The 2020 MLB draft will be unlike any other due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Professional scouts didn’t have a chance to properly evaluate eligible prospects for this year’s draft, as players’ seasons were either cut short or didn’t even begin. The pandemic also has caused baseball to shorten the length of the draft from 40 rounds to potentially as few as five rounds.
These two factors will eliminate prospects from soaring up draft boards in the months leading up to the draft. It also will cause teams to focus on college players, especially ones with previous track records of success.
Below are three players who are undervalued in the 2020 MLB draft. While many players could be considered undervalued, this group of prospects stands out to me. All three have the talent to be difference-makers in the professional ranks and likely would have drastically improved their draft stocks had there been a spring season.
Clayton Beeter, RHP, Texas Tech
Texas Tech righty Clayton Beeter is in the mix to be selected as high as the second half of the first round. Numerous teams are high on Beeter, but his draft status remains unknown because he doesn’t have the track record other college pitchers have in this year’s class.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound righty served primarily as Texas Tech’s closer as a redshirt freshman last season. He earned All-American honors last year and returned this season as Texas Tech’s No. 1 starter. In 21 innings, Beeter recorded a 2.14 ERA with 33 strikeouts (14.1 per nine innings) and four walks allowed this season.
In his four starts this spring, he had an electric repertoire of pitches, which was headlined by his mid-90s fastball and above-average breaking ball.
Multiple scouts that I have spoke with are extremely high on Beeter and believe he’s one of the top college starting pitchers in this year’s draft. One area scout even said he might have been a top-10 pick last year had he been eligible and displayed the stuff he did this spring all of last year as a starter.
Markevian Hence, RHP, Watson Chapel (Ark.) High School
Markevian Hence, who goes by the nickname “Tink,” is one of the youngest prospects in this year’s draft class.
Hence, a 6-1, 175-pound righty, experienced an uptick in fastball velocity last fall when he was clocked at 96 mph at the World Wood Bat Association World Championship. He credited the velocity increase to a change in arm slot, as he transitioned from three-quarters to over the top.
Hence throws a four-seam fastball, two-seamer, curveball, slider and changeup. He exhibited solid command of all of his pitches last summer and fall.
His fastballs are his best pitches and are currently above-average offerings. His slider is his top off-speed pitch and generates swings and misses.
Despite his smaller frame, he has the repertoire, ability to repeat his delivery and athleticism that major league teams seek in a starting pitcher long term.
Multiple scouts that I spoke with described Hence as “electric” and believe he has the potential to be one of the top pro pitchers from this year’s prep class.
A full spring season would have helped Hence gain exposure and likely improved his draft stock. As of now, Hence likely will be drafted anywhere between the second to fourth round.
Luke Little, LHP, San Jacinto (Texas) College
Luke Little is an imposing 6-8, 225-pound left-handed pitcher who displayed encouraging results in five appearances this spring. Little, whose top two pitches are his high-90s fastball and a wipeout slider, recorded a 2.00 ERA with 17 strikeouts and three walks allowed in nine innings as a sophomore at San Jacinto.
His success was an improvement over last year’s numbers when he posted a 2.04 ERA with 69 strikeouts and 36 walks allowed in 35 1/3 innings as a starter and reliever in 2019.
Little averaged 17.58 strikeouts per nine innings as a freshman. He followed that up with a 17.00 K/9 rate in his abbreviated sophomore season this spring.
Teams are familiar with Little, as he was in draft discussions last year. But his command struggles caused teams to fall short of Little’s signing bonus demands.
Although he tweaked his back and missed multiple starts this spring, Little showed improved command. He currently profiles better as a late-inning reliever but it wouldn’t shock me if a team tried him in the rotation due to his size and five-pitch mix.
Little likely will be drafted anywhere between the third to fifth round.
Read more stories on top 2020 MLB draft prospects here.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for five years. He’s interviewed 191 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.