The 2020 draft was an aberration and abomination – the former because of the pandemic, the latter because MLB— crying poor without proof as it always does—limited payouts to $100,000 last summer and the rest of the bonus to paid out over two years, interest-free. And these players were not signed to a 2020 contract, but to a 2021 contract. That effectively gives the MLB teams an additional year of control.
Some have noted that certain players on this list shouldn’t be given special treatment because they were effectively drafted on the cheap in order to “save money” for the bonuses of the other (higher) picks. I’m not sure how this is different than any other draft, except that it’s more noticeable with only a handful of picks.
And that’s the essence of this category: Regardless of the circumstances, only a limited number of players were drafted – and that’s what makes them notable.
RHP Cade Cavalli
Depending on which list you go by, he’s the new No. 1 or the new No. 2 prospect for the Nationals. Picked No. 1 in the draft, 22nd overall, Cavalli was a two-way player that began his collegiate career in the ‘pen and made 16 starts as a sophomore and a junior before the pandemic struck. As a batter, he struck out 94 times in 62G as a freshman and 24 times in 31G as a sophomore.
Cavalli features a mid-90s fastball that tops out at 98 and his top secondary pitch is a hard (87-90) slider. He also throws a curve and a change. Scouts like his mechanics and his athleticism, but… (there’s always a but) he has an injury history (back, “stress reaction” in his arm) and he’s struggled with his control at times. As one report put it: “despite strong velocity, hitters seem[ed] to see the fastball very well and hit it.”
RHP Cole Henry
Cole Henry is the consensus No. 3 prospect and the Nats’ 2nd Rd. pick in the 2020 draft (55th overall) out of LSU. The 21-y.o. (turns 22 in July) made 14 appearances and 11 starts for the Tigers as a freshman and four as a sophomore before the 2020 season ended. He throws both a four-seam and a two-seam FB in the mid-90s and uses both a CV and a CH as secondary pitches.
Here’s the but: despite the stuff, he struggles with consistency and location, especially with the offspeed stuff that enables hitters to sit on the heat and tee off. Obviously, the challenge will be for Washington’s coaches to find that consistency and command so he can live up to his ceiling as a No. 3 starter.
SS Sammy Infante
The only thing rarer than a Washington HS pick is the one that signs. Infante, a 19-y.o. SS from Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Hialeah, FL, was drafted as the compensation pick for Anthony Rendon. Of course, the pandemic had a hand in helping the Nats lure the shortstop from his commitment to Miami. Scouts seem to agree that he has no one plus tool, but a few above-average skills. However, there is some disagreement as to his ceiling as a hitter and whether he can stick at SS.
RHP Holden Powell
Powell served as a closer for most of his tenure at UCLA, racking up 26 saves and 107 K’s in 91⅔ IP across two full seasons and eight appearances in 2020. The Nats’ 3rd. Rd. pick is an obvious candidate to be rushed to the majors given his bullpen-only profile and the Nats history of poorly constructed bullpens. Features a low-90s FB that can hit 97 and a wipeout slider that generates whiffs.
C Brady Lindsly
In an ordinary year, Lindsly probably would’ve gone much, much lower than the 4th Rd. and signed for much, much less than the $20K he was given. But 2020 was an
unprecedented extraordinary unusual year. Perhaps he was an overdraft – a .275/.360/.420 line over four years and 148G with ten (10) HR – it’s not like the Nats haven’t made dubious signs before…
LHP Mitchell Parker
2020 was the third time in as many years Mitchell Parker heard his name on Draft Day. This year it was the Nats, who took the 20-y.o. with their 5th Rd. pick after he turned down the Rays in 2019 (27th Rd.) and the Cubs in 2018 (28th Rd.). Features a two-seam FB (89-93) with a high spin rate to go with a lollipop curve and a splitter that he uses like a changeup.