First Pitch: Strengths and Weaknesses of the 2020 Draft

Baseball America recently posted an article that broke down the 2020 draft picks by positions, states, schools and age. They had positions broken down by their top 100 and top 500 players and both were almost identical in results, with no position varying more than 1.6% between those two groups. That type of consistency throughout the draft feels like it would be unheard of for such a big difference in your focus groups.

MLB Pipeline has a top 200 prospects ranking of their own. Since the draft is only five rounds, with a total of 160 picks being made this year, I wanted to look at the draft strengths and weaknesses by position, using just the top 200 prospects from both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline.

As we looked at here over the winter in a series, catching and left-handed pitching are the two main weak spots in the Pittsburgh Pirates system. Outfield and right-handed pitching, positions you would expect to be strong, are both strengths for the Pirates. Shortstop isn’t deep, but it is a strength. Keep that in mind when looking at these numbers.

These lists show the total number of players for each position in the top 200. When players have two defensive spots listed, I went with their top position.

Baseball America Top 200/MLB Pipeline

RHP: 76/77

OF: 33/35

LHP: 30/32

SS: 29/19

C: 14/12

3B: 10/14

1B: 6/7

2B: 2/4

As you can see by the list, there is quite a large difference in the shortstop position. By BA’s numbers, it’s a good year for the spot. By Pipeline’s numbers, it’s average at best. Every other category is basically the same between the top 200 lists, though the players aren’t exactly the same. There’s a lot of difference as you get lower on each list.

Left-handed pitching is strong this year compared to the norm, and pitching in general is over half of each list (106/109). It’s not exactly deep for outfield, especially considering that the category covers all three positions. It’s a good year for catchers, which has been weak at the top in some recent years.

As I’ve said countless times over the years, you don’t draft for need in baseball because that need could change by the time those players are ready for the majors. You can however use it to decide between similar players. If the Pirates couldn’t decide between a catcher and an outfielder, their own system weakness should answer the question for them.

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John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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