Ray Butler’s 2020 Prospect Obsessions: Infielders

Written by: Ray Butler

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Regular season baseball is less than three weeks away!

With my 2020 top-200 prospect list now in the rearview mirror, I can now officially shift my focus to detailing several prospects who be at the center of our attention throughout 2020 MiLB season.

The reasons for the necessary, aforementioned focus vary. No, this is not a breakout prospect list consisting of players who are set to explode throughout the upcoming season (I already published that article earlier this offseason). Instead, the players within my prospect obsession list are simply interesting. Perhaps I believe there’s a current market inefficiency that’s suppressing the value of a prospect in dynasty leagues. Perhaps I have a reason(s)—birthed from a previous live look or an organizational contact—to believe we’re bound to witness a statistical evolution within a prospect’s profile in the near future.

No matter the reason, I’ll be keeping a close eye on the infield prospects discussed below throughout the 2020 season. Nightly box score checks? Absolutely. Weekly texts to site writers and industry acquaintances? You know it. Ears perk up when I see their name mentioned in a random tweet from a minor league beat writer? For sure.

Oh, and while this certainly isn’t a breakout list, I’d be lying if I said I don’t expect several of the names mentioned below to drastically improve their stock this season. Last season, the position player portion of this list included Dylan Carlson, Kristian Robinson, Marco Luciano, Drew Waters, George Valera, Geraldo Perdomo, Mauricio Dubon and Heriberto Hernandez amongst others. Take that for what it’s worth.

Here’s the infield portion of my 2020 prospect obsession list. I hope you enjoy it!

Note: Each prospect’s #P365Top200Rank is linked to their write-up for my 2020 prospect list. I highly recommend you read further on my prospect obsessions who interest you the most. 

C.J. Abrams, SS/OF, SD. Age: 19

Abrams made a mockery of the Arizona League last summer, which caused his stock to skyrocket into the top-3 of a lot of FYPD lists. Now it’s all about cementing his place as a top prospect, which he can affirm this season. He could rank inside the top-15 a year from now, and the easiest route to that placement will is beginning to showcase the power that would really make this profile pop. There’s ‘top overall prospect’ potential here, which is a bit of a golden goose phrase on this site. #P365Top200Rank: 21

Maximo Acosta, INF, TEX. Age: 17

What was a bit of a hot take a couple of months ago has become fairly common amongst prominent prospect circles throughout the industry: Bayron Lora will catch all the headlines from the Rangers’ 2019 J2 class, but it’s Acosta who was the preference of evaluators throughout instructs last fall. Despite this, there’s still mixed opinions of the 17-year-old’s future outlook, and I fear what was considered an appetizing price tag in dynasty leagues a few months ago has since evolved and greatly narrowed the profit margin. The Arizona League this summer should give us some much-needed clarification on the appropriate expectations moving forward. For now, I’m at peace with ranking him conservatively, which means I’ll miss out in First Year Player Drafts. #P365Top200Rank: VIP

Francisco Alvarez, C, NYM. Age: 18

Forget Adley Rutschman, Joey Bart, Luis Campusano and others; no catching prospect had more buzz late last summer than Alvarez. The 18-year-old is the first teenager catcher who has ever made my top-200 prospect list before debuting in full season ball. It’s game-on for Alvarez in 2020, and I assume our John Calvagno (who scouted the catcher last summer) will get several live looks again this season. #P365Top200Rank: 144

Aaron Bracho, 2B, CLE. Age: 18

If you’re a dynasty league fiend, you’re likely aware Bracho will be one of the most-hyped prospects in the sport heading into the 2020 season. Within my prospect list, I comped the teenager to the switch-hitting version of Willie Calhoun—which is a gigantic compliment for you redrafting naysayers out there. I’m hopeful the teenager plays most of his Age 19 season in the Midwest League, as there’s a very real chance Bracho develops into one of best pure-hitting prospects in all of baseball. #P365Top200Rank: 125

Michael Busch, INF, LAD. Age: 22

Busch’s profile likely means he’ll thrive in the low levels of the minor leagues, but the ascension will be sustainable thanks to the skillset. I aggressively ranked the 22-year-old 17th amongst First Year Players (I assume that’s aggressive, anyways) because Busch is a player built for modern day baseball. There’s defensive versatility and supreme on base skills, both of which are tailor-made for the Dodgers (and my dynasty league teams). It wouldn’t surprise me if Busch is a top-100 prospect by midseason. #P365Top200Rank: 131

Wilmin Candelario, SS, KC. Age: 18

Words describing a teenage prospect that are sure to arouse us: above average raw power, plus speed, above average defensive skills from shortstop. The 29.1 K% in the Dominican Summer League (paired with the extremely deceiving .450 BABIP in more than 200 plate appearances) speaks to the prevalent concerns about the hit tool, but with the ‘absolutely free’ price tag attached to Candelario in dynasty leagues, he’s certainly worth a ground-level flier before he likely debuts in the Arizona League this summer. In the meantime, perhaps the Royals can assist the shortstop in improving his contact skihahahahahahahaha! #P365Top200Rank: Not Ranked

Jazz Chisholm, SS, MIA. Age: 22

One of my best contacts told me—unequivocally—to buy the statistical bump we witnessed from Chisholm last season following his trade to the Marlins. People throw around the phrase ‘20/20 potential’ too often and too loosely. Even if he strikes out close to 30% of the time at the big league level, that label might become the expectation if the 22-year-old continues working to tame his swing plane. 2020 could be a big year for your dynasty shares. #P365Top200Rank: 52

Lewin Diaz, 1B, MIA. Age: 23

I actually became annoyed with Lewin Diaz this offseason, because my Marlins contacts simply wouldn’t shut up about him. Here’s some context: Miami traded Zac freakin’ Gallen for Jazz Chisholm last summer. More quietly, they also dealt Sergio Romo, Chris Vallimont and a PTBNL to the Twins for Diaz. While flying a bit under the radar, I get the sense the Marlins are actually higher on Diaz internally than Chisholm; that’s extremely intriguing to me. Don’t be surprised if Miami gives their future, everyday first baseman a cup of coffee late in the regular season before giving him a legitimate opportunity to break camp with the team this time next season. I comped the 23-year-old’s statistical upside to the lite version of Jose Abreu in his write-up on my prospect list. I’m sticking to that here. #P365Top200Rank: 145

Ezequiel Duran, 2B, NYY. Age: 20

Two years ago, Duran seemed destined to be on the 2019 version of this list. A ‘meh’ 2018 campaign in the Appalachian League temporarily derailed our hopes and dreams, then the second baseman bounced back in the New York Penn League last season. Now slated to debut at full season Charleston in 2020, Duran is a bat-first prospect you should familiarize yourself with before MiLB Opening Day. There’s some swing and miss within the profile, but there’s also enough power to shoot up prospect lists throughout the 2020 regular season. #P365Top200Rank: 167

Eduardo Garcia, SS, MIL. Age: 17

From a fantasy standpoint, Garcia is probably a little less intriguing than fellow Brewers farmhand Carlos Rodriguez (who you’ll read about in the outfield edition of this list). But here’s the thing: Garcia doesn’t have to develop into an offensive star to become an everyday big leaguer. The defensive skills—from shortstop—are really, really good. The Brewers will invest a lot of brain power to maximize the 17-year-old’s offensive skillset, and there are worse things than a sum-of-the-offensive-parts shortstop with premium defense in fantasy leagues. A fractured ankle limited the teenager to 40 plate appearances last summer; his stock will be firmly on the rise by the end of the 2020 season. #P365Top200Rank: Not Ranked

Jose Garcia, SS, CIN. Age: 22

At this point, our love for Garcia has been well documented. The imbedded tweet below will lead you where you need to go.

Garcia has also had a splendid Spring Training to this point, hitting .333 with three home runs and a stolen bases in 21 plate appearances versus solid competition (according to Baseball Reference’s OppQual). It’s certainly still unlikely, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility the Reds push their prized shortstop to the big leagues late this summer if they’re still in the hunt in the NL Central. #P365Top200Rank: 89

Jordan Groshans, 3B, TOR. Age: 20

Groshans only played in 23 games last season; his stock rose anyways. There’s not five-tool potential here, but the 20-year-old is enough of a pure hitter that he might become one of the top-ranked position playing prospects anyways. The Florida State League should provide a nice test this season, and our Ian Smith should provide the goods with a live look or two throughout the regular season. You should definitely check-in on how your dynasty league mate currently values the third baseman before MiLB Opening Day. #P365Top200Rank: 43

Greg Jones, SS, TB. Age: 22

Never did I think ranking Jones 117th this preseason would leave me on the low-end of the spectrum throughout the prospect industry. But it did, and now we’re left to watch a high-variance profile produce its first legitimate sample since last summer’s draft. Jones goes about his business at the dish in an extremely unique fashion, likely posting high strikeout rates while also benefitting from extremely high (but legitimate) batting average on balls in play. The range of possible outcomes (including future defensive home) here is breathtaking, and I can’t wait to get my eye on the 22-year-old sooner rather than later. #P365Top200Rank: 117

Noelvi Marte, SS, SEA. Age: 18

Marte was basically the reason I didn’t publish my typical, breakout prospect article this season. What’s your definition of a breakout? Can a top-50 prospect breakout if it means they finish the season as a top-10 prospect? Or does it have to come from a player who’s completely unheard of? Because if it’s the latter, even writing an article focusing on a prospect like Alexfri Planez doesn’t make sense. Anyways, 2020 will be the year of Noelvi Marte, and I’m sure I’ll have a prospect bold prediction that says as much before MiLB Opening Day. If that hit tool solidifies sooner rather than later, the fantasy ceiling here is practically limitless. #P365Top200Rank: 42

Ronny Mauricio, SS, NYM. Age: 19

No matter where Mauricio ranks on the prospect lists you read this preseason, his stock is predominantly based on physical projection. The foundational skills are already present—the long-limbed shortstop possesses a feel to hit, smooth defensive tools and a frame that leaves a lot of scouts drooling. The Florida State League is a challenging league for showcasing power growth, but I’d love to see an uptick in home run output and Hard Hit% this season for the 19-year-old. Oh, and Mauricio’s caboose is that of a future 30 home run hitter. #P365Top200Rank: 41

Brady McConnell, INF, KC. Age: 21

Just how prevalent are McConnell’s swing and miss issues? That question is important enough to land the 21-year-old on this list, because the raw tools are as loud as prospects who are being selected well before McConnell in First Year Player Drafts. The Royals don’t exactly have a terrific, recent track record of assisting their position playing prospects in making more contact, but that growth will be imperative in the infielder reaching his underratedly high upside. I assume the South Atlantic League beckons in 2020. #P365Top200Rank: VIP

Alexander Mojica, 3B, PIT. Age: 17

Hints of the ole ‘physically overwhelming in the Dominican Summer League’ label (a la Malcom Nunez, which FanGraphs noted in their write-up) led to Mojica’s exclusion from even the VIP portion of my preseason prospect list, but he remains a prospect worth monitoring anyways. There appears to be substantial power from a corner infielder within this profile, but we need to see the hit tool manifest itself in the Gulf Coast League and beyond before we get overly excited. Keep a close eye on the teenager this summer. #P365Top200Rank: Not Ranked

Rafael Morel, SS, CHC. Age: 18

Statistically speaking, Morel wasn’t even the best player on his Dominican Summer League team last season (that honor would go to all-namer Yohendrick Pinango, who is also interesting if for no other reason than his name). But it’s the shortstop who has more projection and is more likely to take steps forward throughout his development, and that lands you on a list like this one. The 18-year-old is the younger brother of Christopher, who just posted a 124 wRC+ campaign as a 20-year-old in the Midwest League. Rafael has the more intriguing skillset, but this could be a fun story around the prospect world throughout the next few seasons. The younger Morel’s stateside debut will be much anticipated leading up to this summer. #P365Top200Rank: Not Ranked

Keithron Moss, 2B, TEX. Age: 18

Generally speaking, this is a high-variance profile that is just as likely to flame out as it is to make it to the big league level. But in a vacuum, Moss’ skillset is intriguing. This is potentially a switch-hitting second baseman with a decent hit tool, adequate power and plus speed. Anywhere outside the top-200 prospects (which is the 18-year-old’s current standing), you should take note of this upside. A ton of refinement lies ahead for Moss, and the Northwest League should provide a big challenge this summer. #P365Top200Rank: VIP

Jhonkensy Noel, 1B, CLE. Age: 18

I originally published this in the VIP portion of my prospect list, but I see a bit of Evan White in Noel’s skillset. He’s an athletic first baseman with bat-to-ball skills, blossoming power, surprising speed and potentially great defense at first base. Of course, the 18-year-old has a ways to go to ascend to White’s current standing in the prospect world, but it’s fun to dream big about a currently unheralded prospect, especially playing in an organization who has quickly gained a strong reputation in developing both position playing and pitching prospects. #P365Top200Rank: VIP

Liover Peguero, SS, PIT. Age: 19

A swing change will have to take place for Peguero to ever maximize his power potential, but every other facet of this skillset screams ‘future big league regular’. I will be interested to evaluate the teenager’s batted ball profile this season when he debuts in full season ball. There was an unfair amount of worry surrounding Peguero because he was hypothetically blocked by Geraldo Perdomo in the Diamondbacks’ organization, but that silliness was put to bed when the 19-year-old was traded to the Pirates as the headliner of the Starling Marte trade earlier this offseason. The real life floor here is so good that I find it really hard to not gobble-up low level shares before the shortstop becomes a known commodity throughout the prospect world. #P365Top200Rank: 136

Oswald Peraza, SS, NYY. Age: 19

I really get the feeling the entirety of the prospect world will know Peraza’s name by the end of this season, and I said as much (in detail) in the second episode the Prospects 365 Fantasy Baseball Podcast. There’s a feel to hit, speed, a projectable body and emerging power within this profile—and the 19-year-old is fly largely under the radar on prospect lists and dynasty leagues. If you’re looking for a breakout from a prospect who narrowly missed my top-200 list (he was in the VIP portion), Peraza might be your guy. The 2020 season should consist of a mix between the South Atlantic and Florida State leagues. #P365Top200Rank: VIP

Geraldo Perdomo, SS, ARI. Age: 20

Read this next sentence without becoming aroused. Switch hitter, on base monster, elite bat-to-ball skills, above average speed, premium defense, emerging power. Woo-wee. Perdomo could potentially be a 20-year-old playing in the Southern League before the end of the regular season, and returning to the California League to begin his 2020 campaign is the perfect environment to display his hypothetical power gains. If the Diamondbacks trading Jazz Chisholm (mentioned above) wasn’t enough of a statement in the organization’s confidence in Perdomo, they added a cherry on top by also dealing Liover Peguero (also mentioned above) to the Pirates earlier this offseason. It’s difficult to evaluate the 20-year-old without arriving at the conclusion he’s a future, everyday big league player. #P365Top200Rank: 65

Alejandro Pie, SS, TB. Age: 18

Pie is a prospect you won’t read much about this preseason other than on this site, but we keep hearing good things about the 18-year-old. There’s extreme rawness in this profile, but there’s also a chance for plus raw power with above average speed if Pie’s talent materializes. I was a little early on the call this summer when I explained his aggressive ranking on my 2019 midseason list, but the premise is still correct. This development will be a slow burn, but we’re here for the long haul. #P365Top200Rank: 172

Reggie Preciado, SS, SD. Age: 16

A switch-hitting, projectable shortstop with a feel to hit and a frame that should grow into above average raw power? That’s Preciado. The teenager—like so many others—is largely on this list because we’ll know infinitely more about him by the end of the 2020 regular season. The raw skills here appear quite savory, and the Padres have earned our trust in developing ball-of-clay type prospects. A few aspects of this profile—the switch hitting, the defensive position and the ‘all legs with wide-set hips and a big rear end’ frame—squarely remind me of Ronny Mauricio (who’s mentioned above). #P365Top200Rank: VIP

Gabriel Rodriguez, 3B, CLE. Age: 18

At some point this summer, we’re going to learn a lot about the amazing group of teenage infield prospects in the Indians organization once they debut in the New York Penn League. There will certainly be ebbs and flows, but a league average performance from Rodriguez (with a flash of his massive, 70-grade power) would validate his aggressive ranking on my prospect lists since last midseason. The teenager has developed a bit of a ‘this is what the mashers look like’ physique, and I can’t help but think the prospect world will uniformly know the infielder’s name by the end of the 2020 season. #P365Top200Rank: 129

Mark Vientos, 3B, NYM. Age: 20

Home park factors and a little better luck will be the name of the game for Vientos in 2020. It feels weird to say that about a prospect who will progress to the Florida State League this season, but it appears Low-A Columbia was truly brutal for the third baseman last season. The 20-year-old will enjoy a statistical bounce back this season. I always enjoy passing along these nuggets: organizational scouts currently value Vientos much more highly than the fantasy industry. That means you have a buying window that will likely begin shrinking relatively soon. #P365Top200Rank: 149

Evan White, 1B, SEA. Age: 23

An offseason extension means we’ll begin to see the beauty within White’s profile on MLB Opening Day. And man, is there a lot to love. The 23-year-old’s power output has improved each season since he was drafted in 2017. That number is bound improve once again in 2020, leaving White to be one of the most promising first basemen in all of baseball beginning next season. Even if he struggles a bit at the plate in his first taste versus the best pitching planet Earth has to offer, White is worthy of this list thanks to the inevitable, highlight reel-worthy defensive plays he’ll constantly provide over the course of his rookie season. He’s truly going to be a joy to watch. #P365Top200Rank: 39


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