The Milwaukee Brewers stocked up on up-the-middle bats in the 2020 MLB Draft. What was the rest of the NL Central up to?
Despite many expecting the Milwaukee Brewers to load up on some pitching prospects in this year’s draft, scouting director Tod Johnson instead went for advanced college bats to try to improve the Brewers farm system.
On the major league field, whenever we get back to playing those games, the Brewers remain competitive with every team in the NL Central division. But the Crew’s farm system has been rated as far worse than every other team, not only in the division, but in baseball as well.
Entering 2020, the Brewers did not have a single Top 100 prospect on MLB Pipeline. That should change with the addition of Garrett Mitchell atop the Crew’s prospect list. It’s clear the Brewers improved their farm system, but what about the rest of the division? Let’s take a look.
The Pirates have the best rated farm system in the NL Central, with Pipeline slotting them at 15th in MLB. After a miserable 2019 season, the Pirates were picking in the top 10.
In the first round, the Pirates took New Mexico State 2B/SS Nick Gonzales with the 7th overall pick. Gonzales has drawn comparisons to the Brewers own Keston Hiura with his short, powerful swing and advanced hit tool. Gonzales is better defensively than Hiura and could end up with similar offensive production.
After that, the Pirates loaded up on pitching. They took South Carolina RHP Carmen Mlodzinski, who has great upside potential, with the 31st pick. Then they followed with a hard throwing high school righty in Jared Jones, and three more college righties in Nick Garcia, Jack Hartman, and Logan Hofmann.
Overall, this looks like a solid draft class for the Pirates, who desperately need talent to quickly move through the system and get to the big leagues. Getting an impact bat that should be up by around 2022 and several high upside, advanced pitchers should help them out.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals had seven picks in this draft, getting an extra for the free agent loss of Marcell Ozuna plus their Competitive Balance pick. They had a clear strategy when it came to this draft: Load up on high school players early, then go college players on the back end to save bonus money to pay those high schoolers.
The first three picks for the Redbirds, 3B Jordan Walker, SS Masyn Winn, and RHP Tink Hence, were all prep players that will likely command above-slot bonuses. Walker and Winn both have huge raw power while Hence has an amazing name and huge fastball, sitting in mid-90s at just 17 years old.
The Brewers picked directly before the Cardinals in each of the five rounds, perhaps swiping some targets off the board for the Redbirds.
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They finished out with a couple of college outfielders in Alec Burleson and L.J. Jones and then some college pitchers in Levi Prater and Ian Bedell.
I really like Ian Bedell as a prospect and with the Cardinals having a strong pitching development system, he’s likely to be a thorn in the Brewers side in the near future. They had a lot of picks and got some great upside in this draft.
In the first round, the Reds might have grabbed the best power bat in this draft class, taking outfielder Austin Hendrick with the 12th pick. He’s likely to be the latest in a long line of power hitting outfielders that succeed in the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ballpark.
There’s some swing-and-miss issues in his game that might bring down his ability to make contact enough to maximize his power potential. It could take a while to develop his bat and the Reds are trying to push themselves into contention in a crowded top of the division.
The Reds took two more bats, both of them high school players, in Jackson Miller and Mac Wainwright. Miller is a catcher who will need time to develop and Wainwright is an outfielder.
When the Reds went for pitchers, they took from the college ranks, starting with Christian Roa in the second round. That might’ve been a little bit of a reach but he’s a strike-thrower that can reach the mid-90s and has a pretty high floor as a back end starting pitcher, with the upside of a mid-rotation arm.
Their other pitchers look like bullpen guys. Bryce Bonnin can reach the upper 90s but he has trouble commanding pitches. The Reds’ 5th rounder, Joe Boyle, is 6’7″ and throws 100 MPH. So that’s fun. He has two solid pitches and looks like he could be a late inning reliever if he can harness some more command as he develops.
In the first round, the Cubs stayed local and drafted high school shortstop Ed Howard, which is a great pick for them. It’s always great to see talented prospects get drafted by their hometown team, even if it is to your rival. Howard has the defensive chops to stick at shortstop moving forward and he can put up some solid offensive numbers, although his defense will be what carries him.
In the third round, the Cubs took Michigan OF Jordan Nwogu. He projects to move over to left field instead of sticking in center and his hit tool is below average.
The Cubs took two pitchers are strictly relievers going forward in the second and fourth rounds. Burl Carraway was their second rounder and he should quickly move through the minor league system. In the fourth round, the Cubs took Luke Little, who has a 100+ MPH fastball and could be the next Aroldis Chapman or Jordan Hicks. If LIttle can harness command of that fastball, look out NL Central.
The Cubs haven’t been able to develop much starting pitching in the last few years and this year they didn’t take a shot at any starters, instead taking a few relievers. Carraway and Little could help out the big league club in relative short order, but the potential upside is limited out of the bullpen.
The NL Central is very competitive at the major league level. None of the organizations in this division have particularly strong farm systems, which makes adding strength to them crucial.