A Look Back At The 2020 PEBA Draft: Top 10 Picks

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Updated: January 2, 2017

As the 2024 Planetary Extreme Baseball Alliance (PEBA) regular season has come to a close, we are still very early in the developmental process for players drafted four seasons ago. But, curiosity has brought me here to look into the ground they’ve covered thus far anyways, sparked in part by the recent major league debut of Baseball America number one overall prospect center-fielder Pat Watson, who was taken seventh overall in the 2020 draft. Watson managed to crack the majors after 1,558 minor league plate appearances. Let’s find out how the others have done in this time as well.

1st Round 2020:

#1 selection: SP John Turner (New Orleans Trendsetters)

SP John Turner

SP John Turner

New Orleans wasted little time with the selection of Turner, a college draftee out of UCLA, who put up impressive numbers in college with a 21-8 record, 2.21 ERA (269 ERA+) and a total of 11.6 WAR over his four years as a student athlete for the Chili Peppers. The Trendsetters payed $3.25 million singing bonus for the top pick and wasted no time by placing Turner at their A level minor league team (skipping the more common route for drafted players to start out at short-season A level) following his signing. After only two starts they promoted him to AA ball. Things did not go so smoothly that first year though, as after four starts in AA he needed to be placed on the disabled list for five months with shoulder inflammation, that was then extended to 11 months after suffering two separate setbacks in his recovery from the initial injury (ouch!).

Coming back from such a rocky start alone would a feat, much less making it to the bigs. But Turner persevered and to the New Orleans organizations credit they never gave up on him, instead advancing Turner quickly through their system at an advanced pace. Turner logged a total of twelve starts and 72.2 innings pitched at the AA level before being promoted to AAA at the age of 22. There he made only four starts, dominating in this short stint with a 368 ERA+ and striking out nearly 12 batters per 9 innings. He then made his major league debut for New Orleans in that 2021 season and has stuck ever since. In his first three seasons he pitched decently, certainly well considering his young age, though was unable to bring his ERA+ above 100 in any of those seasons, instead remaining in the 90s. Perhaps more importantly during that time, he managed to stay relatively healthy. This year Turner had his big breakout though, with a 9.8 K/9 and a 122 ERA+ in 33 starts for the Trendsetters. He’s managed to bring his walks down (2.7 BB/9) through improvement in locating his pitches, and also had his lowest homeruns allowed rate of his career. The future is bright and the return on this top pick looks good already, as he has amassed 10.8 career WAR already.

#2 selection: SS Gonzalo González (Canton Longshoreman)

SS Gonzalo González

SS Gonzalo González

The second pick of the 2020 PEBA amateur draft was college shortstop Gonzalo González out of Stanford with a signing bonus of $8.5 million. González ended up being more expensive then first overall pick Turner. He was an excellent college hitter, having an on-base percentage (OBP) over .500 for his college career while also flashing a good glove at shortstop his senior year. It was debated if he’d be able to stick at shortstop as he continued to development or possibly move to second-base. Like Turner, González skipped short-season A ball, and instead was placed on the full-season A level team. He had little problem with the transition, hitting for a 116 OPS+ and 1.7 WAR. In 2021, he spent a couple months in AA before quickly making the jump to AAA and continued to hit well at both levels respectively 140 OPS+ in AA, and 117 OPS+ in AAA. The following season, his age 23 year, he came out of the gates a blazing, hitting a 148 OPS+ and after only 33 starts at AAA that season made his major league debut for Canton in the 2022 season. González has struggled to his as well in the majors thus far though. He’s stuck in the bigs since being called up, but only holds a 86 career OPS+ thus far. Which for a middle infielder can still be quite valuable. He’s spent the majority of his time at shortstop and according to Zone Rating has graded out as slightly below average at the position. In 2023, he started 60 games at second-base and was markedly above average with a 4.7 ZR in that stint. A move to second is likely in his future, and could potentially be a welcome change, as his throwing arm is on the weaker side for shortstops, while his range is only adequate at that position but would be better played up at second. For comparisons’ sake he just finished up the 2024 season with a 87 OPS+ and 1.3 WAR while playing all of his games at shortstop, while in aforementioned 2023 season, he hit for a 84 OPS+ and with the split of playing time between shortstop and second-base, he had a 2.8 WAR. In total, González has earned 4.4 career WAR at the conclusion of this his age 25 season.

#3 selection: SP Dean McNeil (Manchester Maulers)

Dean McNeil

Dean McNeil

Here we have our first player drafted that no longer pitches for the organization that drafted him. College pitcher, Dean McNeil, was taken out of Purdue University’s program where he managed to finish 2nd in the 2020 USCBA College Outstanding Pitcher Award voting. McNeil signed with Manchester for $3.98 million signing bonus. Manchester sent McNeil initially to short-season A league following his signing, but only for a brief time. He made three starts there, and pitched very well, going 2-1 with a 220 ERA+. McNeil was promoted and allowed to finish out the 2020 season at full-season A ball. He made the jump to AA for the next season and was named the #67 prospect in PEBA by Baseball America at that time, but after only three starts he tore his rotator cuff and missed the remainder of the season. The old adage that there is no such thing as a pitching prospect seemed to be holding true with both starting pitchers taking in the top three selections facing serious injury while in the minor leagues.

Despite the injury, Baseball America scouts loved McNeil’s pedigree and the following season he jumped up to #8 overall on their list. He made 13 starts at AA, flashing excellent control with a 0.9 BB/9 rate and a 180 ERA+. He earned a promotion to AAA that season, though struggled a bit with a serious drop in his K rate down to 4.7 K/9. The following year, 2023, he regained enough of his deception to bring his rate up to 8.5 K/9, and had a 146 ERA+. He then made his major league debut at age 24 that year for Manchester, but struggled in 12 starts with a 74 ERA+ and again finding it difficult to strike out hitters as his rate dropped to 4.1 per nine innings pitched. Following the contraction draft that saw Manchester disappear from PEBA, the Florida Featherheads selected McNeil 28th overall and he stuck in the Florida rotation this past season and proved to be an astute choice by Florida. McNeil produced a 100 ERA+ in 31 starts, eating up valuable innings for the contending team and earning a 3.3 WAR. McNeil saw a bounce back of his strikeout rate, up to 6.2 K/9 while still showing that great control 1.9 BB/9. In total McNeil has accrued 3.6 career WAR up to this point, and also looks to be a regular in the Florida rotation at age 25.

#4 selection: ? (Unknown)

?

?

So here’s a weird thing, the record books don’t seem to show a 4th overall selection being made for the 2020 season. Please give some direction in the comments below if you happen to have any idea what may have happened that season and why the a 4th pick doesn’t show up. From my limited research it looks like Omaha had the 4th pick in the majority of the remainder of the rounds of that draft, but they are credited with taking LF Walter Daniel with the 11th pick of the 1st round.

 

#5 selection: SP Edgardo Díaz (Tempe Knights)

Edgardo 'Terror' Díaz

Edgardo ‘Terror’ Díaz

Díaz was a former 2017 USCBA College Outstanding Pitcher Award winner who pitched his college ball for the Cincinnati Unifiers. Tempe paid a $1.995 million signing bonus after selecting the right-handed starter. Díaz is another player taken in draft to spend little if no time at short-season A ball, as he only pitched 1.2 innings there before being moved to A ball for 9 starts and then AA for 4 starts in his first season as a professional. The following year, his age 22 season, Díaz split time between AA and AAA, performing well with sub 3.00 ERAs at both levels and cracking the Baseball America top 100 list at #62. He made his major league debut that year as well, earning four starts at the end of the year for Tempe. With only a brief time at AAA the following season, Díaz spent the majority of 2022 in the majors but struggled with a 75 ERA+ and only 5.5 K/9 in 100 innings pitched. The following season he had a breakout though, but did so out of the bullpen exclusively, making 63 appearances and pitching a 161 ERA+ and 1.6 WAR in that role. Similarly to #3 selection Dean McNeil, Díaz would catch the eye of one of the teams during the contraction draft and was selected 26th overall by the Aurora Borealis. This season he split time between the bullpen and rotation for Aurora, managed a 97 ERA+ and 1.1 WAR, though may have benefited from a .246 BABIP in doing so. It is hard to say where Díaz’s future will lead, but it is worth noting that he actually pitched better as a starter this past season than as a reliever, specifically in walks allowed (2.9 BB/9 as a starter vs. 4.7 BB/9 as a reliever) and home runs allowed (0.8 HR/9 as a starter vs. 1.3 HR/9 as a reliever). Díaz has accrued 4.6 WAR thus far in his major league career.

#6 selection: CF Pedro Flores (Crystal Lake Sandgnats)

Pedro Flores

Pedro Flores

With the sixth selection overall the Crystal Lake Sandgnats chose the first high school player in the draft, center-fielder Pedro Flores. Flores did not come cheap, requiring a $6.5 million signing bonus to forgo college for the minors. Flores was highly touted by scouts, and this showed in his premiering at #19 on the Baseball America top prospect list in 2021. By 2024 he would be the #10 prospect on their list. As an 18 year old, Flores struggled initially but ended up holding his own at short-season A ball, he then broke out his following year at 19 years old and ended the lowest level league with a 117 OPS+ and 3.4 WAR that season. Crystal Lake promoted Flores for the 2022 season to A ball, and Flores continued to show flashes of future greatness, batting for a 125 OPS+ and a 7.0 ZR in center-field defensively. A move to AA the following season saw Flores continue with a 129 OPS+ and full season 6.4 WAR, indicating he was done with level and ready to the jump up to AAA and possibly the bigs, but the jump didn’t exactly occur when expected. This season, 2024, Flores remained stuck at AA to start out the year, when it could have been argued that he deserved promotion to AAA following his showing in 2023. In any case, his stint at AA wasn’t long, as after 40 games he was promoted to AAA and after a couple weeks up to the majors for his big league debut.

Flores struggled in a brief stint with Crystal Lake, in 9 games he hit only for a .138 batting average. He was then traded along with catcher Moe Merkel and a 1st round pick for 2025 to West Virginia Alleghenies in exchange for front-line starting pitcher Tatsui Kouno and $3 million in cash. Having judged that Flores, only 22 years old, still needed more time to develop in the minors, West Virginia placed the prospect on their AAA squad for the remainder of the season and he responded well, hitting 108 OPS+ and continued flashing the good leather in center-field with a 5.8 ZR in only 52 games. Flores is on the cusp of breaking into the majors going into next season and would be expected to make the jump by mid-season if all goes well, perhaps getting a chance out of spring training to make the club as well.

#7 selection: CF Pat Watson (Fargo Dinosaurs)

Pat Watson

Pat Watson

Following Crystal Lakes lead, Fargo selected their own high school center-fielder, Pat Watson. Watson came at an even greater price as his signing bonus totaled $7.5 million to forgo college and commit to the North Dakotan organization. Baseball America ranked Watson #16 in 2021, and as mentioned earlier in this article, he would ultimately rank as their top prospect coming into this season. The knock against Watson has been his health. Having suffered a number of maladies, often sidelining him for weeks at a time and breaking a bone in his elbow in 2022 that ended his season.

Not having an OPS+ below 124 since turning pro gives a hint at the incredible upside here though. As an 18 year old he had no trouble handling short-season A ball pitchers, completing his first season with a 134 OPS+ and stealing 22 bases. He progressed to A ball for 2022 season and crushed the competition there, hitting for a 161 OPS+, 34 stolen bases, and 4.8 WAR. For 2022, he was promoted to AA to start the season, managed to hit 125 OPS+, but then suffered the broken bone in his elbow and ended up only having 91 plate appearances there. The organization made the decision to promote Watson to AAA for 2023 season following his recovery from the broken bone, even though he only had those 91 plate appearances at AA. The move paid off, as Watson adjusted well to the highest minor league level and ended up hitting for 124 OPS+ and stealing 22 bases in 380 plate appearances, again though struggled with some minor injuries and missed playing time. This season saw Watson start out in AAA, and if again not for some minor injuries, he would have likely made his big league debut earlier, but regardless, he put up a 189 OPS+ in AAA, 5.3 WAR, and then made the jump to the bigs and in 176 plate appearances for Fargo, Watson hit for 169 OPS+ and flashed outstanding defense in center-field with a 8.6 ZR earning an impressive 3.0 WAR in only fraction of the season. All this and still not yet 23 years old.

#8 selection: 2B Carlos Garza (West Virginia Alleghenies)

Carlos Garza

Carlos Garza

Garza would be the third high school player taken, as West Virginia chose the second-baseman 8th overall and for a reasonable $2.2 million signing bonus. Garza had some bad luck out the gates for West Virginia unfortunately, tearing a ligament in his thumb in August of 2020 that sidelined him for 6 weeks. The following year, Baseball America ranked Garza #9 on their list, demonstrating some of the love from the scouting community for the second-baseman out of Queens, New York. Similar to fellow high school-er, Pedro Flores, mentioned above, Garza needed some time adjusting to pro-ball, and had to repeat short-season A ball before making the jump to A ball. Garza then spent 2022 briefly in short-season A (only 11 games) then A ball for 26 games, hitting 106 OPS+, and a brief leap into AA where he hit a decent 92 OPS+.

West Virginia decided to have Garza take his time though, and he started 2023 in A ball again, and really broke out for the first time since turning pro, hitting 147 OPS+ and amassing 4.4 WAR in 342 plate appearances. He made the jump to AA again that season, and this time it stuck, as he hit 135 OPS+ in 183 plate appearances. West Virginia promoted Garza to AAA for the start of the 2024 season, and he stuck there the whole year, hitting for a 128 OPS+, an outstanding 12.5 ZR at second-base, and a 5.1 WAR, signaling that he is pretty much ready for a debut in the majors at some point next season depending on how West Virginia wants to handle it.

#9 selection: C Dan Collins (Fargo Dinosaurs)

Dan Collins

Dan Collins

Collins was listed as a second-baseman coming out of high school, but this was quite misleading as he had played predominately at catcher his first three seasons, prior to his senior year at South Caldwell high school. He signed a $1.465 million dollar signing bonus with Fargo and agreed to turn pro. The Dinosaurs quickly put to bed any question about where Collins would play and stated that he was drafted as a catcher and they fully believed that he could stick there. With the string of high school players drafted, we really can see some of the risk here with Collins, who had to play three full seasons at short-season A ball before performing well enough to earn promotion. He struggled to hit there as both an 18 and 19 year old, and it wasn’t until his age 20 season that he hit well enough with a 120 OPS+ to make the jump. He spent his age 21 year at A ball, and hit decently as a catcher for a 104 OPS+ and 2.6 WAR. Perhaps wanting to make up for lost time, Fargo promoted him to AA in 2024 and the gamble paid off, as Collins hit 120 OPS+ and continuing his development behind the plate in 380 plate appearances. They the promoted him to AAA where in about 50 games he hit for a 92 OPS+. Only 22 years old at the conclusion of his first exposure to AAA, Collins still has some time to develop and will likely see most of next season at AAA with perhaps a cup of coffee promotion in the second half or September next season barring a real jump in production. The good news for Collins is there will likely be a spot open for him in Fargo as he isn’t blocked.

#10 selection: 2B Derrick Dwyer (West Virginia Alleghenies)

Derrick Dwyer

Derrick Dwyer

Wow, West Virginia currently has three of the top 10 players selected from the 2020 draft in the organization, and Dwyer has already made an impact at the major league level with a 3.6 WAR season in 2024. Dwyer was drafted out of college and signed a $1.57 million dollar contract with West Virginia. He was ranked #53 on the Baseball America list in 2021. He tore through short-season A, A, and up to AA all in his first season. He repeated AA in his age 21 season with a 137 OPS+ and 3.2 WAR and West Virginia aggressively promoted him to the majors for his big league debut. Dwyer struggled initially that season in West Virginia with only a 51 OPS+ in 53 games played. The following season, 2022, he split time between AAA and West Virginia, handling his time in the minors very well to the tune of a 115 OPS+ and 1.7 WAR, but continuing to struggle in the majors only hitting for a 59 OPS+. In 2023, he spent the full season in AAA and continued to hit well, again mirroring his 115 OPS+ from the past season at that level, but over a full season. As a 25 year old, in 2024, he was given a shot in spring training with West Virginia and he seized it, hitting for a 110 OPS+, behind a strong .358 OBP, and totaling a 3.6 WAR, as mentioned above. He was slightly below average defensively at second-base (-1.8 ZR), but could stay at the position if needed, though with the soon to be arrival of Carlos Garza, he may need to move.

-Steve Youngblood
Fargo Gazette