After another rough season for the Orioles (54-108), MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis weighed in on a few college prospects Orioles fans should keep their eyes on for the 2020 MLB Draft. The Orioles will pick second in the draft next spring.
Callis, who has been covering the draft since 1988, believes there are three players fans can zero in on at the moment: Georgia right-handed pitcher Emerson Hancock, Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson and Vanderbilt infielder Austin Martin.
Coming in at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Hancock will enter his junior season with the Bulldogs having enjoyed a terrific sophomore season. Posting a record of 8-3, the right-hander showed a big arm and an ability to miss bats. With 97 strikeouts and 1.99 ERA in 90.1 innings on the season, Hancock is viewed as one of the top players in the SEC and the top pitcher on draft boards.
With Hancock having a bit of injury history — he missed some time last spring due to a lat injury — Hancock carries some risk in terms of durability, according to Callis.
“Up to 98, slider can be pretty nasty, flashes of a plus change, curveball too,” Callis said on Glenn Clark Radio Oct. 1. “Lot of strikes. The question with him is going to be health a little bit because he was great. His first 10 starts last year, he gave up eight runs and he had a lat issue that sidelined him for a couple of weeks, more of a precaution, and he wasn’t as sharp as he got back. And he didn’t pitch anywhere during the summer, so there’s a little bit of a durability question with him.”
Torkelson is entering his junior season for Sun Devils coming off a big season as well. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, Torkelson is regarded as a power hitter. He hit 23 home runs in 2019 and 25 as a freshman in 2018. That broke the school record for home runs by a freshman in a single season previously held by Barry Bonds. In addition to possessing big power, Torkelson also has a knack for making contact; he had 85 hits and hit .351 last season.
Callis believes Torkelson may not necessarily have a higher ceiling than Hancock but thinks Torkelson, a potential middle-of-the-order bat, is the safer pick for a team looking for someone who can be an impact player early on.
“You can maybe play him at left field, he might be a first baseman, but he’s a big-time power hitter,” Callis said. “He’s similar to [Chicago White Sox first base prospect] Andrew Vaughn, who went No. 3 in this year’s draft, although I think you’d say that Vaughn was a better pure hitter than Torkelson and Torkelson might have a little bit more power.”
“Hitters are a safer bet than pitchers,” Callis added. “Not that you’re going to go safe … but you know there’s a lot of volatility with pitchers and you know how pitchers get hurt. You know Hancock had a minor injury last year. And here’s more of a sure thing.”
Although Hancock and Torkelson are a top their class this upcoming season, Callis also mentioned Martin as a potential riser who could also be a top pick in the spring.
Martin won the national championship with the Commodores in June. He’ll enter his junior season as one of the most versatile players in college baseball while also playing in the SEC, college baseball’s toughest conference. Martin’s versatility was an asset to Vanderbilt, which has played him at third base, second base and the outfield.
Despite his major contributions on the defensive side of the ball, Martin’s ability as pure hitter is what makes him stand out as prospect. Martin has the ability to constantly get on base (.495 on-base percentage in 2019), makes a lot of contact (98 hits, .407 average) and has some power (10 home runs).
Callis believes that with Martin’s possible position change to shortstop and his continued upward trajectory as a hitter, he could rise into the discussion of going top two or even No. 1.
“I think there’s a chance Vanderbilt loses their shortstop next year because their shortstop just graduated,” Callis said. “And he’s a tremendous pure hitter. Led the SEC in hits and on-base percentage while winning a national title last year, so he might factor in there as well, especially if he moves to shortstop and has a big spring.”
To hear more from Callis, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics