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Photo Credit: MiLB.com

The Mark Shapiro Era Draft Retrospective: 2020

The penultimate articles in this series will focus on the 2020 draft.

I won’t lie, I will cheat a bit in this article. The Jays only had three top 100 picks in this draft, but their fourth rounder was chosen as the 106th pick. Since there were only two players drafted in the top 100 last season, I’ll include that 106th rounder because he deserves some love.

So what did this draft entail? Unlike the years prior, this draft only had five rounds. This was partly due to COVID, but the MLB was also planning to only have 20 rounds while also removing two different minor leagues (Short Advanced A and Rookie Advanced).

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Due to only having five rounds, there weren’t a lot of high schoolers chosen in this draft, in fact, the Jays went with five college players. Let’s take a look at them.

Austin Martin:

At one point, it was speculated that Austin Martin would go first overall in the 2020 draft. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t. It was a surprise to many that he actually dropped to the Blue Jays, who chose him with their fifth overall pick.

Here’s a snippet of Martin’s Baseball America pre-draft scouting report:

Martin has long been one of the favourites for the first overall pick in the 2020 draft. Martin has some of the best pure hitting ability in the class with eye-popping bat speed, excellent contact ability and impressive plate discipline. He is more pure hitter than masher, but he increased his home run total from one as a freshman to 10 as a sophomore.”

The team was aggressive in his first season, promoting him straight to Double A. Martin did alright, slashing .254/.399/.381 with three homers in 168 plate appearances. It was well known that Martin did a great job getting on base, either with a walk (had a BB% of 13.7%) or getting hit by a pitch (was hit 10 times). 

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He also kept strikeouts down, only striking out 17.9% of the time. All of this led to a wRC+ of 120 with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. However, he didn’t spend the entire 2021 season with the Blue Jays organization.

He was traded along with Simeon Woods Richardson for Jose Berrios at the 2021 deadline, so let’s look at Martin’s numbers post-trade.

He was assigned to Minnesota’s AA team. He slashed .281/.424/.383 with two homers in 250 plate appearances. His BB% increased to 14.8% while his K% also had a slight uptick to 21.2%. He finished with a wRC+ of 133, the highest in his career.

Martin started the 2022 season repeating a level, as he stuck with Minnesota’s Double A team. In fact, he has put up worse numbers despite repeating the level. In 283 plate appearances, he’s slashing .249/.378/.313 with a single homer. His BB% (11.7%) and K% (13.8%) are still quite impressive, but his wRC+ of 94 is below average.

In fact, Martin slipped out of the Top 100 prospects for the first time since being drafted, which you can read more about here

CJ Van Eyk:

The right hander was drafted with the 42 overall pick out of Florida State University. For his first season, he was promoted to High A Vancouver, where he had mixed results. In 80.1 innings pitched, he had an ERA of 5.83 and a FIP of 4.55. He had an impressive K/9 of 11.20, but struggled with command as he had a BB/9 of 4.37.

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Sadly, CJ Van Eyk went under the needle for Tommy John surgery and likely won’t pitch until the middle of the 2023 season. 

Now, it’s entirely possible that his arm caused him issues during the season, which we may not have known about, so it’s important to wait until he returns to judge him fully.

Yesterday, I brought back the prospect table, so let’s do it again for these last three prospects:

Pitch MLB Pipeline Fangraphs (PV/FV)
Fastball 55 50/50
Curveball 55 50/55
Slider 50 45/50
Changeup 50 50/55
Control 45 30/45
Overall 45 40+

MLB Pipeline notes that he is one of the most talented arms in the 2020 class, so hopefully he heals up soon and returns to his pre-draft form. Wishing nothing but the best to Van Eyk.

Trent Palmer:

Out of any prospects chosen by the Blue Jays in this draft, there’s a good chance that Palmer reaches the MLB first. The 23-year-old right-handed pitcher was chosen with the 77th overall from Jacksonville University.

Palmer started his professional career with the Dunedin Blue Jays, posting a 3.00 ERA and a 3.50 FIP in 63 innings pitched. He had an incredibly high K/9 of 11.86, but struggled with the walks as his BB/9 sat at 6.00.

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He started the 2021 season with the Vancouver Canadians and improved drastically, only pitching 23.2 innings at this level.. While his ERA jumped to 4.18 and his FIP jumped to 4.53, his K/9 increased drastically to 13.69 (nice). Most importantly, his BB/9 dropped to 3.04 which showed improvement.

Despite pitching only 23.2 innings, Palmer was promoted to Double A, where he’s had some success. In 31.2 innings pitched he posted a 3.69 ERA and 4.40 FIP. His K/9 dropped slightly to 9.38, while his BB/9 increased to 4.26.

Below are his grades from MLB Pipeline and Fangraphs.

Pitch MLB Pipeline Fangraphs (PV/FV)
Fastball 50 40/45
Curveball 45 50/50
Slider 50 N/A
Changeup 55 60/60
Control 45 30/40
Overall 40 35+

Palmer has shown excellent development in 2022 and I’ll soon be writing my next Prospect Profile on him.

Nick Frasso:

Like I said, I’m going to cheat a little bit here. Nick Frasso was chosen with the 106th overall pick in this draft.

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After pitching 5 innings in 2021 (without allowing a run), he was shut down due to a UCL injury, the ligament that Tommy John repairs. However, Frasso didn’t receive the usual Tommy John surgery, instead getting an internal brace.

Usually, Tommy John takes well over a year to recover from, but Frasso was back in 344 days. Not just that, but he completely dominated A ball. In 25.2 innings pitched, Frasso recorded a 0.70 ERA and a 1.26 FIP. This was paired with a 14.73 K/9 and a fairly low 2.81 BB/9. Combined with his age (23-years-old), this led to a promotion to High A.

Frasso’s debut last Monday is a small sample in which he pitched just 4 innings, but man, was it ever special.  Instead of just giving the pitching line, let’s look at his play by play in those four innings.

For his first batter, Frasso faced Noelvi Marte, MLB Pipeline’s #20 prospect. He recorded a popup, nothing special. Next up is the rehabbing Kyle Lewis, a big leaguer. On a 3-2 count, Frasso throws high heat and gets the big leaguer swinging. He gets Andy Thomas on three pitches.

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In the second inning, he struck out former Jays prospect Alberto Rodriguez and Seattle’s #7 prospect on 5 pitches. Up next is the Mariners’ #24 prospect Victor Labrada, who strikes out on three pitches. Next up is Mike Salvatore, who strikes out swinging on six pitches.

In the third, he faced Daniel Gomez, who struck out on a 1-2 count after fouling off three straight. Trent Tingelstad didn’t put up the same effort, as he swung on the third pitch at the at bat for another strike out. He followed that up by striking out his 8th batter in a row, James Parker, on three pitches again.

Up again is Marte, who pops up again, breaking the eight straight strikes outs. No matter, he strikes out Kyle Lewis swinging AGAIN. The next batter walks, ruining perfection, before he strikes out Rodriguez for the second time to end the inning and his night.

So at the end of the day, he had a line of 4 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K, which is just incredible. In fact, in his 34.2 innings pitched professionally, he has just allowed two earned runs.

He goes again on Tuesday, and this time, you’ll be able to watch it on MiLB.tv, use the promo code BISONS, FISHERCATS, or CANADIANS for $10 off. If you’re reading this article right now, there’s a good chance you enjoy watching and learning about prospects and the $40.57 is well worth the price.

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Either way, I think you’ll be seeing the 23-year-old in the bigs within two seasons.

What to make of the 2020 draft:

Unlike each of the previous drafts we’ve covered, no Jays draftees have made the major leagues. Austin Martin looks like he could be a regular, even if he hasn’t lived up to expectations. CJ Van Eyk won’t be returning until the middle of next season, but he had a high ceiling prior to being draft.

Trent Palmer loos like a nice find who has developed nicely. Stay tuned for that article coming soon. Lastly, I included Frasso because I wanted to note his insane High A debut. If he continues to dominate like that, you can expect him to climb the ranks of the minors quickly.

The only other player drafted was Zach Britton. While I didn’t write about the 23-year-old, he is an interesting player that I’ll cover another time.

It’s way too early to tell what these five players will become, but it looks like the Jays picked a good crop of young prospects.

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Previously in the series…

The Mark Shapiro Era Draft Retrospective: 2016

The Mark Shapiro Era Draft Retrospective: 2017

The Mark Shapiro Era Draft Retrospective: 2018

The Mark Shapiro Era Draft Retrospective: 2019

As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D. If you enjoy prospect coverage, I try to clip all minor league action, whether it be strikeouts, base hits, or funny incidents on the field, it may be something that interests you.


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