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).
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. Keenan 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.
Prior to getting selected as the second overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, Bregman was a three-year standout for the LSU Tigers. A collegiate shortstop, his defensive prowess may have even outmatched his productivity at the plate. Since moving on to the major leagues, Bregman’s power at the plate may rank as a surprise, but his arm strength does not. We take a quick photographic journey into his collegiate days with a couple of videos mixed in-between. The 2018 MLB All-Star Game MVP has turned into one of Major League Baseball’s brightest young stars.
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.
While at Arkansas, Benintendi -or in some circles known as “Benny”- became the first SEC player to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in one season. The former Madeira High School (Ohio) and Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year also batted .380 for the Razorbacks in a historic sophomore campaign. In 2015, he won the Dick Howser Trophy and was named the SEC Player of the Year. Benintendi went on to become the seventh overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft and quickly earned his keep in the major leagues.
Tim Kaiser goes inside each major league team’s organizational outlook following the 2015 MLB Draft. From former LSU standout Alex Bregman to first overall pick Dansby Swanson, Kaiser covers it all. Kaiser breaks down former Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor and the impact seventh overall pick Andrew Benintendi could have on the Boston Red Sox.
Download PDF: The Kaiser Report-2015 MLB Organizational Reports
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