With COVID-19 putting a halt to all things baseball and sports in general, there is one event that will take place. The MLB amateur draft will be conducted on June 10-11.
What is not clear is how many rounds there will be.

Most are guessing with the pandemic there will only be 5 rounds. The owners agreed to at least 5 rounds in the first negotiations with the players union, when talks began about opening up baseball.  However, the hit the owners are taking with no revenue could result in the owners only agreeing to 5 rounds.

With no agreement on player salaries in place, owners can save money on bonuses by limiting the number of rounds. This is going to have a huge effect on colleges.

With only five rounds, there will be some seniors who take advantage of the extra year of eligibility awarded by the NCAA. That takes up roster spots for incoming freshmen. The fringe high school players will most likely go to college now.

The Rangers will have the 14th overall pick in the first round. Last year they took Josh Jung with the 8th overall pick. There have been a number of mock drafts out already. The Rangers have been linked with different players in almost all of them.

Here are 10 names to keep an eye out for.

Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF // Harvard Westlake, CA

Hailing from the same high school, Harvard-Westlake, that has produced big leaguers like Jack Flaherty, Max Fried, and Lucas Giolito, Crow-Armstrong has been on radars for some time. He really jumped on the national map when he starred as an underclassman on USA Baseball’s 18 and Under team that won a gold medal in the Pan-American Championships. A combination of being under the microscope for so long and a more uneven summer has led Crow-Armstrong’s start to fade a bit, though a big push at the start of the spring moved him back up Draft boards.

Crow-Armstrong stood out early on in his high school career because of his ability to hit and run. Some swing and miss over this summer had some evaluators concerned, but he does have a track record of making a lot of loud contacts. While he’s clearly hit overpower, he’s stronger than some people think and there should be pop in the future, with some of that strength and power showing up before things were shut down. A plus runner, he can really play center and might be the best defensive outfielder in the class.

A dynamic athlete who goes hard at all times, he reminds some of a Grady Sizemore type in terms of his frame. He’s committed to Vanderbilt and was moving back up closer to the top of the first round with a return to who he’d been, along with some added strength, at the beginning of his senior year.

Garrett Crochet, LHP // Tennessee

Crochet rated as Mississippi’s best prep pitching prospect in 2017 but wasn’t quite ready for pro ball or particularly signable, so he fell to the Brewers in the 34th round. He bounced between Tennessee’s rotation and bullpen in his first two college seasons, earning the Volunteers’ first NCAA tournament victory since 2005 last June — just two weeks after a line drive fractured and dislocated his jaw. He was sensational in fall practice, vaulting him into top-10-pick consideration, but missed three weeks as a precaution with soreness in his shoulder and made just one appearance during the truncated 2020 season.

After working with a 91-95 mph fastball and topping out at 97 during the spring, Crochet dealt at 96-100 for most of the fall, and his heater already played better than its velocity because it has high spin rates. His 82-85 mph slider features above-average spin rates as well and his long arms create a difficult angle on his breaking ball. He flashes a well-above-average changeup at times, throwing it around 90 mph with deceptive arm speed.

For a 6-foot-6 pitcher, Crochet does a nice job of keeping his long levers in sync and providing strikes. Scouts like his delivery and arm action, though he still needs to refine his command to make the most of his overpowering stuff. His short track record with his improved arsenal is a concern, but he still could surpass R.A. Dickey (18th overall, 1996) as the highest-drafted Volunteers pitcher ever.

Nick Bitsko, RHP // Central Bucks East, PA

The scouting industry had seen a good amount of Bitsko, even though he was thought to be one of the top high school arms in the Class of 2021. But when the big right-hander from Eastern Pennsylvania announced that he’d be graduating early, that made him eligible for this year’s Draft and put him right up with the top prep arms in the country.
Bitsko is 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, with plenty of projection and now stuff. He stood out particularly at the East Coast Pro Showcase over the summer, but he has shown consistent ability at every stop.

Bitsko was up to 96-97 mph at East Coast Pro, with all fastballs in the 92- to 96-mph range. He combines it with a hard breaking ball that shows plus shape, thrown in the 78- to the 82-mph range to get a lot of swings and misses. While he doesn’t throw it as much, he does have a solid feel for a changeup. Bitsko isn’t pure power, either, showing the ability to throw all three pitches for strikes with a chance for future plus command.

Teams were going to have to play some catch-up with Bitsko this spring because they weren’t bearing down on him over the summer as much as they were with the incoming senior class, something that couldn’t happen beyond an early bullpen session because of the shutdown. He’s committed to the University of Virginia, which could come into play, but he has the chance to be an early first-round pick.

Dillon Dingler, C // Ohio State

Dingler teamed with Ball State right-hander Kyle Nicolas, another early-round prospect for the 2020 Draft, to win Ohio state Division I baseball and basketball titles when both were Jackson High seniors in 2016-17. He spent most of his freshman season in center field and broke the hamate bone in his left hand during the season opener as a sophomore, costing him a month and limiting him after he returned. He performed well this spring, giving him a chance to become the third first-round pick in Ohio State history, following Nick Swisher (2002) and Alex Wimmers (2010).

Dingler reminds area scouts of former Wright State catcher Sean Murphy, a 2016 Athletics third-rounder who has blossomed into one of baseball’s top catching prospects. He doesn’t quite have Murphy’s plus-plus cannon but he does possess well-above-average arm strength and his accuracy continues to get better as he gains experience. His receiving also continues to improve and he shows more athleticism and mobility than most backstops.

While Dingler batted just .267/.362/.396 in his first two college seasons, he controls the strike zone well and has plus raw power, so he should be able to hold his own as a right-handed hitter. He ran a sub-6.6-second 60-yard dash during the Buckeyes’ scout day this fall, though he probably won’t maintain plus speed as he stays behind the plate. In addition to his physical tools, he also offers strong makeup and was voted an Ohio State captain as a sophomore.

Jared Kelley, RHP // Refugio, TX

Refugio (Texas) High never has produced a drafted player, though that’s about to change in a big way in 2020. Kelley entered the year rated as the nation’s top high school prospect and is regarded as Texas’ best prep pitcher since Jameson Taillon went No. 2 overall in 2010. He repeatedly dominated on the showcase circuit last summer, including an Area Code Games performance that some scouts said was the best in the long history of the event.

Few pitchers can create as much velocity with as little effort as Kelley, who can pump 93-96 mph fastballs and reach 98 with some running action. He already owns an advanced changeup with fade and sink, and he’s willing to throw it in any count. His third-best pitch at the moment is a hard slurve in the low 80s that lacks consistency but should develop into at least a solid offering.

Kelley combines his now stuff with a feel for pitching. The Texas recruit pounds the strike zone and has the look of a frontline starter who could reach the big leagues before he turns 21. His strong, physically mature frame and the ease of his delivery should allow him to log plenty of innings.

Cade Cavalli, RHP // Oklahoma

Cavalli didn’t take the mound until he was a sophomore at Bixby High and missed most of his senior season with back issues, yet still emerged as Oklahoma’s top prep pitching prospect in 2017. His arm could have fit in the top three rounds if not for health and signability questions, and he turned down the Braves as a 29th-rounder to attend Oklahoma. After spending most of his freshman season at first base, he focused on pitching as a sophomore and established himself as a likely first-rounder for the 2020 Draft — though he also missed three weeks with a stress reaction in his arm.

Cavalli produces some of the easiest velocity in his Draft class, working at 92-96 mph and topping out at 98 with riding action while expending barely more effort than he would be playing catch. He also can make hitters look bad with a low-80s curveball with power and depth, and he has developed an upper-80s slider/cutter that is catching up to his curve. He shows the potential for an average changeup once he starts using the pitch more often.

While Cavalli has the upside of a frontline starter, he comes with concerns. Though he has a strong 6-foot-4 frame and clean mechanics, he doesn’t have much track record of staying healthy or throwing strikes. His lack of command and deception also means that his premium stuff gets hit harder than it should.

Patrick Bailey, C // North Carolina State

Coming out of a Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point, N.C.) program that spawned Wil Myers, Bailey turned down the Twins as a 37th-rounder in 2017. He was named Atlantic Coast Conference freshman of the year in 2018 after setting a North Carolina State first-year record with 13 homers.

A veteran of the U.S. national 18-and-under and collegiate teams, he’s the frontrunner to become the first catcher selected in the Draft.

Bailey is a switch-hitter whose strength gives him solid raw power from both sides of the plate. His pop stands out more than his hitting ability, though he makes consistent contact and draws a healthy amount of walks. While he wasn’t productive with wood bats last summer with Team USA, scouts believe he’ll produce enough offense to profile as a regular.

Even if he doesn’t hit, Bailey provides enough defense to at least serve as a backup. He’s more athletic and moves better than most catchers. He has solid if somewhat inconsistent receiving skills and has the arm strength to keep the running game in check.

Ed Howard, SS // Mount Carmel, IL

The starting shortstop on the Jackie Robinson West (Chicago) team that went to the finals of the 2014 Little League World Series, Howard has blossomed into the best prospect at his position in the 2020 high school class. He may not have the lofty ceiling of Bobby Witt Jr. or C.J. Abrams, prep shortstops who went in the first six picks of the 2019 Draft, but he’s a steady player who could have solid tools across the board. He’s set to become the first Illinois high school position player to go in the first round since Jayson Werth in 1997.

Using a simple right-handed swing and a calm approach, Howard makes repeated hard contact. He has impressive bat speed and a projectable 6-foot-2 frame that continues to add strength, so he could develop average or better power. He has solid speed and uses it well on the bases.

A smooth defender at shortstop, Howard definitely will be able to remain at the position. He can make all the plays with athletic actions, quick hands, and a strong arm capable of making throws from a variety of angles. The Oklahoma recruit has a high baseball IQ and a knack for slowing the game down on both sides of the ball.

Zac Veen, OF // Spruce Creek, FL

There have been high school outfielders in the Class of 2020 who have been “famous” for a lot longer than Veen, a Daytona Beach-area standout. While he was the 2018 PG WWBA Underclass World Championship MVP a year ago, it really wasn’t until he was arguably the most consistent performer on this past summer’s showcase circuit that he jumped up Draft boards. With a hot start to his spring, he kept soaring up lists to be considered the top high school bat in the class.

Veen has the kind of left-handed swing that scouts can dream on, all coming from a projectable 6-foot-4 frame that can definitely add strength. He’s more hit over power in games with excellent bat speed, especially because he utilizes a spread-out stance, but he’ll show off big-time power in batting practice when he stands more upright and creates leverage, showing the ability to loft the ball consistently. He’s reminded some of Cody Bellinger offensively and has drawn some Kyle Tucker comps as well, though he’s not quite as athletic.

A solid-average runner underway, Veen plays center field now but is probably better suited for a corner spot. The Florida recruit is athletic enough with enough arm to profile in right, where his power potential could be a fit as well. If he continues to swing the bat like he did over the summer, he could very well figure into first-round conversations. His step forward at the start of the 2020 season, picking up from where he left off over the summer, has him very much in conversations among teams picking in the top 10.

Heston Kjerstad, OF // Arkansas

A 36th-round pick by the Mariners as a Texas high schooler in 2017, Kjerstad teamed with fellow top prospect Casey Martin to lead Arkansas to back-to-back College World Series appearances in their first two years of college. His 14 homers in 2018 broke the school freshman record of 13 set by eventual first-rounder Zack Cox in 2009, and Kjerstad encored with 17 as a sophomore. He offers the best left-handed power in the 2020 college class and only potential No. 1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson has more pop among collegians.

Kjerstad’s strength and bat speed give him well above-average raw power to all fields. He has a complicated swing that features a big hand circle in his load, so he has to be precise with his timing to make it work — but he has done so in college and was the top performer in the U.S. collegiate team’s lineup last summer. He’s an aggressive hitter who always will accumulate strikeouts as a tradeoff for his pop.

Though Kjerstad records below-average running times out of the batter’s box, he displays average speed once he gets going. He’s not a threat on the bases but plays a capable right field. His huge power and solid arm strength fit the profile for the position.

Through all the mock drafts so far, that seems to be the 10 names linked to the Rangers as of now. With all of the seasons being cut short, most scouts had their list relatively together already. The player who was on the most different mock drafts as the Rangers pick was Crochet out of the University of Tennessee. He has some injury issues that I would imagine most mock draft predictors didn’t take into consideration. The Rangers are not likely to waste a top 15 pick on someone who was injured before his season ended. If I had to guess which player is top on their list I think it would be Kjerstad, Howard, or Bailey.

I will do a mock draft like last season right before the draft.

Featured Image: Pig Trail Nation
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