This year has been unique in a lot of ways due to the COVID-19 pandemic that virtually shutdown every aspect of daily life a number of weeks ago. Sports were […]
This year has been unique in a lot of ways due to the COVID-19 pandemic that virtually shutdown every aspect of daily life a number of weeks ago. Sports were not immune to the outbreak as every sporting league, including the NCAA, canceled spring seasons across the country.
For East Carolina University and its baseball team, the 2020 season was only 17 games completed with the Pirates sporting a healthy 13-4 record. Another shot at hosting a regional in Greenville, North Carolina looked promising, but after losing to UNCW in walk-off fashion on March 11, the season was cut short.
Fast forward until now and some semblance of normalcy has returned with the 2020 MLB draft that is set to begin at 7 p.m. with round one action. Difference from other years, the 2020 version of the draft has been limited to just five rounds from the conventional 40 as major league franchises and owners attempt to save money while the sport remains dormant.
The number of rounds is not the only thing that differs with this year’s draft. Players’ signing bonuses will be limited to $100,000 this year, with half of the remainder deferred until 2021 and the other half due in 2022. Free agents will also be capped at a $20,000 signing bonus while only 160 of the best collegiate and prep players will be selected during the two-day draft.
ECU, who saw a record seven players selected by major league franchises during the 2019 draft, figure to have at least a couple names called in the top five rounds this year. Both Gavin Williams and Alec Burleson are consistently ranked inside the top-200 when it comes to best draft prospects. Koen Moreno, a right-handed pitcher out of Panther Creek High School who is committed to ECU, also has a possibility of being drafted.
Below, we will take a look at where ECU’s top draft prospects are listed on various rankings, as well as the scouting report for the player.
Baseball America’s Top-500:
Williams – No. 81
Moreno – No. 128
Burleson – No. 182
Other prospects associated with ECU include Archbishop Spalding High School first baseman Josh Moylan at No. 444 and St. Augustine Prep right-handed pitcher Robert Ready at No. 480. Both players are committed to the Pirates as part of the 2021 recruiting class.
Williams – No. 90
Burleson – No. 136
The Athletic’s Top-100:
Williams – No. 99
Burleson – No. 108
Williams – No. 145
Scouting Reports Provided by Baseball America:
Williams – “Williams had some of the easiest velocity in the high school class back in 2017, when he was touching the mid-90s with a projectable frame. At the time, scouts expected he would throw 100 mph one day. They were right, as Williams has been up into the 100-101 mph range at his best when healthy with East Carolina. There’s a bit of injury history on Williams’ resume. He missed time during his freshman season and only threw three innings this spring after a finger injury delayed his start to the season. While most of his time at ECU has been out of the bullpen, scouts think he might have a chance to start at the next level thanks to a large, 6-foot-6, 240-pound frame, some of the easiest upper-90s fastball velocity you’ll see, natural feel to spin a breaking ball and flashes of an above-average changeup. He’ll need to develop his secondaries a bit more, as he has shown a tendency to baby his curveball instead of ripping it off with intent, but the natural ability to spin it is there. Scouts have also seen his control and command waver when out of the stretch with runners on base, so he’ll need to take steps forward improving those little aspects of the game as well. With a potential 80-grade fastball and two secondaries with above-average potential, the stuff is all there. With a solid junior season, teams thought he could go as high as the supplemental first round. Now, after just 68 career innings, Williams could be a late day one or early day two pick.”
Moreno – “Moreno is one of the more athletic pitchers in the prep class and he also participated in basketball and track at Panther Creek High in Cary, N.C. A 6-foot-2, 170-pound righthander committed to East Carolina, Moreno doesn’t have a ton of innings on his arm and scouts were impressed with the consistent steps forward he made last summer. At East Coast Pro, Moreno threw a fastball in the 87-93 mph range and ticked up to 94 at the Future Stars Series during the fall. He has exceptional feel to naturally spin a breaking ball, but the pitch needs continued refinement to become a plus offering. It shows solid depth and three-quarter shape in the 73-78 mph range, but it’s hittable when he leaves it up and only flashes sharp biting action. Moreno also showed feel for an 81-85 mph changeup that he throws with good arm speed and had swing-and-miss qualities with average or better potential in the future. Moreno is a projection arm in the true sense of the definition, with plenty of room remaining on a lean frame, athleticism that should allow him to make big strides in the future and an innate feel for spinning a baseball. Scouts didn’t see him pitch much at all this spring with a shortened 2020 season, but he was a candidate to take a step forward stuff-wise. It wouldn’t be surprising for a team to bet on his upside now in the 3-5 round range—if he makes it to East Carolina he could easily become a top-three round talent.”
Burleson – “One of the better two-way players in college baseball, Burleson has been a reliable hitter and pitcher for East Carolina and also served in both roles for Team USA’s Collegiate National Team last summer. With the national team, Burleson hit .267/.353/.467 in eight games and also posted a 2.53 ERA in 10.2 innings coming out of the bullpen. While he has pitched and hit at the amateur level, almost all pro teams prefer him as a hitter. On the mound he throws with well below-average fastball velocity and doesn’t have any one pitch that grades out as an above-average offering. As a hitter, many teams are intrigued with Burleson’s natural feel to hit. A career .341/.387/.496 hitter with the Pirates, Burleson’s above-average hit tool is his best attribute. While he is listed at 6-foot-2, 212 pounds, Burleson doesn’t have the typical power that a corner outfielder or first baseman needs to profile. He’s a hit-over-power bat, who’s shown an ability to get his knocks at whatever level he’s played at. He’s shown solid raw power in batting practice, but that has translated more to doubles in games, with a career-high nine home runs during his sophomore season. Defensively, Burleson can handle a corner outfield spot, but he’s a below-average runner who will be just serviceable at best there and is a better fit for first base, where coaches have praised his footwork and hands. While Burleson is a bit of a one-dimensional position player, he picked the right tool to excel at and many teams should be interested in his bat in the top five rounds.”
To find the full top-500 list by Baseball America, click here.
Without a full season to show continued growth as juniors, both Williams and Burleson can only rely on the numbers already posted to carry them either up or down draft boards.
For Burleson, a hot stretch at the plate toward the end of the shortened 2020 season put him on track to post the best numbers of his collegiate career. In 64 at-bats, Burleson slashed .375/.440/.547 with three home runs and 12 RBI. He walked eight times versus just three strikeouts while playing left field and first base when he was not on the mound.
As a pitcher, Burleson struggled a bit in his last two starts, allowing a combined 10 earned runs across 8.1 innings. Nevertheless, the southpaw still posted a 4.24 ERA in 23.1 innings pitched, striking out 22 against four walks.
Williams, who struggled to find his footing in 2019 as a sophomore, opened the 2020 season with an injury. Suffered in preseason activities, the right-hander missed the majority of the shortened campaign with a finger injury.
Still, when he was healthy, Williams displayed an electric fastball that Pirate fans have grown accustom to seeing. In two appearances spanning three innings, Williams struck out five batters versus two walks while failing to allow an earned run.
As their standing on various rankings suggest, Williams, Burleson and perhaps Moreno seem slated for rounds three-five. Nevertheless, that does not mean an ECU product will not be taken later today, it just means it is unlikely.
The first round of the 2020 MLB draft will start at 7 p.m. and be televised on MLB Network and ESPN. Thirty-seven picks make up the entire first round. Rounds two-five begin at 5 p.m. on Thursday and will be televised on MLB Network and ESPN 2.