The 2020 MLB Draft has come and gone and there was a lot of action relative to the Oklahoma Sooners over the course of the five rounds.
Before the draft, the main focus was on ace Cade Cavalli and where he would land along with if some of the OU high school commits would get taken early enough to tempt them away from playing college baseball.
Well, both of those things happened – and then some.
Assuming all the draftees sign (they almost certainly will), the Sooners are going to look quite different in 2021 than many had assumed.
Let’s go through this one drafted player at a time with some quick, immediate thoughts on what it means for Oklahoma going forward.
Ed Howard – #16 to the Chicago Cubs
Illinois high-schooler Ed Howard was a guy leading up to the draft that it became evident was going to get taken pretty high.
This was a bit earlier than most thought, but nevertheless the first round was where he was expected and he gets an awesome opportunity to go to his hometown organization with the Cubs.
Howard didn’t get taken 16th overall by accident, he has a great deal of upside and certainly was thought of as the heir to the throne of shortstop after Brandon Zaragoza finished up his final season in Norman next year should he choose to attend Oklahoma.
So, in the short term, losing Howard isn’t overly consequential – but in the seasons beyond next year he would have been a big part of the team.
But, like I said, having Howard was always a bit of a pipe dream since his stock had continuously risen leading up to the draft.
“You saw the talent with him, you knew they were going to draft that guy,” head coach Skip Johnson said of Howard.
Cade Cavalli – #22 to the Washington Nationals
As written on Wednesday night, Cavalli has been well-thought of for some time now as far as pro prospects.
The guy can throw straight gas, and has breaking pitches to pair with it that are going to strike out guys at the next level.
“I’ve been around Clayton Kershaw, Homer Bailey, a bunch of big leaguers…and he throws it as easily as any of those guys,” Johnson said.
22nd overall was actually a tad later than most had thought, with most mocks having him projected somewhere in the 12-17 range.
Nobody on Earth thought OU would have Cavalli next season, so this pick doesn’t have a lick of impact on the 2021 team.
As far as for Cade, it is honestly a really nice spot for him.
He joins an organization that knows how to develop pitchers quite well, but doesn’t currently have a pitcher ranked in the top 100 prospects in baseball.
This means there is a path for Cavalli to fly up the system quickly if all goes well, which is all you can really ask for.
Daxton Fulton – #40 to the Miami Marlins
This one ended up being a bit of surprise, not necessarily because the Mustang High School product is going to sign, but because of where he went and is still likely to sign.
Thought of as perhaps the best left-handed high school pitcher in the draft, Fulton was looked at as a Day 1 pick by most, but he slipped into the early stages of the second round going to Miami.
According to Kegan Reneau of Soonerswire, the Marlins went above slot value to lure Fulton to sign with them. Nothing is official yet, but his activity on social media seemed to imply that he was indeed headed to the Marlins organization.
This is a tough blow for OU, because this was a guy who they thought they had a shot to keep going forward – and he would have certainly been a big part of the rotation down the road.
He even could have had a nice impact in 2021 with the talent level he brings, so this is a loss that is significant to the club.
Everyone knew Fulton was going to go early and would likely sign, but once he slipped to the second day it seemed extremely possible he would be heading to Norman after all – in reality, not so much.
Levi Prater – #93 to the St. Louis Cardinals
Levi Prater has been my personal favorite guy to watch pitch at OU since I began covering the team in 2017.
He brings a fire and energy to the game that is infectious, and I will miss getting to see him throw at L Dale Mitchell Park.
He gets to enter what is undeniably one of the best organizations in baseball in St. Louis, and could be a back end of the rotation guy there in the near future – and at the very least a bullpen arm.
As for the impact on Oklahoma…this one stings if you are the Sooners.
You knew Cavalli was gone, that was a given, but this was not.
Prater did pretty well for himself here going in the third round, and he’ll certainly sign on with the Cardinals and begin his professional career whenever baseball resumes.
“A fierce competitor, a guy who is never going to give in,” Johnson said on what the Cardinals are getting with Prater.
Levi would have obviously been the ace of the staff next season for Skip Johnson and company, so this clearly has a large impact on the team next season.
Brady Lindsly – #123 to the Washington Nationals
Make it two Sooners headed to DC, as catcher Brady Lindsly got scooped up the Nats as well to join Cavalli.
This was unexpected, as Lindsly was not projected to go in this five round draft in any mock that I had seen personally.
You can’t help but be extremely excited for Brady, but this is a blow to Oklahoma that the team may not have expected to have to deal with in 2021.
Lindsly formed a fantastic catching duo with Justin Mitchell, that allowed Skip Johnson so much lineup flexibility day in and day out.
Obviously, you still have Mitchell to be your everyday catcher in 2021, but the ability to rotate them and play lefty/righty matchups was a great luxury for OU.
That is now gone, and Skip will need to figure out who he wants to be the #2 catcher behind Mitchell going forward.
Dane Acker – #127 to the Oakland Athletics
Well, complete the trifecta, because all three starters of OU’s weekend rotation was drafted this week.
Acker’s time at Oklahoma was brief, but that didn’t stop him from creating one of the most memorable moments in OU baseball history when he no-hit the LSU Tigers at Minute Maid Park.
The A’s had been eyeballing Acker for awhile in the draft before they picked him, so when he was still available at 127th overall they knew they had to snag him.
This means Oklahoma now has to replace its entire weekend rotation in 2021, something Skip Johnson said hes has never had to do, which is a daunting task but fortunately OU has the arms to pick up the slack.
Wyatt Olds will be the guy everyone immediately turns to along with the big right-hander Ben Abram.
Skip Johnson knows a thing or two about pitching, so he’ll undoubtedly be able to develop more guys into quality starters – but any time you have to replace your top three pitchers is a tough job.
2020 Season – What Could Have Been
It has been talked about to death, but I want to just say it one last time as we finally close the book on the 2020 season that never was – the team OU had this spring was special and it is an absolute shame they did not get the chance the play it out.
We always said it was the rotation that set Oklahoma apart as a contender, and this draft has greatly reaffirmed that thinking.
An entire weekend rotation getting selected in the first four rounds of an MLB Draft is really special, so the question of “What could have been” in 2020 will always hang over Oklahoma baseball.
Although, that is something that Skip Johnson referenced as being a bit of the new normal going forward.
“That’s what it should look like, right? We’re the University of Oklahoma,” Johnson said.
All three guys will begin their pro careers now and OU will look to move forward with the loads of talent they have coming in and still have, but the fact of never knowing what would have happened in 2020 will always linger.
There are tons of these types of things in sports, but this one is especially unique given the circumstances.
It wasn’t a freak injury or a bad luck play that negated the season, it was a global pandemic that eliminated spring sports entirely.
So, we now close the books on a season that was extremely short and yet one we’ll all never forget – and look ahead.
Early, Early Thoughts on 2021
It’s June 12th, the College World Series would not have even started yet if the season was still going on, but let’s go ahead and get some early, quick thoughts out there on 2021.
As I mentioned, the pitching staff will be headed by Wyatt Olds and Ben Abram along with Jake Bennett among others.
There is still some very good arms on this team, and like I said, Skip Johnson knows how to develop pitchers.
So, while the rotation won’t be what it was this year in all likelihood, it is still going to be very strong.
On the offensive side, you are bringing everyone back outside of Brady Lindsly.
You still have Justin Mitchell to do the lion’s share of the catching, so your lineup is going to be every bit as good as it was in 2020 and probably improved.
While OU did lose a lot of talent in this draft, they did not lose two Oklahoma high school products in Jace Bohrofen and Cade Horton.
What role those guys will have in 2021 will have to be determined, but those are two young guys who can be looked at as future anchors of the team in the years ahead.
2021 is still going to be a very exciting season of OU baseball, and I personally can’t wait for it to get here.
The countdown to next season is on.
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