The top of the 2020 is fairly college-heavy, with Spencer Torkelson, Austin Martin, Nick Gonzales, Asa Lacy, and Emerson Hancock all expected to from NCAA action to among the first five or six pick in the draft. If there was a high school player to interrupt a string of collegiate selected at the top of this draft, the growing consensus seems to be that it will be outfielder Zac Veen.
Veen seems to be gaining steam in mock drafts and rankings, with many seeing the left-handed hitter as a five-tool player with perhaps the highest upside in the draft. He started gaining attention last summer excelling on the summer showcase, and got off to a hot start this year before play was halted. Standing at 6’5’, Veen added about 20 pounds of muscle last winter with the potential to bulk up even more as he grows into his frame.
Veen has a wide stance with a smooth left-handed swing that almost looks effortless. Baseball America praises his swing for having “natural leverage and good loft” that generates good bat speed and generates plus power that could “eventually reach double-plus.” With his size and his swing, you can see why he gets compared a lot to Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger.
Drew Osborne at Royals Farm Report praises Veen for his advanced approach.
The thing I really liked when watching Veen was that he gets to the ball out in front so consistently. His swing is short, quick, and he creates loft by getting the ball on the upswing out in front of his body. Veen can really transfer power into the ball and stay through pitches. He can get his hands to everything and drives the ball easily. Veen already has a lot of power and has the ability to hit for power even when he is focusing on contact.
Baseball America also notes he has a patient eye and can go deep in counts, but that he has “some swing-and-miss tendencies at the moment and critics wonder about his ability to handle velocity and adjust to offspeed stuff away, though most scouts believe he’ll be an above-average or better hitter thanks to his batting eye, the looseness of his operation and the way his hands work during his swing.”
Veen plays centerfield now, but most seem to agree he will need to move to a corner outfield spot at the next level. He has average speed and a good arm, so if he can hit, he would probably profile well in right field.
Veen attended Spruce Creek High School in Port Orange, on the eastern coast of Florida near Daytona Beach and is a commit to the University of Florida, Both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline rank Veen as the seventh-best draft prospect, but tops among all high school players. Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline notes there has “been talk” of the Royals looking at Veen and Keith Law mocked Veen to the Royals in his latest mock draft, writing, “the Royals are the first team that could go high school, maybe cutting a deal with Veen — the consensus top high school player — rather than “settling” for the best college player in the second tier.”
Congratulations to the #WWBAUnderclassWorldChampionship MVP and the man whose walk-off home run sent his team to the Championship; Zac Veen!!— Perfect Game Tournaments (@PG_Tourney) October 8, 2018
Stats from the tourney -
6-for-22, 2B, HR, 7 RBI, 3 SB pic.twitter.com/ie9pWVwQ22
There is always an inherent risk in drafting high school hitters. They can have all the tools in the world, but if they never learn to hit 98 mph fastballs with sink or lay off tight sliders that dive off the plate, that raw power is of little use. Former 2017 first-round pick Nick Pratto is also a prospect that works deep counts, but tends to have swing-and-miss tendencies, and his future is in doubt after a rough 2019 season.
But the Royals also need some stars in the system. For all the improvements they have made in the minor league depth, Bobby Witt, Jr. is the only one that looks like he has star potential. Veen would be a risk, but he could come with a major payoff. The Royals will have to determine if that risk is worth taking and if Veen can be a star fans flock to at Kauffman Stadium.