With the 2020 MLB Amature Draft starting this Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.–with 40 rounds shorten to just five rounds, as a cost-cutting measure due to COVID-19 pandemic–the New York Mets will be on the clock with their first pick at the number 19 slot.
But who will the Mets pluck in the first round?
The Mets fared pretty well with their first five picks in last year’s draft. And they’ll attempt to replicate that success, with the team receiving six picks due to a compensation pick (No. 69 overall) for not signing pitcher Zack Wheeler during the offseason.
However, this year it will be tougher for teams to gauge players, as college and high school seasons were curtailed. So, teams will have to hypothesize and hope for the best.
To that end, New York and General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen netted third baseman Brett Baty – Lake Travis HS (TX), righty Josh Wolf – St. Thomas HS (TX), and righty Matthew Allan – Seminole HS (FL) in the first three rounds in 2109.
Currently, Baty is already the Mets’ fourth rated prospect in their system, while Allan and Wolf are ranked fifth and eighth, respectivley, after one year of professional baseball.
New York plucked centerfielder Jake Mangum out of Mississippi State with its fourth selection and righty Nathan Jones out of Northwestern State (LA) with its number five pick.
Magnum batted .247, drove in 18 runs, and swiped 17 bags out of 22 attempts, while Jones posted a 0-2 record with a 6.59 ERA, with both players suiting up for the short-season Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones in 2019.
While the Mets possess a measure of solid talent in the lower levels of their farm system, they lack high-level prospects in its upper tiers, though that should theoretically change over time.
With a history of going after early-round pitching, MLB.com’s Jim Callis suggested New York could grab one of the several touted college arms in the first round.
Wilcox, 20, is a 6-foot-5, 232-pound college sophomore standout whom MLB.com’s Prospect Rankings has him listed at the No. 23 spot. He made four starts and went 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA in 23 innings with 32 strikeouts and only two walks for the Bulldogs.
Wilcox’s fastball ranges from 92-72 mph but can touch 100 with solid sink. He has a durable frame, but there is some question whether he’ll be a starter or reliever at the major league level.
Mlodzinski is a 6-foot-2, 231-pound junior righty who went 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 25.1 innings pitched with four starts for the Gamecocks.
MLB.com’s Prospect Rankings has Mlodzinski listed at the 21 spot.
Cecconi, 20, is another big-bodied righty at six-foot-4 and 219 pounds who’s a hard thrower and recorded a 2-1 record with a 3.80 ERA for the Hurricanes. He whiffed 30 batters and walked just seven over 21.1 innings pitched while holding opponents to a .190 batting average.
MLB.com’s Prospect Rankings has Cecconi positioned at number 31.
Burns, 21, is a six-foot, 205-pounder who made four starts and posted a 3-1 record with a 2.42 ERA for the Tigers. He led the team in innings pitched (22.1) and strikeouts (32), and ranked tied for eighth in the SEC in punchouts.
MLB.com’s Prospect Rankings listed Burns in the 28th position.
With Wilson Ramos entering free agency after the 2020 season, and the Mets’ No. 2 prospect in their minor league system, Francisco Alvarez, still developing at the tender age of 18, should the team consider adding a young catching prospect?
I’m not sure, but Soderstrom, 17, is the No. 19 ranked prospect in the draft, with advanced hitting tools, as he slugged.450 with four homers, 12 doubles, and one triple during his junior season of high school baseball. His senior campaign was suspended after just five games. But his defense is questionable.
Therefore, Soderstrom, out of Turlock High School (CA), doesn’t have to remain behind the plate, making it enticing for New York to take him if he’s available. We’ll see.
While it hasn’t been the norm for New York to take outfielders in the first round of previous drafts, they have in the past. Think present Met outfielders Michael Conforto (2014) and Brandon Nimmo (2011), and Seattle Mariners top prospect Jarred Kelenic (2018).
Armstrong, a centerfielder out of Harvard-Westlake High School (California), is ranked No. 20 on the list.
The six-foot1 180-pounder laced a .515 batting average in 10 games, with one strikeout in 42 at-bats this season. And many baseball insiders project him to go in the first round.
If Armstrong is available, that’s something the Mets’ draft departure would have to consider, as he’s a confident young man with a tremendous upside.
If Armstrong doesn’t sign anywhere, however, he’ll play at powerhouse Vanderbilt University.
Noteworthy: Both MLB Network and ESPN are producing live coverage, with the first night spanning the first 37 picks, covering the first round and Competitive Balance Round A.
Coverage continues on Thursday, June 11 on MLB Network and ESPN2 at 5 p.m. ET and will pick up with the start of the second round (pick No. 38) and run through the end of the fifth and final round of this year’s Draft. There will be a total of 160 picks in the 2020 Draft.
After that, for 2020, there is a $20,000 limit on bonuses for non-drafted free agents. However, there isn’t a limit to the number of undrafted players teams may sign, but they cannot go over $20,000 per player. These bonuses do not count toward the pool total.
Teams will now have until August 1, pushed back from July 10, to sign drafted players.
— Jerry Del Priore