Winners, losers, takeaways from Day 1 of 2020 MLB Draft

Alex Trautwig / Major League Baseball / Getty

The first day of the 2020 MLB Draft is complete and, without baseball actually being played during the event for once, fans were treated to some fireworks.

The work isn't finished, of course. Wednesday's new recruits still have to agree to terms with their new teams and four rounds need to be completed Thursday, on top of all the undrafted players that will need to be signed.

The first day sets the tone, though, so let's break down the top takeaways from the first 37 picks and tab some winners and losers.

Biggest steal

In a draft with surprise risers and fallers, the biggest steal goes to the Tampa Bay Rays for zigging where others zagged and landing Nick Bitsko.

When the Rays were put on the clock at No. 24, just one high school pitcher had been taken. That's nearly unheard of, and while prep arms are always high variance, Bitsko provides the type of ceiling that teams dream of at the end of the first round.

Biggest head-scratcher

It didn't take long for the Baltimore Orioles to confuse everyone with the second overall pick, but we're going to stick with a different AL East club for this one.

Out of nowhere, the Boston Red Sox selected Nick Yorke at No. 17. He's a prep second base prospect, which is rare as it is because most elite second basemen played shortstop in high school, and he entered the draft 139th in MLB Pipeline's prospect rankings.

Due to stealing signs during the 2018 season, the Red Sox forfeited their second-round pick in this draft, so there was always a chance they'd go off the board - identifying a player they really liked who could be taken before their next selection. However, there's a good chance Yorke still would have been available when Boston was slated to pick next at No. 91.

High schoolers take hit

For the first time in the 56-year history of the MLB draft, a high schooler's name wasn't called in the first seven picks. That's remarkable, and there are a few reasons for it.

First, the coronavirus pandemic negatively impacted prep players an inordinate amount. While most college players at least got to start their seasons, many high school players didn't take the field at all in 2020. Even if scouts have a lot of data on a player from the previous 12 months, a lack of more recent information can scare teams off.

Second, there's little incentive for prep stars to sign given how restrictive the signing bonuses will be. The 2020 and 2021 bonuses are frozen at the 2019 rate. While the next step for college players is always pro ball, prep players have some leverage - they can follow through on their NCAA commitments if they are drafted too low or get offered too little and then re-enter the draft when it’s more lucrative.

The third reason is strategy. With a shortened five-round draft and so many undrafted players to recruit, many teams will look to use undrafted players' teammates as part of their recruitment strategy, and that means targeting more college prospects.

Finally, there's a legitimate case to be made that this class was weaker than normal. Leading up to the draft, there simply weren't very many prep arms that seemed to be locks to go in the first round, while five college pitchers were selected in the first 11 picks.


Toronto Blue Jays

Prior to the draft, the Blue Jays were kind of in draft purgatory: out of reach of landing one of the top three guys and without the competitive-balance picks to make bonus-pool magic.

Then the Orioles passed on Austin Martin at No. 2. This wasn't expected, but it wasn't out of the blue either. Still, with two more teams selecting before the Jays at No. 5, their chances of getting Martin weren't good.

But then the Miami Marlins opted to select Max Meyer instead of Asa Lacy, who'd been ranked higher by most everyone. All Toronto had to do was see how the Kansas City Royals reacted - by taking Lacy - before picking arguably the best overall hitter in the 2020 class.

Detroit Tigers

Losing 114 games sucks, but when it eventually lands you a slugger like Spencer Torkelson, you have to trust the process to some degree.

Interestingly, the Tigers see Torkelson as a third baseman, a position he barely played at Arizona State. Either way, scouts believe he's a truly special hitter. Even if he can't turn the franchise around by himself, he joins Casey Mize (No. 1 pick in 2018) and Riley Greene (No. 5 pick in 2019), as well as the ascendant Tarik Skubal and a bevy of other pitching prospects who seem to be the future for Detroit.

College arms

Speaking of Meyer and Lacy, the pair led a robust class of college arms. Of the 37 players selected on the first day, 12 were college pitchers.

Some teams fell over themselves in order to land one, like the Atlanta Braves drafting Jared Shuster 25th overall. The left-hander posted an ERA over 6.00 in each of his first two seasons with Wake Forest.


Baltimore Orioles

Going under slot is always risky, but it paid tremendous dividends for Orioles general manager Mike Elias when he was with the Houston Astros, so you can't blame him. Except ... maybe you can.

Instead of taking the best player available at No. 2 in Martin, the club got creative and selected Heston Kjerstad. That's not necessarily bad, so long as those signing-bonus savings are used elsewhere later in the draft. But when the O's were on the clock at No. 30, they decided not to take the tough-to-sign Jared Kelley and picked shortstop Jordan Westburg instead.

By Elias' own admission, the club was looking to select a pitcher, but some of the Orioles' top targets didn't make it to them, according to Joe Trezza of That's not a great look.

Houston Astros

This year, the draft felt like the first time baseball fans came together to watch and root for an MLB event. And instead of all 30 teams getting to participate in something during an ongoing pandemic and civil unrest, the Astros were forced to sit in the corner as a reminder of the worst scandal the sport has seen in a century.

Winners, losers, takeaways from Day 1 of 2020 MLB Draft
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