Note: Astros stripped of first-round pick (and second-round pick) as part of sign-stealing punishment. Table: Axios Visuals

The 2020 MLB draft begins Wednesday and has been shortened from the usual 40 rounds down to just five as a cost-cutting move amid the pandemic.

Why it matters: The mood around baseball has only worsened in recent weeks as the players and owners continue their contentious negotiations, so the league will be hoping the selection of its future stars can provide a momentary reprieve.

The state of play: The MLB draft is unique in that even diehard fans don't really know about top players, due to college baseball's lack of popularity and the reality that even a Zion Williamson-esque prospect won't make the majors for a few years.

  • This year's draft was originally moved from New Jersey to Omaha, Nebraska, to give prospects a better experience and make it a more exciting event, with the College World Series starting in Omaha three days later.
  • Sadly, it will now be held remotely, and the CWS has obviously been canceled. But with sports on pause, perhaps more fans than usual will tune in tonight (the NFL's virtual draft in April smashed ratings records).

Top prospects:

  • Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Arizona State (age: 20): The bat-first power hitter is athletic enough that he could land in left field, but he's a classic 1B slugger. As a freshman in 2018, he led all of D-I with 25 HR.
  • Austin Martin, 2B, Vanderbilt (age: 20): Touted for his elite athleticism, he's been compared to a young Javy Báez. But unlike Báez, he rarely strikes out, with an 85:82 BB:K ratio across two and a half seasons.
  • Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M (age: 21): The highest upside pitcher in the class, Lacy was nearly untouchable in his shortened spring season. Four starts with a 0.75 ERA, 0.708 WHIP and an absurd 17.3 K/9.

Go deeper: The cost of MLB's shortened draft

Go deeper

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Data: Compiled from state health departments by Axios; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

At least 15 states broke their single-day novel coronavirus infection records this week, according to state health department data reviewed by Axios.

The big picture: The number of coronavirus cases increased in the vast majority of states over the last week, and decreased in only two states plus the District of Columbia, Axios' Andrew Withershoop and Caitlin Owens report.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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Photo: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

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The state of play: Axios' Stef Kight writes public parades and fireworks displays around much of the country are being canceled to prevent mass gatherings where the virus could spread. Hot-dog contests and concerts will play to empty stands and virtual audiences — all while American pride treads an all-time low.