Sure, some sports are back. But “sports” as we know them are largely still on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic. Today is Day 90 without sports ⚾️.
Ten years ago this week: Bryce Harper went first overall to the Washington Nationals in the MLB draft.
A no-brainer at the time — he had been anointed a once-in-a-generation prospect, essentially baseball’s version of LeBron James — the Nationals’ choice has aged well, even as Harper has packed up for Philadelphia and other members of his draft class, such as Manny Machado, Chris Sale and Christian Yelich, have blossomed into similar stardom.
There’s far less hype surrounding the potential top picks in the 2020 MLB draft, which starts Wednesday (7 p.m. ET on ESPN and MLB Network, Rou). With their senior seasons almost entirely wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic, taking with it the chance to provide teams with data compiled through video and in-person scouting, many high school standouts have opted to attend college or accept the likelihood of a below-market draft slot.
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Instead, college stars should dominate the upper part of the draft, which has been shortened to five rounds. Here are five prospects poised to the lead the 2020 draft:
Arizona State 1B Spencer Torkelson
Torkelson was on his way to rewriting Arizona State’s record book before the NCAA canceled the regular season — he was just three home runs shy of Bob Horner’s career mark at a program also known for producing Reggie Jackson and Barry Bonds, among others. He hit .351 with 23 homers in 242 at-bats as a sophomore and was slugging .780 through 82 plate appearances in 2020. Despite not being drafted coming out of high school, Torkelson is in line to become the first right-handed hitting first baseman to ever go No. 1.
Vanderbilt 3B/OF Austin Martin
Draft experts have praised Martin’s hit tools, with MLB.com citing a swing that allows the Vanderbilt star “to make line-drive contact seemingly at will,” but there are open-ended questions about his future on defense. He won’t be a shortstop. But will Martin end up in center field? Second base? Third base?
Texas A&M SP Asa Lacy
Lacy, a 6-foot-4 left-hander with a four-pitch arsenal, has cemented his place as the draft’s top pitching prospect after allowing just two earned runs and striking out 46 in 24 innings of work this spring. (If he had maintained that pace, his 17.3 strikeouts per nine innings would have set an NCAA record.) Lacy has moved ahead of Georgia starter Emerson Hancock, who at this point last year had been viewed as a contender to go first overall.
New Mexico State 2B Nick Gonzales
Gonzales has put up gaudy hitting numbers — including an NCAA-best .432 batting average as a sophomore — while playing at higher altitude, always good for hitters, and against what is considered a lower level of competition in the Western Athletic Conference. Those two slight questions marks have done little to dampen the odds that Gonzales will fall in the top handful of picks.
Spruce Creek (Fla.) OF Zac Veen
One high school prospect does have a chance to sneak into the top five picks, with mocks slotting Veen anywhere from as early as the Kansas City Royals at No. 4 to the San Diego Padres at No. 8. Even without a full senior season, Veen has drawn comparisons to Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger, the past two National League MVPs.
Sports video of the day
Here’s five minutes of Harper being Harper, which means some hustle, hard-hit balls, broken bats, ejections and plenty of old-school, dust-raising verbal showdowns with umpires.
What we’re reading
TIME RUNNING OUT: MLB could shorten season even without player approval
CHARGES PILE UP: Ferentz appears ill equipped to push for change at Iowa
DOCUMENTARY: NBA star to produce series on Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921
VINDICATION: Kerr thinks Kaepernick will “ultimately be considered a hero”
NEW RIDE: Wallace to drive #BlackLivesMatter car for Cup race at Martinsville
REEL IT IN: Jordan’s boat catches 442-pound blue marlin at N.C. tournament
LEBRON ON VOTING: Is our system for voting “structurally racist”?
Sports on TV
MLB: Draft activity begins at 7 p.m. ET on MLB TV and continues through all 29 picks of the first round — the Astros won’t have a pick as part of the penalties handed down in the wake of the team’s sign-stealing scandal — and picks 30-37 from Competitive Balance Round A. This counts as live sports programming.
NBA (classic): Relive one of Michael Jordan’s six championships with the Bulls’ overtime win against the Lakers in Game 3 of the 1991 Finals. That’s on NBA TV at 9 p.m. ET.
NFL (classic): We all miss football at this point. Do you miss it enough to watch the Texans’ 31-14 win against the Chiefs from last October? Probably. That’s on NFL Network in prime time.