On the way to a 2019 College World Series title, perhaps no player had more of an impact on the Vanderbilt Commodores run than Hickman. In fact, the former Pope John Paul II (Tenn.) star produced a knack for striking out batters down the stretch in 2019 and led into the early portion of 2020. After striking out 10 Michigan Wolverines in the Commodores CWS game-clinching victory, he began 2020 with a perfect 2-0 slate (0.48 ERA) through three starts. In back-to-back weekend outings versus Illinois-Chicago and Hawaii, Hickman struck out a combined 23 batters.
While many scouts considered Martin capable of playing multiple positions at the next level, the back-to-back second-team All-SEC performer did not get taken until the third round of the 2020 MLB Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. Martin’s productivity was satisfactory through 15 games in 2020, but his overall career numbers (.311 BA, .545 slugging pct., 30 HR, 112 RBI) reveal his true value. In addition, he set an Arkansas freshman single-season record with 87 hits while playing the hot corner for the Razorbacks. During the 2018 College World Series, the Freshman All-SEC performer finished with a .357 batting average. This came months after earning 2017 Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year honors at Lonoke HS (Ark.).
In just three seasons, Lacy compiled an outstanding resume’ in College Station. He started the 2020 NCAA campaign with three wins in four starts (0.75 ERA) and finished his career with an impressive 2.32 earned run average. A lock to go in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft, the former Kerrville Tivy HS star (Tex.) was a 31st round draft pick by the Cleveland Indians in the 2017 MLB Draft. It should come as no surprise. His father, Phillip, was a standout tennis player at Sam Houston State and his grandfather, Dan Davison, was a halfback for Texas A&M. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound left-handed flame thrower could very well keep his nickname, “The Ace,” for years to come in the major leagues. In the process, he could become the Aggies second consecutive player to go in the first round of the draft (Braden Shewmake, Atlanta Braves, 1st Round, 21st overall, 2019 MLB Draft).
While Mace took over the Friday night starting role for the Gators in 2019 en route to eight wins, it wasn’t until 2020 that he really began to take off as the team’s ace. In 2020 (through four starts), he posted a 1.67 ERA in three victories. The 6-foot-6-inch right-handed pitcher has a repertoire that includes an 87 MPH slider and deft curve ball. The former Cincinnati Reds 2017 12th-round pick increased his draft stock while at Florida and has a chance to hear his name called in the first two rounds of the 2020 MLB Draft.
Kjerstad -a 2020 Preseason All-American- got off to a resounding start for the Razorbacks this spring, batting .448 through 16 games. The All-SEC outfielder finished his career with a .967 fielding percentage. He also blasted 37 home runs, which ranks seventh all-time in school history. If Kjerstad goes in the first round of this year’s draft, he will become the school’s first since current Boston Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi was selected seventh overall in the 2015 MLB Draft.
Keenan may not have gotten the recognition he earned for his other-worldly start to the 2020 campaign. The Collegiate Baseball All-American was second nationally with 33 runs batted in during the first portion of the season. The former Rebel finished the season on an 11-game hitting streak. He has always been known for his power and ability to make contact. In 2019, he led the Rebels in home runs (15) and RBI (66). The Cleveland HS (N.C.) product finished second in the 2019 Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans College HR Derby.
Swanson was originally drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 2012 MLB Draft, but ultimately decided to go to Vanderbilt. His 2014 College World Series performance earned him most valuable player honors and was a prelude to a Commodores national championship run in 2015. In turn, his decision not only paid off in a college championship, but it also helped earn him the distinction of becoming the number one overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Georgia native was traded less than a year later to his hometown team, the Atlanta Braves. In 2019, Swanson set a career-high with 17 home runs and 65 RBIs as the Braves won the National League East.
The Houston Astros had the honor of the first pick in this year’s draft, and they had more to deal with than just the normal pressure of a team trying not to miss on the first overall selection. Not only are the Astros changing leagues, but also the new collective bargaining agreement changed the rules for the first year player draft. The new rules cut down the rounds from 50 to 40 and added a makeshift slotting system that limits what teams can pay their draft picks, including prohibiting giving draft picks major league deals.
As for the draft itself, the Astros started things off with a bit of a surprise when they took Carlos Correa, a 17-year-old shortstop from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. Most analysts theorized just minutes before they would go with Mark Appel, a right-handed pitcher from Stanford, or Byron Buxton, a speedy outfielder from Appling County HS in Georgia. Correa has shot up draft boards in the last month and drawn serious comparisons to Alex Rodriguez. Correa is 6’3” 190 pounds, which led some scouts to believe he would have to move to third in the future. However, after seeing him at private workouts the Astros believe his great hands and decent speed can keep him at shortstop.
There are always a few players in any draft who drop and this one is no different. Appel was many scouts’ and analysts’ clear cut number one. When Correa was taken number one, the idea was that Appel would still be the first pitcher taken, but teams seemed to be more apt to pick a pitcher with more upside rather than the polished pitcher from Stanford. Appel ended up going 8th to the Pirates after Kevin Gausman (4th), Kyle Zimmer (5th), and Max Fried (7th) were all taken. Appel took the consensus “Top Pitcher” tag from Lucas Giolito, a right-hander from Harvard-Westlake HS in California. Giolito is 6’6” 230 pounds with an upper 90’s fastball. The only reason he fell from the top spot was because of sprained ulnar collateral ligament. Even with the red flag of early elbow trouble, the Washington Nationals took him with the 16th overall pick. If the elbow holds, the Nationals could have added another tremendous young arm to their already young and talented rotation.
The viral moment of the first night came when Courtney Hawkins, a 6’3” 210 pound outfielder from Carroll HS in Texas, was drafted 13th overall by the Chicago White Sox. Hawkins was there at the draft and accepted his jersey and hat on stage. While being interviewed by the MLB Network he was asked about a clip circulating the internet of him doing a backflip in full uniform. Hawkins volunteered to do one right there in his shirt and tie and new White Sox cap and jersey. As the White Sox organization and fan base as a whole held its collective breath, Hawkins gave his phone to the reporter, took one hard step backwards and stuck a backflip. His first call from his future ML manager, Robin Ventura, was surely a congratulatory call with a note to never do that again.
First Round Facts:
- 17 of the first round picks were high school players.
- James Ramsey, an outfielder from Florida State, was the only college senior taken in the first round.
- 13 of the first round picks were pitchers.
- There was not a 1B or 2B taken in the first round. (Although, some picks may end up there.)
- The only 3B taken in the first round was Richie Schaffer, Clemson, by the Rays (25th Overall)
To see Hawkins original backflip video:
To see Hawkins backflip at the draft:
By: Tim Kaiser, DraftNasty Magazine
|81||Hayden Hurst||RHP/OF/1B||Bolles HS (FL)||SR||6’5”||235||R/R||Hurst is a 2-way prospect with a low 90’s fastball and good power at the plate.|
|82||Jayce Boyd||3B/1B/OF||Florida State||JR||6’3”||200||R/R||Boyd has both the bat and glove to play at the next level, with good power and speed.|
|83||Richie Shaffer||1B||Clemson||JR||6’3”||205||R/R||Shaffer is a hitting prospect due to his power, approach, and patience at the plate.|
|84||David Thompson||3B||Westminster Christian HS (FL)||SR||6’1”||195||R/R||Thompson is predominantly a contact hitter with projection for some power and has a strong arm from 3B.|
|85||Michael Morin||RHP||North Carolina||JR||6’4”||180||R/R||Morin is a polished pitcher with great run on both his fastball and slider and is able to command them both effectively.|
|86||Sam Selman||LHP||Vanderbilt||JR||6’3”||185||R/L||Selman is a hard throwing lefty with a slider and changeup to compliment his mid 90’s fastball.|
|87||LJ Mazzilli||2B||Connecticut||JR||6’1”||190||R/R||Mazzilli is a very polished player with good athleticism and excellent ability at the plate.|
|88||Avery Romero||SS/2B||Pedro Menendez HS (FL||SR||6’0”||195||R/R||Romero has soft hands and a strong arm to compliment his power to all fields and ability to make solid contact consistently.|
|89||Chris Taylor||SS||Virginia||JR||6’0”||170||R/R||Taylor hits for average and his strong arm and good speed make him versatile defensively.|
|90||Wes Tranckino||3B||Edmond Memorial HS (OK)||SR||6’2”||195||R/R||Tranckino has power to all fields and is a good contact hitter, but is also a solid defensive third baseman.
|91||Daniel Garner||C||Sparkman HS (AL)||SR||6’1”||195||R/R||Garner has soft hands, a strong arm, 1.85 pop time behind the plate, and power to all fields.|
|92||Jameis Winston||OF||Hueytown HS (AL)||SR||6’4”||208||S/R||Winston has the potential to be a 5 tool centerfielder, if his power develops. Winston is a quarterback and has been recruited to play in college.|
|93||Steven Golden||OF||St. Francis HS (CA)||SR||6’3”||185||R/R||Golden is a contact hitter with good range defensively and a strong arm.|
|94||Skye Bolt||OF||Holy Innocents HS (GA)||SR||6’2”||175||S/R||Bolt is a switch-hitting contact hitter with good speed and a decent arm.|
|95||Matt Fultz||C||Lee Summit West HS (MO)||SR||6’2”||215||L/R||Fultz has a compact swing with good power and a strong arm and a sub 2 pop time behind the plate.|
|96||Austin Maddox||1B/3B||Florida||JR||6’3”||225||R/R||Maddox is primarily a hitting prospect, with good power primarily on the inner half, but is decent defensively.|
|97||Stephen Sauter||C||Troy HS (CA)||SR||6’2”||190||S/R||Sauter has good power from both sides of the plate, an accurate arm, and a 1.81 pop time.|
|98||Connor Harrell||OF||Vanderbilt||JR||6’3”||215||R/R||Harrell has good speed and power with the potential to be a 5 tool player. Harrell does need to improve his strikeouts.|
|99||Justin Jones||LHP||California||JR||6’2”||188||L/L||Jones’s best pitch is a big breaking, slow curve. He also has a sinking fastball and a changeup with some dive.|
|100||Colby Holmes||RHP||South Carolina||JR||5’11”||200||R/R||Holmes has a low 90’s fastball, a slider with swing and miss potential, and a good change-up. His size could hurt his draft stock|
By: Tim Kaiser, DN Reports
In many ways, Chevez “Chevy” Clarke headed into the summer just like most people his age. He graduated from high school and
began readying himself for an impending college career.
But being 18-years-old is probably the link that most aligns this young man with his peers. Some graduates get summer jobs, some get extended vacations, and others start working diligently on getting accepted into the most coveted academic programs in their
On May 22nd, he graduated with his Marietta High School senior class in greater Atlanta. Less than half a month later, Clarke’s life
changed indefinitely, before most of his classmates had likely packed away their caps and gowns. On June 7th, he was selected in the
Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Angels, and thus, shaped his future in a way that most high school
graduates can’t fathom.
For a moment, it was even difficult for Clarke to digest.
“The first thing I did when I heard my name called was hug my mother and she cried on my shoulder,” the center fielder recalled. “At
that moment, it just felt real.”
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound switch hitter’s reality looked promising even prior to the draft though. Clarke was prepared to attend
Georgia Technology Institute this fall on scholarship, and admitted that he was pleased with both the academic climate and athletic
program at the Atlantic Coast Conference affiliate. And as he sat in his residence with a small contingent of family and friends
watching the Draft, he was content with that future.
“I was really and truly prepared to go to Georgia Tech,” he noted. “As I was watching the Draft, really, all that was going through my
mind was that everything was going to be okay no matter what. I had a clear mind. I was just trying to relax. I expected the worst
situation, and for me that would be not going on the first day. If that situation would have occurred, I was prepared to deal with that
Fortunately for Clarke, he didn’t have to cross that bridge. In the first round with the 30th pick, the Angels took the former Blue Devil
All-American. Interestingly, he was the third player selected by Los Angeles in the opening round. The first two picks, Kaleb Cowart
and Cameron Bedrosian, were both prep standouts from the state of Georgia as well.
The athletic outfielder’s selection was little surprise to anyone who has followed baseball’s top prospects in the past year. Clarke spent
just one year at Marietta but left an indelible mark on the program. He batted .403 last season for the Blue Devils, with five home runs,
14 RBI, and 17 stolen bases.
Therefore, it was especially not news to Marietta head baseball coach Chris Stafford when Clarke was drafted. “Clarke is the most
talented kid that I’ve had the chance to coach,” he told the Marietta Daily Journal. “It’s been exciting all year… (The Angels) said that
if (Clarke) was still available that they would take him at the 30th pick.”
Stafford claimed to jump in elation when he heard Clarke’s name before quickly driving over to his house to congratulate his former
player. But once the celebration had exhausted itself, Clarke wasted little time basking in the euphoria.
“I’m just ready to play baseball,” he professed. “Really, all this is great, but I’m eager to get on the field.”
The Angels organization obviously held the same sentiments. A month after drafting Clarke, Los Angeles signed him to a $1.089
million contract. A few days later the leadoff batter was assigned to the Arizona Rookie League and debuted on July 9th with an
impressive performance against the Athletics, going 2-for-3 in the Angels’ 14-4 victory.
Clarke knows that performances like these will help spiral his path toward the Majors. Like millions, he witnessed the highly publicized
debut of Washington Capitals pitcher Stephen Strasburg earlier this season. Even more thrilling was that Strasburg sailed beyond the
lofty expectations, wowing even the casual baseball fan into a frenzy.
Clarke watched but when asked if he has envisioned his own Major League debut, he digressed.
“It was exciting seeing what he did,” Clarke stated. “But I’m not even concerned with that right now. I haven’t set any goals yet as far
as that. We’re working on a plan now. All I want to do is stay focused on the present and in the future if my situation turns out like
(Strasburg’s) that will be great.”
As prosperous as the 18-year-old’s future appears to be, it’s only possible because of his past. Yes, Clarke’s youth can be misleading.
While most onlookers marvel at the prospect’s potential, he reflects on a career that began in his back yard when he was just
“I had the dinosaur bat and everything,” he joked, referring to the memory of when his parents first introduced him to the game. “It
grew from there. I started playing organized ball when I was five and haven’t stopped.”
When Clarke tosses out the word “focus” he doesn’t do so recklessly. His athletic career is provocative proof. He played football one
season, at the age of 10. Outside of that brief distraction, his complete athletic attention has been devoted to the diamond. According to Clarke, his faithfulness to the game has been the product of something beyond his own will. The former Yellow Jacket commit credits his parents with more than just introducing him to the game. Overwhelmingly, he cites them, Kenneth and Cortina Clarke, for a bulk of his recent success.
“They’ve supported me through the whole process,” he acknowledged. “Man, my parents have been with me every step of the way. They’ve been to every game, put a lot of time and work in for me. It’s amazing. They invested a great deal in me and into this game. I really dedicate a lot to my parents.”
The swift base runner who goes by the nickname “Chevy” to those who know him, has the motor to capitalize on what he and his
parents began playfully doing 16 years ago. He plays nine months of the year, measures his diet closely, and sticks to a strict work out
regiment. He realizes that professional baseball players endure long seasons and contends to be ready for the grind.
“My passion keeps me going,” he exclaimed. “It’s hard for me to have a day when I don’t want to play baseball or be bothered with it.
My love for the game makes me work harder and push that much more to improve. Everyone gets tired but you try to do the things thatkeep you fit. It’s not all physical. Mentally, I try to stay sharp. I read a lot.”
Clarke just recently finished reading the Mental Game of Baseball, and says he is continuously picking up books that inspire him.
Assuredly, he is absolutely still a student, in every facet of his life. In the offseason, for instance, he plans to begin taking college
courses. On the field, he’s studied the work ethic of players like Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins, picking up on things that can’t
be taught or coached.
So in a way, Clarke is more like his former classmates than first advertised. He got the summer job he wanted. In fact, getting paid to
play a sport that he would do for free is as close to an extended vacation as one could envision. And every night he performs in the
Rookie League and subsequent assignments, he is essentially applying for a chance to enter the premiere program in his field, Major League Baseball.
– Patrick Green, DraftNasty.com staff writer, has been writing professionally for more than a decade. He is the author of two
novels, Josie’s Missing Syllabus and Son Down; and while both works deal with topics beyond the athletic landscape, each exposes a
social scope involving sports as an underlying theme. Green has covered high school, college, amateur, and professional football
during his career, having written for newspapers in Augusta, Ga., and Charleston, South Carolina. To learn more about Patrick Green,