With the 2019 MLB draft behind, it’s time for our way too early look into 2020. The past two drafts didn’t give a ton of insight into the type of players that Alex Anthopoulos is after, but I think there are some interesting things to note since he came on board as GM.
Going beyond the first few rounds, there’s something to be said about the Braves GM drafting positional players that have high contact rates. Another thing to note is that there are a few players that walk just as much as they strikeout. While this doesn’t necessarily equate to success, it could give us an idea of the type of players that Anthopoulos is after. On top of that it gives me an excuse to search for players that fit this mold. Also, I’m not guaranteeing that every player I talk about will even get drafted. Many things can happen. I do find all these players interesting in some way.
A sample of prospects from the past two drafts that meet these requirements (excluding JUCO players) are Andrew Moritz, Greg Cullen, Justin Dean, AJ Graffinino, Michael Mateja and Drew Campbell. Bryce Ball and Willie Carter struck out about 19% of the time, so not exactly low, but they did walk close to what they struck out while providing power.
So now let’s take a look at some players in the 2020 MLB draft.
Justin Foscue, 5’11”, 3B/2B, Mississippi State - Foscue had a significant jump in performance from his freshman to sophomore season. In the offseason he revamped his swing and it paid off in a big way. He blasted 14 home runs and 22 doubles on the season in which he hit .331 and a .959 OPS. He’s what some tout as a pure hitter. Even though he showed off a lot of pop, he only struck out 10% of the time! He’s going to end up being at second base most likely as his defense hasn’t been very good and projects to be no more than average. In 2018, Foscoe hit just over .300 in the Perfect Game Summer League with two home runs.
Austin Wells, 6’1”, C/1B/LF, Arizona - Selected in the 35th round in 2018, Wells, is also one of the highest ranked prospects on the board coming in at No. 52 at Fangraphs. Although Wells was a Freshman last year, he’ll be a draft eligible Sophomore due to his age. He slashed a ridiculous .353/.462/.552 w/ 27 total extra base hits. Wells showed surprisingly smart strike zone judgment with his 17% BB-rate to 16% K-rate. He had some elbow issues when drafted, but reports that he has an above average arm even if his defense won’t be anything more than average (26% CS%, 10 PB). Although not a burner by any means, he shows good instincts on the base paths with six steals in six attempts stealing. Wells is coming off a good Cape Cod in which he tied for sixth in home runs with Nick Gonzales, although he the second most strikeouts.
Nick Gonzales, 5’10”, 2B, New Mexico State - The next two players are for New Mexico State. This team put up eye popping numbers due to the conference in which they play. All things need to be put into context, however, Gonzales is still quite good. He posted a 1.305 OPS that includes 39 extra base hits. Another thing that stands out about Gonzales is that he walked 45 times vs striking out just 30. He has a nice simple setup and really good looking swing from the right side that gets get loft. Gonzales is also coming off a great Cape Cod in which he was first in doubles/triples, second in batting and tied for sixth in home runs. That’s how you explode your draft ranking upwards.
Tristan Peterson, 6’1”, OF/1B, New Mexico State - Tristan Peterson was draft eligible, but went undrafted despite hitting .400 and mashing 20 home runs. Most likely had something to do with him hitting .189 in the 2018 California amateur wood bat league. This was right after his JUCO season where he hit .358, but only hit three home runs. Peterson will be the only senior on this list, but if he repeats his 2019 season, he’s going to get drafted by a team despite a poor showing in 2018 with wood bats. He does have a 19% K-rate, but he also walked a a 16% clip. At the next level, he’s probably going to be relegated to first base, so that puts more pressure on the bat.
Al Soularie, 6’0”, LF, Tennessee - As a freshman, Soularie went to San Jacinto JUCO college where he hit .402 and got drafted in the 29th round by the Cardinals. He didn’t sign and eventually made his way to Tennessee where he put up similar numbers in San Jacinto. He slashed .365/.472/.635 with 11 home runs. All the while walking at a 16% clip and striking out 17% of the time. While he was a draft eligible Sophomore, he wasn’t taken. He is coming off a poor showing in Cape Cod where he hit just .207 but in a limited 29 at bats. While Soularie is an above average runner and arm, his defense in the outfield didn’t match the tools.
Ben Carew, 6’1”, OF, Kent State - Carew was a Redshirt sophomore this season. He didn’t play in 2017 and only played in 16 games in 2018. So he’s older and missed significant time in the past. Having said that, Carew is coming off a pretty fantastic season for Kent State where he hit .406 and struck out just 12% of the time. He doesn’t have much power having just a 20% XBH%. He’s an average to above average runner with enough arm strength to play all OF positions. I’m definitely interested in seeing what Carew can do in a second full season of ball. The big knock is that he’ll be right on the verge of turning 23 at the time of next year’s draft. He was also just ok in a wood bat league in 2018 hitting .248 and then just .261 in 2019.
Zavier Warren, 6’0”, SS, Central Michigan - Warren started out playing all over the infield, including catching, but mostly stuck at shortstop this season. The switch hitter also saw tremendous growth with the bat in just a years time as he hit .363 with a 1.080 OPS. He cracked eight home runs, but totaled 33 extra base hits. Warren also walked more than he struck out (19% vs 18%). Warren is another player coming off a good Cape Cod where he hit .315 with 14 extra base hits (3 home runs). He has above average speed and should play solid enough defense wherever he plays.
Luke Waddell, 5’9”, IF, Georgia Tech - I feel like I had to get one guy from Georgia on this list, and I was fortunate enough to have one. While Waddell doesn’t have a plus tool, he definitely plays at a high level. His contact ability is subpar and he only struck out 8% of the time while he walked double that. For a smaller guy at 5’9”, he showed some gap power managing a respectable 16 extra base hits. He did play in the Cape Cod league, but just 23 at bats where he hit .174 and committed three errors. That definitely stings a bit for his stock, but I’ll still be interested in seeing how he comes out in 2020.
Jordan Nwogu, 6’3”, OF, Michigan - Nwogu raked as a freshman hitting .349 and he continued to rake as a sophomore with added power. He hit .321 with 12 home runs and 30 total extra base hits. His 15%:17% walk to strikeout percentages were on par with each other. Nwogu is not only big and strong, but he’s fast. He’s a plus runner and very aggressive on the base paths as he swiped 16 bases (only caught 2 times). He’s got an incredible work ethic and is always seen with a big smile on his face. Don’t be surprised if he catapults up to be a Day 1 pick.
Damon Dues, 6’0”, IF, Wright State - While not the strongest athlete, Dues has incredible strike zone judgement. He’s hit over .300 both seasons at Wright State and went from zero home runs to four. Again, not great, but that’s still improvement. He walked almost double than he struck out. He played in a wood bat league the past two seasons, but they were somewhat of a mixed bag since they are both small sample size. In 2018 he hit .400 in 35 at bats, and this year hit .231 in just 26 at bats. He’s just an average runner at best and doesn’t have the strongest of arms, so he might be relegated to second base at the next level. Despite not being overly fast, he did steal 28 bases.
Mario Camilletti, 5’9”, IF, Oakland - Like Waddell, Camilletti posted a walk rate that was double that of his strikeout rate (22% vs 11%). He hit .306, but just a .400 SLG. He’s on on base machine though and is a good base runner with 10 steals. More importantly, he showed well in the Northwoods league (wood bat) hitting .297 with eight extra base hits and 16 stolen bases (59 walks vs 23 strikeouts in 246 at bats).
Honorable mentions include Dylan Neuse, Tyler Keenan and Ron Washington Jr. Washington is a toolsy kid, but has been uneven with the bat his first two seasons at Pitt. He needs to be more consistent and show more in game power. He’s a plus to plus-plus runner with a strong arm. There’s a lot to like here and he’ll shoot up boards if he has a breakout offensively. Neuse is a small guy (5’9”) with some speed and a bit of pop. He hit eight home runs as a sophomore and stole 16 bases. He’s likely relegated to second base or left field in the future, but does have average to above average speed and has more than enough arm for 2B/OF. Tyler Keenan hit 15 bombs, but couldn’t get many doubles due to his catcher like speed. He’s played mostly third and a little first this past season, but long term he’s most likely to stick at first base.
Bonus mention is Nander De Sedas. There were more than a few Braves fans that wanted this guy in the 2018 draft. He was not good offensively his Freshman year only hitting .231 with four homers while striking out 24% of the time. So really not good. He’ll be draft eligible as a Sophomore, but he’ll need a huge improvement if he wants to get drafted.