The 2020 MLB Draft is right around the corner. Which prospects should the Washington Nationals be considering?
On June 10, the 2020 MLB draft will take place, but due to the Coronavirus, the draft has been shortened to five rounds. The reigning World Series champs have the 22nd pick in the first round, but who should they take? Here are a few prospects the Nationals should look at with their first-round pick.
Cole Wilcox, RHP, Georgia
Washington drafted Cole Wilcox in the 37th round, of the 2018 draft. Instead, Wilcox decided to stick to his commitment to the University of Georgia. 2019 marked the righties first year with the Gamecocks, where he split time in the bullpen and starting rotation. Appearing in 19 games, he went 3–2 with a 4.07 ERA, and 64 strikeouts. For the 2020 season, Wilcox was the team’s number two starter. He only made four starts before the season was canceled, due to Coronavirus. He went 3-0, with a 1.57 ERA and 32 strikeouts, in only 23 innings. According to MLB.com,
“Wilcox has some of the best pure stuff in the Draft. His fastball usually ranges from 92-97 mph and can reach 100 with some sink and armside run. Both of his mid-80s secondary pitches show signs of becoming plus offerings, with his fading changeup a tick more reliable than his power slider.”
Over the years, Mike Rizzo has built the Nationals on the strength of starting pitching. Max Scherzer is entering his age 36 season, with two years left on his contract, Stephen Strasburg is entering his age 32 year season and freshly signed to a new seven-year contract, while Patrick Corbin is entering his age 31 season, with five years left on his contract. The teams big three isn’t getting any younger and will need reinforcements in the near future.
Tyler Soderstrom, C, Turlock HS
The Nationals are no strangers to drafting kids right out of high school and should seriously consider Tyler Soderstrom if he’s still available. A UCLA commit, Soderstrom is known for his bat. In his Jr. year of high school at Turlock, he hit .450, with four homers, and 27 RBIs. His senior season was cut short due to Coronavirus. Before the season ended, the lefty appeared in four games, hitting .357, with a homer, and three RBIs.
“Soderstrom is an athletic, left-handed hitting catcher whose bat is ahead of his defense. At the plate, he’s really polished with a solid overall approach and makes the kind of loud contact that makes people sit up and take notice when he’s taking batting practice. He’s a hitter first, but he will get to his power. He might be a tick above average as a runner, especially for a catcher, and has shown he has the athleticism to play third and even the outfield.”
Over the years, Washington has moved players to different positions in order to get the best out of them. For example, Alfonso Soriano came to the District as a second baseman before being moved to the outfield. Bryce Harper was drafted as a catcher, but the team also shifted him to the outfield. It worked wonders for both players. Don’t be surprised if, down the line, they decided to do the same thing again.
The current catching core of Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes are 36 and 32 respectively. They aren’t getting any younger, and while the Nat’s have a few potential options in the minors, looking for a future replacement should still be towards the top of the team’s draft needs.
J.T. Ginn, RHP, Mississippi State
In six of the past eight years, the Nationals have spent their first-round pick on a pitcher, including the last three years in a row. It is unlikely the trend ends this year. J.T. Ginn had one of the best fastballs in his class but, only made one start this year, before undergoing Tommy John surgery. Usually, that scares off most teams, but not the Nats. The Nationals have proved time and time again, they know how to deal with the injury (think Stephen Strasburg) and have a history of drafting players who have undergone the surgery.
In 2019 (his freshmen year), Ginn went 8-4, with a 3.13 ERA, and 105 strikeouts. He went on to win SEC Freshmen of the Year. Ginn will need to overcome his injury but, has the talent that should entice the Nats. Plus, he has been receiving help from the three-time All-Star, Roy Oswalt.
“When healthy, Ginn usually deals at 91-95 mph and tops out at 97 with some of the best fastball life in the 2020 Draft, as his heater will run and sink and bore at various times. His wipeout slider can be just as difficult to hit, combining mid-80s velocity with two-plane depth. He also gets good downward action on his changeup, which shows flashes of becoming a plus offering.”
It might be worth it to take a risk on Ginn’s upside.