Michael Woods/Associated Press
The first round of the 2020 MLB draft did not play out as many experts thought it would Wednesday.
After the Detroit Tigers selected Spencer Torkelson at No. 1, the Baltimore Orioles and Miami Marlins made surprising choices that allowed the Toronto Blue Jays, among others, to choose top-tier prospects.
As the first round went on, more ballclubs selected players well above where they were ranked before the event. The players in question could turn into major league stars, but some have to be viewed as risky picks.
MLB Draft Results
MLB Draft Grades
Chicago Cubs: B
Chicago White Sox: C+
Kansas City: A
Los Angeles Angels: A-
Los Angeles Dodgers: B
New York Mets: A-
New York Yankees: A-
San Diego: A-
San Francisco: B+
St. Louis: B
Tampa Bay: B+
The Blue Jays were the biggest winner of the first round.
They chose Austin Martin, who was considered one of the top two prospects in the draft class, at No. 5 after the Baltimore Orioles’ unexpected pick of Heston Kjerstad.
Toronto amateur scouting director Shane Farrell was as surprised as viewers at home that he had the chance to land Martin, per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi:
“We were a little surprised [that Martin was available]. Obviously we’re keeping an eye on the mock drafts as they come out throughout the week and are aware of industry consensus, but it really started to shake up at picks two and three and we were surprised a bit but certainly prepared to make that selection. We were ecstatic to have the chance to pick Austin.“
Before the draft, Martin was listed as the No. 1 prospect by The Athletic’s Keith Law, and he was considered the best contact hitter in the class.
Martin was announced as a shortstop, but he can also play second and third base, as well as outfield.
ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel highlighted Martin’s defensive range in his pre-draft rankings: “He’s…well-equipped to be average defensively in center field or at second base.”
That is important to keep in mind since the Blue Jays already have Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio installed on the infield.
If Toronto wants all four players in the lineup, it can position Martin in the outfield or select one to be the designated hitter.
You can’t mention Toronto’s selection without talking about Baltimore’s decision at No. 2.
Even though they passed on Martin, the Orioles’ front-office personnel seemed pleased with the pick, per Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun.
“We absolutely love this bat,” executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said on a video posted to the Orioles’ Twitter account. “He was the best left-handed hitter in the country this year, plays a good right field. He’s a big guy with gigantic power.”
The Arkansas product could end up as the perfect complement to 2019 top selection Adley Rutschman, but until then, his trajectory to the majors will be compared to Martin’s.
Baltimore did take a shortstop with the No. 30 overall pick in Compensatory Round A in Mississippi State’s Jordan Westburg, but he was not the middle infielder most expected the franchise to choose.
California high school second baseman Nick Yorke was the player with the largest disparity between first-round pick and prospect ranking.
The No. 17 overall selection was listed at No. 139 in the draft class by MLB.com, and he did not appear in any mock drafts building up to the event.
While the pick felt like it came out of nowhere, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom thought he brought in a first-round talent, per Boston.com’s Jenna Ciccotelli: “We feel that if the spring had gotten to play out the way that it would in a normal year, the public perception of him would have been a lot different.”
Lack of playing time was a larger concern for high school prospects since their senior seasons could have been important for their development and draft stock. College players also lost a season, but teams had bigger scouting databases to work off when evaluating those prospects.
Instead of playing it safe with UCLA outfielder Garrett Mitchell or college pitchers Bryce Jarvis and Cade Cavalli, the Red Sox took a risk on a player not expected to be chosen until Thursday.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.