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Predicting the Rockies 2020 first-round draft selection (1.0)

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An outfielder from the University of Arkansas might have a future at Coors Field

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The 2020 MLB draft will take place on Wednesday, June 10 and will be only five rounds. Normally, the draft lasts for 40 rounds, so 2020 will be is the shortest draft since MLB began using this format in 1965. It also marks a draft reduction of 86% since 2019. Shortening the draft is a cost-saving measure for team owners since allowing a 10-round draft would have cost each team roughly $1 million.

Following the five-round draft, teams will be allowed to sign unlimited free agents for a maximum bonus of $20,000. (In previous years, players drafted in the 11th round or later had a $125,000 maximum bonus. You can read more about the draft here.) The 2020 draft will use the same draft slots as the 2019 draft (before the novel coronavirus outbreak, there was a planned increase).

In addition to the new format, there’s uncertainty about those going through the 2020 draft. Because play was suspended in March, teams lack data that will allow them to do careful player evaluations, and they’re also less certain of other teams’ targets. In the absence of games, teams are relying on video and data. As Carlos Collazo of Baseball America writes: “While the draft picture is cloudier now than most years, there is a general sense that teams will aggressively target college players and prospects who have established track records that add security to their overall profile. With only five rounds and owners who don’t want to spend in the most valuable player acquisition market there is, each pick carries more weight.”

The Rockies’ system

The consensus is that the Rockies’ farm is depleted. In Baseball America’s assessment, Kyle Glaser describes the Rockies’ system as “thin,” noting that the Rockies are deepest at first base (Lavigne, Toglia, Welker, and Nevin) and relief pitcher (Doyle, Bowden, and Wallace) while arguing they are weakest in the outfield. As Glaser writes, “Hilliard impressed in his big league debut last year, but beyond him there are few outfielders of note in the Rockies system.” Glaser also includes this observation: “The Rockies have had 11 first-day draft picks since 2016. They’ve used every one on a pitcher, first baseman or third baseman.”

The Rockies are scheduled to have the following picks in the first five rounds:

  • 9th (First Round; $4,949,100 slot)
  • 35th (Competitive Round A; $2,095,800 slot),
  • 46th (Second Round; $1,617,400 slot)
  • 81st (Third Round; $755,300 slot),
  • 110th (Fourth Round; $527,800 slot)
  • 140th (Fifth Round; $394,300 slot)

You can see the complete 2020 draft order and bonus slot values here.

The Rockies’ (current) predicted selection

Below are predictions for the Rockies 2020 first-round draft pick. Spoiler: Most agree with Glaser about the Rockies’ need for more outfield depth, and there is considerable agreement that the Rockies will select Heston Kjerstad, an outfielder from the University of Arkansas.

A native of Amarillo, Texas, Kjerstad is a junior who is 6’3” and 205 lbs. He bats left and throws right. He began the season as a predicted All SEC First-team outfielder and on the Preseason Golden Spikes Watch List. You can find his University of Arkansas stats here. (He is also the player most likely inherit the Peter Lambert two-kids-in-a-trench coat jokes.)

COLLEGE BASEBALL: MAR 25 Arkansas at Florida Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Here’s what FanGraphs has to say about Kjerstad:

TLDR

Prototypical college corner bat with plus raw power that looks like he’ll hit enough to be an everyday guy. Played a lot of 1B in the fall but likely stays in RF this spring and in pro ball.

Full Report

Kjerstad has performed against the best pitching in the country since he set foot on campus, and in 150 career games with Arkansas he hit .343/.421/.590, including a white hot .448/.513/.791 in 2020, during which Kjerstad hit in all sixteen games he played. He’s kept his big, 6-foot-3 frame lean and speedy during that time, relevant for the corner-only prospect because Kjerstad puts a lot of balls in play down both baselines and runs well enough to turn them all into extra bases. He can drop the bat head and lift balls at his knees, and also get on top of pitches at the top of the zone. It’s plus bat control on a somewhat odd-looking swing. If there are concerns about Kjerstad’s cut, I’m not hearing them, they’re drowned out by how well he’s performed. He may have been about to have a year like J.J. Bleday’s 2019 in which he clearly establishes himself as the most reliable tier 2 college hitter in the draft, and teams in the top 10 may view him as such.

(FanGraphs has a detailed draft summary here.)

NCAA BASEBALL: JUN 10 Div 1 Championship Super Regionals - Ole Miss at Arkansas Photo by Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

You can read more about Kjerstad and why he’s a good fit for the Rockies at Baseball America (“His power profile is almost as good as anyone in the class,” said one exec. “Hits them out to all parts of the park”); MLB Pipeline (“Many teams like Kjerstad’s left-handed power and the Rockies would likely be very interested to see how it will play in Coors Field); and The Athletic (“He’s got loose hands but had high strikeout rates in his first two years with the Razorbacks that cause some concern about his long-term hit tool”).

Here are some video highlights that were updated as of March 2020:

An early MLB Pipeline prediction suggested the Rockies would take Reid Detmers, a LHP from Louisville, but that source has been updated to Kjerstad.

The probable top 10 selections

While nothing is certain, these players are projected as most likely to be drafted in the first 10 selections:

Projected Top 10 Draft Choices

Player Position School
Player Position School
Spencer Torkelson 1B Arizona State
Austin Martin 3B/OF Vanderbilt
Asa Lacy LHP Texas A&M
Nick Gonzales 2B New Mexico State
Zac Veen OF Spruce Creek High School (FL)
Emerson Hancock RHP Georgia
Reid Detmers LHP Louisville
Max Meyer RHP Minnesota
Heston Kjerstad OF Arkansas
Robert Hassell OF Independence High School (TN)

Your predictions and recommendations

What do you think? Are the experts right about the Rockies and the draft?

Poll

What position should the Rockies draft for with their 9th pick?

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    A pitcher (You can never have too many)
    (78 votes)
  • 0%
    An infielder (Let’s keep up the tradition)
    (0 votes)
  • 52%
    An outfielder (The Rockies need to rebuild here)
    (87 votes)
165 votes total Vote Now

Also, based on the top ten selections, which player would you choose? Let us know in the comments.

We’ll be following the draft as it gets closer, but for now, Kjerstad is the experts’ consensus pick for purple pinstripes.