Part 2 of a two-part series with an early look at Heat and Marlins’ first-round draft options, with the reality that NBA and MLB teams will not be able to see these prospects in college game competition again:
With the coronavirus pandemic wiping out both the college and (likely) the high school baseball seasons, the Marlins — who have the third pick in this year’s amateur draft — and other teams will need to base projections on a more limited sample size.
MLB hasn’t said whether the dates of June 10-12 draft will be changed, but evaluators already have a strong sense of who’s expected to be in the mix for top-10 picks.
A quick look at the Marlins’ potential options, with Miami picking behind Detroit and Baltimore:
▪ Georgia right-hander Emerson Hancock:
Has as good a chance as anybody to be Miami’s pick. A dominant college pitcher who went 8-3 with a 2.09 ERA last season (58 hits, 18 walks, 97 strikeouts in 90 ⅓ innings) and 2-0 with a 3.75 ERA in four starts this season (22 hits, three walks, 34 strikeouts in 24 innings).
Baseballprospectjournal.com says he “has a high-90s fastball, an effective curveball and a changeup that shows above-average potential. He has a quick and clean arm action, displays an advanced feel for pitching and has respectable command. He has frontline starter potential.”
The question is whether Detroit or Baltimore takes him before Miami picks.
▪ Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson:
Another strong possibility for Miami’s pick if he gets past the Tigers or Orioles. Miami already has a top power-hitting first base prospect in Lewin Diaz (who’s very good defensively), but Torkelson also can play left field and right field.
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A scout who watched a handful of his games last year told me: “Everything is as advertised the way he swung the bat. There’s power to make an impact at the big-league level.”
Baseballprospectjournal.com projects Torkelson to Miami at No. 3 and says he has “major raw power. He profiles as a first baseman in pro ball but did gain experience playing right field in the Cape Cod League. He has a quick, compact swing from the right side of the plate. His profile is as a right-handed-hitting first baseman, which hurts his value slightly.”
Torkelson, 6-2, hit .320 with 25 homers and 53 RBI as an ASU freshman in 2018, then hit .351, with 23 homers and 66 RBI in 2019 and .340, with six homers and 11 RBI in 17 games this season.
▪ Vanderbilt third baseman Austin Martin:
Baseballprospectjournal.com projects him first to Detroit, but he could be available at No. 3. He also can play center field, where he got work this season.
“As of now, there is no clear-cut favorite for the top pick in June’s MLB Draft, but Austin Martin is a five-tool player who profiles well at shortstop and center field,” that website said. “He played third base as a sophomore last year and bounced around the diamond as a freshman.”
Martin, a right-handed hitter, hit .377 with three homers and 11 RBI in 16 games this season after batting .392 with 10 homers and 46 RBI in 65 games last season. He also has good speed; he’s 43 for 57 on stolen base attempts in his career.
▪ Texas A&M left-hander Asa Lacey:
Would certainly warrant consideration at No. 3.
Baseballprospectjournal.com says the 6-4, 215-pound lefty “throws a mid-90s fastball, a big breaking curveball, slider and deceptive changeup from a low-effort delivery. He had a big sophomore year, and if he can dominate hitters this spring, he will be in consideration for the first overall pick in June’s MLB draft.”
He’s 14-5 with a 2.07 ERA in three seasons with 86 hits allowed, 68 walks and 224 strikeouts in 152 innings. This season, he was off-the-charts good: 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA in four starts, with nine hits, eight walks and 46 strikeouts in 24 innings. Control would be the only concern.
With the Marlins, he would immediately join two other former Miami first-round picks, Trevor Rogers and Braxton Garrett, as the top left-handed prospects in the organization.
▪ New Mexico State second baseman Nik Gonzales:
The offensive numbers are eye-popping and simply ridiculous, making him someone who needs to be considered with a top-five pick.
Besides hitting an NCAA-leading .432 last season, the right-handed hitting Gonzales also smacked 16 homers and had 80 RBI in 55 games. This season, he was 26 for 58 (.448) with 12 homers and 36 RBI in 16 games. And he also can play shortstop.
Per baseballprospectjournal.com, “his production didn’t dip in the highly competitive Cape Cod League where he showed off his compact right-handed swing and impressive plate discipline. He is 5-10, 190 pounds but has solid raw power and above-average speed.”
▪ UCLA outfielder Garrett Mitchell:
Baseballprospectjournal.com mocks him fourth to Kansas City, but he would be an interesting option for Miami, which already has at least a half dozen outfield prospects that they (and many evaluators) think will be good but none yet that obviously anybody knows for certain will be an All-Star.
The website says of Mitchell: “Garrett Mitchell is an all-around player who profiles as a center fielder in the professional ranks. He is an above-average defensive player, possessing elite speed and solid arm strength. He has the chance to hit for average and power in pro ball with his quick left-handed swing while also using his speed to steal bases.”
Mitchell, a left-handed hitter, batted .280 with 31 RBI as a freshman in 2018, .349 with six homers and 41 RBI in 2019, and .355 with nine RBI in 15 games this season.
▪ Texas prep right-hander Jared Kelley:
The 6-2, 200-pound right-hander has a “strong and firm physical build, workhouse starting pitcher build,” says perfectgame.org. “Fastball sat very consistently in the 95-97 mph range for two innings and touched 98..... Showed mature confidence in his change up and flashed plus with the pitch. Verbal commitment to Texas. Named to play in the Perfect Game All-American Classic.”
Among others who could be at least discussed among Marlins executives: Illinois prep shortstop Ed Howard, Louisville right-hander Reid Detmers, Oregon prep right-hander Mick Abel, Pennsylvania prep outfielder Austin Hendrick and Tennessee lefty Garrett Crochet.
One potential option for MLB before the draft: organizing a NFL Combine-style event for all of the teams to watch prospects work and to check them medically.
Here’s part 1 of my series with an early look at the Heat’s draft options.