The 2020 MLB draft is coming up on Wednesday, and the Oakland A’s hold the No. 26 overall pick in the 1st round. That’s a low placement, since they were tied for the fifth-best record in the majors last year at 97-65, but it’s still in the 1st round so there’s a decent chance of finding a good player there.
The draft will last a total of five rounds, down from the usual 40 due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The college baseball season was interrupted just like the pros were, so teams will be working with even less information than normal this summer.
Mock drafts from mainstream sources have the A’s connected to a variety of names with their top pick. Among them:
- Justin Foscue, 2B, Mississippi State (by Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline): “An offensive-minded second baseman who was seen a lot last summer with Team USA, Foscue’s ability to handle the bat is sure to attract teams that like college performers.”
- Bobby Miller, RHP, Louisville (by Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline): “[Dillon] Dingler would be tempting but this is more his floor than a likelihood, so the Athletics will take a .. you guessed it ... college right-hander. This could be the high-water mark for Arkansas shortstop Casey Martin, who has electric tools but comes with swing-and-miss issues.”
- Nick Loftin, SS, Baylor (by Carlos Collazo of Baseball America): “With [Ed] Howard off the board, we have the A’s going for the next-best shortstop in a down year for the position, Loftin. There’s a good chance Loftin goes off the board before this pick given his all-around ability.”
- Jordan Westburg, SS, Mississippi State (by Keith Law of The Athletic): “The A’s tend to go college when they pick later in the first round, and they could go with Westburg, UNC’s Aaron Sabato, or a pitcher like [Bryce] Jarvis or Bobby Miller.”
- Aaron Sabato, 1B, North Carolina (by Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs)
Here are scouting reports for each of those players, from MLB Pipeline.
Bobby Miller, RHP
Fastball: 65 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 45 | Overall: 50
Louisville has recruited well in Illinois for years and landed both Miller and Reid Detmers from the Prairie State in 2017. A 38th-round pick that June by the Orioles, Miller moved into the Cardinals’ weekend rotation last March as a sophomore and has boosted his stock since. He took a no-hitter into the ninth inning of an NCAA super-regional playoff against East Carolina and wowed scouts with his velocity and slider during fall practice.
Miller’s fastball is notable for both its heat — he sat at 95-96 mph throughout his dominance of East Carolina and worked at 97-99 in shorter stints in the fall — and its heavy life. He also can miss bats with a slider/cutter that usually operates at 85-87 and reached 90 during the fall. He has faith in a splitter/changeup with similar velocity and employs a more traditional change in the low 80s.
With his strong 6-foot-5 frame, Miller has no difficulty maintaining his stuff into the late innings. However, there’s effort in his delivery that limits his control and has some scouts wondering if he’s destined to be a reliever in the long run. After maintaining his improved stuff and doing a better job of throwing strikes during the brief 2020 season, he could join Detmers in the first round.
Nick Loftin, SS
Hit: 50 | Power: 40 | Run: 50 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50
Undrafted as a Texas high schooler in 2017, Loftin could be the first college shortstop selected three years later. He began his college career at Baylor as a left fielder before moving to short midway through his freshman season. He doesn’t have loud tools but he contributes in all phases of the game and has one of the higher floors in the 2020 college crop, a combination that could land him in the first round.
Loftin is more of a competent than flashy defender at shortstop, where his instincts help him play quicker than his pure speed. He has solid arm strength and should be able to stay at short at the next level. He offers impressive versatility — he started games at five positions (short, second and third base, left and right field) for the U.S. collegiate national team last summer — and would fit nicely as a utilityman if he doesn’t provide enough offensive impact to be a regular.
Using an efficient right-handed swing, Loftin focuses on making contact and ranked 12th in NCAA Division I with 13.8 at-bats per strikeout as a sophomore. While he does have some sneaky power, he’s mostly content with hitting line drives to all fields. He has average speed out of the batter’s box and isn’t much of a threat to steal, though he is faster once he gets going.
Jordan Westburg, SS
Hit: 45 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Arm: 55 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50
Though neither was a heralded prospect or drafted out of high school in 2017, Mississippi State’s Westburg and Justin Foscue have developed into college baseball’s best double-play combination. Foscue has been a more consistent hitter but Westburg has a higher ceiling and more defensive value. He tied a College World Series record with seven RBI in one game in 2018 and helped the Bulldogs return to Omaha last season.
Westburg has a compact right-handed swing and possesses the bat speed and strength to provide 20 or more homers on an annual basis. He lacks consistency at the plate because he has a very aggressive, pull-happy approach and sometimes struggles with pitch recognition and managing the strike zone. After he failed to make the U.S. collegiate national team last summer, he settled down nicely in the Cape Cod League and was one of the circuit’s more productive hitters.
Westburg has solid speed and arm strength to match, giving him a chance to stick at shortstop at the next level. He’s big for the position at 6-foot-3 and if he adds more strength to his frame, he could slow down and necessitate a move to third base. With his power potential, he still could profile offensively at the hot corner.
Justin Foscue, 2B
Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 40 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50
Foscue went from light-hitting third baseman as a freshman to consensus All-America second baseman as a sophomore, helping Mississippi State reach the College World Series in both 2018 and 2019. He and Jordan Westburg form the best double-play combination in college baseball, with scouts fairly split about who is the better prospect. Foscue has a higher floor while Westburg has the high ceiling, and both project to go in the top two rounds of the 2020 Draft.
The U.S. collegiate national team’s starter at second base last summer, Foscue plays a game that is somewhat reminiscent of Jeff Kent’s. He provides more offense than most at his position, using strength, bat speed and a pull-heavy approach to generate plenty of power from the right side of the plate. Though he has an aggressive mentality, he has no difficulties making regular contact and projects as a 20-homer threat without excessive strikeouts.
Foscue records below-average run times out of the batter’s box but shows closer to average speed once he gets going. His arm and range are ordinary at second base, though he has good hands and instincts and turns the double-play pivot well. He might be able to handle third base at the next level but shortstop would be a stretch, limiting his potential utility value.
Aaron Sabato, 1B
Hit: 50 | Power: 60 | Run: 30 | Arm: 40 | Field: 45 | Overall: 50
Sabato received little recruiting hype or scouting interest as a Connecticut high school senior in 2018, and he began his college career at North Carolina by hitting .186 with one homer in his first 14 games. He caught fire afterward, batting .380 with 17 dingers in his final 44 contests to set a Tar Heels freshman home run record and claim Atlantic Coast Conference freshman of the year honors. Though surgery on his right shoulder prevented him from showing what he could do with wood bats during the summer, he’s still one of the best sophomore-eligible prospects in the 2020 Draft and his power could land him in the first round.
A right-handed hitter, Sabato possesses exceptional strength that combines with his bat speed and the loft in his swing to give him well-above-average raw power. While he has a power-over-hit approach, he’s patient enough to accept walks when pitchers won’t challenge him and doesn’t strike out excessively. There are some parallels between him and the college version of Pete Alonso, though Alonso slammed just four homers as a freshman.
Almost all of Sabato’s value will come from his bat, so he’ll have to hit. He worked hard to improve his defense and has reliable hands at first base, but he lacks range and had below-average arm strength before he hurt his shoulder. He’s a well-below-average runner with limited athleticism.
In their franchise history, the A’s have made a total of 76 picks in either the 1st round or the compensation/sandwich round immediately afterward. They’ve done reasonably well over the years, with at least a third of those picks turning into either stars or at least MLB regulars. Try out our trivia quiz to see how many of them you can name!
One of those 1st-round picks was also the first overall pick in all of MLB draft history, Rick Monday back in 1965. Here’s more info on the Monday pick and his role in A’s history.
The 2020 draft begins Wednesday at 4 p.m. PT, and it will be televised on both MLB Network and ESPN. The first day will cover the first 37 picks, including the 1st round and Comp Round A. The A’s are picking in the back half of that group, so expect their selection to come well after 5 p.m. and maybe closer to 6 p.m.
The rest of the draft will take place Thursday at 2 p.m., on MLB Network and ESPN2. The A’s will make four more picks, one in each of the 2nd-5th rounds — Nos. 58, 98, 127, and 157.