TORONTO — The 2019 MLB Draft is a wrap and Blue Jays director of amateur scouting Steve Sanders is hoping he hit a home run with top pick Alek Manoah.
Whether or not the big right-hander out of West Virginia pans out is a story that will play out over the next couple of years, but Sanders is already on to the next.
In fact, all of baseball is.
And with the Blue Jays sinking towards the bottom of the standings, there’s a good chance Sanders will be looking to hit a grand slam with next year’s first-round pick.
If the losses continue to pile up like they have through the first two months, the 2020 MLB Draft could be a franchise-changer, one that could allow the Jays to add an elite talent who would immediately be one of the better prospects in the game.
While draft day is still 12 months away and a lot can change between now and then, the top of the 2020 draft class as a strong one, especially at the top.
“All indications are now that it looks to be another good, strong class with some really impactful talent,” Sanders said. “So, yeah, we’re excited. I think we’ll learn more about it over the summer and then, obviously, throughout the spring we’ll probably learn more about where the true strengths are.”
If the season ended today, the Jays and general manager Ross Atkins would own the third pick next June.
Work has already begun on the 2020 class.
“Oh, man. Tomorrow? Maybe Friday? It’s quick,” Sanders laughed Wednesday evening when asked how soon he turns his attention to 2020. “There’s a high school event, Perfect Game National, in Phoenix next week, which will be the best high school players in the country for next year’s draft. The Cape Cod League starts later this month, so it’s now.”
At this point, about a third of the way through the schedule, the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals have proven to be the worst two teams in baseball, but it’s all but guaranteed that the Blue Jays will have less talent on its roster post-July 31 than pre-deadline, so the odds say they’ll have a top-five pick at the very least.
This list could change dramatically in a year, but let’s get familiar with the consensus top names.
RHP Emerson Hancock, Georgia
Whether it’s Baseball America or FanGraphs scouts, this 6-foot-4, 200-pound righty is the consensus top prospect available as we sit here a year away from draft day.
Hancock was lights out for the Dawgs as a sophomore this past season and another strong campaign as a junior next spring should keep him atop many draft boards, similar to 2018 No. 1 overall pick Casey Mize, who’s already dominating Double-A in the Detroit Tigers’ organization.
1B/LF Spencer Torkelson, Arizona State
As a right-right first baseman, Torkelson is in the same boat as the ultra-productive Andrew Vaughn, who ended up going third overall to the Chicago White Sox this week.
It’s not an evaluators favourite profile, but if you can hit, you can hit, and Torkelson can hit.
He’s mashed 46 homers over his first two college seasons with the Sun Devils and everyone expects him to do more of the same next spring.
C Patrick Bailey, North Carolina State
Power, plate discipline, and a well-rounded defensive skillset behind the plate? Every team in baseball would be excited to add that type of player to a system. He may not be Adley Rutschman, this year’s first-overall pick, or Joey Bart, last year’s second-overall pick, but Bailey has all of next spring to prove he’s the same type of backstop prospect.
The icing on the cake is that he’s a switch-hitter.
OF Pete Crow-Armstrong, Harvard-Westlake High School (California)
Baseball America is already calling him the top high school position player in the class, mainly due to the fact he’s said to possess above-average tools across the board.
Plus speed and defence are his thing now, but he’s an 18-year-old with an idea of what he wants to do at the plate, as well as a hit tool to allow him to do it.
1B/3B Blaze Jordan, DeSoto Central High (Mississippi)
One of the more interesting prospects around, Jordan was originally eligible for the 2021 draft, but recently reclassified and will be available next June.
Jordan is on everyone’s radar because he’s been hitting tape-measure home runs on the showcase circuit since was 15, a la Bryce Harper, but the Mississippi State commit will have to prove he’s more than just a kid with 500-foot homers on his resume.
RHP Cole Wilcox, Georgia
Hancock’s running-mate in the Bulldogs rotation, Wilcox is a 6-foot-5, 220-pounder who’ll be draft eligible as a sophomore next year.
Currently ranked as the No. 4 prospect by FanGraphs, Wilcox will be trying to trying to build off a 2019 breakout that quickly put him in the top 10 conversation.