Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press
Baseball fans do not have a whole lot to be optimistic about these days.
While the NBA and NHL are headed towards restarts in their respective leagues, Major League Baseball remains at a standstill.
Owners and players continue to jockey for leverage in terms of a plan for the 2020 season, with MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark issuing a statement saying players “resoundingly rejected” overtures for fewer games and more pay cuts.
The fate of the 2020 season remains unknown. But despite the absence of games, all 30 clubs have been making preparations for the 2020 MLB Amateur Draft.
All 30 teams are hoping to make consequential additions to their current prospect pools. Some teams have more urgency in drafting prospects they believe can make it to the big leagues quicker. Contending squads are more content to let their talent develop.
But for some teams, there has to be something of a balance between looking to make a splash on an impact prospect while also hoping to build for the future.
Here are the latest rumors on a pair of National League West clubs hoping to set themselves up to overcome the Los Angeles Dodgers’ stranglehold on the division, as well as a possible fringe playoff team in the Texas Rangers.
Giants Might Draft Local Catcher
The San Francisco Giants were among the most successful franchises of the 2010s, capturing three World Series titles and putting a pretty consistent winner on the diamond.
But while the Giants hoped for one last hurrah in 2019, they have clearly entered a transition period. Longtime manager Bruce Bochy retired, and left-handed ace Madison Bumgarner signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in free agency.
A new crop of Giants players will lead the franchise into this next decade. While unheralded guys like Mike Yastrzemski and Donovan Solano put up good numbers in 2019, San Francisco clearly needs to build its farm back up.
Keith Law of The Athletic reported the link between the Giants and high school catcher Tyler Soderstrom has been mentioned “again and again.” Soderstrom has spent his prep years playing at Turlock High School in the northern San Joaquin Valley, so it makes sense the Giants have a feel for the hometown kid.
However, San Francisco’s top prospect, Joey Bart, is also a catcher. Bart is ranked 14th in the MLB.com Top 100 rankings, and there is a real chance he could be in the bigs as soon as this year.
Soderstrom said he loves catching, per MLB.com’s David Adler, though he also said he would play “anywhere” on the field so long as he sees consistent at-bats.
It certainly would not be unheard of for the Giants to convert Soderstrom. The Chicago Cubs have done as much with Kyle Schwarber, who was a catcher at Indiana University before becoming the team’s primary left fielder.
The Giants might feel Soderstrom’s hit tool is too much to pass up if he falls to them at No. 13.
Will Diamondbacks Draft For “Upside” Again?
Law said the Diamondbacks and Mike Hazen have had their “biggest successes” drafting high school players in the last few years.
As such, Law projects the Diamondbacks will select Ed Howard, a shortstop from Mount Carmel High School in the Chicago area.
Howard played for the Jackie Robinson West squad that captured the U.S. championship during the 2014 Little League World Series, and he has since developed into one of the best shortstop prospects in baseball.
Law reported a number of executives picking in the 20s said they hope Howard falls to them, though—given the “upside” notion—it is easy to see why the Diamondbacks would take him at the No. 18 spot.
Howard has garnered a reputation as one of the smoothest defensive players in the draft. Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin even nicknamed him “Silk.”
Although Howard has not projected much as a power hitter, he has a decent hit tool and good speed. Still, it is his defensive abilities that make him so highly coveted.
The Diamondbacks just signed current big-league shortstop Nick Ahmed to a four-year extension and also have Geraldo Perdomo in their system. But, as recent precedent dictates, they might still buy high on Howard.
Rangers Hoping to Add Young Pitching
Texas Rangers executive Jon Daniels understood the team’s need for more rotational depth when he went out and acquired former Cleveland Indians right-hander Corey Kluber this winter.
It would appear the Rangers are also looking to add arms in their farm system.
Law reported Texas is among the teams taking a long look at Pennsylvania high schooler Nick Bitsko, a guy who might offer two-way potential.
Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com noted Bitsko has “Justin Verlander-type potential” on the hill, though he has also told The Intelligencer (h/t Manny Randhawa of MLB.com) he has a clear desire to keep hitting once he joins the professional ranks.
Two-way players have become more prevalent as of late. Los Angeles Angeles star Shohei Ohtani has shown proficiency both at the dish and on the mound, and the Tampa Bay Rays have shown a willingness to give left-hander Brendan McKay some at-bats.
Regardless, the Rangers have a relative shortage in pitching prospects. Bitsko might be an upside guy who they could develop on the mound while also affording him some extra plate appearances.