The Texas Rangers currently have five picks in the 2020 MLB Draft, and while it is possible they could trade for a competitive balance pick from another team, it appears most likely they will have just their regular selections in each round. Their first pick is at #14 overall, and then they pick at #50, #87, #117, and #147.
In the run up to the draft, we will be highlight some players who are potential Ranger draft picks. Last year no one aside from Josh Jung that we wrote about was actually picked by the Rangers, as we mostly looked at prep players for their later picks, and they went college-heavy early in the draft for the first time in years. This year, the uncertainty over whether they will emphasize college players again or go back to prep players would make it hard to narrow down the list of potential prospects even in a normal year — the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic having shut down amateur play creates even more uncertainty about potential picks.
On the plus side, the lack of games and actual new scouting going on means that there’s going to be a lot less updated information, so a write-up I do now will likely still be more or less valid a month from now.
In any case, in the coming days, we will be doing write-ups of potential Texas Ranger draft picks. Today we take a look at University of North Carolina first baseman Aaron Sabato.
Aaron Sabato is a 6’2”, 230 lb. righthanded hitting first baseman out of the University of North Carolina. A draft-eligible sophomore, Sabato came out of Brunswick High School in Greenwich, Connecticut (a private prep school) in 2018, though he lived in Rye Brook, New York — the two towns are on the New York/Connecticut border. Although he was written up locally in Connecticut as a potential MLB draft prospect, and Sabato said in that article he was told he could be a second to fourth round pick, Sabato wasn’t ranked in Baseball America’s top 500 draft prospects that year, and was not taken in the 2018 draft.
Sabato got off to a slow start at UNC his freshman year and then began to mash, and basically hasn’t stopped hitting. Sabato slashed .343/.453/.696 as a freshman, with 39 walks against 56 Ks, and was slashing .292/.478/.708 with 22 walks against 16 Ks as a sophomore this year before the season was canceled.
Sabato’s power is considered to be among the best in this draft class, and he is viewed as having a solid hit tool to go with it. He also has a relatively patient approach and is willing to take walks. There are some concerns about his strikeout totals, as is often the case with a power hitter. Sabato is also limited defensively to first base, so he will have to mash to make it to the big leagues.
Baseball America has Sabato at #35 on their pre-draft top 500, with positive things to say about the bat, of course. MLB Pipeline puts Sabato at #41 on their board, noting “some parallels between [Sabato] and the college version of Pete Alonso.” Fangraphs has Sabato at #37 on their board. At ESPN, Kiley McDaniel has Sabato at #41 on his updated board and also invokes Peter Alonso as a comparison. Keith Law’s latest top 100 board has Sabato at #35, though he says he may be a DH rather than a 1B
Keith Law has Sabato falling out of the first round in his latest mock draft, though he mentions him as a possibility with the Oakland A’s at #26. Jonathan Mayo’s mock draft has Sabato falling out of the the first round, as does Kiley McDaniel’s mock draft. The most recent Baseball America mock draft has Sabato going to the Texas Rangers at #14. The latest version of the Jim Callis mock draft does not have Sabato going in the first round. The Fangraphs mock draft has Sabato going to the Oakland A’s.
Sabato being mocked to the Rangers in the latest BA mock draft prompted me to write him up today. For whatever reason I keep typing “Nick Sabato” instead of “Aaron Sabato,” and I kind of hope the Rangers don’t take him, because I’m afraid I will keep doing that and people in the comments for the next couple of years will be saying, “Who is Nick Sabato?”
BA says that Sabato is a late riser who will go higher than he’s been mocked, and I would not be surprised if other mocks in the next day or two have Sabato showing up in the first round. Bat-only guys do not tend to go high, but Sabato’s impressive combination of power, place discipline and hit tool appear to have teams willing to make an exception for him.
The Peter Alonso comps above are great, but if Alonso were seen as a likely outcome, Sabato would be going in the top three picks — it is more an example of a guy with a variety of similarities who hit his ceiling. Still, it is enough to make Sabato an exciting possibility.
As a draft-eligible sophomore who just turned 21 last week, Sabato is one of the younger players among four year college draftees. He also has the added leverage of having an extra year of college eligibility, which means he could be a tougher sign than other college draft picks, which reduces your ability to get him to agree to a below slot deal at #14.