzinski, Tanner Burns, Dillon Dingler, Bobby Miller, Nick Loftin, Chris McMahon, Slade Cecconi, Jordan Walker, Bryce Jarvis, Casey Martin, Drew Romo, Daniel Cabrera, Alex Santos, Carson Montgomery

I don’t expect many (any?) of these guys to get to 44th overall, but they would be tough to pass on if they somehow got that far. We have covered all of them here in our Draft Prospect Watch articles, so they should all be recognizable names.

Romo and Dingler give the Pirates two options at catcher if they skip over Bailey with the seventh overall pick. Cabrera out of LSU could be a big bat as a corner outfielder, with solid OBP numbers and some nice power.

There’s a lot of college pitching among the other names here and all of them have good reason to be considered for this tier. Mlodzinski, Burns, Miller, McMahon, Cecconi and Jarvis all profile as mid-rotation starters. Jarvis made great strides this year and really moved up the charts before play was shut down. Alex Santos is the only high school arm here and he didn’t get to pitch this year before play was halted, so his high rating is based on previous results. He’s a 6’3″ right-hander, with a strong frame and potential for three plus pitches.

If you’re looking for raw upside, there are two versions of that here. You have Casey Martin, a college shortstop, who has tools for days, but he still needs to refine his game. He’s the type who could have really improved his draft stock with a full season in 2020. The upside here is perennial All-Star, but he also might have a slow climb to the majors and not come close to that peak.

Then you have Jordan Walker, who is a 6’5″ third baseman with outstanding raw power. There are questions about his future defensive spot and whether he will make enough contact to get good use out of that power. He just turned 18 years old and showed signs of success this year before play stopped. You want potential upside while taking on risk, then Martin or Walker would be your pick.

Tier 6

Otherwise known as the “These Are the Guys Who Are a Good Fit For the 44th Overall Pick” Tier

Alika Williams, Jordan Westburg, Aaron Sabato, Justin Foscue, Jared Jones, Jared Shuster, Cole Henry, CJ Van Eyk, Masyn Winn, Gage Workman, Cade Horton, Tanner Witt, Blaze Jordan, Carson Tucker

Foscue would probably rank in tier 5 for most, but the questions about reaching his full power potential, along with some questions about being able to handle second base, made me push him down here. He’s not much different from Nick Loftin in the previous group, expect the fact that Loftin plays shortstop.

We have covered most of these players here throughout the year and they have similar profiles. Lots of tools, but question marks keep them from ranking higher. Aaron Sabato was one who I focused on due to his plus power, which is some of the best in this class. The problem is that he’s all bat, with below average running and defensive tools at first base. That puts all of the pressure on the bat to be elite. That’s why I believe that he fits better here than in the group above. That being said, you could be talking about a future cleanup hitter in the majors.

Alika Williams is a top defensive shortstop, who has solid average hitting/running tools. His total package should be enough to get him to the majors, but he might not end of as an impact bat. He’s teammates with Gage Workman, who I almost put in the previous tier, despite being ranked lower than Williams. I ultimately decided to leave him here due to some contact issues, which didn’t improve during his shortened 2020 season. Workman is an above average defensive third baseman with power, who doesn’t turn 21 until late October. He’s 6’4″ and still filling out his frame. I’m a bit higher on him than most, but I like the combo of size, age, power, defense and he’s had success with wood bats in summer ball. He could end up as a low-OBP guy, who adds value with defense and power.

Baseball America said that some scouts could see Jared Shuster going at the end of the first round. I put him here instead because his sample size of success is small. He could end up being a strong pick though, especially if his improvements were real. He’s a college lefty, who hit 97 MPH and throws a plus changeup, with a good chance to stick as a starter. He’s really not a lot different than the college group of pitchers in the previous tier, except they have more faith from scouts to remain as a starter and/or better track records.

Masyn Winn is the real darkhorse here to be a big catch with a pick outside of the first round. He displays tools on the mound and at the plate (as a shortstop) that would both get him drafted high. That type of player could be used as a two-way player, which has a growing popularity now, or he could take off if he concentrates on one spot. The thing that holds him back for most scouts is his size, at 5’11”, 180 pounds. Scouts lose faith in future starting pitchers under 6’0″ and power comes into question as a hitter. Obviously there are players who go against that grain, but it’s not a big enough group to add confidence.

I put Jared Jones because he ranks high (#41 for BA), but he’s slightly old for a high school pick, doesn’t have a big frame, and there’s effort to his delivery. He has a strong fastball that reaches upper 90s and the makings of a plus slider, along with solid control. There are things to really like, mixed with some reasons to be pessimistic about him being a future starter.

I threw Blaze Jordan on at the end because he was making a name for himself at 11 years old for his power. He’s young for this draft class, and doesn’t turn 18 until December. His raw power is off the charts, but the rest of his game is raw. I’m not sold on him being good at 44th overall, but between his age and raw power, I could see a team hoping for a huge payoff around the middle of the second round. I’d be much more confident in the aforementioned Jordan Walker if I want this type of profile.

I also threw in Carson Tucker, who is the younger brother of Cole Tucker. They have similar skill sets, with the main difference being that Cole is a switch-hitter, who was considered to be young for his draft class, and also showed slightly better defense at shortstop. This is probably a reach here, but I didn’t want to leave him off the list.

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