Toolshed: 2019 Draft retrospective
The 2020 First-Year Player Draft is coming, and without regular-season baseball being played yet due to the coronavirus pandemic, it will be the first big Major League Baseball event of the summer. The 2020 edition will take place June 10-11 and be limited to five rounds this year, but it
The 2020 First-Year Player Draft is coming, and without regular-season baseball being played yet due to the coronavirus pandemic, it will be the first big Major League Baseball event of the summer. The 2020 edition will take place June 10-11 and be limited to five rounds this year, but it still will mark the beginning of the professional careers for several of the game's future top prospects. To get fans prepared for the big day on the baseball calendar, Toolshed has spent the past few weeks looking at recent Drafts. The 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 retrospectives can be found at those links. This edition covers the 2019 Draft.
Biggest storyline at the time -- All hitters, all the time: Much of what you need to know about the theme of this Draft comes from the following facts. The first six picks were all hitters for the first time in Draft history. Only three of the top 17 picks were pitchers. There are any number of reasons for the oddities. For starters, there was no slam-dunk pitcher like
Biggest storyline since -- Are these the turnaround pieces?: This will be a theme for most of this column, it's too early to determine much about this class. The coronavirus pandemic has kept 2019 picks from having anything close to a true first full season this summer. That said, we still can wonder what their additions have done for their individual farm systems. The Orioles, Royals, White Sox, Marlins, Tigers and Padres were in some form of rebuilds when they made top-six picks, and each of those selections might mean different things for those rebuilds. In Rutschman, Baltimore has its future franchise cornerstone. In Vaughn, the White Sox got a potential quick climber who could head to the South Side in short order. (Coincidentally, the club was a buyer this winter to move past rebuilding, though it brought back
How the first overall pick aged -- Adley Rutschman, catcher, Orioles: You won't find any complaints in Baltimore. Even if there was a debate between Rutschman and Witt for the spring, Baltimore had a clear decision to make after the former hit .411/.575/.751 with 17 homers in his junior year at Corvallis. Those are just the offensive numbers. Rutschman drew raves for his defensive work with his glove and arm, earning plus grades for both. He's been called the best catching prospect since
Biggest dropoff --
Biggest early-round steal --
Best pick, rounds 6-40 -- Bryce Ball, 24th round, 727th overall: Not only will Ball's round not exist next week, the 18 rounds in front of it won't either. That's how far Atlanta went to get the Dallas Baptist slugger. Ball thought he was capable of going in the top 10 rounds after hitting 18 homers and slugging .614 in the spring of 2019, but once he didn't go there, worries about him returning to campus scared away potential clubs. According to Ball, the Braves were the only ones to reach out, and while he stuck to top-10-round money, Atlanta eventually acquiesced and signed him for $197,500, about the same as a late seventh-round pick. It didn't take long for the move to pay off. Ball was Appalachian League MVP for his 41-game stint with Rookie Advanced Danville and finished with a .329/.395/.628 line and 17 homers in 62 games between there and Class A Rome. The hulking 6-foot-6 slugger is tied to first base, but with his power potential from the left side, he's already the No. 21 prospect in the Braves system. Not bad for a player who wasn't even the 21st player picked by his own club.
Best picks by organization -- TBD: It can be fun to play winners and losers on Draft Day, but perhaps even more so in baseball -- where development takes years -- the true winners and losers take years to reveal themselves. It's also one thing to honor the best picks from two years ago (considering most of those draftees got to play a full year of Minor League ball), but it's less fair to do that to players who have maybe a couple dozen games under their belts at most. We could go with the Orioles for getting their guy in Rutschman and adding other nice pieces like Gunnar Henderson and Kyle Stowers. We could also go with the D-backs for utilizing the Draft's biggest signing pool to add Carroll, Blake Walston and Brennan Malone -- the last of whom they've already traded to the Pirates for Starling Marte. We could even give the Mets kudos for their strategy to snag Allan along with Baty. Let's call those the groups to keep an eye on for now, but don't be surprised if, after some solid years of development, another group jumps to the lead instead.
What to watch next from the Class of 2019 -- A whole lot of waiting for now. In a normal year, many of the 2019 Draft's top prospects would be in Class A, Class A Advanced or Double-A at this time. But if and when baseball resumes, it's likely it will look a lot different, and many picks will fall short of having a first full season, emphasis on the full. One storyline to follow will be which Class of 2019 players are able to make Major League taxi squads this early in their careers. Rutschman, Vaughn, Bleday and Lodolo (among others) have the college pedigrees to be thrown close to the Majors this quickly in their careers. Vaughn and Lodolo might be the best bets of that group considering Chicago and Cincinnati's hopes of contending in 2020. If the Orioles and Marlins want to get weird and take advantage of the craziness that comes with a truncated season, they could lean on their first-rounders and keep them close for the summer. But for the most part, much of this class will likely have to wait until 2021 to get their Minor League careers truly started in earnest.
Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.