In a typical year for the MLB draft, sleeper prospects would be easy to narrow down. By now, everyone would have some idea what shape the first round would take and which players were slowly making moves up the rankings thanks to strong late-season performances.
Since 2020 is anything but a typical year in every respect, the draft could be more of a crapshoot than normal. For starters, we know there will only be five rounds, and bonus money for all 30 teams has been significantly altered because of the shortened event.
The top of the draft seems pretty well set, with Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson, Vanderbilt outfielder Austin Martin and Texas A&M left-hander Asa Lacy likely to be the first three players off the board.
Rather than focus on those household names, here are the top sleeper prospects who will go later in the first round or on Day 2 with the best chance to make impacts in the big leagues.
2020 MLB Draft Order
1. Detroit Tigers
2. Baltimore Orioles
3. Miami Marlins
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Toronto Blue Jays
6. Seattle Mariners
7. Pittsburgh Pirates
8. San Diego Padres
9. Colorado Rockies
10. Los Angeles Angels
11. Chicago White Sox
12. Cincinnati Reds
13. San Francisco Giants
14. Texas Rangers
15. Philadelphia Phillies
16. Chicago Cubs
17. Boston Red Sox
18. Arizona Diamondbacks
19. New York Mets
20. Milwaukee Brewers
21. St. Louis Cardinals
22. Washington Nationals
23. Cleveland Indians
24. Tampa Bay Rays
25. Atlanta Braves
26. Oakland Athletics
27. Minnesota Twins
28. New York Yankees
29. Los Angeles Dodgers
30. Baltimore Orioles
31. Pittsburgh Pirates
32. Kansas City Royals
33. Arizona Diamondbacks
34. San Diego Padres
35. Colorado Rockies
36. Cleveland Indians
37. Tampa Bay Rays (via St. Louis Cardinals)
Top Sleeper Prospects
Nick Loftin, SS, Baylor
If teams are looking to draft for ceiling, Baylor shortstop Nick Loftin isn't going to be their pick. His strength as a prospect is based around the fact that he doesn't have any glaring weaknesses, which does limit his upside.
On the other hand, Loftin's floor could be high as long as his defense translates to professional baseball. The 21-year-old relies on instincts and positioning to make plays at shortstop. He doesn't have the most range or the strongest arm, but it's good enough to make every throw.
Loftin's offensive potential at Baylor doesn't stand out. He put up a .316/.374/.484 slash line with 14 homers and 92 RBI in 121 college games. In an era of high strikeout totals, though, Loftin's ability to make contact and spray line drives to all fields will be valuable. The 2020 Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year only struck out 48 times in 510 at-bats.
Per MLB.com, Loftin "doesn't have loud tools but he contributes in all phases of the game and has one of the higher floors in the 2020 college crop."
An above-average defensive shortstop doesn't need a big offensive profile to at least be a contributor in the big leagues. Loftin's bat is good enough to make him a quality starter and worthy of a late first-round selection in this draft.
J.T. Ginn, RHP, Mississippi State
There's a chance J.T. Ginn would have been a top-10 pick in this draft if not for an early-season elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery in March.
Expectations were high for Ginn this season after he was named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2019. He ranked third among SEC pitchers in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.53), 10th in strikeouts (105) and 11th in WHIP (1.05).
Evaluating Ginn this season was impossible because he only threw three innings for Mississippi State.
MLB.com still ranks Ginn as the 44th-best prospect in this draft class, noting his fastball and slider were plus pitches at his best with a changeup that was above-average.
Ginn is a known quantity, of sorts, because he was a first-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers (No. 30 overall) in 2018.
It will be interesting to see how teams evaluate Ginn as a prospect this year since he's just two months removed from having elbow reconstruction surgery. If Ginn is able to return at full strength, he's got the ceiling of a No. 2 starter. Finding that kind of arm in the second round could be appealing for a team that wants to take a chance on selecting him.
Justin Lange, RHP, Llano HS (TX)
Texas right-handed pitcher Justin Lange might be the most intriguing pitcher in this draft, with his huge ceiling suggesting he could slot in at the top of a rotation if all goes right.
The Athletic's Keith Law has Lange ranked as the No. 26 prospect in this class, citing his "[Max] Scherzer delivery and body; he's 6'5" and 210 or so now, having put on 25-30 pounds in the last year."
Lange's stuff can also resemble Scherzer's when he's firing on all cylinders. MLB.com noted his fastball occasionally touched 100 mph this spring but would more routinely sit around 94-95 with "some run and sink at lower velocities and less life at the higher end of his velocity range."
At this point in his development, Lange is essentially all hope and projection. He won't turn 19 until September, so any team that believes in his ability to go from a raw thrower to a pitcher with proper coaching could end up with a No. 2 starter.