Major League Baseball’s 2020 Amateur Draft is going to be one of the more unusual in the history of the process. There will be a number of likely temporary changes this year due to numerous factors resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the pro, college, and high school seasons.
As a result of their middle-of-the-road, 81-81, .500 season in 2019, the Philadelphia Phillies top pick will fall right in the middle of the first round at 15th overall.
J.J. Cooper at Baseball America (BA) wrote on Thursday that there is an expectation in MLB circles that the draft will remain on its originally scheduled June 10 date. However, there is also a growing likelihood that the process will be reduced to as few as five rounds.
“Front office officials expect that a five round draft will be even more college heavy than normal,” wrote Cooper. “It will mean that a significant number of high school players who were expected to sign will now head to college. Also a significant number of college players expected to sign will now return to school as well.”
Unlike their counterparts in the NFL and NBA, Major League Baseball teams do not usually draft for “need” because even the best prospects take a couple of years to reach the big-leagues.
However, this year could be slightly different. The Phillies are in win-now mode. Their last three first round picks – Adam Haseley, Alec Bohm, and Bryson Stott – have all been advanced college bats. I expect the club to once again go the college route, taking either a pitcher or outfielder, one who could reach Citizens Bank Park by as soon as 2022 or 2023.
In their most recent 2020 mock draft released in mid-April, the folks at BA listed University of Oklahoma right-handed pitcher Cade Cavalli the Phillies choice. He perfectly fits what I think the club should be looking at for their selection. The BA scouting report on him reads in part as follows:
“If you were creating the blueprint for an ideal pitcher’s body, Cavalli might look like the end product. A towering, 6-foot-4, 218-pound righthander who looks like an All-American quarterback, Cavalli on paper has everything you’d want to see in a frontline arm. He can dial his fastball up to 98 mph and the pitch sits in the mid-90s with ease. After that, he has a devastating slider in the 87-90 mph range with impressive lateral movement and serves as an out-pitch to both lefties and righties. Next, he has a curveball and a changeup that are solid-average with growth potential. Cavalli throws everything out of a picturesque arm action and delivery as well.”
Cavalli was an Academic All-Big 12 Second Team member in 2019. Following the college season he played over the summer with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. He is a big, strong guy who had some back issues in college and who was hit a bit harder than his great stuff would suggest he should have been. Cavalli could go before the Phillies get to make their selection. But if he is still there, I say grab him up.
Other potential candidates who could be available when the Phillies select and who fit what I believe are their biggest needs include (links to their scouting reports):
Heston Kjerstad, University of Arkansas outfielder
Garrett Crochet, University of Tennessee left-handed pitcher
Cole Wilcox, University of Georgia right-handed pitcher
Selecting a sophomore-eligible such as Wilcox could be a risky move. He possesses the leverage of being able to return to school at Georgia and then come out again next year, when hopefully the pandemic situation will have been resolved and the draft process return to a semblance of normalcy. If he is the Phillies choice, the club has to be prepared to pay up in order to get his signature on a contract. They simply cannot afford to waste the pick.
There are a number of talented high schoolers projected to land around the middle of the first round. For me, that is not the road that the Phillies should be looking to travel. Think Mickey Moniak and Cornelius Randolph.