If there is a Major League Baseball season in 2020, it's going to bear limited resemblance to the standard edition. The schedule will be condensed; the rules altered; and the strategies tweaked.
The draft is no exception. Teams have been forced to veer from normality with their preparation, and some in the game think they'll maintain a creative spirit with their employment of some of those 2020 draftees.
One idea floated to CBS Sports by league insiders entails certain teams using their highly drafted pitchers in big-league contests this season, before they've had the chance to pitch in the minor leagues. The thinking goes like this: every team will have concerns about their pitching depth. The pitchers in question, meanwhile, will have shouldered lighter workloads than normal during the spring and will have no opportunity to report to the minors. That combination could tempt a team to entertain an unusual approach for an unusual season.
To be clear, this play would be possible for only select teams: those who have playoff ambitions, yet who are drafting early enough to select a polished collegiate pitcher.
It would be reasonable to say there are about five teams who could pull it off, and about four college pitchers who seem like realistic candidates to be hot-shotted to the majors. Those teams are the Los Angeles Angels (10th pick), Chicago White Sox (11), Cincinnati Reds (12), Philadelphia Phillies (15), and Chicago Cubs (16). Those pitchers are Max Meyer (Minnesota), Reid Detmers (Louisville), Garrett Crochet (Tennessee) and Tanner Burns (Auburn). (Asa Lacy and Emerson Hancock, the top pitchers in the class, will go to non-contenders).
Under normal circumstances, teams are reluctant to ask any player to make the leap from the amateur ranks to the Show. A pitcher hasn't skipped the minors since Mike Leake did it in 2010, a spring after he was drafted by the Reds in the top 10. Since Leake, only Chris Sale (2010, White Sox) and Brandon Finnegan (2014, Royals) have each pitched in relief roles during the same year they were drafted.
Clearly the 2020 season, if there is one, won't be played under normal circumstances. Don't be surprised, then, if a pitcher's first professional appearance comes in a big-league game.