The. The spread of the novel coronavirus, combined with the owners' desire to slash spending, necessitated this draft looked different than the standard model. That meant the exercise was conducted in a virtual manner, and that it was a five-round sprint instead of a 40-round marathon.
It's too early to know what next year's draft will look like, or if there will be college and high-school seasons to scout off. But, in the interest of providing a distraction, we've highlighted five collegiate players who could be in the running for the No. 1 pick this time next year.
As always, please make the following notes: 1) this is more of an art than a science, and 2) there are more than five players who will merit consideration.
Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt
Leiter was considered unsignable last year out of high school, and that's the only reason he was available to the New York Yankees in the 20th round. Rest assured he'll go much higher, beyond the Yankees' reach, next summer when he's a draft-eligible sophomore. In four appearances for the Commodores, Leiter struck out 22 of the 60 batters he faced and sprinkled five hits and three runs across 15 innings. In addition to ample bloodlines (his father Al pitched in 19 big-league seasons), he has the makings of three average or better pitches: he can run his fastball into the upper-90s, and the pitch has the sufficient life necessary to play up in the zone; his curveball is at least a plus offering, with the kind of depth required to be a swing-and-miss offering; and he's even tightened his slider. Leiter is on the short side (6-foot or 6-foot-1, depending on the source), and he walked a batter every other inning as a freshman, but barring an injury he's the favorite to go first overall.
Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt
Yes, another Vandy pitcher. Rocker put himself on the map during the 2019 NCAA tournament, when he struck out 19 as part of a no-hitter against Duke. In three appearances this season, he K'd 28 of the 63 batters he faced and didn't allow a single home run. Rocker has two high-grade pitches: a fastball he can elevate for whiffs and a nasty slider. He'll need to continue to work on the three C's of pitching: changeup; command; and conditioning, as he's already listed at 6-foot-5 and 250-plus pounds. Rocker has front-of-the-rotation upside all the same, and should go early on draft day.
Matt McLain, SS, UCLA
McLain was the 25th pick in the 2018 draft, but elected to attend college instead of signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Fair enough. After struggling in his freshman season, he moved from center field to shortstop and started 2020 on a tear: hitting .397/.422/.621 with three homers in 13 games. McLain has above-average speed and is stronger than his listed vitals (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) suggest. His bat-to-ball skills are supposed to be his top selling point, though it's worth noting he's fanned more than 20 percent of the time so far in college. Ultimately, his stock is tied to whether or not teams believe he'll be able to stick at shortstop. If not, he might end up at the keystone.
Adrian Del Castillo, C, Miami
The University of Miami has produced a couple of catchers selected highly in the draft over the past dozen years, in Yasmani Grandal and Zack Collins. Del Castillo has a chance to join those two as early as next summer. In his first 77 games with the Hurricanes, he's hit .336/.430/.571 with 14 home runs and more walks (43) than strikeouts (32). He'll have to continue to work on his defense, and do what he can to put a shaky performance in the Cape Cod League behind him, but catchers who can hit are always in demand.
Jaden Hill, RHP, LSU
Injury woes and the coronavirus have limited Hill to six collegiate appearances to date, which makes it fair to argue someone with more experience should take this slot. We're going with Hill anyway because the draft is a year off, providing him with enough time to move up draft boards. He's a well-built right-hander with ample arm strength and a high-grade changeup. He'll need to work on his durability and his breaking ball, but there's a lot to like here otherwise.