Photo credit: Rich Schultz/Getty Images
As most other sporting events around the globe, the 2020 Major League Baseball Draft was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of rounds in the draft decreased from 40 rounds to just five.
In 2019, 1,217 picks were made during the draft while this year, only 160 players were selected. This leaves over 1,000 prospective players to become free agents or go back to school and try to improve their draft stock. This specifically impacts the New York Mets as they have reaped the benefits of late-round draft picks in the past.
They currently have nine players on their roster that were drafted after the fifth round in their respective draft classes. These include star players Jacob deGrom (ninth), Jeff McNeil (12th), and Seth Lugo (34th).
Heading into the 2020 draft, the Mets had the 20th-ranked farm system in baseball, according to MLB.com. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen needed to make up for talent lost in trades during the 2018 and 2019 calendar year.
The biggest prospect lost over Van Wagenen’s time as GM was outfielder Jarred Kelenic. Kelenic was part of the trade for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz in December 2018. Alexander Ramirez, Endy Rodriguez and Freddy Valdez are the only outfielders to rank among the Mets’ top 30 prospects and none of those three have reached Class-A ball. Thus, it is clear that high-ceiling outfielders were a need in the draft and Van Wagenen did not disappoint.
Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF
With the 19th overall pick, the Mets selected prep outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong from Harvard-Westlake High School in California. Crow-Armstrong, a Vanderbilt commit, is considered the best defensive outfielder in the prep class. He has plus speed, an above-average hit tool, and elite defensive prowess. He stood out to teams after his tremendous junior season where he posted this stat line in just 34 games:
.395 AVG / 3 HR / 23 RBI / 40 R / 47 H / 7 K
Crow-Armstrong was batting at a .514 clip this past spring before the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the rest of his final season. However, he was able to show more development when he participated with the 18U USA Baseball National Team in 2018 and 2019. He put up a stat line of .364 AVG / .405 OBP / .606 SLG and made multiple stellar defensive plays in center field during the U-18 Baseball World Cup in 2019.
He had been on the national radar screen since he was just 12 years old, according to many, so the potential he possesses is unlimited.
“Pete stood out so far up the board that, regardless of position, regardless of college or high school, it didn’t matter,” Van Wagenen said of his decision to draft the California prospect.
Crow-Armstrong will be developed as a center fielder and potential lead-off hitter for the Mets in years to come.
MLB Player Comparisons: Brett Gardner, Adam Eaton and Grady Sizemore
J.T. Ginn, P
With their second-round pick, the 54th overall, the Mets selected right-handed pitcher J.T. Ginn out of Mississippi State. Ginn was originally drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the 2018 draft. He was coming out of high school, so he didn’t sign when his asking price wasn’t met by the Dodgers. Ginn went on to pitch a phenomenal freshman season at Mississippi State with this stat line that led him to win SEC Freshman of the Year:
3.13 ERA / 8-4 / 105 K / 19 BB / 86.1 IP / 1.054 WHIP / 10.9 K/9
Van Wagenen has been known to take risky picks for high-potential players, and Ginn is exactly that. In Ginn’s first start of the 2020 season, he was pulled after just three innings due to discomfort in his elbow. Ginn ended up requiring Tommy John surgery soon after in March which ended his sophomore campaign. Although Ginn is currently hurt, he is one of the top arms in the draft when healthy. He has three pitches in his arsenal: a low-to-mid-90’s fastball that moves, a wipe-out slider, and an above-average changeup. He has great command and is super athletic, but there still is concern about his durability.
The Mets have experience with pitchers requiring Tommy John surgery at a young age including current starters Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz. deGrom eventually evolved into an ace of the rotation, winning back-to-back Cy Young Awards. Van Wagenen is hoping the same fate lies for Ginn in the years to come. Ginn will be back on the mound at some point in the spring of 2021 and it will be intriguing to see how he develops after a return from injury.
MLB Player Comparisons: Shane Bieber and Carlos Mármol
Isaiah Greene, OF
With their compensation round B pick, the 69th overall, the Mets selected prep outfielder Isaiah Greene from Corona High School in California. The Mets received this pick when Zack Wheeler declined a qualifying offer and signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. Greene, a Missouri commit, is another high-ceiling outfielder that has a sweet lefty swing and elite speed. He gained a lot of attention after a superb performance at the 2019 All-Area Code Games where he put up this stat line:
.429 AVG / .438 OBP / .714 SLG
Greene started out his 2020 senior season slow hitting at a .067 clip in only five games. Had he be given the opportunity of a whole season, most believe he would have found his swing in no time. His overall high school stat line below still shows the oozing potential Greene possesses:
.309 AVG / .405 OBP / .460 SLG / 4 HR / 30 RBI / 65 R
Greene is only 18 years old and still has plenty of skills to develop, but his potential is high. He is already solid defensively with elite speed, and an above-average hitting tool. The Mets will most likely develop Greene in center field, but he could also be pushed to the corner spots as well. With time, the Mets’ outfield could be home to both Greene and first-round pick Crow-Armstrong.
MLB Player Comparisons: Garrett Anderson, Juan Soto and Michael Brantley
Anthony Walters, SS
With their third-round pick, the 91st overall, the Mets selected shortstop Anthony Walters out of San Diego State. This was the first of three picks that were chosen by Van Wagenen in order to save signing money for the top three picks. Walters originally played at California in 2017 where he put up a mediocre stat line:
.191 AVG / .295 OBP / .515 SLG / 0 HR / 18 K / 4 RBI
However, his versatility was shown as he played at shortstop, second base, left field, and third base. Walters then transferred to Mt. San Antonio College for his 2018 season where he improved greatly with an outstanding stat line:
.374 AVG / .483 OBP / .718 SLG / 10 HR / 52 R / 62 RBI
Walters missed the entire 2019 season after tearing his ACL, and transferred to San Diego State as a redshirt junior. He was batting .271 in 16 games before the pandemic stopped his season short. Although Walters has been inconsistent at the plate, he has value defensively as he profiles as a utility infielder. Since the Mets already have two top shortstop prospects, Ronny Mauricio and Andres Gimenez, Walters will be developed most likely at second or third base.
MLB Player Comparisons: Daniel Robertson
Matthew Dyer, C
With the 120th overall pick, the Mets selected catcher and utility man Matthew Dyer out of Arizona in the fourth round. Dyer was the second player that Van Wagenen selected in order to save money for the top three picks. Dyer originally played at Oregon in 2017 where he put up this average stat line:
.268 AVG / .355 OBP / .362 SLG / 0 HR / 40 K / 17 RBI / 20 R
Dyer transferred from Oregon because he missed home and stated that the Ducks’ baseball program was not a good fit. He sat out the 2018 season per NCAA rules, but it was the worth the wait as he showed massive improvement in 2019 with the Wildcats. Dyer had a 20-game hit streak during the 2019 season which contributes to this stat line:
.393 AVG / .480 OBP / .571 SLG / 4 HR / 28 K / 28 RBI / 46 R
Dyer started the 2020 season out slow, hitting at a .220 clip before the pandemic stopped him short of getting into a rhythm at the plate. He compares similarly to previous pick Anthony Walters, in that he has defensive versatility across the diamond. He played all fielding positions except shortstop and center field during the shortened 2020 season.
Dyer is also athletic and deceptively speedy for someone his size and weight. Dyer has great arm strength. It will be interesting to see which position the Mets want to develop Dyer at. Don’t be surprised if he’s developed at multiple positions to best utilize his versatility.
MLB Player Comparisons: Austin Barnes and Tony Walters
Eric Orze, P
With their final pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, the Mets selected right-handed pitcher Eric Orze from the University of New Orleans. Orze’s story is one that is truly inspiring. Orze has already beaten cancer twice — first it was testicular cancer and then skin cancer. His 2018 season was hampered by abdominal pain that eventually led to the cancer diagnosis.
He then missed all of 2019 recovering from weight loss and fatigue. However, this did not deter him from getting back to the mound for the 2020 season. He put up these great numbers in his brief four appearances during the 2020 pandemic-shortened campaign:
3-0 / 2.75 ERA / 29 K / 5 BB / 19.2 IP / 1.373 WHIP / 13.3 K/9
Orze has two main pitches in his arsenal: low-to-mid 90’s-fastball and a put-away splitter. He also throws a slider and cutter. The Mets will most likely develop Orze as a reliever in the next few years. Orze has shown mental and physical toughness after facing cancer twice in the same year and will be exciting to follow in the years to come. Tommy Tanous, Mets’ vice president of international and amateur scouting, said it best: “This is a kid that will not quit”.
MLB Player Comparisons: Kirby Yates and Ryne Stanek
Overall, this class deserves an A grade, assuming all six players sign. Van Wagenen executed his strategy of picking high-talent players with the picks of Crow-Armstrong, Ginn, and Greene. The next three players were selected to sign for an under-slot value, which in turn, would be used to sign those top three players.
Van Wagenen did not disappoint in replacing top prospect Kelenic with phenomenal picks of Crow-Armstrong and Greene. Walters, Dyer, and Orze could also surprise many with their development in the next few years.
The biggest question of the Mets’ 2020 draft is whether they will be able to sign Ginn. The Mets have already signed three of their players for under-slot values:
Orze, the Mets’ fifth-round pick, should also end up signing for under $100,000. This leaves about $5.9 million to sign Crow-Armstrong and Ginn. If Crow-Armstrong signs for the slot value ($3.359 million), it will leave about $2.5 million to sign Ginn.
This amount of money should be enough to sign Ginn and cap off a wonderful draft by Van Wagenen. The Mets have also signed multiple undrafted free agents in recent days.