HawgBeat - Hutch's Gut: Which 2020 signees go pro, which make it to Arkansas
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Hutch's Gut: Which 2020 signees go pro, which make it to Arkansas

Cayden Wallace is a top-25 recruit in the 2020 class, according to Perfect Game.
Cayden Wallace is a top-25 recruit in the 2020 class, according to Perfect Game. (Twitter/Cayden Wallace)

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For several years now, Dave Van Horn has said Arkansas’ 2020 signing class has a chance to be special, but with one major stipulation: If they make it to campus.

The time has finally come to find out where and if the top players in the Razorbacks’ No. 3 nationally ranked class get drafted, but it will look way different than the veteran coach could have ever imagined.

Usually a 40-round even with more than 1,200 picks across three days, this year’s MLB Draft will feature just 160 picks in five rounds as a way for pro teams to save money in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The first 37 picks - covering the first round and Competitive Balance Round A - are Wednesday, beginning at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN. Rounds 2-5, which comprise the final 123 picks of the draft, begin at 4 p.m. Thursday on ESPN2. Both days will also be televised on the MLB Network.

While most fans will probably be anxiously waiting to see which team picks Heston Kjerstad, Casey Martin and Casey Opitz, Van Horn’s focus will likely be on his incoming freshmen.

The shortened draft has certainly helped, but the Razorbacks could still lose any of eight players from their 18-man class of high school prospects.

If signability - or a team’s concern about getting a deal done before the signing deadline - was not an issue and the MLB Draft’s picks were based solely on talent/potential like its counterparts in the NFL and NBA, six of those players would be virtual locks to hear their names called.

However, with a surplus of talent, this year’s draft is expected to have a heavy college flavor because college players will have less leverage and teams will be able to get away with signing bonuses under slot value. That is expected to push more high school talent to the college level than ever before, and that couldn’t have come at a better time for the Razorbacks.

In addition to having to deal with only half of the first 10 rounds, which come with designated slot values, Van Horn and his staff also won’t have to sweat out a third day for Rounds 11-40. That is where MLB teams have been known to scoop up high school players and use any remaining bonus pool money to offer above the $125,000 allowed for those picks.

The first few rounds on Day 3 have typically been where that happens - as seen with in 2017 with Dakota Bennett, who signed for $350,000 as an 11th-round pick - but it also happens throughout the draft. Just two years ago, Wade Beasley signed for $257,500 as a 24th-round pick.

At a school like Arkansas, which routinely makes the College World Series as an SEC power and attracts the top talent from across the country, this is an annual battle for the coaching staff - even if this year is extremely unique.

Here’s a rundown of the eight signees - ordered by their rank on Perfect Game - fans should keep an eye on this week, as well as my predictions for what will happen for each player based on my conversations with them and various sources…

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RHP/SS Masyn Winn - Kingswood (Texas)

Perfect Game recruit ranking: No. 18

The crown jewel of Arkansas’ 2020 signing class, Winn is a legitimate two-way player who some scouts believe he could reach the big leagues as a pitcher (he already touches 98 miles per hour with his fastball) and others who believe he could reach the big leagues as a shortstop (he has a ton of power at the plate).

Whether or not that involves a stop in Fayetteville along the way remains to be seen. Most prospect lists have him in the 40-50 range, which would make him an early second-round pick. However, Winn’s camp believes he could sneak into the first round, even if it’s the “Competitive Balance Round A” that makes up picks 30-37.

It not unheard of for first-round picks to go to college - Mississippi State’s J.T. Ginn and Ole Miss’ Gunnar Hogland are recent examples - but even pick No. 37 has a slot value of nearly $2 million. Sources told HawgBeat that Winn has a set number he’s asking for and won’t take a penny under it, so it’ll be up to a team to decide it wants to pay that amount. Otherwise, he will come to Arkansas.

As recently as last fall, Winn was tweeting about pitching coach Matt Hobbs being able to get his fastball up to triple digits. Then when asked about the impending decision by the Houston Chronicle two weeks ago, he said he was still “50/50.”

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