While Major League Baseball owners and the MLB Players Association continue their lukewarm back and forth regarding actual play in calendar year 2020, we’re finally, concretely going to get real baseball-related action on Wednesday. Starting tomorrow night at 7 PM ET, the 2020 MLB Draft will begin in earnest, with every MLB club adding a fresh new talent to their franchise with a full slate of 1st round picks.
Every club except the Houston Astros, that is. You’ll remember that they were penalized for trash canning their way through the 2017 playoffs and were forced to forfeit their 1st rounder this year. And that’s just the beginning of this draft’s chicanery.
In response to the postponement of the start of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic - and, perhaps just as relevant here, the economic fallout of said postponement - the 2020 MLB Draft is going to look markedly different than those you’ve grown used to. There will only be 5 rounds, with round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A going down Wednesday and rounds 2-5 (and Competitive Balance Round B after Round 2) taking place on Thursday. The Cincinnati Reds hold 6 picks - Rounds 1-5 as well as a Comp B pick for being small market-y and small revenue-y - including the #12 overall pick, and as you’d expect from having a selection in that section of the 1st round, there have been numerous names connected to the Reds with that pick.
The Reds hold a total bonus pool of some $8,552,100 for their 6 picks, though there’s another wrinkle related to that number. Each player drafted and signed will only receive a maximum of $100,000 up front, with deferred payments on the rest of their bonus allotments set to be paid in July 2021 and July 2022, reflecting the current financial state of the game. On top of that, after the end of Round 5, there will be a slew of free agents who, in other years, would’ve absolutely been later round picks, and they’ll only be able to sign for a maximum of $20,000.
That’s a bit of an alarming change in how clubs obtain their talent. Current Reds that would have gone undrafted in this model include Tyler Mahle (7th round), Anthony DeSclafani (6th round), and Tucker Barnhart (10th round), among others.
Not expected to deal with that complicating factor is Arizona State masher Spencer Torkelson, who is widely expected to go 1st overall to the Detroit Tigers. Vanderbilt University infielder Austin Martin is a darkhorse candidate to go #1 overall, too, and likely won’t last past #2 to the Baltimore Orioles. After them, however, the draft becomes a toss-up pretty quickly.
As for those players mentioned earlier who have seen their names connected with the Reds in mock drafts, Austin Hendrick has been most mentioned. The toolsy Pennsylvania high school OF has lightning-quick hands and easy projected power, and plucking the Mississippi State commit out of Pittsburgh’s backyard would sure be something. Another pair of sweet-swinging high school lefty OFs have also been linked with the Reds in Vanderbilt commits Pete Crow-Armstrong (scouting report) and Robert Hassell III (scouting report), though there’s a pretty solid chance Hassell is off the board before pick 12. While that trio certainly seems to reveal the hand the Reds are playing, that’s not exactly the entire story, as they’ve also been linked with several college pitchers who might be available to them at #12, too.
We’ll find out tomorrow one way or another, though. For more on the draft as a whole, you can check out details in MLB.com’s primer.
Coverage of the Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A will be televised on both MLB Network and ESPN on Wednesday, June 10th, beginning at 7 PM ET. MLB Network will also be airing pre-draft coverage beginning at 5 PM ET, and the entire draft will stream live on MLB.com.