Written by: Ray Butler
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Another #ProspectListSZN has come and gone, which means it’s officially time to release the composite top-200, consisting of north of 45,000 words discussing the best prospects throughout the sport.
As always, on a list this extensive and—for lack of a better term—exhaustive, CTRL+F is your best friend if you’re looking to read my thoughts on individual prospects. If you’re reading from a MacBook, it’s command+F. If you’re reading from a smart phone, you can easily use the “Find on Page” function under page options. You’ll quickly find those functions are a godsend. It’s also worth mentioning that—as always—this is a fantasy-focused list that also accounts for several real-life nuances when evaluating and ranking prospects.
As always, thanks to FanGraphs and Baseball Reference for free, convenient access to player pages and an abundance of statistical data. Thanks to Baseball Info Solutions and RotoWire for publicizing the minor league batted ball data you’ll read about throughout this list.
Lastly, thank you! It’s been another wildly successful preseason for our site, and to an extent, my preseason content arrives at somewhat of a climax today with the release of the entirety of my top-200 list, all in one place for your convenience. This site is nothing with our wonderful readers and followers, so THANK YOU!
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200. Thomas Szapucki, SP, NYM. Age: 23
When he’s not healthy, we call him Thomas Szayucki. Yikes. Anyways, the 23-year-old was able to make it through… most… of the 2019 season unscathed, posting a 2.63 ERA and a 27.3 K% in 61.2 IP scattered throughout three different levels. If you noted the low innings pitched total, that’s fair. The Mets intentionally limited Szapucki’s workload as he worked back to full form from Tommy John surgery. It’s also worth noting the southpaw ended the season on the Double-A injured list, which subsequently led to him being scratched from participating in the Arizona Fall League. It’s unknown whether there was an actual injury or if the Mets opted to simply rest the 23-year-old, but a Mets’ source told me in November there was no reason to believe Szapucki would enter the 2020 campaign ‘at anything other than 100 percent.’ Having been pushed all the way to Double-A after beginning the season in the South Atlantic League, there’s no reason to think the Mets won’t again be aggressive with Szapucki this season. There’s plenty of starting pitcher depth in Flushing, but depending on injuries (or the Mets selling at the deadline) Szapucki could be ready to make his big league debut by July or so. Just stay healthy, sweet prince. Mets Rank: 6th
199. Austin Beck, OF, OAK. Age: 21
Another season has passed, and prospect rankers find themselves still searching for legitimate reasons to include Beck on their lists. Reports were excellent last offseason: it was beginning to sound like the outfielder had become comfortable with a retooled swing. The California League placement seemed inevitable, so it was easy to draw the conclusion Beck would improve his stock in 2019 while making a mockery of a hitter friendly league. That simply didn’t happen. The 21-year-old slashed .251/.302/.411 with 8 home runs and 2 stolen bases in 85 games and 367 plate appearances. If you were quick to notice the lack of games played or plate appearances, Beck missed considerable time in June and July with a quadriceps injury. The power output ticked up a bit (if you distribute the eight home runs to the amount of plate appearances Beck accumulated in 2018, he likely hits double digits), but the strikeout rate drastically increased (from 21.9% in 2018 to 34.3% last season). The speed output for an above average runner also decreased (8 SB in 2018, 2 SB in 2019). One could surmise the quadriceps ailment played a role in the decrease in stolen bases, but sooner or later we simply need to see Beck connect more of the dots both in written reports by evaluators and in the box score. At this point, the pedigree, raw power and defensive skills are enough to keep the 21-year-old on a list as deep as this one. Here’s to hoping he can put together a full, productive (and healthy) 2020 campaign. Athletics Rank: 7th
198. Esteury Ruiz, 2B, SD. Age: 21
2019 was not kind for Ruiz. The 21-year-old continued to sell out for power, posting a 51.4 Pull% and 45.0 FB%. The strikeout rate dropped two percent (28.6% to 26.6%), but the walk rate decreased as well (7.7% to 6.8%). The slash numbers dipped, but it was more of a BABIP normalization for a pull-heavy player than Ruiz being struck by batted ball misfortune. There were no reports of notably better defense at second base, and perhaps in a foreshadowing development, Ruiz played twelve games in left field. In the fantasy realm, the worst trend in the 21-year-old’s 2019 campaign was the power output, which was slashed in half from Ruiz’s season in the Midwest League (12 home runs in 2018, 6 home runs in 2019). The second baseman played in the hitter friendly California League in 2019, so the drop is quite condemning. And perhaps even worse: Ruiz’s 17.1 Hard% ranked near the bottom of all minor leaguers with batted ball date in 2019. When you sell out for power and are only able to muster a sub-20% hard hit rate with minimal power output, it’s pretty damning. The 21-year-old was left unprotected leading up to the 2019 Rule 5 Draft; of course, that was partly because the Padres have an embarrassment of riches within their farm system, but it also probably doesn’t speak too highly on how San Diego values Ruiz. As things currently stand, there’s a non-zero chance the second baseman is traded for a second time within the next calendar year. As the advanced pitching in either the California League or Texas League continues to seep into Ruiz’s on base ability with his current approach, I’m fearful this might be the final time Ruiz appears on a preseason prospect list of mine. Padres Rank: 10th
197. Omar Estevez, INF, LAD. Age: 22
Estevez had an interesting 2019 campaign; his season can be split into two different parts. From MiLB Opening Day to May 14th, the 22-year-old slashed .333/.412/.456 with 2 home runs and a 12.1 BB% (18.2 K%). Then, the infielder suffered a left leg injury that sidelined him for more than a month. Upon returning, the slash numbers dipped (.268/.319/.415) and eyewitness reports suggest Estevez was pressing to make up for lost time. Despite the lackluster numbers in 59 games post-activation, the 22-year-old still managed to post a career-high 119 wRC+ and later supplemented his regular season with 20 games in the AFL. Generally speaking, Estevez’s carrying offensive skill is his ability to get on base. However, it’s the thought of eventually possessing above average in-game power that makes the infielder so intriguing to evaluators and scouts. The 22-year-old’s upper and lower halves work in tandem on a swing that generates natural loft. Estevez has a thick lower half, and the consensus within the industry is more power should be on the way. The Dodgers being loaded in the middle infield (and everywhere else around the diamond) clouds Estevez’s path to big league playing time a great deal, but at this point on a fantasy prospect list, it’s easy to buy the tools. The hope here is Estevez eventually establishes himself as a 55-hit, 55-power middle infielder with sufficient defensive prowess. Not quite reaching that power ceiling would still make the 22-year-old a low-end regular for second division teams. Dodgers Rank: 11th
The infield portion of my prospect obsession list has been published! Here, you can read about 28 infielders worthy of your full attention during the upcoming minor league season. Read about them here!
196. Quinn Priester, SP, PIT. Age: 19
Highly scientific opener here: there’s just something about Priester that I really, really like. The pedigree and arsenal are apparent: the 19-year-old was selected with the 18th overall pick in last summer’s draft. The four-pitch arsenal is dynamic and deadly, featuring a mid-90s four-seam (with ride) that’s touched 97, a two-seam that runs into the hands of right-handed hitters, an 11-to-5 curveball and a changeup that should eventually be a weapon versus lefties. He’s athletic and projectable, and his 6-foot-3, 195 lb. frame should add positive mass once he experiences organizational weight training programs in the offseason. Cold weather prep arms aren’t exactly a favorite of many throughout the industry, and often with good reason. But Priester has the upside of a SP3 who should continue to make strides as he ascends the levels of the minors. The upcoming (or perhaps already ongoing) philosophical shift within the Pirates organization should help, too. FYPD Rank: 29th, Pirates Rank: 8th
195. Tahnaj Thomas, SP, PIT. Age: 20
Thomas was a prospect obsession of mine last season. Then, in his first two Appalachian League starts, Thomas posted a line of 1.2 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 5 BB, 1 K. That’s a 27.00 ERA for those of you keeping score at home. I won’t lie to you: I stopped paying attention until his season was nearly over. The 20-year-old bounced back nicely, finishing the season with a 3.17 ERA (3.49 xFIP) and 29.5 K% (7.0 BB%) in 48.1 IP, which I certainly would have enjoyed tracking while it was happening instead of catching up retroactively. Thomas’ current arsenal consists of an explosive fastball that can touch triple digits, a high-80s slider and a changeup. As you’d expect with a pitching prospect who’s so raw, the latter two offerings are inconsistent and currently only flash above average qualities. Thomas is extremely athletic and projects well physically; if everything clicks, we’re probably looking at a strikeout heavy SP3 at the big league level. Of course, there’s also an extreme amount of risk that’s inherent with any unrefined pitching prospect who is yet to sniff full season ball. Because of this, there’s certainly a non-zero chance the 20-year-old eventually becomes a dynamic reliever. There’s also a chance enough facets click and Thomas becomes one of the more electric starting pitchers in the big leagues. Regardless, the right-hander certainly needs to be on your radar as we enter a new season. A solid 2020 campaign would likely mean Thomas slots similarly to Francisco Morales’ current ranking a year from now. Pirates Rank: 7th
194. Luis Rodriguez, OF, LAD. Age: 17
Not going to lie: out of the 250 prospects on this list, Rodriguez is the biggest unknown. There’s just very, very little information available on him so far. The outfielder signed with the Dodgers for $2.67 million in July. That’s basically the last we’ve heard from him. From what I’m able to gauge, the raw power is a bit better than what was projected prior to his signing in July. In general, I keep hearing that the 17-year-old was generally underrated from an offensive standpoint throughout the ‘recruiting’ process. As it stands today, Rodriguez’s proponents consider him a 50-hit, 55-raw, 55-run, 55-arm, 50-field prospect. He’ll probably play quite a bit of centerfield early in his career, but standing at a projectable 6-foot-2, he’s a decent candidate to move to right field as he fills out physically. My main (read: only) Dodgers source says it’s likely the outfielder never plays in the Dominican Summer League and instead debuts in the Arizona League next summer. He’ll be 17 years old when that happens. Do your thing, Dodgers Developmental Machine. FYPD Rank: 28th, Dodgers Rank: 10th
Have you weaponized your Twitter account for the 2020 season?
193. Johan Rojas, OF, PHI. Age: 19
Love me some Johan Rojas. After torturing the Gulf Coast League for 18 games (159 wRC+ in 84 plate appearances) to begin the summer, the outfielder was promoted to the NYPL. Viewed as an aggressive placement in the middle of the summer, Rojas posted respectable albeit unspectacular numbers–.244/.273/.384 with 2 home runs and 11 stolen bases (96 wRC+)—in 42 games and 172 plate appearances. The reports on the tools are what you hope to read about any teenage prospect: 70-grade speed, emerging power that could potentially ascend to 55 raw, and solid defense at a premium position (center field). The swing is a little funky (there’s quite a bit of movement with his front foot pre-pitch and a bit of a bat wrap), but any flaws have not yet manifested in strikeout rate (16.0 K% in 60 total games in 2019). I feel like the bigger challenge for the 19-year-old will be the development of patience (5.5 BB% last season) and quality of contact. The South Atlantic League should be in the cards for Rojas in 2020, and he’ll be a prospect whose stat line I glance at on a daily basis. Phillies Rank: 5th
192. Jake Cronenworth, INF/RP, SD. Age: 26
A Jared Walsh we can actually believe in. Cronenworth is going to be a really fun story at the big league level in 2020. A 26-year-old who was added to the Rays’ 40-man roster then traded to the Padres along with Tommy Pham, Cronenworth is capable of playing every infield position and effectively pitching in relief. A hamstring injury cost the utility player more than a month of his 2019 campaign, and when he was activated from the Triple-A injured list, he was used exclusively as a position player in order for the Durham Bulls to secure a playoff spot. That means the recent offensive sample is much more extensive than the pitching sample, but both are quite intriguing. In 406 plate appearances last season, Cronenworth slashed .334/.429/.520 with 10 home runs and 12 stolen bases (12.1 BB%, 15.3 K%). That’s good for a 147 wRC+. He also pitched in seven games last season; he didn’t allow a single run and struck out 26.5% of the batters he faced (with a .154 BAA). He also walked 23.5% of the batters he faced, and it’s hard to see the 0.00 ERA without also noticing the 4.44 FIP. Of course, the 7.1 IP sample is far from reliable or predictive of future outcome. Cronenworth has proven his offensive viability and is certainly capable of being at least a role player from a utility standpoint at the big league level. For this experiment to work, we also have to be able to believe in his stuff on the mound. Luckily, the 26-year-old’s fastball topped out at 96 mph in Triple-A last season. He also flashed a curveball that missed bats with relative ease. It. Is. On. Now a member of the Padres and with an extra MLB roster spot being implemented in 2020, it’s very likely Cronenworth will be unleashed in the NL West early and often this season. If you’re a daily league player, the 26-year-old is the perfect late round target. I’d bet he becomes a fun topic of conversation around the Twittersphere and on MLB Network in 2020. Cronenworth was included in my recently-published article about non-elite prospects with sneaky 2020 redraft value. Padres Rank: 9th
191. Dane Dunning, SP, CHW. Age: 25
Hello there, old friend. Dunning ranked 65th on my 2019 preseason top-200 list. Here’s the start of that write-up: “Did we or didn’t we escape a serious elbow injury with Dunning last season? Time will ultimately tell, but at this point there’s no reason to assume the right-hander is anything but healthy.” Unfortunately, the worst happened for the 25-year-old last season, opting for Tommy John surgery in March. The operation sidelined Dunning for the entirety of the 2019 season and will likely keep him away from competition for the majority of 2020. The right-hander was one of my toughest evaluations of the offseason. A lot of the hype surrounding the 25-year-old pre-surgery was the ETA. If healthy, it was a foregone conclusion he would play a role for the White Sox staff at some point in 2019. Now, we’re faced with the realization Dunning likely won’t debut in the big leagues until his Age 26 season—and that’s without any significant hiccups throughout his rehab. I’m extremely interested to see what the fastball looks like fully recovered versus where it was pre-injury; that pitch will play a large role in determining Dunning’s real-life and fantasy value once he returns to full health without restriction. If the stuff comes back fully functional and the command eventually returns to its above-average self, a case can be made the right-hander becomes a low-end SP3. At this point (and based on reports I’ve seen and people I’ve talked to), I think it’s more likely the right-hander slots as a SP4 who leans on his secondary pitches throughout his big league career. With infinitely more resources at my disposal now compared to a year ago, I will admit my ranking of Dunning last preseason (65th overall) was too aggressive. White Sox Rank: 5th
190. Edward Olivares, OF, SD. Age: 23
Olivares has always been a “if only the hit tool would develop” type of prospect. However, the 23-year-old just faced his toughest challenge in the minor leagues (advancing from High-A pitching to Double-A pitching) and slashed .283/.349/.453 with 18 home runs and 35 stolen bases. The 123 wRC+ was Olivares’ highest mark since 2014, when he played in the DSL as a member of the Blue Jays’ organization. The outfielder distributed the ball to all fields a little more in 2019 than in 2018 (and he did it with a stronger frame than in past seasons), but the 41.9 Pull% means the BABIP will always remain modest despite the 23-year-old possessing above average speed. To fully buy-in, I’d love to see a continuation of an increased walk rate (5.0% in 2018, 7.8% in 2019) to pair with future reports of improved patience at the plate. It’s true that he’s likely blocked (perhaps even mega-blocked) in the Padres’ system, but I do feel as though he gets penalized too harshly for it on fantasy lists. He’s already on San Diego’s 40-man roster, so it’s likely he’ll perhaps receive an opportunity more easily than we assume or he’ll be traded to an organization with less gridlock in the outfield than the Padres (a trade would subsequently open a spot on their 40-man for someone like Taylor Trammell). It’s easy for me to continue buying Olivares’ tools, especially in this tier of a prospect list. Padres Rank: 8th
189. Tyler Ivey, SP, HOU. Age: 23
You hear ‘dynamic fastball/curveball combo’ and ‘pitcher in the Astros organization’, check out Ivey’s FanGraphs page and you might be led to believe we have a future big time, big league arm on our hands. I was once convinced of this as well. Ivey still has MLB stuff, but I’m a lot more skeptical after learning the fastball is a low spin pitch that would sit around the 35th percentile amongst big league pitchers. Ivey is long-limbed and has good extension—and that definitely increases the viability of the offering—but I worry how well the pitch will play up in the zone against big league hitters at its current velocity (90-94 T96) and RPMs. In a sense, this issue is similar to the one A.J. Puk will face as a big league pitcher (you’ll read about him later this month), but Ivey has more working against him than the southpaw (velocity, handedness, mechanics, etc). Ivey’s curveball is going to be an impact big league pitch from Day One and it will likely carry the profile. The 23-year-old is going to pitch in the big leagues, and there are enough tools for him to be successful at the highest level. I’m just more conservative on the profile than I was six months ago. Astros Rank: 5th
188. Adam Hall, SS, BAL. Age: 20
Adam Hall is going to be eternally underrated on prospect lists. The infielder debuted at full season Delmarva as a teenager last season, slashing .298/.385/.395 with 5 home runs and 33 stolen bases (78.6% success rate) in 122 games and 534 plate appearances. If you’re keeping score, that’s a 133 wRC+ for a player 1.5 years younger than his league’s average competition. Hall currently struggles to incorporate his lower half in his swing, so it’s hard to project much power growth with his current mechanics. With the assumption the Orioles use their emerging R&D department to help Hall reach his potential, a safe projection is something like .270/.350/.400 with 10 home runs and 25 stolen bases. With defensive skills that will likely keep Hall in the middle of the infield, we’re suddenly discussing a really intriguing big league player. Statistically speaking, that’s pretty dang close to what we just witnessed from Kolten Wong, who is currently a top-250 player in redrafts for the upcoming season. Orioles Rank: 8th
187. Luis Garcia, INF, PHI. Age: 19
If you remember, one of my prospect bold predictions last year was that Garcia and Ronny Mauricio would both be top-25 prospects by the end of 2019. After beginning any subsequent conversation with the fact the prediction was wrong, it’s always Mauricio who’s discussed afterwards. The forgotten member of that duo, it’s fairly obvious Garcia was pushed too aggressively into full season ball in 2019. In 127 games and 524 plate appearances, the teenager slashed .186/.261/.255 with 4 home runs and 9 stolen bases (8.4 BB%, 25.2 K%, 55 wRC+). I’d imagine those are the worst offensive numbers from any prospect you’ll read about on this list. I don’t have any magical reports to renew your faith in the infielder. To my knowledge, there was no secret injury that hampered Garcia throughout his full season debut. He was just bad. But while he’s been largely discarded from a fantasy sense, I’m quietly gobbling-up ground floor shares and betting on a bit of a bounce back in 2020. It’s true I overestimated Garcia’s fantasy potential a bit when I ranked 110th last preseason before he debuted in the South Atlantic League, but I wasn’t wrong about the potential for an above average hit tool and above average speed. I’m buying those tools with the idea repeating the Sally this season will help him recuperate his stock. Phillies Rank: 4th
186. Kevin Alcantara, OF, NYY. Age: 17
Perhaps the most projectable of the prospects who were promoted from the Dominican Summer League mid-season, Alcantara is a projectable string-bean (6-foot-6, 190 lbs.) whose swing shouldn’t look as beautiful as it does so early in his development. Relying on a quick glance at the DSL or GCL numbers would likely mean the outfielder would be passed over on a list like this, but there’s so much more here than meets the eye of the stat line scout. Those who have seen the 17-year-old play see aggression that is typical of such a raw prospect at such a young age. Playing in the GCL before he can legally buy cigarettes, aggression mostly leads to poor quality of contact and pedestrian box scores. But evaluators also see a prospect with eye-opening coordination for someone with Alcantara’s frame. They see the potential for plus raw power, above average speed and a defensive skillset that lends itself to center or right field. It may take a while for the in-game numbers to catch up to the 17-year-old’s raw skillset, but Alcantara is certainly one of the most intriguing Rookie-level prospects in the sport. The development here is likely to be slow but worthwhile in the long run. Yankees Rank: 10th
Interested in minor league batted ball data and isolated power? Our Tyler Spicer recently made some observations on prospects and leagues that really made their presence felt in that realm last season.
185. Dean Kremer, SP, BAL. Age: 24
Kremer was actually the last player added to my 2020 prospect list after a few industry sources suggested I was placing far too much weight on the right-hander’s hypothetical big league situation in the near future. I already included the 24-year-old in an article discussing non-elite prospects who could provide solid value in redraft leagues this season. Kremer is by no means a superstar-pitching prospect, but there are enough tools within this sum-of-the-parts skillset to profile nicely from the back of the Orioles’ rotation beginning sometime in 2020. The right-hander’s arsenal consists of four pitches—a fastball, curveball, changeup and slider—that, in a perfect world, should protect him from split concerns at the big league level. The slider is the only pitch in the repertoire that is firmly below average, so the fastball’s viability against right-handed hitters will be key. I don’t have to tell you how terrifying of a gauntlet the AL East is, but Kremer has the upside of an SP4 who flirts with a strikeout per inning pitched throughout the prime of his big league career. Orioles Rank: 7th
184. Miguel Vargas, INF, LAD. Age: 20
You look at Vargas’ 6-foot-3, 205 lb. frame and it becomes hard to build an argument against him eventually developing above average or better raw power. Then you consider the fact he’s in the Dodgers’ organization, and you just assume it’ll happen in due time. After a full season’s worth of at-bats in the Midwest and California Leagues, I’ve become unconvinced. The lower half screams power, but the bat speed is really forgettable. The wrists are stiff, and the lack of punch was evident in Vargas’ pedestrian 19.4 Hard%. Regardless of whether Vargas takes most of his long-term defensive reps from third base or eventually shifts across the diamond to first, it appears unlocking more bat speed (and more power) will be absolutely paramount. There are solid foundational tools in place here, including solid plate discipline and above average bat-to-ball skills. If the Dodgers are able to work their magic and Vargas evolves into the prospect his body says he should be, he’ll become one of the better infield prospects in all of baseball. Dodgers Rank: 9th
183. Kris Bubic, SP, KC. Age: 22
There will be a few prospects on this list whose outlook can better be described from a blurb in the Ramblings than anything I could write here. Bubic is one of those prospects. The reasoning behind the drop in Bubic’s ranking from my end-of-season list to now is quite simple: remove the statistics, evaluate the stuff. Bubic has one of the best changeups in the minor leagues, but I’m terrified he won’t be able to adequately construct a sequence or usage that will make the pitch as deadly against Double-A and Triple-A hitters as it was in the low minors. My pessimism on this outlook means I might be the low man on Bubic this preseason, but it’s a battle I’m willing to fight. Howdy, Rhys. Royals Rank: 7th
My breakout prospect article for the 2020 season consists of four prospects who’s stocks are soon to be on the rise—and a concession that we often force the term ‘breakout’ around the prospect industry.
182. Daz Cameron, OF, DET. Age: 23
The fantasy profile added some risk and shed some upside in 2019, which is never what you want from a prospect on the cusp of debuting at the big league level. Cameron was a well-below-average offensive performer in the International League last season, slashing .214/.330/.377 with 13 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 120 games and 528 plate appearances (84 wRC+). The strikeout rate also worsened, jumping from 25.7% to 28.8% in a full season of Triple-A at-bats. There’s certainly stolen base potential here, but the questions surrounding the hit tool were only accentuated last season. Center field being the defensive home increases the real-life floor, and the fact the Tigers stink should allow Cameron ample opportunities to prove himself once he debuts in Detroit. A projection of .240 BA/.320 OBP/15 HR/18 SB with a high strikeout rate throughout his prime feels about right, especially if the 23-year-old continues to hit the ball on the ground too often. Tigers Rank: 6th
181. Jay Groome, SP, BOS. Age: 21
2020 will always be known as the season Jay Groome re-established himself as one of the most promising, left-handed pitching prospects in all of baseball… is a sentence I would love to read in ten months. It’s been a grueling process for the 21-year-old. Multiple injuries—most notably a torn UCL that led to Tommy John surgery in May 18—have derailed the lion’s share of Groome’s development since he was selected 12th overall in 2016. Now assumed fully healthy and slated to break camp with a full season affiliate in 2020, a case can be made the southpaw can improve his stock as much as any pitching prospect this season. In a sense, Groome’s current situation reminds me a bit of Luiz Gohara in 2017. The former will be exposed in the Rule 5 draft next offseason if he’s not placed on the 40-man, so the Red Sox may be selectively aggressive with Groome’s path this season to get a better idea of whether he warrants protection. This subsequently increases the chance the left-hander is eventually transitioned to the bullpen in order to impact Boston’s big league roster sooner rather than later, but we’ll continue projecting him as a fastball/curveball-laden starter until we’re told differently. Red Sox Rank: 6th
180. Rodolfo Castro, INF, PIT. Age: 20
You can talk about the aggression at the plate if you’d like. You can talk about the current swing-and-miss issues within the profile. You can even if talk about the fact the potential stolen base impact isn’t what we thought it might be. I’d rather focus on a pair of the positives: Castro has the chance to someday hit for a massive amount of power, and he’ll do so while probably playing second base. Castro’s Hard% in 2019 was 31.8%, a rate that is well above average and quite impressive when you consider the frequency in which the 20-year-old swings the bat as well as the fact he took most of his cuts from a challenging Florida State League last season. And sure, the slash was only .242/.298/.456 and he struck out in more than a fourth of his plate appearances (26.5%). He was also more than two years younger than his average competition in the FSL and posted a 135 wRC+ (.299 BA) throughout the final month of the season. I really believe in the power here, so the upside is something like .250 with 30 home runs from second base. Reports have his right-handed swing much better than the left-handed swing, so the statistical disparity between the two are worth monitoring this season and beyond. Pirates Rank: 6th
179. Gilberto Celestino, OF, MIN. Age: 21
Part of me thinks Gilberto Celestino will become the player we think Misael Urbina will be. I love what I see here. There’s a high real-life floor: Celestino plays strong defense in centerfield, has a feel to hit and is a plus runner. But there’s also sneaky upside. The power output last season (10 home runs in 125 games) isn’t worth writing home about, but it’s also acceptable and perhaps even promising for a prospect who carries a public perception of a limited power ceiling. No one would mistake the lower half of the 21-year-old’s frame for tree trunks, but there is a notable thickness when you consider his listed size of 6-foot, 170 pounds. Celestino needs to elevate the ball more frequently to reach his full offensive upside, but there are tools within this profile worth targeting even if never hits more than 10 home runs per season at the big league level. Repeating his double-digit home run performance from last season while playing in the Florida State League would begin to raise some eyebrows around the prospect community, especially if he pairs that output with 15-20 stolen bases. Twins Rank: 9th
178. Travis Blankenhorn, 2B/OF, MIN. Age: 23
Perhaps my most underrated look of the season: a late-April Southern League look between the Diamondbacks’ and Twins’ Double-A squads. That series consisted of Jazz Chisholm, Daulton Varsho, Brusdar Graterol, Luis Arraez, Pavin Smith, Devin Smeltzer and Blankenhorn. I never featured him in the Ramblings, but I came away impressed with Blankenhorn. ‘Burly’ is probably the first word I would use to describe the frame, but the 23-year-old is athletic for his size—the 11 stolen bases and 0 CS in 2019 speak to that athleticism. By physical appearance alone, he looks out of place defensively at second base, but a Twins scout I talked to said he’s adequate at the position, and he held his own during my looks. He also mentioned left field as a fallback option, but that the organization loves Blankenhorn’s bat to the extent they’ll be creative with getting him in the lineup once he’s ready to debut in the big leagues. First base could also be a potential match. The 23-year-old has a good feel to hit—he beat the shift multiple times during my look, both times with two-strike counts. Despite the 6-foot-2, 228 lb. build, I’m not yet ready to throw a plus grade on the raw power. He could probably get there, but it wouldn’t be without sacrificing some of the hit tool. For now, Blankenhorn projects as a .270 AVG/20 HR hitter who might steal a handful of bases every season thanks to fantastic instincts. He’s a future big leaguer, and being added to the 40-man this offseason means he could (should?) see his first opportunity in Minnesota sometime in 2020. Twins Rank: 8th
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177. Blake Walston, SP, ARI. Age: 18
There’s so freakin’ much to love about Walston. He was young for his draft class—six months younger than Daniel Espino and ten months younger than Brennan Malone. There are five pitches in the arsenal, some more refined than others but five distinct offerings he throws in different counts. Walston oozes physical projection, currently checking in at 6-foot-5, 175 pounds with a frame that should easily be able to add positive weight. Once that happens, the southpaw could easily top out in the 96-97 mph range. Oh, and his fastball is currently his third best pitch (the curveball and changeup are better). Walston was a multi-sport star in high school (football), so I’m interested to see the perception of his upside after he focuses on baseball for a calendar year. The Diamondbacks pushed the left-hander to the Northwest League to finish the season, so there’s a decent chance he opens the 2020 season in the Midwest League (Low-A). As you can see, I’m pretty bullish on Walston. FYPD Rank: 27th, Diamondbacks Rank: 9th
176. Roansy Contreras, SP, NYY. Age: 20
The more I researched and asked around on Contreras, the more I liked what he did in 2019. The strikeout numbers (21.1 K%) were a bit lower than most of the other pitching prospects you’ll read about on this list, but the BB% (6.7%), ERA (3.33, which is supported by his FIP and xFIP) and home run suppression (10 HR allowed in 132.1 IP) are all super impressive, especially for a pitching prospect whose average competition was nearly three years older than him. We all know the strikeout numbers need to improve in order for the 20-year-old to become a prospect you salivate over, but Contreras has a lot of qualities we look for in promising, young pitchers. There’s still some physical projection left in the tank, so I’m hopeful the right-hander’s three-pitch arsenal (fastball, curveball, changeup) is eventually headlined by a fastball that sits 95-97 instead of the 92-94 we witnessed in 2019. Yankees Rank: 9th
175. Luis Frias, SP, ARI. Age: 21
I find myself stuck when evaluating Frias. On one hand, he’s a late-blooming pitching prospect with a high-effort delivery, and I get the sense he could become an elite reliever with arsenal consolidation and the ability to max-out for one or two innings at a time. On the other hand, he’s got one of the best lower-halves of any pitching prospect in baseball (and he weighs substantially more than his 180-pound list weight on MiLB-related websites). He has three pitches that all flash plus at times, and he only may tipping the scale of his potential. Consistency will be key for the 21-year-old in 2020, and I’m most interested to evaluate his ability to attack the zone when hitters in the Cal League (and Southern League if the Diamondbacks choose to be aggressive) are able to spit on the curveball and splitter in the dirt. If you’re looking for a pitching prospect lottery ticket who could finish the 2020 season as a top-50 prospect, Frias should be a prime candidate. Diamondbacks Ranks: 8th
You know you want to read about the players and prospects who claim to be in the best shape of their lives this spring. We’ve created a log, and we’ll be updating it daily.
174. Canaan Smith, OF, NYY. Age: 20
Say what you will about the perception of Smith’s hit tool as being ‘meh’, but a slash of .307/.405/.465 with a 14.0 BB% and 20.5% in his Age 20 season in the South Atlantic League has gone a long way in silencing the critics in that regard. With 11 home runs and 16 stolen bases to boot, one might wonder how the heck Smith isn’t ranked higher than the home stretch of a top-200. If you look under the hood, we find Smith isn’t even an above average straight-line runner. He was able to use his instincts to effectively steal bases in the Sally. Will he be able to do the same in the FSL and Eastern League versus pitchers who are quicker to the plate and catchers with better pop times? Also, based on older reports, Smith might be limited to left field or first base defensively. This lowers the real life floor, so he’ll really have to hit to make his way to the front of the line in a contending Yankees’ organization. With a passive approach at the plate and a pitcher-friendly assignment to the FSL on deck, a statistical repeat for Smith in 2020 would likely land him inside the top-100 a year from now. Yankees Rank: 8th
173. Joey Cantillo, SP, SD. Age: 20
You can tout Cantillo’s Low-A success in 2019 if you’d like, but the reason he ranks inside my current top-200 is the projection of the pitcher he could be with further development. The southpaw will always lean on a plus changeup and a curveball that plays up thanks to a high arm slot. That’s fine, but pitchers won’t miss bats at the Double-A level and beyond without a weaponized fastball. The southpaw has a ways to go in that regard, but the pitch projects to improve because 1) Cantillo will add weight to his frame, which should add velocity to the offering, and 2) the pitch actually improved over the course of a 2019 season that featured Cantillo pitching 62.2 more innings than he did in 2018. The fastball touched 94 in a July outing after began working with a core velocity belt and made a mechanical adjustment. The pitch is low spin and is unlikely to ever miss a ton of bats, but increased velocity will likely increase the amount of soft contact the pitch induces. And since the 20-year-old repeats his arm-speed well with his changeup, a wider velocity disparity between it and the fastball should make both pitches play-up a bit. A hitter friendly California League should be a solid challenge for Cantillo in 2020; for now, he projects as a high-pitchability, high-end SP4 who strikes out more batters than his fastball says he should. Padres Rank: 7th
172. Alejandro Pie, SS, TB. Age: 18
I ranked Pie 113th on the midseason version of my prospect list last summer. I thought it was an aggressive, edgy ranking. Ahead of the curve. With hindsight, it was simply wrong. I fully believe Pie is a top-200 prospect and possesses a high ceiling, but we had not (and still have not) received an output worthy of that ranking. At least not yet, anyways. I see a bit of a slower-progressing Ronny Mauricio in Pie: a tall, wiry shortstop who hasn’t accessed much power in-game early in his career. Don’t worry, the home runs will come with age and physical maturation. This is where we meet our fork in the road: depending on how much muscle Pie adds to his frame, he could remain at shortstop and maintain his viability as a stolen base threat. He could also add enough mass to transition to third base, where his plus raw power would play just fine. In this scenario, the stolen base output would diminish or disappear all together. I like either outcome just fine from a fantasy standpoint, and that’s why he’ll remain on this list even if he doesn’t debut in full season ball until 2022. He should debut stateside sometime this summer. Rays Rank: 12th
171. Misael Urbina, OF, MIN. Age: 17
Things went exceptionally well for Urbina in the Dominican Summer League this summer. So well, in fact, I fear Urbina is now being viewed as something he’s not. The hit tool is at least above average—the outfielder possesses solid bat-to-ball skills and walked nine more times than he struck out in 217 plate appearances this summer. That’s all fine and dandy, but we need to see the approach and contact skills translate to the Gulf Coast League and Appalachian League before we ponder the word ‘plus’ when evaluating the hit tool. The 17-year-old currently projects for average power in the future, which could be a problem in real-life since he’ll likely slot in left field defensively. The speed is the biggest wild card in this profile. Urbina stole 19 bases in 50 DSL games (70.3% success rate), but he reportedly doesn’t (yet?) possess notable top-end speed. The impending ability to steal bases at higher levels will play a large role in determining his future value on prospect lists and dynasty leagues. I’m inclined to be conservative on the upside, so with the current profile, I’ll project a .280/10 HR/20 SB ceiling from left field. Twins Rank: 7th
170. Daulton Jefferies, SP, OAK. Age: 24
You can poke holes in some of the finer points of Jefferies’ 2019 return from Tommy John surgery if you’d like, but the bottom line is simple: the right-hander exceeded expectations last season. The two complaints are easy to understand: Jefferies was a 23 and 24-year-old succeeding versus hitters in High-A and Double-A, and (by design) the right-hander never hit the 4 IP threshold in any appearance last season. It’s true we need to see how the stuff holds up a second and third time thru the order, but on it’s head, 79 IP with a 3.42 ERA, 29.2 K% and 2.8 BB% is darn impressive for a pitcher who had thrown nine competitive innings since 2016. But despite the gaudy stats last season, the arsenal points to Jefferies eventually becoming a high-end SP4 at the big league level. The fastball sits 92-94 and has average spin. The sinking changeup (Jefferies’ best pitch) mostly sits 84-87; it’s a plus pitch that is the right-hander’s best bat eluder. Jefferies also featured a slider last season that grades fringe average based on video evaluation. It should be noted the right-hander’s entire arsenal plays-up thanks to plus command. In an ideal world, Jefferies will exceed 100 IP in 2020, with some of that workload coming from the big league level. The icing on the cake would be the ‘chanker’ missing more bats in Triple-A and MLB than we expect. Athletics Rank: 6th
Adrian Houser could be one of the most underrated players you select in your drafts this preseason. I dove deep into his profile this offseason. Read about him here.
169. Anthony Kay, SP, TOR. Age: 24
With so much valuable minor league data withheld from the public eye, prospects making their big league debut often transitions many facets of our evaluations from ‘what we think’ to ‘what we know’. This is especially true for pitching prospects. So even though Kay only faced 63 batters and threw 258 pitches at the big league level towards the end of the 2019 regular season, we now have important data points such as spin rates and small-sample effectiveness versus some of the best hitters in the world. A lot of the actual statistics are too noisy to be worth much, but it’s certainly encouraging to see Kay’s Hard% allowed inside the top-100 of all pitchers from 2019 (min. 25 batted ball events), even if there was a little beginner’s luck involved. From a ‘stuff’ standpoint, everything we know about the fastball—from velocity, to spin rate, to expected outcomes in his first MLB sample—makes the pitch seem anywhere from average to quite forgettable. The 44.4 Whiff% on the changeup makes me think at least some of the actual and expected outcomes were a bit lucky. The curveball was easily the southpaw’s best pitch post-promotion (.077 BA, .154 xBA, .198 xwOBA), though—again—we need a larger sample before determining outcome viability versus big league hitters. In the end, all signs seem to be pointing towards SP4 territory. The Blue Jays have been extremely active this offseason, signing Hyun-Jin Ryu and Tanner Roark while trading for Chase Anderson. With Matt Shoemaker, Trent Thornton and Ryan Borucki also in the fold, we should probably assume Kay breaks camp in Triple-A. Regardless of his role or placement on Opening Day, the 24-year-old will almost certainly factor in to Toronto’s rotation at some point in 2020. Blue Jays Rank: 6th
168. Tyler Stephenson, C, CIN. Age: 23
Generally speaking, Stephenson flies under the radar amongst catchers throughout the prospect world. He also flew under the radar in 2019 despite ranking second amongst Southern League catchers in wRC+ (trailing only Daulton Varsho, min. 300 plate appearances). On a wider scale with the same threshold, Stephenson’s 35.4 Hard% ranked fifth amongst all catching prospects at any level. Despite being 6-foot-4 and 225 lbs., the 23-year-old holds his own behind the plate. Watching him face-off versus Varsho multiple times last season, it was Stephenson who was the superior defensive catcher. Once the latter fully realizes his power potential, this profile strikes me as one that will hover between a .250-.260 batting average with above average power for the position. Stephenson has been a level-per-season prospect since he debuted in Dayton in 2017, so it’s likely the Reds will let him cook in the International League in 2020 before he debuts in Cincinnati next season. The Reds have been actively searching for catcher help in the free agent and trade market, but it’s Stevenson who’s likely slated to fill that role in the long-term. Reds Rank: 5th
167. Ezequiel Duran, 2B, NYY. Age: 20
Duran is only 20 and hasn’t even debuted in full season ball yet, but I already have quite the history with second baseman. In my 2018 midseason list, I ranked Duran 108th (!). In the write-up, I suggested 2019 would be his breakout season. I should have listened to myself. I allowed a rough summer in 2018 (which was too small of a sample) to skew my evaluation of the 20-year-old, and I removed him from my prospect list all together until my 2019 end-of-season list. Truth be told, it was never going to be a linear process for Duran—and I paid the price for being impatient early in my prospecting career. After a really, really bad summer in 2018, the second baseman exploded back onto the scene last summer. In 66 games and 277 plate appearances in the NYPL, Duran slashed .256/.329/.496 with 13 home runs and 11 stolen bases. That was good for a 143 wRC+, so while the strikeout rate wasn’t spotless (27.8%), the growing hype surrounding the 20-year-old is everything I hoped it would be as we head for a full season debut in the South Atlantic League in 2020. I don’t expect speed output to always be part of Duran’s game, and he’s likely a level-per-season prospect with strikeout rates in the 25.0% range annually. But the raw power is plus, and the 20-year-old undoubtedly has potential to be one of the best second base prospects in baseball before debuting in the AL East. Yankees Rank: 7th
166. Kyle Muller, SP, ATL. Age: 22
It’s extremely difficult to heavily weigh the stuff and statistics when ranking Muller, because the body (a sculpted 6-foot-6 and 225 lbs.) screams “one of the best left-handed pitchers in all of baseball.” When I watch Muller in-person, it’s hard to build an argument that the repertoire won’t continue to improve the next few seasons. It’s almost as if the southpaw hasn’t fully grown into his body yet. Despite what my eyes say, we must also consider the fact Muller is suddenly 22-years-old and is coming off a season in which he walked 14.5% of the batters he faced in the Southern League. The solid but unspectacular strikeout rate (25.6%) doesn’t hide this issue. The left-hander spent a lot of his 2018 offseason working to optimize the biomechanics of his lower half at Driveline. For whatever reason, the mechanical improvements did not carry over to the playing field last season. Muller appeared to be ‘fighting it’ at different times throughout his 2019 campaign before a plant-leg injury ended his season in early August. When I saw him in June, the southpaw’s fastball sat 92-95 (T97). It’s an extremely high-spin pitch that has the ability to miss bats. With moderate arm-side run, the offering is also the foundation of Muller’s plan versus left-handed hitters. The curveball isn’t as eye-opening from a Statcast standpoint, but it’s consistently effective against righties and Muller can throw the pitch in any count. The changeup is still a work in progress, flattening out too often but missing bats with noticeable fade at its best. I hate projecting a 22-year-old more so on what’s to come than what we’ve seen, but Muller’s frame and athleticism make for a rare exception. At worst, the left-hander will utilize his FB/CB combination as a weapon from the bullpen. At best, he becomes more mechanically consistent and the changeup reaches his potential. At peak, this would make him a top-tier SP4. Braves Rank: 6th
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165. Keoni Cavaco, SS, MIN. Age: 18
People are going to over-penalize Cavaco for a poor, 25-game professional debut in the Gulf Coast League last summer, and the truthers will benefit from it. Physical projection is the name of the game for the 18-year-old, and there’s plus raw power and above average speed to go with it. Cavaco highlighted the pop-up portion of last summer’s draft, and the Twins snatched him with the 13th overall pick. There’s some awkwardness present both at the plate and on defense, though it can be at least partially credited to Cavaco still learning how to utilize his limbs. There’s a chance he shifts to either side of shortstop as he progresses to the upper levels of the minors, so make sure you include that when you attempt to buy low in your dynasty league. Don’t worry; the power should play just fine even from the hot corner. As one of the youngest players in his draft class, it’s entirely possible the Twins opt to keep their prized 18-year-old at the complex throughout the spring before placing him in the Appalachian League when Rookie Ball begins. Selfishly, I’m hoping Cavaco is instead the youngest player in the Midwest league. FYPD Rank: 26th, Twins Rank: 6th
164. Jorge Mateo, INF, OAK. Age: 24
Quite frankly, I’ve been ranking Mateo on this list far too long. The shortstop was fantastic from a counting stats standpoint in 2019, slashing .289/.330/.504 with 19 home runs and 24 stolen bases in 119 games and 566 plate appearances. But check this out: the Pacific Coast League was so hitter friendly in 2019 (even more so than normal thanks to the juiced MLB ball) that Mateo’s numbers were actually four percent worse than league average (96 wRC+). If that doesn’t perfectly sum-up the hitting environment in the PCL last season, nothing will. The 24-year-old’s problem—and at this point it is certainly a problem—is the lack of discernment at the plate. It’s true that the free-swinging approach led to a 36.1 Hard% that was near the top of the entire minor leagues, but it was also the main villain in a 5.1 BB% and 25.6 K% that will almost certainly be further exposed once he finally gets a shot in the big leagues. The aggression has become so profound—and so troublesome—that any conversation about Mateo I’ve had with a source or scout this fall or winter no longer begins with a mouth-watering anecdote about the speed. Any conversation about the shortstop now begins and ends with whether he’ll ever make enough contact versus MLB pitching to gain legitimate value both as a big leaguer and fantasy player. As it currently stands—and with Jurickson Profar now a member of the Padres—Mateo will duke it out with Chad Pinder, Franklin Barreto and Sheldon Neuse for second base duties in Oakland. Mateo is physically superior to his positional opposition, but mum’s the word on whether he’ll make enough quality contact to actually earn and keep an everyday position at the big league level. As time continues to pass without legitimate alterations or growth, the chances of this occurring appear to be slowly shrinking. Athletics Rank: 5th
163. Yerry Rodriguez, SP, TEX. Age: 22
My evaluations of Rodriguez have been all over the place throughout the past calendar year. The right-hander debuted on my prospect list last midseason (130th), but an elbow scare in July that shut the right-hander down for the remainder of the season left me with cold feet when I re-ranked in October. Thankfully, it appears the 22-year-old has—for now—avoided Tommy John surgery. I’m still extremely hesitant to be aggressive with Rodriguez’s ranking (we all remember Dane Dunning ‘avoiding’ Tommy John surgery two seasons ago), but the stuff is too good to leave him excluded from this list heading into a new season. The right-hander throws three different pitches with bat-missing ability: a high-spin fastball that tops-out at 96, a high-spin curveball and a changeup that may be the best offering of the trio. Both the heater and curveball tend to play-up thanks a three-quarters arm slot, and the angle Rodriguez creates led to a fantastic ground ball rate last season (47.1%). As a 22-year-old who’s never pitched at a level above Low-A, it’s critically important for Rodriguez to put together a full, healthy campaign in 2020. The rest will take care of itself. Rangers Rank: 7th
162. Tucker Davidson, SP, ATL. Age: 24
Like a few others prospects you’ll read about on this list, there’s simply no way I can adequately verbalize my thoughts on Davidson better in this space than I did last summer in the Ramblings following a live look. Allow me to add this: if you don’t currently roster Davidson in your dynasty league, check to see if the decreased strikeout rate in Triple-A post promotion startled his current rosterer. It was a four-start sample at the end of the southpaw’s longest professional season to date, so I’m putting absolutely zero stock in the diminished strikeouts. The 24-year-old will be back with a vengeance in 2020, and he should make a big league impact in Atlanta sooner rather than later. Braves Rank: 5th
161. Jackson Rutledge, SP, WAS. Age: 21
There’s so much to like with Rutledge. Viable fastball velocity. Two above average or better breaking balls. A build that draws comparisons to Nate Pearson. Potential to move quickly through a Nationals’ system that’s starving for legitimate talent. There’s high-end SP3 potential here, but it doesn’t come without some concerns. Even from a functional standpoint, Rutledge isn’t as athletic as Pearson. With that in mind—and with a history of hip ailments—there are real questions about how much maintenance the right-hander will require over the course of a 162-game regular season. The fastball and slider will mandate consistent success against right-handed hitters. He locates his curveball well—and it’s certainly a great pitch—but I’ll be interested to see if there are any split disparities vLHB without a reliable changeup. That numbers in the Carolina League (and Eastern League?) should be solid in 2020; the prospect world should be downright giddy if Rutledge makes it through a full workload completely unscathed. FYPD Rank: 25th, Nationals Rank: 3rd
ICYMI: I discussed the definition of a prospect ‘breakout’, then outlined four prospects who might do exactly that this season. Read it here!
160. Luisangel Acuña, INF, TEX. Age: 18
From a statistical standpoint, Acuña did everything he needed to in the Dominican Summer League this summer to make us believe he’s trending on a path similar to that of his superstar big brother. The 18-year-old (17 at the time) slashed .342/.438/.455 with 2 home runs, 17 stolen bases and more walks than strikeouts (151 wRC+). Lovely. The problem with comparing the brothers is the dissimilar bodies. Thick hips and explosiveness at 6-foot and 180 pounds isn’t the same as possessing those same characteristics at 5-foot-10 and 155 pounds, and little brother doesn’t yet possess the same qualities that made RAJ easy to identify at the same age. It’ll be more of a sum-of-the-parts profile for Luisangel (granted, Ronald is a sum-of-the-parts player too. The parts are just otherworldly), but he still possesses some viable tools. There’s plus bat speed, a feel to hit and the appearance of stolen base potential (I worded it like that because I haven’t seen run times yet). We simply need more information and a non-DSL sample to truly get a feel of the potential here, but last summer’s success and the bloodlines alone are enough to land Acuña inside the top-200. The Arizona League should paint a clearer picture this summer. Rangers Rank: 6th
159. Logan Webb, SP, SF. Age: 23
So often this offseason, VIP members have DM’ed me with the same question: who are some underrated starting pitcher prospects you expect to make a big league impact in 2020? These questions often include the same phrases. “Under the radar”, “off the beaten path”, “outside the top-100”. Each time, Logan Webb is included my answer. You can do one of two things with the 5.22 ERA in 39.2 big league IP in 2019: it can either scare you away and lead you to omitting the right-hander as an end-game target in redrafts, or you can consider it a convenient ADP suppressor and pounce when the time is right. The arsenal is carried by a hellacious slider, a pitch that totaled a .158 BAA (.207 xBA) against big league hitters while producing a 35.3 Whiff%. Throwing the pitch more than 23.5% of the time (it should be around 40.0% in a perfect world) might be the biggest arsenal improvement Webb can make in 2020 and beyond. The changeup also induced a 30.9 Whiff%, but it was hit around much more than the slider. The Giants lack starting pitcher depth, so the 23-year-old has a golden opportunity to cement himself as a viable rotation fixture this season. Maybe there’s only high-end SP4 upside here, but it’s a low risk profile that should help you immediately. Giants Rank: 8th
158. Brusdar Graterol, SP/RP, LAD. Age: 21
Pre-trade write-up: Hot take incoming: Graterol’s fastball—the triple-digit fireball that helped create the hype that landed the right-hander inside my top-100 by midseason 2018—is actually the pitch that will hinder this profile’s strikeout upside. Despite the mouth-watering velocity, the 21-year-old’s heater has poor peripherals. A low-spin offering, the pitch has well below average vertical movement, which means—because of the pitch’s above average horizontal movement—its main goal is to induce soft contact rather than to miss bats. Despite averaging 98.8 mph with the pitch in his 9.2 big league IP sample as a reliever last summer, opposing hitters did not swing and miss at the pitch a single time. The fastball could potentially have such a negative impact on the profile that it could be ditched all together in favor of a sinker. Neither offering will miss many bats, but the sinker is likely better at achieving the soft contact goal. Graterol’s moneymaker (and only elite pitch in my eyes) is his slider, an explosive, high-spin pitch that should be the protagonist in the 21-year-old’s strikeout rate at the MLB level; I gave the offering a 70-grade during my live look last spring. The analytics of the changeup aren’t great and it doesn’t yet possess the fade of its peers, but it can still be an effective pitch since Graterol maintains the same arm speed as his other pitches when he throws it. When you pair the specifics of his pitches with a projectionless, high-maintenance body and a lengthy injury history (including both elbow and shoulder ailments), you understand the significant relief risk within this profile. With the Twins in win-now mode, Graterol needs to prove the depth and viability of his arsenal sooner rather than later before his deadly slider is forced to cash checks from the bullpen for good.
Post-fake trade addition: Graterol being traded to Boston doesn’t change a single thing about the concerns surrounding his arsenal. It also doesn’t change the fact he’s been unable to connect the dots on consecutive healthy seasons throughout his professional career. It could, however, lengthen his leash as a rotation arm if that’s the route Boston chooses to take. At some point this season, he might slot behind Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez on a team that won’t be seriously competing for a playoff spot. The AL East is obviously an absolute gauntlet of offensive firepower, but this scenario is about the best that Graterol dynasty owners could hope for. Boston has the developmental firepower in its front office to assist the 21-year-old in reaching both his real-life and fantasy potential, but I can’t in good conscience boost the right-hander’s ranking while banking on a complete arsenal overhaul and a change in injury fortune post-trade–especially with the same, violent head movement and front shoulder rip in his mechanics that played a lead role in his injuries both still evident today. And as a 21-year-old with a grand total 15.0 IP above Double-A, I wouldn’t bet the house on Graterol opening the season in Boston’s starting rotation. Or in the big leagues in general. That’s increasingly true if the Red Sox plan on stretching out the right-hander and rebooting his development as a potential starting pitcher, especially for a team that is seemingly headed nowhere for the next few seasons.
Post-actual trade addition: After the Red Sox gave the baseball world a head fake on the original, announced trade, Graterol was eventually traded to the Dodgers as the return headliner for Kenta Maeda. For my money, unless it’s as an ‘Opener’, Graterol will never start a game as a Major League pitcher. Of course, being a part of the Dodgers’ organization likely makes it easier for the 21-year-old to become a dynamic, lights-out reliever. He may even eventually be considered the ‘closer in waiting’ once Kenley Jansen’s stuff officially begins to erode. But it’s HIGHLY unlikely Los Angeles will ever view the right-hander as a starting pitcher throughout his big league career. Dodgers Rank: 8th
In January, I published an article on ten non-elite prospects with sneaky 2020 redraft value.
157. Alexfri Planez, OF, CLE. Age: 18
You’re probably already aware how much I love Planez. This is a 70-raw, 55-run teenager who’s largely flying under the radar in a lot of dynasty leagues and prospect circles. I was vaguely aware of the 18-year-old heading into the 2019 season, but Jason Pennini moved Planez to the forefront when he ranked the the 18-year-old 8th on his Arizona League top-100. That’s above prospects like Gabriel Rodriguez, Daniel Espino and many others on this list. And based on the raw tools, the outfielder should probably be higher on this list. However, a contact told me this offseason Planez is very, very raw in the pitch recognition department. Like, on the 20-80 scale, it may currently sit on the ground floor. Recognizing the 18-year-old is likely bound for the New York Penn League in 2020, I simply want to see what the strikeout rate looks like in a non-Rookie Ball league before pushing all my chips to the center of the table. But make no mistake about it, now is the time to gobble-up shares of Planez in dynasty leagues. A hamate fracture limited him to six AZL games last summer (complex evaluators saw what they needed to in XST), and there’s a good chance he’d be much more known (and the stats would be much more eye-opening) had he remained healthy. If Planez only strikes out in a fourth of his plate appearances (25.0 K%) in 2020, he’s a top-100 prospect this time next season. That’ll be easier said than done with an uber-aggressive approach in an underratedly challenging league. I recently included Planez on my 2020 ‘breakout’ list. Indians Rank: 11th
156. Will Wilson, 2B, SF. Age: 21
I was really high on Wilson pre-draft. I saw potential for a plus hit tool and above average game power, both of which would pop from second base. The post-draft takeaways from the Pioneer League were far less rosy, with terms and phrases like ‘maxed out’, ‘no plus tool’ and ‘sum of the parts’ littered throughout reports that mostly give the infielder five average tool grades. The Angels enticed the Giants to take-on Zack Cozart’s horrific contract by including Wilson in the deal. With Los Angeles in the market for big-name free agents, I assume the trade isn’t meant to speak poorly of Wilson’s outlook. The Giants subsequently announced the 21-year-old will play both second and third base in 2020, though the cornerstone figures to be Wilson’s future defensive home. He has a chance to move quickly through the minors, with impending performances in the South Atlantic and California Leagues likely giving us a better idea of the fantasy outlook. FYPD Rank: 24th, Giants Rank: 7th
155. Angel Martinez, INF, CLE. Age: 18
With so many promising other tools, it’ll probably be the development of power that dictates Martinez’s future standing on this list. For now, the offensive profile leans on a solid approach, above average bat-to-ball skill and plus speed he should be able to maintain. He also started at least twelve different games at second base, third base and shortstop in the Dominican Summer League last summer, which is a defensive trait I hope he maintains throughout his professional career. Martinez posted a 134 wRC+ in 56 DSL games despite only hitting 1 home run. He also slashed .306/.402/.428 with 11 stolen bases. There are certainly positive reports about the infielder’s power potential: the hands and bat speed are absolutely electric, and the lower body is already engaged in the swing. Once Martinez fills out his 6-foot frame, the power output should naturally increase. The Indians are gridlocked throughout the infield in the low-minors, so it remains to be seen whether Martinez will be placed in the Arizona League or New York Penn League this summer. Indians Rank: 10th
154. Kameron Misner, OF, MIA. Age: 22
If you can see past the endearing ‘Baby Yelich’ comps made by not-salty-at-all Marlins fans, you very quickly realize Misner possesses tools that are both very real and very loud. At the very least, it’s plus raw power with above average speed and defensive skills as a professional. If you’re bullish on the 22-year-old, it’s probably 70-grade raw and enough athletic longevity to maintain 60-grade speed and remain in center field throughout most his career. The truth—in all likelihood—lies somewhere in the middle. I’m not a big believer in ever using a 65 for a prospect’s tool grade, but that’s truly where Misner’s raw power currently falls for me. The speed will settle in the above average (55) range, and Misner himself will settle in right field. There’s a real chance for fantasy goodness here, especially in OBP leagues. There are swing-and-miss concerns in the hit tool—and the skill itself was exposed a bit versus SEC competition last season—but some of those issues will be nullified by a walk rate that should remain above ten percent consistently. If the outfielder can simply find a way to hit .260 at the big league level, we might be talking about a top-100 player in redraft leagues. FYPD Rank: 20th, Marlins Rank: 9th
Spin rate is a huge data point when evaluating pitchers, but it’s certainly not everything. In January, our Trevor Powers dove in to the importance of spin efficiency, spin axis and movement profile.
153. Sam Hilliard, OF, COL. Age: 26
For a while now, Hilliard has been a fun prospect to discuss amongst other writers and analysts. A tooled up, 6-foot-5, 240 lb. outfielder is often the stuff of dreams. But despite fantastic seasons at various levels of the minor leagues, it’s been long thought that Hilliard was simply too buried on Colorado’s organizational depth chart to ever get a legitimate shot at everyday, big league playing time. That changed at the tail-end of last season, thanks to injuries and general ineffectiveness. Hilliard more than held his own in the 87 plate appearance sample he was given, hitting seven home runs, stealing two bases and posting a 138 wRC+ (the 26.4 K% was also lower than his MiLB career average). Perhaps more important than the statistics were the Statcast numbers he provided: a 93rd percentile sprint speed, a top-100 Hard%, a top-70 average Exit Velocity and a 129th-ranked xwOBA (the last three are with tinkered minimum plate appearances). Opportunity will continue to be Hilliard’s largest hurdle to climb in 2020 (thanks, Ian Desmond and the Rockies’ front office), and swing-and-miss issues might eventually plague the production even if he is given a substantial number of plate appearances in a big league season. Still, the success the 26-year-old found in his first taste against big league pitching (both in the box score and according to Statcast) paired with the long track-record of success throughout the minor leagues makes Hilliard an uber-intriguing option moving forward. As of now, he’ll be fighting against Desmond and Raimel Tapia (and Garrett Hampson?) for playing time in the Rockies’ outfield. With Desmond slated to make $15 million and Tapia out of options (Hilliard has three), I fear the worst about the 26-year-old’s early-season outlook—and that’s before you figure Hampson into the equation. Do yourself a favor and laugh at this before scrolling down: Hilliard slashed .262/.335/.558 with 109 R, 35 HR, 101 RBI and 22 SB in 126 Triple-A games last season. Those numbers were good for a whopping 107 wRC+ in the Pacific Coast League. That league was BANANAS offensively in 2019. Rockies Rank: 3rd
152. Brady Singer, SP, KC. Age: 23
Singer’s largest proponents love him so much because of his bulldog mentality. He checks a lot of the ‘grit’ boxes: he goes right at hitters and often wears his emotions on his sleeve while pitching. He’s durable. He’s got plus command and ‘knows how to pitch’. Even his up-tempo delivery has a bit of gamesmanship to it. When you pair all of that with the stuff, though, it spells SP4. The right-hander doesn’t possess a true ‘out’ pitch, relying on a sinker, slider and changeup that all flash above average but not plus. The changeup specifically can be inconsistent at times, and it causes some splits issues versus lefties at times (.352 OBP in 2019). Reports on the work ethic are astounding, so at this point it’s easy to believe Singer will find ways to optimize his arsenal while utilizing his plus command. Even if (when?) that happens, I still don’t believe Singer will miss the bats to ever roam into SP3 territory. Still, there’s plenty of room for high-floor SP4s with reliable WHIPs in dynasty leagues. Royals Rank: 6th
151. Hudson Head, OF, SD. Age: 18
When a team goes out of their way to show you how they value a player, listen to them. Especially if that team has proven it can correctly value and develop prospects. When he was drafted 84th overall last summer, Head’s slot value was $721,900. He signed for $3 million. That certainly raised eyebrows, then the 18-year-old performed well offensively in the Arizona League in 32 games and 141 plate appearances (119 wRC+). This is currently a fairly well rounded profile that should add explosion with further physical development. If he reaches his ceiling, Head will be a 55-hit, 55-raw, 60-speed center fielder. That’s a real-life and fantasy star. A reasonable floor is 50-50-60, which would lead a more sum-of-the-parts player who could struggle to breakthrough as an everyday player on a loaded Padres’ roster. A lot of folks believe the outfielder will one day be known as the steal of the 2019 draft. Already ranking as a top-200 fantasy prospect and being selected early in FYPDs despite being a third round pick, it appears the dynasty community agrees. FYPD Rank: 23rd, Padres Rank: 6th
150. Cole Winn, SP, TEX. Age: 20
If you took a quick look at Winn’s stats from his first full season, you would assume this is purely a stuff and pedigree-based ranking. But upon closer examination, Winn’s second-half performance last summer was much more indicative of the pitcher the Rangers hoped they were getting with the 15th overall pick in 2018. From July 1st to the end of the season, the right-hander posted a 3.04 ERA, striking out 43 and walking 24 in 47.1 IP (.203 BAA). But if you’re pessimistic like me, the first thing you noticed with those numbers was the walk rate, an issue that led to a 4.56 BB/9 and pedestrian 9.5 K-BB% during that time frame. Those numbers were actually an improvement from Winn’s first seven starts of 2019, a sample in which the then teenager allowed a .281 BAA and walked 15.3% of the batters he faced (6.33 BB/9, 7.1 K-BB%). The right-hander was labeled with above average command when he was drafted, so improved consistency (and better body control per a contact) will be key for Winn to evolve into the pitcher the Rangers thought they were getting in the first round two summers ago. On his best days, the right-hander flashes a solid fastball and two plus breaking balls. Moving forward, it’ll be all about how often we see that version of the 20-year-old. Rangers Rank: 5th
149. Mark Vientos, 3B, NYM. Age: 20
The statistical output dipped in 2019, but I keep hearing good things about Vientos this offseason. Columbia’s home track was so pitcher-friendly that the third baseman actually did most of his damage on the road last season: he hit 8 of his 12 home runs away from home, and each third of his slash was better on the road than in the friendly confines of Segra Park (including a SLG that was .471 on the road and .360 at home). It’s true the Mets’ position playing prospects were statistically weak offensively in 2019, but I wonder what role the home/away disparity played in the 20-year-old being named the Mets’ minor league hitter of the year. The walk rate nearly dropped 10% from the Appy to the Sally, so I’m interested to see which direction it travels in the Florida State League in 2020. Scouts still fully believe in the plus-or-better raw power, and the 20-year-old’s Hard% of 28.8% was above average amongst qualified minor league hitters. Only one qualified hitter surpassed the 20 home run mark in the FSL in 2019; if Vientos can accomplish that feat this season as a 20-year-old, he could re-establish himself as a top-100 prospect on this list. Mets Rank: 5th
Despite having only published two episodes, the Prospects 365 Fantasy Baseball Podcast recently ranked 9th on a Chartable fantasy sports ‘trending’ podcast list.
148. Brett Baty, 3B, NYM. Age: 20
One of the most polarizing First Year Players within the prospect industry. Leading up to last summer’s draft, I was told (basically preached to) a handful of times how important it was for Baty to exhibit his offensive aptitude post-draft. As you know, the 20-year-old was much older than a typical prep draft prospect (he’s seven months older than Bobby Witt Jr., which is not unsubstantial when making a first round pick). The Mets grabbed Baty at 12th overall, and the infielder spent the latter portion of the summer at three different levels in Rookie Ball and Short Season. In most facets, Baty answered the call, slashing .234/.368/.452 with 7 home runs and a 131 wRC+ (.218 ISO) in 51 games and 228 plate appearances. If you’re a dynasty player, that sample is exactly what you wanted to see if you’ve already taken the plunge on the 20-year-old. Pessimistically speaking, Baty struck out in 28.5% of his plate appearances and didn’t display many traits of a prospect with an above average hit tool (a label I’ve seen assigned to Baty on other industry sites). The approach is passive—an astounding 43.9% of his plate appearances ended with a walk or strikeout—and the spray chart was a bit pull heavy. Neither of those facts are necessarily bad or damning whatsoever (OBP leagues all day, baby), I simply don’t think Baty will be ever be the .280 hitter a 55-hit label suggests. In his write up on the infielder, industry pal John Calvagno suggested the swing path may need to be tinkered with in order for Baty to ever unlock his full, game-changing power potential. If the Mets agree with John, altering the swing path without further increasing the strikeout rate will be an important tight-wire act. Opinions are split on whether Baty will stick at third or transition across the diamond, but New York firmly believes he’s adequately equipped to handle the hot corner throughout the majority of his career. It’s become a cliché comp, but there’s a reason it’s so popular: if Baty performs to expectation in 2020, he’ll be evaluated in the same breath as like-bodied Nolan Gorman next offseason. FYPD Rank: 22nd, Mets Rank: 4th
147. Andy Pages, OF, LAA. Age: 19
My best peripheral find of 2019. I wrote-up Pages (unfortunately pronounced ‘Pah-hez’) in the Ramblings back in July, touting his feel to hit and evident power despite not physically overwhelming opposing pitching (a trait we often see in Rookie leagues that skews outlook perception). The 19-year-old finished his impressive stint in the Pioneer League with a jaw-dropping 165 wRC+, slashing .298/.398/.651 with 19 home runs in just 63 games and 279 plate appearances. The wRC+ was the highest mark for an 18-year-old in the Pioneer League in the last 15 years (h/t @CespedesBBQ). The swing includes a big leg kick, so the 18-year-old will likely fight swing-and-miss issues throughout his development (28.3 K% last summer). Luckily, some of those issues could be nullified by a walk rate that currently sits at 11.2% thru 115 career games. Also, don’t let the seven stolen bases in the Pioneer League skew your perception of the tools the outfielder brings to the table; he’s an average runner who has a 56.6% SB success rate in two seasons. The batted ball profile lends itself to pulled fly balls, so the .364 BABIP in 2019 should descend once Pages debuts in full season ball. That’ll negatively impact the slash numbers to at least some extent, but the outfielder finds the barrel frequently (the exit velocities are nutty) and should continue to hit for power regardless of level. That will be the carrying tool moving forward, especially when you consider the teenager is a work in progress defensively and, despite possessing a plus arm, may someday be best suited as a team’s primary designated hitter. While it’s obviously a bummer that Pages is no longer in the Dodgers’ almighty developmental system, it would be premature to penalize the teenager’s outlook too much (or, in this case, at all) without statistical evidence to support the alteration. Dodgers Rank: 7th
146. Michael Toglia, 1B, COL. Age: 21
FanGraphs is such valuable tool for anyone who loves prospects. I’m personally going through a bit of Rockies’ prospect fatigue, but something in their recent write-up on Toglia struck a chord with me. “He’s a switch-hitting first baseman with power who is also a plus defender, which puts him in a small, 21st century team picture with Lance Berkman, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Santana.” That is elite company with an impressive track record of success. Other than the loudness of the tools, the best part of Toglia’s outlook is the glaring organizational hole at first base for the Rockies. I assume Colorado will be aggressive with the 21-year-old in 2020, with at-bats in the Eastern League by the end of the season a distinct possibility. In a perfect world, Toglia is a top-10 redraft first baseman by 2023. In my mind, he could pair with Nolan Arenado to complete the Rockies’ version of Matt Olson and Matt Chapman. FYPD Rank: 21st, Rockies Rank: 2nd
Have you weaponized your Twitter for the upcoming baseball season?
145. Lewin Diaz, 1B, MIA. Age: 23
Sometimes, it’s weird what a trade can do for a prospect’s value. As collateral in the Sergio Romo trade, Diaz went from a basically forgotten man in the Twins’ system to the future everyday first baseman for the Marlins. I was further impressed by Miami’s open and public adoration of the 23-year-old, basically admitting they were willing to part with more value than they were comfortably with to secure Diaz becoming a part of their organization. The first baseman was fairly unlucky post-trade, slashing just .200/.279/.461 with a .188 BABIP despite a pedestrian 35.2 Pull% (perhaps the high FB% is partly to blame). The full season numbers paint a better picture: .270/.321/.530 with 27 home runs and a 31.9 Hard% (which is well above average). I’m not in love with the low walk rate (6.6%) for a first base only prospect, but I’m willing to at least partially set it to the side in order to dwell on the opportunity and power upside Diaz possesses. From a statistic standpoint, the 23-year-old possesses the offensive ceiling of Jose Abreu Lite. Marlins Rank: 8th
144. Francisco Alvarez, C, NYM. Age: 18
A fun fact: Since publishing my first prospect list in 2017, I’ve never included a teenage catching prospect who is yet to debut in full season ball inside my top-200. Until now. The reports on Alvarez are undeniable; if they hold true in 2020, the 18-year-old could quickly push for the title of best catching prospect in baseball outside of Adley Rutschman. Alvarez was ridiculous in the Gulf Coast League and Appalachian League, slashing .312/.407/.510 with 7 home runs and a double-digit walk rate in 42 games and 187 plate appearances. The numbers added up to a jaw-dropping 155 wRC+ despite the catcher playing against much older competition, so it’s easy to understand the excitement surrounding Alvarez as it heads toward his full season debut this season. Scouts seem to agree with the hype—I reached out to a contact to make sure I wasn’t missing anything unique about the profile. His initial response? “He’s really, f*****g good.” Okay then. There were worries that a 5-foot-11, 220 lb. frame might put Alvarez in the same bucket as someone like Alejandro Kirk, but the 18-year-old is filled-out and chiseled compared to what one would think when reading that height and weight. We need to see the offensive success in a full season atmosphere before we consider a move into the top-100 (there’s a chance the Mets narrow his stance in hopes he unlocks more power), but there’s not much negative to be said or seen on the catcher as of yet. Mets Rank: 3rd
143. Jackson Kowar, SP, KC. Age: 23
2019 was a big season in Kowar’s development because there’s now a real sense the curveball might get to league average. For a right-hander who traditionally leaned on his fastball and changeup, this is a big deal. The changeup is the hat hanger of the arsenal. The pitch sits in the mid-80s and features downward movement with arm-side run. The offering also plays-up thanks to the fact Kowar’s arm speed doesn’t decelerate when he throws the pitch. The hope—with further, future optimization and pitch design—is that the fastball is more effective than it should be thanks to the threat of the changeup. The heater sits 94-95 T98 with average spin. The right-hander is a short strider, so the perceived velocity of the pitch is a bit lower. The 23-year-old basically split his time evenly last season between the Carolina and Texas League. After being promoted to Double-A in June, Kowar actually increased his strikeout rate from 21.2% to 25.2%. Perhaps the 9.44 K/9 is a sign of things to come? Kowar should make his big league debut at some point in 2020. The curveball needs to continue to make strides, but for now, there’s low-end SP3 within this profile. Royals Rank: 5th
142. Abraham Toro, 3B, HOU. Age: 23
Blocked path is blocked: without an injury or trade, Toro won’t be an everyday player at the big league level. The 23-year-old saw time at first base, second base and third base last season at various levels. Positional versatility rocks! Unless you’re a non-elite prospect in an organization that currently rosters Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and Yuli Gurriel. In true dynasty leagues, this shouldn’t really borrow you. Toro simply occupies one of your > 50 roster spots and you utilize him on your active roster once Carlos Correa inevitably spends time on the injured list. But in any other format, the 23-year-old’s cloudy path to everyday at-bats is problematic. There’s a chance I should have penalized the outlook more than I did with this ranking, but I’m more apt to buy the tools and trust everything else to work itself out. Toro has a solid plate approach and broke out in 2019 by—get this—hitting the ball in the air less frequently. Astros Rank: 4th
The infield portion of my prospect obsession list has been published. Read about 28 infielders who are intriguing for a variety of reasons this season.
141. Braxton Garrett, SP, MIA. Age: 22
Fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and back in action, Garrett lived up to the hype of a former 7th overall pick playing in his first full professional season. In 106.2 IP, the 22-year-old posted a 3.54 ERA (3.79 FIP) and struck out 26.4% of the batters he faced. The stuff appeared fully intact as well, highlighted by a low-90s fastball (T 96) with above average spin, a plus curveball (his best pitch) and a developing changeup that currently plays-up due to Garrett maintaining his natural arm speed. There’s mid-rotation upside here thanks to a mixture of stuff and pitchability. The arsenal will never drop your jaw, but the southpaw knows how to pitch and controls his body well. If there’s untapped potential here, it’ll likely come from the changeup gaining arm-side movement away from right-handed hitters. A third above average offering would allow Garrett to evolve from low-end SP3 to a pitcher who could really make his presence felt throughout the sport. Marlins Rank: 7th
140. Justin Dunn, SP, SEA. Age: 24
Since I’m sure there are prospect writers out there who will convince you Dunn’s 30.0 BB% in a microscopic 6.2 big league innings pitched in September means he’s got command issues to iron out, I’m going to use the same sample to excite you about the arsenal. The right-hander was basically a two-pitch pitcher post-promotion last fall, combining to throw the fastball and slider 90% of the time out of 136 pitches. Both pitches found small sample success; the fastball posted a .145 xBA while the slider compiled a .149 xBA. The former didn’t miss many bats (9.1 Whiff%), but the latter certainly did (38.1 Whiff%). See how small samples can help us form any argument we prefer? Here are some indisputable facts: Dunn completely skipped Triple-A en route to making his big league debut. As a new member of the Mariners’ organization (as part of the return in the Edwin Diaz/Robinson Cano trade), the right-hander increased his strikeout rate while dropping his walk rate while pitching in the Texas League. After underperforming his FIP and xFIP in 2018, Dunn’s 3.55 minor league ERA more closely resembled those marks last season. There are long-standing split issues here, mostly because the right-hander leans so heavily on the FB/SL combo—leaving him vulnerable against lefties. We need to see more willingness to throw the changeup at the big league level this season (it’s flashed above average at times throughout his minor league career), but Dunn’s adequate fastball and life-ending slider lay a solid foundation for mid-tier SP4 upside once the 24-year-old becomes comfortable taking the ball every fifth day at baseball’s highest level. There’s room for a bit more if he can establish the changeup against lefties but pretty heavy relief risk if he can’t. Mariners Rank: 8th
139. Luis Gil, SP, NYY. Age: 21
Gil is an analytics darling, and for obvious reasons. The fastball sits in the mid-90s and has topped out at 99. Just as importantly, the pitch possesses elite spin (2550 RPM, which would rank in the 95th percentile amongst MLB pitchers). The slider is also special, grading as a plus pitch with another elite spin rate. The raw stuff here is some of the best in the minors (perhaps even baseball), but Gil must learn how to harness it. The 21-year-old walked 11.6% of the batters he faced in 2019; the K-BB% was 18.7% thanks to a lovely 30.2 K%, but the command issues must be ironed out in order Gil to succeed in the Florida State (and Eastern?) League in 2020. When you combine the lackluster strike-throwing ability with a lack of a viable third pitch (to this point it appears it might eventually be the changeup), you begin to understand why Gil and the elite metrics of his fastball and slider don’t rank higher on this list. I trust the Yankees’ R&D department to do what’s necessary for Gil to remain in the starting rotation, but I’m also aware a future transition to the bullpen would lead to the right-hander becoming one of the most explosive relievers in the big leagues. The future role should become much more clear in 2020. Yankees Rank: 6th
138. Kody Hoese, 3B, LAD. Age: 22
Hoese strikes me as a prospect who’s really going to pop as a member of the Dodgers’ organization. Selected 25th overall last summer, the 22-year-old’s plus raw power and advanced bat-to-ball skills—both of which profile well from third base—are the exact skills we often target in First Year Player Drafts. When I watch Hoese swing, the first word that comes to mine is ‘uncoil’. The stance is upright with weight shifted to the back leg. When he triggers, the third baseman uses a small leg kick that unleashes his plus bat speed without leaving him overly susceptible to offspeed. As a college bat without swing-and-miss issues, Hoese should progress quickly through the Dodgers’ farm system. Los Angeles loves and prioritizes positional versatility on defense, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see the 22-year-old shift across the diamond to first base from time to time beginning in 2020. FYPD Rank: 19th, Dodgers Rank: 6th
137. Jared Oliva, OF, PIT. Age: 24
Oliva is sky-rocketing up prospect lists thanks to a stellar performance in the Arizona Fall League (.312/.413/.473), but this is a prospect who has quietly produced above average offensive numbers at three different levels in three consecutive seasons. If you look at the season-long stat lines, Oliva gives the appearance of a hit-over-power prospect with a massive amount of speed. The latter part is certainly true, but the 24-year-old was actually viewed as a power-over-hit outfielder when he was selected in the 7th round from the University of Arizona in 2017. There’s certainly a joke to be made about the Pirates continuing to find ways to suppress the power of their position playing prospects, but Oliva might be a fantasy asset even if he’s unable to fully unlock his above average raw power. With the leadership change within the organization, one can surmise we might see power upticks from players like Oliva and Ke’Bryan Hayes as soon as the 2020 season. The Pirates are nowhere near contending, so it’s likely Oliva is allowed to cook in Triple-A for a while (perhaps for the entirety of the upcoming season) before debuting in the big leagues. Pirates Rank: 5th
Have you weaponized your Twitter account for the 2020 season?
136. Liover Peguero, SS, PIT. Age: 19
Before he was traded to Pittsburgh as the headliner of the Starling Marte return, Peguero really made me realize how good the Diamondbacks’ system is. At 19 year olds and standing 6-foot-1 and 160 lbs., Peguero is all lower half and extremely athletic. The guys at FanGraphs comped the current body to Jean Segura, though I expect Peguero to fill out a bit more above the waist. The bat-to-ball skills here are fairly crazy, and there’s a real chance the 19-year-old finalizes as a 60-hit shortstop. Those don’t grow on trees, so the fact he’s an above average runner with potential for above average raw power should really peak your interest. The floor is high here. The ceiling is high here. I need to see the power output materialize a bit more before I name my first-born after him, but there’s a non-zero chance Peguero’s worst tool eventually grades as a 55. A 2020 ascension similar to that of former Arizona farm mate Geraldo Perdomo this past season shouldn’t surprise you. Pirates Rank: 4th
135. Daniel Johnson, OF, CLE. Age: 24
From a BA and OBP standpoint in 2019, I firmly believe Johnson more closely resembles the Double-A version of himself than the Triple-A version. The 24-year-old wants to pull and elevate the ball at the plate, two qualities that will play extremely well at Progressive Field in Cleveland. But they’ll also lead to low BABIPs, which was the main culprit in Johnson’s .253 BA and .337 OBP in 39 games for Double-A Akron last season. There’s a rawness in the box that—upon promotion—will lead to high-variance outcomes throughout at least the early stages of Johnson’s MLB career. That rawness also carries over to the basepaths, where the 24-year-old’s 70-grade speed allowed him to steal 55% of the bases he attempted in 2019 (12 of 22). There’s explosiveness within the skillset that allows anyone who’s seen him in person to believe he can be a multi-win right fielder at the big league level; there’s also a level of unrefinement—along with some minor issues versus southpaws—that puts him at risk of being the strong side of a platoon throughout his prime. Indians Rank: 9th
134. Estevan Florial, OF, NYY. Age: 22
Estevan Florial is like attempting to eat buffalo chicken dip with fragile chips. All the tools for greatness are present and evident, but the entire process becomes much more irritating and annoying than it should be. The 22-year-old has met a crossroads in his development and standing on this list. We can tout the hellaciously loud tools as much as we’d like (and—as you know—I have), but eventually, we need to be able to supplement the loudness with tangible on-field success. Florial will likely open the 2020 season in Double-A Trenton. He’s 22 years old. There is no history of sustained on-field performance that allows us to believe Florial will ever get to showcase some of the best raw tools in baseball at the sport’s highest level. Specifically—thanks to abundance of various ailments–the outfielder hasn’t accrued 400 plate appearances in a season since 2017. And while there have been glimpses of strides taken, the hit tool simply hasn’t progressed like we hoped it would since Florial posted a 146 wRC+ in the South Atlantic League as a 19-year-old. There’s a part of me that believes the injuries have masked the momentum needed for a true breakout to occur—à la Luis Robert in 2019 once he was finally able to stay healthy. But while the biggest breakout of the 2020 MiLB season is within the realm of possibility with this skillset, I concede there’s probably a better chance Florial strikes out in a third of his plate appearances in the Eastern League and is omitted from this list entirely a year from now. Yankees Rank: 5th
133. Jake Fraley, OF, SEA. Age: 24
I really fear the prospect industry (including me) made a grave mistake in mindlessly moving Fraley into our top-100s last midseason following a 61-game break out in the Texas League. The 38 Triple-A games that followed aren’t alone enough to convict, but the 24-year-old was barely above average (104 wRC+) in a Pacific Coast League that was practically defenseless to competent offense. And then you have the MLB debut. The 12-game sample isn’t really worth evaluating, but my eyes begin bleeding every time I look at the numbers (0.0 BB%, 34.1 K%, -5 wRC+ (!!!!) in a minimal 41 plate appearances). Real life prospectors have always been lower on Fraley than the prospect world and—true to form—never wavered their stance while the outfielder was in the midst of breaking out in Double-A. The Mariners aren’t currently close to going anywhere promising in the AL West, so Fraley should see a substantial amount of playing time in 2020. The 19 home run, 22 stolen base total the 24-year-old totaled throughout three levels in 2019 is likely more in a single season than he’ll ever post in the big leagues, but 15/15 with moderate on base skills in Seattle wouldn’t be too surprising. Mariners Rank: 7th
132. Josh Jung, 3B, TEX. Age: 22
Jung has some of the most unique swing mechanics of any position-playing prospect on this list. The stance is really upright as the bat moves through the zone, and the swing itself gets started really late in the process. The hands are fast enough that he still gets that bat where it needs to be when it needs to be there, but the quick trigger leads to a batted ball distribution that leans to the opposite field. This is swell from a batting average and BABIP standpoint, but there’s a big worry we’ll never access the 22-year-old’s full power output if he continues to hit the ball to right field more than 40% of the time. Seeing as Jung will need to hit for above average power (at minimum) to profile well at third base for the Rangers, these facts make him a solid candidate for mechanical tweaks and alterations early in his professional career. We should know before MiLB Opening Day (or shortly thereafter) whether any noticeable changes have taken place; if they have, don’t worry if it takes a while before the 22-year-old benefits statistically in-game. FYPD Rank: 18th, Rangers Rank: 4th
131. Michael Busch, INF, LAD. Age: 22
I’m a sucker for Busch for two different reasons that combine to form my longest-standing archetype: he’s an on base machine with positional versatility. From a Dodgers standpoint, that should make you think of Max Muncy. But when Muncy becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2023 (at age 32), Los Angeles may lean on Busch to fill that void. The 22-year-old is more of a 1B/2B/OF hybrid than the 1B/2B/3B triad that Muncy brings to the table, but the above average hit and power tools mean Busch is a potential everyday fantasy starter regardless of position. Much like Kody Hoese (who you read about above), it’s easy to believe Busch will reach his fantasy potential after developing in the Dodgers’ system. And perhaps even more so than Hoese, Busch and his elite plate discipline should progress quickly through the minor leagues. The utility player may be 25-years-old before exceeding 400 big league plate appearances in a single season, but these are skills you should desperately look to acquire in dynasty leagues. The production will be worth the wait. FYPD Rank: 17th, Dodgers Rank: 5th
130. Alex Canario, OF, SF. Age: 19
A year ago, I expected the Giants to push Canario into full season ball to begin the 2019 season. Regardless of how the numbers from last season appear, San Francisco was right to keep the outfielder in the Arizona League and Northwest League last season. Canario found a way to hit .318 in 59 games and 265 plate appearances last summer between the AZL and NWL as an under-aged player, but this won’t be the norm moving forward. The .419 BABIP in the NWL last summer was simply a facade, especially since Canario pulled the ball 48% of the time with a 42.9 FB%. With nowhere to ascend now but to full season ball, the 19-year-old should soon become a level-per-season prospect with strikeout rates worthy of a bit of an eye roll. It might only take development to an average hit tool for Canario to become an everyday starter in right field in San Francisco, but that’ll be much easier said than done. The 19-year-old has a fairly blatant issue with spin, and the issues are deep-rooted enough to at least partially hinder the batting average and power. This is a high variance, power-first corner outfield profile with an eye-opening average fly ball distance and prevalent swing-and-miss concerns. In my experience, this archetype breaks our hearts more often than not. Destined for Low-A Augusta in the South Atlantic League to open the 2020 season, Canario will have to deal with cold weather and full season sequencing for the first time as a professional. I hope you can sense my caution here. Giants Rank: 6th
The first edition of my prospect obsession list has been published. Read about 28 infielders worthy of your full attention during the 2020 minor league season.
129. Gabriel Rodriguez, 3B, CLE. Age: 18
Plus plus raw power from the hot corner is hat-hanger of this profile, but the bat-to-ball skills are much better than the Arizona League numbers in 18 games showed late last summer. The swing mechanics show some traits of an extremely young and raw hitter: the lower half isn’t always engaged, and it causes the teenager to finish off balance quite often. There’s also susceptibility to spin, though that’s not out of the ordinary for a (then) 17-year-old facing AZL pitching. The 6-foot-2 frame will certainly add weight with maturity, and with it will come a defensive transition from shortstop to third base. And that’s fine, because the defensive skills and massive power will translate well at third base. There’s no chance for a speed output here, but developing an average hit tool might be all Rodriguez needs to be a top-50 or top-75 prospect someday. I assume the New York Penn League lies ahead for the 18-year-old in 2020, though the Indians might want infielder to check a box or two in the AZL before bumping him to Short Season. Indians Rank: 8th
128. Jeremiah Jackson, INF, LAA. Age: 20
This holistic profile is a little all over the place, and the more I think about it, the more it scares me. Without changes to the swing mechanics, we may be lucky to ever see the strikeout rate drop to 25%. The defense at shortstop has received mixed reviews, and Jackson may be better suited for a shift to the cornerstone eventually. Lastly, I’m not sure we’ll ever see the speed output we assumed we would when Jackson was selected as a ‘premium athlete’ 57th overall in 2018. There’s elite, elite bat speed here. With natural loft, there might be 30 homer seasons in the swing…if the contact skills don’t completely eat it away. There in lies the problem, and a 33.0 K% in the Pioneer League as a 19-year-old doesn’t exactly exude confidence regardless of the other tools. The Midwest League awaits Jackson in 2020, where I’ll be anxiously awaiting reports on the state of the swing. The current ‘never makes it’ floor simply gives me too much pause to rank the 20-year-old more aggressively at this point of his development. Angels Rank: 4th
127. Luis Matos, OF, SF. Age: 18
Once the Dominican Summer League started and subsequent reports began rolling in, Matos quickly epitomized the type of prospect savvy dynasty players jump on. There was a ton about the outfielder we didn’t (and still don’t) know. Can he lay off advanced spin out of the zone? Is the affinity to swing a genuine part of the long-term profile or simply a symptom of being 18 years old? But a few things are certain: Matos possesses plus raw power and speed, and the Giants felt strongly enough about the skillset to bring the outfielder stateside in the middle of the summer. Despite the small frame (5-foot-11, 160 pounds), Matos has thunder in his bat. The size and body should also mean he’s able to maintain stolen base viability throughout his career. The Giants will likely keep the 18-year-old at the complex this spring before placing him in the Northwest League to begin the summer, but there’s an outside chance Matos sees time in the South Atlantic League by the end of the regular season. Giants Rank: 5th
126. Kyle Wright, SP, ATL. Age: 24
Originally wrote “Kyle Wright is Dylan Cease Lite” to begin this write-up, but after some reflection, it’s more like the Spidermen pointing at each other meme. A Statcast darling with near-elite spin throughout the entirety of his arsenal, it’s easy to keep the faith with Wright despite a putrid 25.2 IP sample in the big leagues over the course of two seasons. The right-hander has been a professional for less than three full seasons, ascending Atlanta’s system thanks to some of the best pure stuff in baseball. Wright’s slider is a truly elite pitch, posting xBAs of .166 and .142 and Whiff rates of 50.0% and 42.1% in his different stints in the big leagues. The problem is the fastball, which is quite the unfun problem to have. Wright struggles to command the high-spin pitch, which makes him similar to his aforementioned counterpart on the White Sox. The main difference is, Cease played for a team in 2019 that could allow him to struggle productively at the big league level. The same comparison could apply to Mitch Keller. The Braves couldn’t (and shouldn’t) afford for Wright to take the ball every fifth day at the big league level while being so inconsistent. Understand this: when a pitcher’s fastball has a spin rate in the 79th percentile amongst big league pitchers but BAA of .480 (!!!!) and an xBA of .411 (!!!!), it’s not because the pitch itself is a dud. It’s all about the command and spin efficiency for Wright, who can still be a high-end SP3 if everything clicks. I may look at back at this ranking a year from now and laugh at my pessimism. I may also look back and shake my head at Atlanta’s failure to assist their high-ceiling right hander in overcoming his developmental growing pains. Braves Rank: 4th
125. Aaron Bracho, 2B, CLE. Age: 18
I see Willie Calhoun in Aaron Bracho. A meh-bodied, bat-first prospect who currently plays second base but could eventually be positionless (aka a left fielder). I also see it in their swings: compact with plus bat speed. And since prospect hype can sometimes can get out of hand, I mean the Calhoun comp as a compliment, seeing as he just finished his Age-24 Season as an above-average big league hitter. Bracho was amazing in the Arizona League this summer, slashing .296/.416/.593 with 6 home runs and more walks than strikeouts in 30 games before being promoted to the NYPL. In his AZL Top-100, Jason Pennini stated the switch-hitter could eventually reach 60-hit, 60-power. It’s more of 55-hit, 55-power upside in my eyes, but that’s still the bat of an everyday big leaguer. Conservative, I know. There wasn’t much of a Short Season sample, but I’m hopeful the Indians push Bracho to full season ball to begin the 2020 season. If that were the case, he’d debut in the Midwest League as an 18-year-old. Indians Rank: 7th
Interested in minor league batted ball data and isolated power? Our Tyler Spicer recently made some observations on prospects and leagues that really made their presence felt in that realm last season.
124. Shane McClanahan, SP, TB. Age: 22
I tweeted this in November but will repeat it here: when I sourced out my offseason research in preparation of my prospect list and prospect obsession list, so many of my scouting sources went out of their way to hype-up McClanahan. The southpaw officially broke out in 2019, striking out 154 and posting a 3.36 ERA (2.17 FIP) in 120.2 IP between Low-A, High-A and Double-A. When McClanahan was drafted, there were two central concerns: inconsistent command and poor college outings that snowballed due to an overflowing of emotion. By most accounts, the 22-year-old made positive strides in both areas in 2019. The Rays have developed their pitching prospects well enough for long enough that consolidation via trade seems inevitable at some point. It also means, if he remains with the organization, a deserved 2020 big league debut could be delayed due to other capable arms who are already on the 40-man roster. Rays Rank: 11th
123. Bryan Mata, SP, BOS. Age: 20
Perhaps more so than any other pitching prospect on this list, Mata embodies a future SP4. It’s functional athleticism at best, and the body lacks projection that would allow us to believe there’s substantial untapped potential the 20-year-old hasn’t unlocked yet. The sinker will likely touch triple-digits before he debuts in Boston, but it produces an abundance of weak contact instead of missing a ton of bats. The curveball is the best pitch, and it’s a good one. If Mata ever misses more bat than was expected while he was a prospect, it’s because the curveball continued improving and eventually became a dominant pitch. The changeup is above average because it has the same shape as the sinker, and the right-hander has begun throwing a ‘slutter’ that—for now—acts as a ‘show me’ pitch. The pitch Mata will throw the most (his sinker) will never generate a ton of swings-and-misses, so I assume the big league strikeout upside will struggle to overwhelmingly exceed a batter per inning (and that may be too optimistic). The right-hander has been extremely young at each level throughout his development, and he should be pitching in the big leagues before he turns 23. Red Sox Rank: 5th
122. Matt Tabor, SP, ARI. Age: 21
Anyone reading this able to credit a friend with setting you up with you eventual soul mate? I’ve got Prospect Live’s Alex Jensen to thank for my growing love for Tabor. I was given some bad reports on the right-hander prior to the 2019 season, so you can understand my surprise when I was told Tabor’s fastball averaged 92.7 mph and topped out at 96 in Kane County (I confirmed this with multiple Diamondbacks contacts). What’s more, the fastball spin rate of 2450 RPM would rank around the 85th percentile amongst big league pitchers. He’s athletic, his newly designed slider misses bats and his best pitch is a ‘chatter’—a changeup with splitter traits. There’s more room to add solid weight to his frame if the Diamondbacks deem it necessary, so there’s a chance the fastball could tick-up a bit more as the right-hander reaches the upper levels of Arizona’s system. This is a pitching prospect who is undoubtedly on the rise. The California League should serve as a solid measuring stick for the majority of 2020, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s bumped to the Southern League by July or August. Tabor is one of the most underrated pitching prospects in all of baseball, and I included him amongst my breakout prospects for the 2020 season. Diamondbacks Rank: 7th
121. Freudis Nova, INF, HOU. Age: 20
Nova is only 20 years old, but he’s only got one big question he’ll have to answer throughout his development: just how much will the aggression at the plate seep into the slash numbers and raw power? The infielder has great bat-to-ball skills, so the affinity to swing freely won’t show up as much in the strikeout rate as it will with so many other prospects on this list. Instead, it could hinder tools that might otherwise make Nova in a star both in the fantasy sense and in the real world. The hand-eye, raw power and top-end speed all currently grade as plus. Further physical development might mean he’s only an above average runner a few seasons from now, and third base could be the eventual defensive home. If the bat reaches its upside, none of that matters. Nova strikes me as a prospect who may be allowed to fail doing things his own way before the Astros begin to implement portions of their philosophy to his skillset. If they can assist Nova in hitting fewer pitchers’ pitches, the monster tools should begin shining through sooner rather than later. The Carolina League likely awaits the 20-year-old in 2020. Astros Rank: 3rd
120. Luis Garcia, INF, WAS. Age: 19
Garcia’s 2019 season is what happens when a sum-of-the-parts, position playing prospect gets pushed to a level they’re probably not ready for. Playing in the Eastern League as a 19-year-old, the infielder slashed .257/.280/.337 with 4 home runs and 11 stolen bases (68.8%). The 79 wRC+ basically tells you everything you need to know, and the 13.9 Hard% is somehow even more damning. I haven’t talked to anyone who’s evaluated Garcia in-person who came away thinking he’s bound for stardom. ‘Grinder’ is probably the descriptor I’ve been given the most. An unexplosive but solid profile that will truly click when the teenager begins to pair some added patience at the plate with his elite hand-eye coordination. If it all comes together, all five of Garcia’s tools may grade above average; the offensive output has a ways to go before we witness this in the numbers, and I’ll bet the under on the in-game power ever getting to 55. Dear Nationals: if you’re reading this, please let Garcia cook in the Eastern League for another season. Nationals Rank: 2nd
119. Yusniel Díaz, OF, BAL. Age: 23
On my life, Diaz had the most nonchalant 135 wRC+ season of any prospect on this list in 2019. Still, there wasn’t much to write home about in the numbers: .265/.341/.464, 11 HR, 10.1 BB%, 20.9 K% in 85 games and 317 plate appearances. The outfielder spent the majority of his season at Double-A Bowie, though hamstring and quadriceps injuries forced him to the MiLB injured list at different times. At this point in Diaz’s development, the main concern is simply lack of explosion. From a fantasy standpoint, there’s nothing we can hang our hat on here. The 23-year-old is trending towards being a high Pull FB% player, so I suspect the HR/PA might continue increasing at the expense of the AVG and OBP. Diaz isn’t a stolen base threat, so are we looking at a player with a .270/.340/.470, 20-25 HR ceiling? What happened to the upside here? Diaz was a tough evaluation for me this offseason because I so badly want to believe in the culmination of the tools; but for now, I think we’re all at the point we’d like to see him connect more of the dots before paying a top-100 price in dynasty leagues. If the Pull FB% increase leads to more home runs than I’m expecting, I’ll gladly admit I’m wrong a year from now. Orioles Rank: 6th
118. Joe Ryan, SP, TB. Age: 23
Ryan was one of the biggest pop-up pitching prospects of the 2019 season, if for no other reason than the statistics being unfathomably good. In 123.2 IP between three levels (Low-A, High-A and Double-A), Ryan posted a 1.96 ERA and struck out 38.1% (!!!) of the batters he faced. The right-hander utilizes a fastball-heavy approach, a pitch that ticked-up to 95 last season after previously topping out at 93. Ryan extends well, so the offering (which he also commands well) plays exceptionally well in the top of the zone and appears to be even faster to opposing hitters than its clocked velocity. The 23-year-old’s best secondary pitch is a relatively new slider, a pitch he began showcasing more frequently near the conclusion of the 2019 season. There’s also a curveball and changeup in the arsenal, but both are fringe average offerings that mostly serve to combat left-handed hitters the second and third time thru the order. Because of the unspectacular weapons vLHB, Ryan tends to rely on the viability and explosiveness of his fastball to attack lefties. To this point, there have been no notable disparities in splits by handedness. All facets put together, the 23-year-old is a perfect candidate to be an Bulker for the Rays’ big league staff. He’ll have the opportunity to attack big league hitters with his FB/SL combo one or two times through the order, compiling season-long totals of 100-120 IP along the way. With pitchers like Yonny Chirinos and Ryan Yarbrough currently filling that role in Tampa Bay, Ryan would offer more strikeout upside than either once he’s deemed ready to debut. He’ll likely open the 2020 season back in the Southern League, but a big league debut at some point this season is certainly possible. Rays Rank: 10th
Recently, Connor Kurcon and I embarked on a data-driven journey in search of finding the players who were most affected by the juiced ball in the big leagues last season. Focusing on a certain strand of wOBAcon and a subsequently created ‘Benefit Ball’, here are our findings.
117. Greg Jones, SS, TB. Age: 22
A year ago, I was out on Jones to the extent he didn’t make my first-ever MLB Draft prospect list (I ranked 1-65). A lesson the 22-year-old has taught me since then: a high strikeout rate shouldn’t be a disqualifier when a player is capable of posting elite BABIPs. The 22-year-old is a 70-runner who sprays the ball to all fields with authority. He also takes walks (10.1 BB% in 48 games and 218 plate appearances in the NYPL post-draft) with confidence, so despite a strikeout rate that should hover between 25% and 35% throughout his career at various levels, the rest of the ingredients should allow the switch hitter to thrive offensively without the slash numbers suffering. The Rays’ acquisition of (future second baseman?) Xavier Edwards is an interesting wrench for Jones’ potential defensive home playing for an organization that will likely slot Wander Franco at shortstop on an everyday basis (the Rays had Vidal Brujan, too). Maybe the 22-year-old eventually dethrones Kevin Kiermaier (or Manuel Margot) in center field? I trust the Rays to figure the logistics out; while they do that, I’ll be busy buying the raw tools and potential fantasy goodness. Jones should take the majority of his at-bats in the challenging Florida State League in 2020. FYPD Rank: 16th, Rays Rank: 9th
116. Brailyn Marquez, SP, CHC. Age: 21
Within this profile we find the hardest-throwing southpaw in the minor leagues, a plus slider, a developing changeup and a ground ball rate higher than fifty percent—all being thrown by a pitcher who’s 6-foot-4 and physically projectable. Marquez cleaned-up his mechanics in the middle of the 2019 season, and the results led to a decreased walk rate (14.0 BB% until May 31, 9.7 BB% from June 1st to the end of the regular season) and a changeup that evolved from an afterthought to a real third pitch. So why does a pitcher with so many skills rank outside the top-100? Despite possessing the ability to touch 102 fairly regularly, I’m concerned the fastball isn’t a true swing-and-miss offering. The pitch has below average spin (2250 RPM), and with its current movement profile, the offering will induce more soft contact than whiffs. I believe this is evidenced in the noticeable drop in K% from the Midwest League to the Carolina League (30.7 K% to 24.5 K%) especially since the left-hander was leaning heavily on his heater during homestretch of the regular season. It feels weird to ask a triple-digit fastball to add explosion, but unless the 21-year-old can find ways to tinker with the RPMs or ride of the pitch, it’ll be the slider and changeup that produce more strikeout viability. Marquez has a thick lower body and should slot for 130-140 IP in 2020 if healthy. It’s likely he’ll end the season in the Southern League, which means he could debut in Chicago at some point in 2021. Cubs Rank: 4th
115. Ethan Hankins, SP, CLE. Age: 19
There’s a lot to digest here. When you look at the numbers, it appears Hankins has the stuff to both miss bats (28.6 K% between the New York Penn League and Midwest League last season) and induce soft contact (55.0 GB%) at fantastic rates. But I’m afraid this profile won’t end up being what you think it will be. The command and inconsistent strike throwing (12.1 BB%) is obvious, though it’s important to remember the right-hander is only 19 years old and still relatively green. There’s also a lack of secondary pitch viability. The slider, curveball and changeup seemed to tick down after Hankins suffered a shoulder injury during his senior year of high school, and none of three have been overly consistent since he was selected with the 35th overall pick of the 2018 draft. The slider is the best of the bunch; it pairs with the fastball to create a deadly combination versus right-handed hitters (who only managed to slash .149/.246/.182 versus Hankins in 2019). Lefties are a much different story though, and their .284/.404/.432 slash against the 19-year-old basically mandates further development of the changeup and/or curveball as Hankins begins facing advanced hitters in full season ball. The lower half here is built like a Mack Truck, and the fastball could touch triple digits by the time he turns 22. As you can see, there are some pretty significant pieces of the puzzle that must come together for Hankins to reach his lofty SP3 upside. Pedigree and the Indians’ track record of pitcher development are both on the 19-year-old’s side, so he has a better chance to overcome those obstacles than most other pitchers with the same issues. Indians Rank: 6th
114. Daniel Espino, SP, CLE. Age: 19
As far as ceilings go, Espino likely has the highest of any prep pitcher from the 2019 draft class. We can talk about the body if you’d like: the right-hander is a 6-foot-2, 210 lb. specimen with a body equipped to maintain velocity late into his outings. We can also talk about the arsenal: a mid-90s fastball that tops out at 99, two plus breaking balls in a curveball and slider, and a developing changeup. To reach his SP2 upside (the only pitcher from the 2019 class I’ve given that distinction to), it’s all about command refinement. The fastball command is advanced, and we know he’s capable of consistently missing bats out of the zone with his breaking balls. We need to see if he can throw his curveball and slider for strikes consistently, since hitters in the Carolina League and beyond will simply spit on those pitches if there’s no track record of consistent Zone%. As you likely know, there are some folks within the industry who believe Espino is eventually bound for the bullpen. In my eyes, the 19-year-old has too many ingredients working in his favor for that to be the assumption. Plus, the Indians have a decent track record of developing pitching throughout their organization. FYPD Rank: 15th, Indians Rank: 5th
Have you weaponized your Twitter for the 2020 baseball season?
113. Miguel Amaya, C, CHC. Age: 21
The most underrated catching prospect in baseball, Amaya continues to improve his stock by being an above average hitter at advanced levels for his age—all while impressing scouts and evaluators with his defensive skills behind the plate. The 21-year-old checked a lot of impressive boxes in 2019: The walk rate and isolated power increased, the strikeout rate decreased. The batting average dropped a bit, but the on base and slugging percentage remained practically the same. In all, Amaya increased his wRC+ by eight points despite facing the second toughest promotion in the minor leagues (Low-A to High-A). With the catcher allotting so much of his time to receiving, footwork and throwing mechanics, the consistent offensive performance is very impressive. So is the defense, with reports suggesting Amaya is both an above average receiver and impediment against would-be base stealers. The Southern League awaits the 21-year-old in 2020; if the Cubs eventually pull the trigger on trading Willson Contreras, it’s at least partially because Amaya is on the way. Cubs Rank: 3rd
112. Isaac Paredes, 3B, DET. Age: 21
Paredes keeps hitting at advanced levels for his age. Saddled back in the Eastern League after a 39-game taste in 2018, Paredes slashed .282/.368/.416 with 13 home runs in 127 games and 552 plate appearances. Those numbers—teamed with a 10.3 BB% and 11.1 K%–were good for a 133 wRC+. Not bad for playing in a league that’s average competition is four years older than you. Away from the plate, there are some concerns with Paredes that could lower his real life floor. I witnessed the suboptimal body firsthand at the Futures Game in Cleveland last July, though I fully believe it will hinder him more defensively than anywhere else. It’s third base only at the big league level at this stage of the 21-year-old’s career, though early deterioration of lateral mobility might cause a post-prime move across the diamond. In some ways, Paredes reminds me of Josh Naylor from third base. Tigers Rank: 5th
111. Jonathan India, 3B, CIN. Age: 23
When you look at the numbers, it’s hard to understand why India is falling out of favor of prospect writers throughout the industry. The 23-year-old slashed .259/.365/.402 with 11 home runs and 11 stolen bases (129 wRC+) in 121 games and 512 plate appearances between the Florida State and Southern leagues last season. So why the sourness? Based on live looks, the general feeling is India isn’t as explosive now as he was during his time at the University of Florida. The athleticism seems to be more functional than dynamic. The Hard% in 2019 was still above average (31.9%), but the power output upside suddenly feels closer to 20 home runs than 30. Consider that with a pull-heavy spray chart that could limit the batting average to .260 or so from third base, and the profile quickly becomes a bit lukewarm. The isolated power oddly dropped a bit from the Florida State League to the Southern League after India was promoted last season, but there’s a chance he can right the ship in a larger sample this season. Still, I get the sense the 23-year-old will be more of a Brian Anderson than an Anthony Rendon as a big league third baseman. Reds Rank: 4th
110. Luis Campusano, C, SD. Age: 21
No catching prospect improved their stock the way Campusano did in 2019. Try to poke holes in these numbers: .325/.396/.509, 15 HR, 10.7 BB%, 11.7 K%, 33.8 Hard%, 148 wRC+. Nick it a bit for being in the hitter-friendly California League if you’d like, but those rates and Hard% at the minimum are foolproof. The 21-year-old has ascended to the point that the Padres appear to be actively shopping one of Francisco Mejia or Austin Hedges this offseason, with an obvious eye on Campusano’s eventual arrival to the big leagues. The defensive skills behind the plate aren’t spectacular, but they are adequate and an assumed improvement to the current Mejia experiment. Reports on a strong work ethic and noticeable strides defensively in 2019 also make it easy to believe Campusano might continue improving before he reaches his mid-2021 ETA. I don’t think the 21-year-old is a .300 hitter at the big league level by any stretch of the imagination, but something like .270 with 20-25 home runs and a nice OBP would make Campusano a top-8 catcher in redrafts. A continued increase in FB% (and subsequent decrease in GB%) might mean I’ve overrated the BA and underrated the power output a bit in the projection above. Padres Rank: 5th
109. Josiah Gray, SP, LAD. Age: 22
Gray is a late-blooming, athletic right-hander who popped into 2019 after—surprise, surprise—being traded from the Reds to the Dodgers in a December blockbuster. The 22-year-old leans heavily on a dynamic fastball/slider combination that served as the catalyst to a 28.5 K% (22.5 K-BB%) and 2.28 ERA (2.48 FIP) in 130.0 IP between the California League and Texas League last season. Both pitches are above average and have created a solid foundation for the right-hander. The changeup is lousy (Gray decelerates his arm and the pitch itself doesn’t have much fade) and one would think that would lead to split issues, but Gray was actually better versus left-handed hitters in 2019 than right-handed hitters. With two pitches making up 80-90% of the usage, it’s important to evaluate the effectiveness of the arsenal at each level of Gray’s MiLB journey. There’s always a chance the Dodgers’ organizational depth leads to the right-hander becoming a swing man in Los Angeles, but this feels like a high-end SP4 profile. Dodgers Rank: 4th
108. Monte Harrison, OF, MIA. Age: 24
An excerpt from my Monte Harrison write-up from last preseason’s prospect list: “Recently in the Arizona Fall League, Harrison showcased a quieter swing that featured less of a leg-kick than the outfielder utilized during the 2018 regular season. The adjustment may help with the contact issues, but the real progress will come when/if Harrison better recognizes offspeed offerings.” Another season has passed, and we’re still not sure the outfielder will ever make enough contact to be an everyday player at the big league level. Harrison missed a lot of time last season with a wrist injury that required surgery, but he was a below average offensively in a hitting wonderland Pacific Coast League even when he was healthy. The longer we go, the more the 24-year-old’s statistical outlook reminds me of that of Domingo Santana. Explosive tools, droolworthy athleticism, not enough hit tool to ever fully showcase the skills at the big league level. If I’m right, Harrison will continue to show flashes of brilliance that make us believe he’s in the process of putting it all together. And with the raw tools he possesses, some will even think he might become a late-blooming star at the MLB level. We’ll continue to run back to him in the endgame of redrafts, hype articles abounding in the History of our cell phones and laptops. He’ll break our hearts time and time again. This doesn’t mean the outfielder won’t valuable as a big leaguer. With great defensive skills, he might even be a multi-win player during his peak offensive seasons. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to conjure up a path that leads to Harrison reaching his undoubted All-Star potential. Marlins Rank: 6th
Earlier this season, staff writer Tyler Spicer published a deep dive on Minor League hard hit rates. Some interesting stuff in here about the juiced ball in Triple-A, too. Check it out!
107. Leody Taveras, OF, TEX. Age: 21
From a statistical sense, Taveras made undoubted positive strides last season, slashing .279/.344/.376 with 5 home runs and 32 stolen bases (71%) in 131 games and 583 plate appearances between the Carolina League. Despite the season-to-season improvement, the 21-year-old combined to only be six percent above average offensively in the leagues he played in (106 wRC+). There in lies the problem. The tools are obvious when you watch the outfielder—there’s a feel to hit, plus speed and at least average raw power. And even as Taveras continues to play against much older competition, we simply need to see the numbers pop a bit more (especially from a power standpoint, 17.5 Hard% in 2019) before we can fully buy-in to him being an above average contributor in redraft leagues. As of now, there appears to be 55-hit, 50-power, 60-run upside here. Seeing as Taveras has now been playing professionally since 2016 and has never exceeded 8 home runs in a single season, that power projection might be too aggressive. Rangers Rank: 3rd
106. Francisco Morales, SP, PHI. Age: 20
Part of me thinks Morales ranking so close to the top-100 is too aggressive. The 20-year-old has thrown 194.1 professional innings in his young career; at his three stops along the way, he’s never walked less 11.0% of the batters he’s faced. There’s also some effort in the delivery and a lack of a consistent third pitch. But I just can’t get over the stuff and the body. As a 19-year-old in full season ball, Morales struck out 30.9% of the batters he faced in 2019, often piggybacking off another pitcher to naturally limit his workload. The right-hander features a mid-90s fastball with fantastic spin and a dynamic slider that flashes as a 70 in the eyes of some scouts. The changeup is firm for now, which should probably be expected for a raw pitching prospect so early in their development. The 20-year-old currently stands 6-foot-4 and weighs ~200 pounds with a thick (thicc?) lower half. He looks like a pitcher who will someday be capable of 200 IP workloads at baseball’s highest level. Morales may always be an erratic strike-thrower, but there’s strikeout-heavy SP3 upside here if the BB% doesn’t get away from him versus advanced competition. If it never fully clicks, the fastball/slider combination will likely make Morales a closer for a first division contender. Phillies Rank: 3rd
You HAVE to check out my recently-released high-value outfielders for 2020 redraft leagues.
105. Luis Medina, SP, NYY. Age: 20
I solemnly swear there’s nothing I can write in this space that would top the 1000+ word write-up on Medina that was published in the Ramblings back in August. However, I can confirm Medina did sustain his command uptick to the end of the regular season, walking only 3 batters in 10.2 IP in the Florida State League (0.84 ERA) to put a bow on his regular season. The 20-year-old will have as much momentum as any pitching prospect coming into the 2020 season. Early season success in the FSL would likely mean Medina is a top-100 (probably top-75) prospect by midseason in my eyes. The raw stuff is some of the best (if not the best) in the minor leagues. Yankees Rank: 4th
104. Tyler Freeman, INF, CLE. Age: 20
I bumped Freeman down a bit from my 2019 end-of-season list because—after exhausting my contacts in the Carolina League—there seems to be real worry about the power projection here. And if we can’t project the 20-year-old to hit double-digit home runs someday with any amount of confidence, how valuable will he be in dynasty leagues? Freeman slashed .306/.368/.410 with 3 home runs and 19 stolen bases (79.2%) in 123 games and 547 plate appearances between Low-A and High-A last season (128 wRC+). The Hard% was a below average 20.1%, and the swing and approach are both geared towards contact over power. Freeman possesses solid but unspectacular defensive skills, but plus makeup allow scouts to believe he’ll continue improving on both sides of the diamond. The 20-year-old is a gritty player who Indians fans will enjoy rooting for, but without a swing change that unlocks more power, Freeman squarely projects as a better player in real life than in fantasy. Indians Rank: 4th
103. George Kirby, SP, SEA. Age: 22
I don’t know what to make of Kirby. He’s obviously an elite strike thrower. The command is either plus or plus plus, depending on who you ask. The pitchability is there. He tunnels his pitches well. And perhaps most importantly, he was drafted by an organization that’s already taken steps to prove their commitment in helping him reach his ceiling (Kirby’s college pitching coach was hired by the Mariners in a developmental role in October). The sum of those parts overshadows the stuff, which I’m not head-over-heels in love with. The fastball grades as plus, but it currently sits at 92-93 and tops out at 95. The slider, curveball and changeup all flash above average at times. Each of the four offerings play up thanks to Kirby’s ability to locate in any quadrant of the zone. I get the sense the 22-year-old will always be a pitcher who gets the most out of his talent. It’s a high-floor profile that also has a decent chance to exceed the moderate ceiling. As a college arm, I’d expect him to breeze thru the California League before facing his first true test in the Texas League. I think the most-likely outcome here is high-end SP4, though low or mid-tier SP3 wouldn’t shock me either. FYPD Rank: 14th, Mariners Rank: 6th
102. Gilberto Jimenez, OF, BOS. Age: 19
For me, Jimenez’s high-floor profile in real life gives him a touch of fantasy upside that’s not being discussed throughout the industry. A feel to hit, legitimate 80-grade speed, above average defense in center field and reportedly plus makeup. These tools alone probably make Jimenez a big leaguer someday. This means the ground-floor shares that are currently being gobbled up in dynasty leagues are likely to lead to a positive ROI, even if the outfielder only impacts one category in your league after debuting. The swing is currently slappy, an inside-out approach that led to the teenager posting a higher Oppo% than Pull% in the New York Penn League last season. Most evaluators who watched Jimenez in 2019 seem to think there’s more power on the way, especially if the Red Sox can make slight alterations to the swing path and trigger point without negatively impacting the on base skills. It’ll never be 20 homer power, but Jimenez should reach the double digit mark at his peak. Red Sox Rank: 4th
101. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, PIT. Age: 23
Sigh. As he nears his MLB debut, it appears Hayes is both 1) more sum-of-the-parts than we hoped he would be, and 2) even more likely to be a better real-life player than we imagined he would be even a year ago. The third baseman was below average offensively in the International League last season, slashing .261/.334/.411 with 10 home runs and 13 stolen bases in 113 games and 492 plate appearances. The Hard% was 25.5%, a two and a half percent drop from 28.1 Hard% he posted in Altoona in 2018. Hayes missed a few weeks in June due to a fractured finger he sustained after diving for a ground ball at third base. Perhaps surprisingly, the 23-year-old improved offensively after returning, slashing .283/.335/.434 with 7 home runs and 5 stolen bases in the second half of his season. There are some late-bloomer qualities within this profile, and a change to the line of thinking in Pittsburgh certainly doesn’t figure to hurt the late stages of Hayes’ development either. But it was really disappointing to see the third baseman not unlock more of his above average raw power in the hitters’ heaven in Triple-A last season. The Gold Glove defensive skills will always give Hayes a high floor in real life, but we’re at the point that we’re beginning to need tangible reasons to keep him highly regarded on fantasy lists like this one. Pirates Rank: 3rd
On New Year’s Day, our Trevor Powers published an article about spin axis, spin efficiency and movement profile. If you’re looking to learn more about the intricacies of pitching, this article is for you.
100. Austin Hays, OF, BAL. Age: 24
There are some real life issues that are worth considering while evaluating Hays. The 24-year-old utilizes a pull-heavy, hedonistic approach—a combination that is not good for anyone who values consistent on base skills. It’s really interesting that Hays played the entirety of his big league games last season from center field, since the aforementioned offensive attributes would play even worse from either corner spot. I’m also intrigued by the notion of Hays batting leadoff for the Orioles. He won’t walk much, but it could give manager Brandon Hyde an excuse to utilize the 24-year-old’s speed, an aspect of his skillset he’s never really tapped into. It’s 30 home run power, but that potential will be largely reliant on the outfielder being patient and punishing mistakes. A 2020 line that looks something like .270 AVG/.320 OBP/25 HR/8 SB shouldn’t really surprise you. With a current redraft ADP around 300, I guess that projection means I’m back in on Hays this season? Orioles Rank: 5th
99. Simeon Woods-Richardson, SP, TOR. Age: 19
SWR reminds me a bit of Ian Anderson both from a mechanical and stuff standpoint. Each arsenal consists of three above average pitches. The over-the-top deliveries help the fastball play up in the zone, but both pitchers struggle to jam hitters inside with velocity. Woods-Richardson made my obsession list last season, and he rewarded the inclusion with one of the biggest breakouts of 2019 in the prospect world. The 19-year-old threw 106.2 IP between two levels and with two different organizations last season (he was traded to the Blue Jays from the Mets in the Marcus Stroman trade), posting a 3.80 ERA (the 2.51 FIP is much more impressive) and 29.2 K% (23.6 K-BB%) in the South Atlantic and Florida State leagues. This feels like a reliable SP3 profile that could make an MLB debut as early as its Age 21 season. I assume Woods-Richardson will open the 2020 season back in the FSL before being promoted to the Eastern League sometime this summer. Blue Jays Rank: 5th
98. Bobby Dalbec, INF, BOS. Age: 24
It’s amazing what making more contact can do for a profile and outlook, and Dalbec did exactly that last season. In 2018, the 24-year-old struck out 32.4% of his plate appearances between High-A and Double-A. Last season, that percent dropped nearly eight points to 24.7%. That’s a huge gain, and Dalbec is now perceived as a player with a undoubted big league career in front of him because of that improvement. He’s never going to hit for average, but consistent double-digit walk rates should make Dalbec an asset in OBP leagues of any depth. With Rafael Devers now officially locked-in at the hot corner in Boston, Dalbec figures to spend most of his time at first base or second base post-promotion. For what it’s worth, I personally see him grabbing the lion’s share at the former. He might still strike out around 30% of the time versus big league pitching, but that’s somehow an improvement on the perception from a year ago. Think .230/.350 with 30 home runs and a chance at multi-position eligibility. That’ll do. Red Sox Rank: 3rd
Recently, Connor Kurcon and I embarked on a data-driven journey in search of finding the players who were most affected by the juiced ball in the big leagues last season. Focusing on a certain strand of wOBAcon and a subsequently created ‘Benefit Ball’, here are our findings.
97. Seth Beer, 1B/OF, ARI. Age: 23
Sometimes, a trade can really make a prospect pop from a fantasy standpoint. It’s hard to overstate how blocked Beer was in Houston. And while one would think the 23-year-old best fits in a league that can utilize a designated hitter, the outlook here has improved drastically since Beer was traded to the Diamondbacks as part of the Zack Greinke deadline deal. The 23-year-old was assigned to my home track team post-trade, so I got several live looks before the end of the regular season. More than anything else, you need to know Beer hits the ball extremely hard quite often. His 33.0 Hard% last season speaks to that. He’s better defensively in left field than at first base, but there’s a chance he maintains multi-position eligibility at the big league level. It’s a pull-heavy approach with a lot of fly balls from a poor runner, so Beer may only hit .250 at peak as a big leaguer. But he takes walks, won’t strike out a ton and could potentially make his big league debut in 2020. It’s 30 home runs at peak. Diamondbacks Rank: 6th
96. Jhoan Duran, SP, MIN. Age: 22
I caught Duran in the Southern League late last summer, pitching against a Mississippi Braves lineup that had just lost Cristian Pache and Drew Waters to promotions. The right-hander still faced Braden Shewmake, Trey Harris, Greyson Jenista, William Contreras and Lane Adams, so I thought it was a good spot for a valid evaluation. The right-hander is a beast of a pitcher, listed at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds (it might be more) with a tree trunk lower half. This offseason, I told any contact who asked that you can ‘feel’ Duran’s mound presence because of his frame and the way he carries himself. The stuff is electric, but it still has work to do before the 22-year-old debuts in the big leagues. The fastball sits 95-97 and touches triple digits when he needs it. It’s a low spin pitch that best plays low in the zone with sinker qualities, so I worry about its future strikeout viability against big league hitters (as is typical with sinkers, it’ll be better at inducing ground outs than strikeouts). The curveball is the real deal, acting as Duran’s ‘out’ pitch that he can also throw for strikes. I also got the impression that the right-hander’s delivery (and the fact he finishes to the first base side of the rubber) allows the pitch to play even better than it already is. At 2500 RPM with solid command, it would play in the big leagues right now. He also throws a hard splitter that has sinking action, but it’s clearly Duran’s third pitch currently. If the feel improves, I expect it to pair nicely with the fastball at the bottom of the zone. Duran induced 12 swinging strikes in 85 pitches (14.1%) the night I saw him. The curveball will carry the profile, but Duran has the arsenal and body to take the ball every fifth day at the big league level. There’s mid-tier SP3 upside here, especially if Duran harnesses the splitter as he finalizes his development. Twins Rank: 5th
95. Daniel Lynch, SP, KC. Age: 23
If you’re looking for a pitching prospect who is yet to reach Double-A but could potentially make a big league impact in 2020, you’ve come to the right place. Lynch missed a month and a half last summer with a shoulder injury—two alarming words for anyone who rosters the southpaw in dynasty leagues. Pre and post-injury, the 23-year-old totaled 78.1 IP in the Carolina League, striking out 23.6% (16.5 K-BB%) of the batters he faced while posting a 47.5 GB% and 3.10 ERA (3.00 FIP). I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little concerned that Lynch didn’t miss more bats as a 22-year-old in High-A, especially since he appears to be lacking a true out pitch in his repertoire. There’s a chance this ends up being more of an SP4 profile than the (low-end) SP3 I’m currently seeing, but I can’t help but like the stuff. Both the fastball and slider are above average pitches, giving the left-hander a pair of weapons against like-handed hitters. But what I might like the most is the fact Lynch also has two weapons against righties—a curveball and changeup that both grade as average. The 23-year-old needs to miss more bats in the Texas League in 2020 to warrant a rating this high, but he’s hopefully trending in the correct direction after posting a 30.6 K% in the Arizona Fall League a few months ago. Royals Rank: 4th
94. Josh Lowe, OF, TB. Age: 22
When he was drafted, Lowe was projected as an uber-tooled center fielder with gigantic swing and miss concerns. Selected 16th overall by the Rays in 2016, the 22-year-old almost immediately began showcasing a swing with much less steepness that he showed in high school. This change slowly suppressed the strikeout woes (though it’s been a slow burn in that department), but it also hindered the power in-game. In his first two full professional seasons, the outfielder hit 14 combined home runs in 962 plate appearances, posting a 100 wRC+ in the process. But everything clicked for Lowe in 2019. Facing the toughest promotion in the minors and solid pitching in the Southern League, the 22-year-old slashed .252/.341/.442 with 18 home runs and 30 stolen bases in 121 games and 519 plate appearances (128 wRC+). He followed up that stellar performance by impressing scouts and evaluators in the Arizona Fall League, hitting a pair of home runs and stealing four bases in 15 games. The strikeouts didn’t disappear (25.6 combined K% in the Southern League and AFL), but they suddenly became much more tolerable when paired with droolworthy counting stats. Lowe’s stock has absolutely soared in dynasty leagues (especially in OBP formats thanks to consistent double-digit walk rates) over the last six months, but I actually wrote him up in the Ramblings back in April 2018. It’s understandable to worry about how the 22-year-old fits into the Rays’ long-term plans, but the skillset is well rounded (there are no left-on-left split concerns) and offers value in all three phases of the game. If he continues his offensive dominance at the start of the 2020 MiLB season, he could push his way to a contending Tampa Bay team by the middle of the summer. If you’re a big Brandon Marsh fan but miss-out on him in dynasty and deep keeper drafts, Lowe is your best bet to acquire the skillset and statistical profile. Rays Rank: 8th
You HAVE to check out my recently-released high-value infielders for 2020 redraft leagues.
93. Sherten Apostel, INF, TEX. Age: 21
Apostel was a year and a half younger than the average competition in the South Atlantic League. Then he two and a half years younger than the average competition in the Carolina League post-promotion last summer. Despite these facts, the infielder posted the fourth highest Hard% of any prospect younger than 21 years old with more than 300 plate appearances last season (per Sports Info Solutions via Rotowire, trailing only Julio Rodriguez, Triston Casas and Jeter Downs). Apostel will always hit for power, but the rest of the profile is much less obvious. The hit tool is below average, and a violent swing means there will be hurdles to clear against advanced pitching in the Carolina and Texas leagues. He also swung more frequently last season than his previous looks in Rookie Ball and the Northwest League, leading to some evaluators wondering if the Rangers asked Apostel to improve his passivity at the plate. There are also enough questions about the 21-year-old’s future defensive home that I changed the position next to his name on the list from 3B to INF. A below average runner, I’d bet smart money is on an eventual transition from the hot corner to first base. This profile reminds me a bit of Bobby Dalbec with a chance to hit for a little better average. Perhaps .250 BA/.350 OBP/30 home runs from first base at peak? Rangers Rank: 2nd
92. Ryan Mountcastle, 1B/OF, BAL. Age: 22
Fun fact: prospect evaluators who put a lot of weight into average estimated fly ball distance are really, really down on Mountcastle’s 2019 performance. Why? Cristian Pache had an average estimated fly ball distance of 306.5 feet in the Southern League last season; he hit 12 home runs. Mountcastle had an average fly ball distance of 306.8 feet in the juiced ball International League; he hit 25 home runs. I’ll let you guess which one is the outlier. It was a typical season from the 22-year-old, who sported a .312/.344/.527 slash that led to a 117 wRC+. We also have more clarity on the long-term defensive home(s), and it appears as though Mountcastle might attain 1B/OF eligibility at the big league level. The low BB%/dependent on high BABIPs profile has never been my cup of tea, especially for a below average runner with plus-but-non-elite power. We should see what it all looks like at the big league level at some point in 2020. There’s even more variance here than other minor-to-major league predictions, but I’ll have some fun and project something like .270 BA/.310 OBP/25 HR from first base and left field. Orioles Rank: 4th
91. Khalil Lee, OF, KC. Age: 21
As each month and season of development passes, it becomes less likely Lee ever accesses his above average raw power in-game. In 2017, the outfielder hit 17 home runs in 121 games in Low-A. We dreamt of a player who could reach 20/20 with relative ease throughout his professional career. In the two seasons since, Lee has failed to reach the halfway mark of the gaudy total he posted in the South Atlantic League. Last season, the 21-year-old slashed .264/.363/.372 with 8 home runs and a 28.2 K%. Of course, he also posted a double-digit walk rate—and stole 53 (!!!!) bases (81.5%). Lee is not a great runner, but at this point, it’s hard to make a case against his elite instincts on the base paths. With a passive approach, the outfielder will strike out enough at the big league level that it will always hinder the batting average, but those woes will be partly offset by a walk rate that should hover around ten percent once he settles in to an everyday role. A big league upside projection of .250 BA/.340 OBP/10 HR/30 SB feels in-line for this profile. That projection may be a little light on both counting stats, but we need to see him unlock additional in-game power and prove he can steal bases at the big league level on instincts alone before I’m willing to go much further. Royals Rank: 3rd
90. Andrés Giménez, SS, NYM. Age: 21
Giménez accessed a bit more in-game power, hitting a career-high nine home runs in 117 games and 479 plate appearances in the Eastern League. He also stole 28 bases (though the success rate was just 64%), the speed output continuing to be the most appetizing facet of the 21-year-old’s profile from a fantasy outlook. Unfortunately, the slash numbers worsened (.250/.309/.387), leading to a wRC+ that was barely above league average (105). For a second consecutive season, Giménez participated in the Arizona Fall League. In 2018, there was a consensus that the shortstop looked tired in Arizona, and the subsequent statistical performance spoke to that notion. This fall was different; Giménez was one of the best hitters in the AFL, slashing .371/.413/.586 with a pair of home runs and stolen bases in just 18 games. As esteemed philosopher Chingy once said: every time I try to leave, something keeps pullin’ me back. I still see .280 BA/15 HR/25 SB upside with above average, middle infield defense at the big league level within this profile. If the offensive environment remains the same in Triple-A, I’m excited to see what they 21-year-old can do in 2020. Mets Rank: 2nd
89. Jose Garcia, SS, CIN. Age: 22
Like a few other prospects on this list, Garcia’s outlook can better be described by an article from last season than anything I could write in this space. Last summer, site contributor Will Scharnagl coined the 21-year-old as the best prospect no one was talking about. That article lays out everything you need to know about the shortstop, though it’s also worth mentioning Garcia was included in my ‘breakout’ prospect article for the 2020 season. All aboard. Reds Rank: 3rd
88. Orelvis Martinez, INF, TOR. Age: 18
Martinez is a loud, loud prospect. There are a lot of moving parts in the 18-year-old’s swing, but it didn’t matter last summer in a Gulf Coast League with an average competition nearly two and a half years older than him. Martinez slashed .275/.352/.549 in 40 games and 163 plate appearances last summer, all while tying for second in the GCL with 7 home runs (150 wRC+). There’s honestly very little information publicly available on the 18-year-old, but a few things stuck out to me from video evaluation: The power should easily get to plus with a chance for more as he develops physically. I’m really interested to see if advanced sequencing chisels away at the many kinetic motions in Martinez’s mechanics, which would lead to some swing-and-miss issues along the way; even if this comes true, we may not see it come to fruition until the Florida State League in 2021 (and Martinez may be able to avoid this problem thanks to a patient approach). Lastly, there’s a better-than-average chance Martinez will shift to the hot corner on a full-time basis before he ever comes close to debuting in Toronto. Don’t worry; those thoughts aren’t meant to quell any of your Martinez-related excitement. This is a potential 30 home run bat at third base and one of the most exciting teenage prospects in all of baseball. Blue Jays Rank: 4th
Have you weaponized your Twitter for the 2020 baseball season?
87. Hunter Greene, SP, CIN. Age: 20
If the prospect world had to describe Greene in one sentence, it would be something like “former prep prodigy arm with a huge fastball who already has a new UCL”. And of course that’s not attempting to take anything away from Tommy John surgery rehabilitation, but that outlook is much, much better that the common, current perception of the 20-year-old. Greene underwent the operation last April, so recovery will likely rob the right-hander of at least some of his 2020 season. July-ish feels about right if we’d like to speculate about a setback-free return date for Greene, and he might even finish the season in the Florida State League. He’ll almost certainly be placed on the 40-man roster before he becomes Rule 5 eligible in December 2021, but the Reds will want a good look at their prized pitching prospect in his first full season removed from surgery. I trust Kyle Boddy and the Reds’ evolving R&D department to help Greene’s fastball become the explosive pitch its velocity says it should be. That development—along with the right-hander’s makeup, athleticism and pedigree—means the SP2 upside is still alive and well within Greene’s profile. I assume his return this summer will be a breath of fresh air for fantasy players who have held onto the uber-hyped right-hander with bated breath since the right elbow injury was originally announced. Reds Rank: 2nd
86. Tarik Skubal, SP, DET. Age: 23
A bit of a 2019 pop-up prospect in terms of top-100s, Skubal posted one of the best statistical seasons of any pitching prospect throughout the minor leagues last season. In 122.2 IP between High-A and Double-A, the 23-year-old struck out 36.5% of the batters he faced while posting a 2.42 ERA (2.11 FIP). Figure in a 1.01 WHIP and 29.0 K-BB%, and it’s really hard to poke holes in any of the numbers Skubal tallied in 2019. But if you notice, on lists that take into account anything other than statistics, the southpaw doesn’t rank as highly as his statistics suggest he should. When I talked to those who watched Skubal in the FSL or Eastern League, the concerns mostly stemmed around a high fastball usage. You always want to throw your best pitch the most—and Skubal’s heater is his best offering—but a usage that leveled off around 70-percent has some concerned about how the profile will fare in a longer stint in Double-A, Triple-A and the big leagues. Factor in reports of inconsistent command and questions regarding the viability of his secondary pitches, there are valid reasons to want to see a repeat performance in 2020 before pushing our chips to the center of the table. I’m still broken from the Bryse Wilson Fastball Disaster™, so I’ll continue to operate in caution and hope to be pleasantly surprised. Tigers Rank: 4th
85. Nick Madrigal, 2B, CHW. Age: 23
I have sourced out the phrase ‘David Fletcher with more speed’ to just about every scouting and industry contact I have over the past few months regarding a description of Madrigal. I have received zero pushback. From a real-life standpoint, this is a compliment: Fletcher just finished his first, full MLB season as a 3.4 win player according to fWAR. Quietly, he was also nearly a league average hitter (99 wRC+). But outside of the tasty positional versatility, rostering Fletcher in fantasy baseball can be quite frustrating. It’s basically a solid batting average with decent runs scored contribution… and nothing else. Madrigal will contribute to the stolen base department more than Fletcher, but there’s nothing about a 13.4 Hard% or high Oppo% that makes us think the 23-year-old was simply unlucky from a power standpoint in 2019, or that more power is on its way. The second baseman has some of the most mesmerizing bat-to-ball skills in the sport (and you might be able to eliminate the ‘some of’ from that sentence). He’s going to get on base a lot, which should mean 25-30 steals per season should be quite doable once he carves out an everyday role on the South Side. A projection of .300 BA/.340 OBP/5 HR/25 SB with solid defense at second base makes Madrigal a top-100 prospect regardless of the focus of a prospect list. It won’t, however, make the 23-year-old a fantasy star at the big league level. White Sox Rank: 4th
New staff writer Cory Ott recently examined the relationship between Swing-Miss% and expected batting average. Check it out here!
84. Erick Pena, OF, KC. Age: 17
When July 2nd rolled around last summer, the perceived issue for Pena—from a real-life standpoint—was a well-rounded but unexplosive skillset that would probably have to profile in right field with further physical maturation. Those issues were quickly laid to rest when the teenager debuted in instructs this fall. Eyewitness and video evaluation told a story of plus bat speed, solid hand-eye coordination and a body that should at least grow into above average raw power. Instead of a Yusniel Diaz-esque profile we thought might be in the cards for the outfielder, it appears Pena could someday be pretty special. I fully expect the 17-year-old to debut stateside next summer in the Arizona League, where we might get our first real idea as to whether Pena really has the potential to be the future top-20 prospect that’s been whispered about since his performance in instructs. It’s wild that 55-future hit, 55-raw is now on the conservative side of the projections you’ll read on Pena this preseason, but here we are. FYPD Rank: 13th, Royals Rank: 2nd
83. Brent Honeywell Jr., SP, TB, Age: 25
Honeywell has not thrown a competitive pitch since 2017. You’re probably well aware of the story, but allow me to hit the highlights: The right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in February 2018, figuring to be sidelined until the homestretch of the 2019 season. Last June, as he was throwing a bullpen while progressing through his rehab, Honeywell fractured a bone in his right elbow, ending any hope he had in helping the Rays throughout the final months of the season. That’s where we currently stand, with one of the muddiest outlooks of any prospect on this list. Kevin Cash said in December that the 25-year-old is still rehabbing from his latest injury. Honeywell figures to be ready for MiLB Opening Day this season, where I assume he’ll be slotted in Triple-A to continue working his way back to full-game shape. He’ll likely be heavily restricted from an innings pitched standpoint, so there’s a chance he temporarily transitions to the bullpen this summer, where he could help the Rays at the big league level throughout the final months of the regular season. It’s still a starter outlook long-term, though the certainty in that projection has decreased exponentially throughout the past two years. On (perceived?) skills alone, Honeywell certainly warrants an inclusion inside the top-100 on prospect lists. The inability to stay healthy and increasing risk are becoming harder to ignore, though. Rays Rank: 7th
82. Brayan Rocchio, SS, CLE. Age: 19
Less than ten years ago, Rocchio would have probably had no prayer of making a list like this one, let alone be slotted in the top-75. But as the game itself changes, so must we. A plus running middle infielder with a feel to hit (from both sides of the plate), Rocchio will debut in Full Season ball this season as a teenager. Placed in the New York Penn League last summer, the infielder slashed .250/.310/.373 with 5 home runs and 14 stolen bases (63.6%) in 69 games (nice) and 295 plate appearances. The 107 wRC+ isn’t worth writing home about, but the power output is. Standing 5-foot-10 and weighing 150 lbs., showing signs of pop in an advanced league for your age (Rocchio was three years younger than the average competition in the NYPL) is the exact quality that lands you a bullish ranking on a fantasy-focused list. It’s unlikely he ever gets to above average in-game power, but something like .280 BA/.330 OBP/10 HR/20 SB from either shortstop or second base feels like a fairly conservative projection. Rocchio was notably stronger in-game last season than he was in the Arizona League the summer before, and a similar jump in the Midwest League in 2020 would likely cement his status on this list. Indians Rank: 3rd
81. Robert Puason, SS, OAK. Age: 17
I have talked to four different people who had the chance to scout both Puason and Erick Pena. Three of the four prefer Puason. If you’re bullish and want to push the envelope, this profile could be everything you ever ask for from a fantasy standpoint. Puason is a quick-twitch, switch-hitting shortstop with plus speed and potential for plus raw power. It’s early, but there appears to be enough athleticism to stick at shortstop. The frame is ripe for projection, and Puason will likely be a physical specimen by the time he turns 20. As with most prospects of this archetype—especially considering the long limbs—there will likely be some swing-and-miss in the profile. How much swing-and-miss (we’ll get a better idea this season) will dictate the amount of risk associated to Puason throughout his development. If he can simply find a way to only strike out 25% of the time when he debuts in the Arizona League this summer, the power and speed combination could make the shortstop a top-50 prospect by this time next season—if not higher. Puason’s archetype often leads to a slow climb up the developmental totem pole, but the teenager’s raw tools could lead to massive returns for those who invest early. FYPD Rank: 12th, Athletics Rank: 4th
80. Clarke Schmidt, SP, NYY. Age: 24
Schmidt was unleashed for the first time as a professional pitcher in 2019, and the results were quite savory. The 24-year-old missed bats (27.2 K%), limited walks (7.5 BB%) and suppressed damaging contact (55.0 GB%). Those rates are basically the holy trinity of surface analytics that we cherish even at the big league level. Of course, Schmidt was a bit old for the Florida State League, so the fantastic Eastern League numbers post-promotion were quite re-assuring. With potential for four pitches that grade anywhere from average to plus, Schmidt is able to attack both right and left handed hitters without any sign of split issues. There may not be ace upside here, but the right-hander has reliable, mid-tier SP3 written all over him. We need to see the numbers over a full, unrestricted season of work, but Schmidt appears to be well on his way to joining the rotation in the Bronx. He’s very underrated player for a Yankees prospect with his pedigree. Yankees Rank: 3rd
79. Edward Cabrera, SP, MIA. Age: 22
Cabrera popped in High-A, got promoted and maintained his gains in Double-A to become a top-100 prospect in 2019. The right-hander totaled 96.2 IP between the pair of levels, striking out 30.3% of the batters he faced (22.2 K-BB%) while posting a 2.23 ERA (3.06 FIP). The 22-year-old possesses two dynamic pitches that serve two separate, distinct purposes. Cabrera’s fastball sits 93-95 (T100) with tremendous arm-side run. The pitch will never produce an elite Whiff% against big league hitters, but it will break its fair share of bats while inducing lots of soft contact. The breaking ball is the moneymaker. A low-80s bender with slurve-like tendencies, the pitch is viable against both righties (.169 BA) and lefties (.216 BA) while also acting as Cabrera’s punch out pitch. He also throws a changeup that made strides in 2019; it could eventually act as a secondary weapon vLHB the second and third time thru orders. You’ll run into a scout here and there who believes Cabrera is best suited for the bullpen, but the 22-year-old has an arsenal for starting and the Marlins have no incentive to make that move anyways. Miami can justify keeping the right-hander in the minors for the entirety of the 2020 season if they’d like (though they shouldn’t), but Cabrera will take the ball every fifth day at the MLB level at some point of his Age 23 season in 2021. Marlins Rank: 5th
78. Deivi Garcia, SP, NYY. Age: 20
Garcia is now at the top of the minor league ladder as a 20-year-old pitching prospect, an impressive feat no matter the skill level or pedigree. But the right-hander is also quite talented, striking out a jaw-dropping 34.0% of the hitters he faced last season (22.8 K-BB%) while posting a 4.28 ERA (note the 3.28 FIP) in 111.1 IP between High-A, Double-A and Triple-A. Garcia’s fastball is analytically moderate, but he can rev it up to 97 mph when he needs it. More importantly, Garcia pitches from a really unique angle (similar to Chris Sale, but from the third base side) that is both a very uncomfortable look for right-handed hitters and a very awkward look for lefties. The curveball is the best secondary pitch, flashing double plus at times with elite spin. The slider and changeup both flash above average, giving Garcia a second weapon to disarm hitters on either side of the plate. All four pitches are more than capable of missing their fair share of bats. Unfortunately, the 20-year-old has two things working against him: the command is fringe average at best, and the frame (5-foot-9, 165 lbs.) means Garcia will likely never reach 200 IP as a big league pitcher. In an ideal setting, the right-hander is a Bulker who pitches five innings a week and racks up strikeouts and wins for your fantasy team. As a member of a Yankees organization that will be competing for World Series titles for the foreseeable future, Garcia could become a multi-inning reliever, capable of dominating a lineup one time thru the order. In all likelihood, this is a 100-120 IP arm in the Bronx that plays as a Swiss army knife of sorts. That’s extremely valuable in real life, but it’ll likely leave you longing for more in dynasty leagues. Yankees Rank: 2nd
Staff writer Adam Ehrenreich recently published the hitter portion of his 2020 sleepers and breakouts. The pitcher portion can also be found by clicking here.
77. Heliot Ramos, OF, SF. Age: 20
The real-life floor for Ramos is a little lower now than it was a year ago, and that’s caused me to ease off the pedal a bit with his ranking. With an extremely thick lower half, the 20-year-old is built like a running back. Unfortunately, he’ll likely be graded as an average runner as early as this season, and stolen bases are unlikely to be a big part of his game in the near and distant future. He’s also likely destined for right field defensively, which means he’ll really need to hit in order to project as more than a role 5 in real life. Luckily, Ramos posted a 137 wRC+ between the California League and Eastern League as a 19-year-old, which was aided greatly by 16 home runs and a near double digit walk rate. There’s some swing and miss here, so the batting average may settle a little closer to .250 than .300 against big league pitching someday. Still, this is a potential 30-homer bat capable of hitting the ball over the fence in any part of the park. For now, I’m not worried about what Triples Alley may do to Ramos’ right center field sweet spot. Giants Rank: 4th
76. Sean Murphy, C, OAK. Age: 25
Fact: Josh Phegley played in 106 games for the Athletics last season, accumulating 342 plate appearances and a whopping 0.3 fWAR in the process. Murphy finally received a legitimate big league opportunity in September, playing in 20 games and accruing 60 plate appearances along the way. He was worth 0.6 fWAR. Injuries have kept the 25-year-old away from the playing field numerous times throughout his professional career, and he’s only surpassed 400 plate appearances in a season once since being selected in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft. Murphy delivered offensively post-promotion, reaching base a third of a time while hitting four home runs in just 20 games; the 132 wRC+ nearly mirrors his mark from Triple-A earlier in the season. The defensive skills continue to be strong, and Murphy should become the primary catcher in Oakland beginning on Opening Day this season. Like most catchers, Murphy will never hit for a notably high average thanks to a pull-heavy approach and a strikeout rate that should hover between 20 and 25 percent. But with consistently impressive Hard% and exit velocities, something along the lines of .260 BA/.340 OBP/20 HR should become the norm with the current offensive environment. If Murphy ever elevates the ball more frequently, 25-30 home runs are not outside the realm of possibility. Athletics Rank: 3rd
75. Alek Manoah, SP, TOR. Age: 22
When I watch Manoah on video, the first word that comes to mind is ‘explosive’. The fastball sits 94-97 T98 with above average spin. It’s particularly deadly in the top of the zone, where it rides above barrels in two-strike counts. The slider is equally effective, devastating right-handed hitters with a sharp, sudden bite that tunnels well with his heater. The changeup is currently just an average offering; the Blue Jays will likely prioritize the development of that pitch early in Manoah’s career, but for now, I’ll be interested to see the split disparity between righties and lefties. The 22-year-old restructured his frame prior to his final season at West Virginia, a change that more easily allowed evaluators to believe he could be a >150 IP arm someday. It’s a strikeout heavy SP3 profile with a chance for more if the changeup ever takes the next step. I’m hopeful Manoah is placed at High-A Dunedin to begin his first full season as a professional. FYPD Rank: 11th, Blue Jays Rank: 3rd
74. Nick Lodolo, SP, CIN. Age: 22
Say what you will about the Reds’ ability to develop position player prospects, but it’s hard to not be increasingly excited about Lodolo’s outlook following the Reds’ hiring of Kyle Boddy this offseason. The 18.1 IP in the Pioneer and Midwest Leagues post-draft are a silly evaluator of any advanced college arm, so let’s talk about the southpaw’s stuff instead. Depending on who you ask, Lodolo either has two plus pitches (fastball and slider) or three (a changeup he doesn’t love to use). The body is good and projectable, and those who are highest on him believe additional added weight to the frame will greatly assist him in reaching the upside of a SP2. I’m more inclined to believe the ceiling is SP3, but he’s certainly in an organization with decision makers capable of helping him exceed that mark. The 22-year-old will likely begin his 2020 campaign in the Florida State League, though the Reds could be aggressive and push him to the Southern League to begin his first full professional season. Either way, Lodolo should be knocking on the door of big league impact a year from now. FYPD Rank: 10th, Reds Rank: 1st
73. Jordan Balazovic, SP, MIN. Age: 21
When I watch Balazovic pitch, the phrase that comes to mind is ‘sneaky explosiveness’. The 21-year-old misses right-handed bats with his slider and left-handed bats with his curveball, both of which grade above average. The heater is a low-90s (T97) offering with pedestrian analytics, but Balazovic’s unorthodox mechanics and excellent extension allow the pitch to play-up more than one would assume when evaluating the spin rate. The changeup is currently a fringe-average offering that mostly acts as a secondary weapon versus lefties. Balazovic popped so hard in the Midwest League to begin the 2019 season the Twins quickly realized he probably should have been placed in the Florida State League. After he was promoted, the right-hander kept cooking: 73.0 IP, 2.84 ERA (2.28 FIP), 32.2 K% (25.2 K-BB%) in 14 starts. Not bad for an Age 20 season in High-A. This arsenal will always rely on the explosiveness of the breaking balls, but that’s the direction MLB pitching is trending towards anyways. Some are concerned the right-hander will deal with injuries throughout his career thanks to a unique arm motion and some violence throughout the delivery, but they also acknowledge there’s been no sign of ailments whatsoever to this point. There’s mid-tier SP3 upside here. Twins Rank: 4th
72. Tony Gonsolin, SP, LAD. Age: 25
Imagine being a 25-year-old, top-100 prospect who just completed their first stint in the big leagues, posting a 2.93 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 22.7 K% in 40.0 IP while pitching for one of the league’s best teams. Now envision this prospect indisputably being on the outside looking in for a rotation spot (and perhaps a spot on the big league roster altogether) the following season. That’s Tony Gonsolin, who will likely start in Triple-A for the Dodgers in 2020 despite the fact he’d be a mid-rotation starter for 20 other MLB teams. The ‘opportunity’ portion of prospect evaluation sucks in this particular case, but I’m betting on the stuff to shine through in 2020 just as it did last season. The right-hander features four pitches—a fastball, splitter, slider and curveball—all of which he threw more than 10% of the time at the big league level last season. Those pitches had expected batting averages of .272, .220, .108 and .086 respectively. The Dodgers are optimization kings, and I’d expect Gonsolin to throw his fastball less in the future (albeit slightly) in favor of his secondary pitches. With Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías, David Price, Dustin May and Ross Stripling figuring to be Los Angeles’ prime candidates to fill rotations slot, a deadline trade would have an unspeakable impact on Gonsolin’s fantasy value in 2020 and beyond. If he remains with the Dodgers, the 25-year-old will be a plug-and-play whenever he gets opportunities with the big league club. Unfortunately, as it currently stands, most of those chances this season could come from the bullpen. Dodgers Rank: 3rd
Have you weaponized your Twitter for the 2020 baseball season?
71. José Urquidy, SP, HOU. Age: 24
Do you have players you associate with other players for no real reason? I’ll always associate Urquidy with Tony Gonsolin, who you just read about. Both exploded onto the scene in 2019. Both made their rankings debut on the same prospect list. Most importantly, both now have Statcast numbers and analytics that support their ‘stuff’ and process. Having hyped Urquidy throughout most of the 2019 season, it was amazingly fun to watch the right-hander post a 0.90 ERA and strike out 12 in 10 postseason innings pitched. Of course, that was headlined by the 24-year-old throwing five scoreless innings in Game 4 of the World Series, striking out four while only allowing two base runners. Having ranked the right-hander 78th on my end-of-season prospect list, his success should have come by no surprise to myself or any of my readers. Pessimistically (and selfishly), however, I knew his stellar performance on the sport’s biggest stage would cause an ADP inflation in 2020. Luckily, Urquidy should enter the new season as a front-runner to secure a rotation spot in the Astros’ rotation. The three-pitch mix of a four seam, slider and changeup should allow him to avoid glaring split issues vLHB, and I’m hopeful the usage of the dominant slider he showcased versus the Nationals in the World Series continues to tick-up (17.2% usage in the big league regular season in 2019). The pitch should become his best weapon against righties. As long as he gets the ball every fifth day for the Astros, he should be a fantasy asset regardless of league depth or format. Astros Rank: 2nd
70. Hunter Bishop, OF, SF. Age: 21
Two common fears I heard about Bishop this offseason when I fished around for his exit velocities from Arizona State and the Northwest League: the 2019 performance fell-off against Pac 12 pitching, and some organizations were turned off due to a small sample of success. What can’t be denied are the raw tools. The 21-year-old possesses plus raw power and plus speed, both of which could potentially slot at center field defensively. From a fantasy standpoint, this profile will solely hinge on Bishop’s ability to put the ball in play. Thankfully, the hit tool will never need to arrive at average in order for the outfielder’s other, fantasy-relevant tools to play. More so than the other 2019 draftees in the top-100 of this list, the 2020 season will really tip the scale on Bishop’s stock moving forward. The variance in the range outcomes—even from an unspectacular spot on this list—should give you anxiety. FYPD Rank: 9th, Giants Rank: 3rd
69. Triston Casas, 1B, BOS. Age: 20
People don’t realize how good Casas was in 2019. Hindered by a mechanical issue I’ll discuss shortly, the first baseman slashed just .208/.284/.364 with 2 home runs and a 35.1 K% in the first month of the season. The issue? Casas was extremely ‘squatty’, to the extent the knee bend was hindering both the power and bat-to-ball skills. From May 1st until the end of the season (98 games), the first baseman slashed .267/.364/.506 with 18 home runs and a 21.1 K%–all of which was fueled by a more upright stance. Those are gigantic gains for a prospect playing in a league with an average age 2.5 (and then 3.6 post-promotion) years older than him. Perhaps as a reward for his exceptional improvement, the 20-year-old was promoted to the Carolina League for the final week of the regular season. All put together, Casas posted the second best Hard% of any teenage prospect in the minor leagues with north of 300 plate appearances last season (35.7%, trailing only Julio Rodriguez). That seems significant. It’ll never be a high AVG profile, but Casas should continue to post double-digit walk rates, making him extremely valuable in OBP leagues. Of course, the on base skills are simply a complement to the momentous 80-grade raw power. With 20 home runs in 120 games as a teenager playing full season ball (not to mention his April struggles), he’s certainly off to a great start unlocking that power in-game. Originally a third baseman, Casas should someday be a valuable asset defensively as a first baseman at the big league level. If you can live with the likelihood of a .250 or .260 AVG at the big league level, your Casas arrow should be pointing upwards as we enter the 2020 season. Red Sox Rank: 2nd
68. Daulton Varsho, OF/C, ARI. Age: 23
A week or so before last summer’s trade deadline, I began hearing whispers that Varsho might play some center field throughout the final month of the Southern League regular season. Those whispers ended up being true, and the 23-year-old started four games in center in August. I watched Varsho live in 2019 more than any prospect writer in the entire world (it’s my crowning achievement tbh). Several folks have reached out for my opinion on the defensive skills behind the plate, and my answer is always the same: meh. You notice the athleticism immediately when evaluating the 23-year-old’s defense. There are quick movements, but he’s not always technically sound. The arm is below average, and it showed both in frequency of attempted stolen bases (64) and lack of success hindering the running game (20%). The receiving skills are adequate, but I always got the vibe Varsho would thrive as an everyday player who caught 1-2 games per week. Regardless of future defensive home, the offensive upside here is enormous. I actually like the fact the Pull% decreased in 2019 because it didn’t hinder the power whatsoever (the ISO actually increased greatly from .164 to .220) and it allows the on base skills to better mimic a player with Varsho’s speed. At his best, the 23-year-old can be a .280 BA/.350 OBP/20 HR/20 SB hitter at the big league level. Those numbers hold redraft value regardless of the defensive position. Diamondbacks Rank: 5th
67. Joey Bart, C, SF. Age: 23
I took some heat for ‘hating’ Bart by ranking him 81st on my 2019 end-of-season prospect list. I explained my reasoning in a ‘behind the scenes’ article about the list, and it’s worth reading now since the 23-year-old is ranked similarly on this list. A .250 BA with 30 home runs might make Bart a top-5 catcher in redraft leagues, but that doesn’t make him an elite prospect nor a player who’s highly coveted from a fantasy sense. Why should positional scarcity from the least important slot on your fantasy team lead us to ranking Bart more favorably than higher-upside prospects who play positions that more-highly correlate with fantasy success? Couldn’t be me. I firmly believe the 23-year-old will be an above average big league catcher, and his inclusion in my top-100 speaks to that. But a more aggressive ranking would mean we’re banking on >.320 BABIPs from a slow-running catcher moving forward, and I can’t commit to that. Giants Rank: 2nd
Staff writer Adam Ehrenreich recently examined a handful of fantasy first rounders… for next season. Check it out!
66. Alek Thomas, OF, ARI. Age: 19
I know it’s a cliché upside comp, but I can’t help but see Andrew Benintendi when I watch Thomas and project his ceiling. When you look at the outfielder, you assume sum-of-the-parts. You might even throw the word ‘gritty’ around. But thanks to a thick lower half and plus bat speed, there’s more explosion here than you’d think. In 114 games and 506 plate appearances between the Midwest and California leagues, Thomas slashed .300/.379/.450 with 10 home runs, 15 stolen bases (57.7%) and a double digit walk rate (20.8 K%). The 140 wRC+ in Thomas’ first full season speaks for itself. There’s a lot of polish within this profile, but there’s still a couple of questions we need answered. Will the teenager hit for more power when he finally faces like-aged pitchers (22.9 Hard% last season)? Will he become more efficient stealing bases, or will that part of his game dwindle as he draws closer to a big league debut? The answers to those questions will play key roles in determining whether Thomas eventually makes his MLB debut as a top-50 prospect, or if he’ll continue to slot in the back-half of the top-100. The outfielder should reach the Southern League this season. Diamondbacks Rank: 4th
65. Geraldo Perdomo, SS, ARI. Age: 20
“Ronny Mauricio without the hype” was the way Perdomo was described to me by someone who watched both shortstops during the 2019 season. I love when an organization drops subtle hints that tell us how they value a prospect. In my eyes, the Diamondbacks did that at the deadline this summer when they shipped Jazz Chisholm to Miami for Zac Gallen. Then, they seemingly reaffirmed this notion by shipping Liover Peguero to Pittsburgh this season in the Starling Marte trade. How do you evaluate those trades and not think the organization views Perdomo as their future, everyday shortstop? The 20-year-old is unrefined in a few different areas: he hasn’t unlocked much power in-game yet and his stolen base efficiency must improve (66.7% success rate in 2019) in order for the above average speed to truly play as part of the profile. What I do love about Perdomo is the plate discipline, which is as elite as it comes in the minor leagues (14.0 BB%, 13.4 K% and .397 OBP across two levels in 2019). He’s also silky smooth at the 6 and is a favorite to stick at the position even when he fills-out his 6-foot-3 frame. I suspect the 20-year-old will take most of his cuts in the Southern League in 2020, putting him on a timeline to debut in the desert sometime in 2021. Perdomo will be a 21-year-old big leaguer if that comes to fruition, though a recently-extended Nick Ahmed will have a say in the rapidness of the former’s ascension. Diamondbacks Rank: 3rd
64. Jeter Downs, INF, BOS. Age: 21
Statistically, there’s no prospect on this list who reminds me more of José Ramirez than Jeter Downs. The infielder slashed .276/.362/.526 with 24 home runs, 24 stolen bases (75%) and a double digit walk rate in 119 games and 535 plate appearances between the California League and Texas League last season. Like Ramirez, Downs accesses his power by utilizing a heavy pulled fly ball approach, which will allow the 21-year-old to reach his power potential while posting low BABIPs and sacrificing a bit of on base skills. Unfortunately, scouts worry that Downs’ perceived running ability is a bit of a façade (he’s a below average runner with great instincts)—which makes it hard to project continued stolen base output with any amount of certainty. The 21-year-old has mostly played shortstop throughout the early stages of his professional career, but most evaluators think his long-term home is at the cornerstone. With the current approach, Downs’ big league home run upside likely falls somewhere between 25-30. But since he may only hit .260 BA/.340 OBP while doing so, this profile needs the infielder to prove—without possessing above average speed—he can continue stealing bases against the best catchers in the world. Hopefully the 2020 season brings us clarity, though patience will be a virtue as Downs adjusts to his third organization in as many seasons. Red Sox Rank: 1st
63. Matthew Liberatore, SP, STL. Age: 20
In the VIP section of this list, Liberatore became the common comp I used for ‘what you see is what you get’ pitching prospects. That’s not an insult—it simply means we can more accurately evaluate Liberatore’s current arsenal with eye on the future instead of attempting to predict what the stuff will look like after he ‘fills out’ or executes another common, maturation-based cliché you read about it with pitching prospects. Despite that fact, I do believe the 20-year-old’s 22.9 K% in the Midwest League in 2019 is the lowest such rate we’ll see from the left-hander throughout his minor league career. The impending increases will be realized with further arsenal harnessing. Liberatore’s fastball isn’t an analytical darling like that of former teammate Shane Baz, but he throws it hard and from the left side. The slider is only an average pitch for now, and a lack of a true second weapon versus LHB can be blamed for the reverse split issues in 2019 (lefties hit .290 versus Liberatore). But right-handers only .213 versus the southpaw, thanks largely to a curveball that could finalize as a 70-grade pitch. The offering has an ultra-elite spin rate, and further polishing of the pitch will unlock additional strikeouts on a start-by-start basis. It’s also the in-game development of both breaking balls that will be the difference between Liberatore becoming a strikeout viable, top-end SP3 at the big league level, or being a SP4 who only reaches a strikeout per inning at peak. For now, the delicious ground ball rate forms a solid foundation for whatever strikeout viability is in Liberatore’s future. The Cardinals are somewhat of an antithesis to the Rays from an analytical standpoint (though they’re reportedly in the process of ‘catching up’ to their competitors in the world of pitching data and analysis), but their track record in developing in-house pitching speaks for itself. I assume we’ll see a statistical uptick from Liberatore this season in the Florida State League. Cardinals Rank: 3rd
Recently, Connor Kurcon and I embarked on a data-driven journey in search of finding the players who were most affected by the juiced ball in the big leagues last season. Focusing on a certain strand of wOBAcon and a subsequently created ‘Benefit Ball’, here are our findings.
62. Jordyn Adams, OF, LAA. Age: 20
I originally made ‘in the world of uber-athletic Angels prospects’ the qualifier that led to a comparison between Adams and Jeremiah Jackson, but I quickly realized excluding Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh from said comparison would be insulting. The Angels’ farm system is so freakin’ athletic. Anyways, in the world of low-minors Angels prospects, Jeremiah Jackson stole the headlines last summer. But it was actually Adams—in my opinion—who had the more impressive numbers in 2019. Widely considered a long-term project since he was selected 17th overall in 2018, the outfielder was actually an above average hitter in the Midwest League, hitting 7 home runs and stealing 12 bases while—brace yourself for the best part—only striking out in 22% of his plate appearances (he also posted a double-digit walk rate). It appears as though both the approach and bat-to-ball skills are better than Adams was given credit for when he was drafted, which should allow the plus raw power and 80-grade speed (!) to show up in box scores sooner than we expected. The moderate counting stats are suppressing the actual tools in the eyes of box score badgers, but this arrow is pointing northward. Angels Rank: 3rd
61. Xavier Edwards, 2B, TB. Age: 20
The Padres fans in my mentions saying “Actually Xavier Edwards isn’t that good” following the Tommy Pham trade this offseason were the same Padres fans mad at me this summer when I wouldn’t rank Edwards higher. You hate to see it. Look: as unoriginal as this comp is, there’s a real chance Edwards is Dee Gordon reincarnate. With the current inside-out swing and a high groundball rate, I can’t project anything more than 5 home runs per season with any confidence. But that’s not the end of the world, because the 20-year-old should hit .300 annually with enough steals to put your team on his shoulders in the SB category in Roto leagues. Now a member of the Rays, it appears likely Edwards will engage in a do-battle with Vidal Brujan, the winner pairing with top-overall prospect Wander Franco to form the future double play duo in Tampa. If Edwards is the victor, he’ll likely slot at the cornerstone—which makes the Gordon comp all the more valid. Rays Rank: 5th
60. Mitch Keller, SP, PIT. Age: 23
Why waste time say lot word when few word do trick? I dropped a 1000+ word article on Keller’s 2019 unluckiness and 2020 (and beyond) outlook here. If you enjoy analytical deep dives, this piece is for you. Pirates Rank: 2nd
59. Corbin Carroll, OF, ARI. Age: 19
The industry (myself included) might be overrating Carroll a bit for dominating leagues his approach was too good for post-draft last summer, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a great prospect in his own right. The value here is fairly obvious: Carroll is a 60-hit, 70-run outfielder with above average defensive skills. It’s a fantastic real-life skillset will lead to a multi-win player in Arizona someday. Our task is to determine how well the tools translate to fantasy leagues. The reported exit velos are pleasantly surprising for someone as currently slight as Carroll (5-foot-10, 165 lbs.), so a future swing change might help emit more power than we’ve seen throughout the outfielder’s amateur career and post-draft professional debut. For now, an upside projection looks something like .300 BA/10 HR/30 SB from center field. If Arizona works on the swing path at some point, we could see 15-20 bombs with a slightly lower batting average. FYPD Rank: 8th, Diamondbacks Rank: 2nd
58. Riley Greene, OF, DET. Age: 19
All I’d have to mention is the fact the guys at FanGraphs appear to be ardent about Greene comping well to Alex Kirilloff, and you would leave this write-up excited. The 19-year-old is a bat-first outfielder with potential for plus hit and plus power. The Tigers put a lot on Greene’s plate post-draft last summer, moving him from the Gulf Coast League to the New York Penn League to the Midwest League in a stretch of about two months. The subsequent 121 wRC+ in his first, small stint as a professional speak to the immense skills in this profile; the 25.1 K% speaks to general lack of refinement we see in 99% of prep prospects are challenged post-draft. Of course we need to see the strikeout rate decrease before we go all-in on a prospect who won’t bring much to the stolen base department, but Greene should finish his first full professional season knocking on the door of a Double-A debut. A successful 2020 campaign would likely mean Greene ranks similarly to Trevor Larnach’s placement on this list a year from now. FYPD Rank: 7th, Tigers Rank: 3rd
57. Ian Anderson, SP, ATL. Age: 21
Anderson is an extremely difficult pitching prospect to project with much confidence. In the world of spin rates—which have become such a big indicator of top-of-the-rotation ‘stuff’—Anderson’s fastball and curveball rank near or at the bottom amongst pitching prospects in this top-100. Some of the ‘lack of spin’ worry is nullified by Anderson’s above average extension, which makes his fastball appear faster to opposing hitters than it actually is. Anderson’s curveball RPM (according to FanGraphs) would rank near the very bottom percentile amongst all MLB pitchers, but the right-hander’s over-the-top arm slot allows the pitch to garner above average downward movement anyways. The 21-year-old’s best secondary pitch is his changeup, a true weapon against left-handers with consistent fade. Because of the current arsenal and his ability to locate north-to-south better than east-to-west due to the arm slot, Anderson could potentially struggle a bit versus righties at the big league level. To avoid this problem, the right-hander will have to command his fastball consistently well—which just so happens to be one of the only things he’s struggled to accomplish throughout his development. At the end of the day, Anderson is only 21 years old and has a long track record of success throughout the minor leagues. There’s undoubted SP3 upside here, but a lot of different things would need to click for Anderson to top this label. Braves Rank: 3rd
My high-value active list has been released! It’s in four sections: you can read about the infielders here, outfielders here and pitchers here and here.
56. J.J. Bleday, OF, MIA. Age: 22
A modest 107 wRC+ in 38 Florida State League games last summer suppressed the acquisition price for Bleday in First Year Player Drafts this offseason, but I’m much more interested in the fact the Marlins set the tone for Bleday’s path and development with an aggressive placement in the Florida State League post-draft. Imagine missing out on a prospect like Bleday because you over-analyze a 151 plate appearance sample in a professional debut following a long, exhausting college season. The 22-year-old is an athletic, strong prospect with four above average future tools (speed being the exception). Bleday is a polished hitter with a track record of success versus advanced college pitching, so he’s fully expected to be a quick mover through an underrated Marlins system. I assume I’ll be one of the few prospect rankers who have Bleday over Riley Greene in FYPD rankings, but I narrowly prefer the polish and real-life floor the former brings to the table. The 22-year-old should be an everyday big leaguer at some point in 2021. FYPD Rank: 6th, Marlins Rank: 4th
55. Jesús Sánchez, OF, MIA. Age: 22
Sánchez flies under the radar because he’s never been statistically spectacular in the minor leagues, but he’s posted a 124-career wRC+ since debuting professionally in 2015. Scouts love the 22-year-old for several different reasons, but none more important than the fact he’s built to succeed against modern day big league pitching. In an era that features countless amount of hitters swinging under elevated fastballs, Sánchez tends to deposit that pitch into the right field bleachers. Baseball HQ’s Chris Blessing put me onto that trait, and then I witnessed it myself last summer. Sánchez also has a plus arm in right field and can drive the ball the opposite way (left field) with authority at the plate. When the Marlins acquired Sánchez last summer, they took-on two primarily responsibilities: 1) assisting the outfielder in elevating the ball more often (GB% ~50.0% last season) to unlock the full extent of his massive raw power, and 2) instilling the notion that patience at the plate is a virtue (career 6.4 BB% in 464 MiLB games). The 22-year-old is a big leaguer with his current skillset; an increased FB% and walk rate would likely means he blossoms into a star. With the Hard Hit % and Exit Velocity tabs always leaning to the right on his Savant page, Sánchez has .270 BA/.330 OBP/30 HR potential from right field at the big league level. Marlins Rank: 3rd
54. Oneil Cruz, SS, PIT. Age: 21
Baseball players like Oneil Cruz are supposed to be impossible. Six-foot-seven shortstops are largely an oxymoron in a sport with certain stereotypes and aesthetics associated to each defensive position. The long levers naturally associated with six-foot-seven hitters means they should be fighting huge strikeout rates and fringe batting averages, especially while playing in highly-advanced leagues for their age and tools. Perhaps most importantly, six-foot-seven baseball players aren’t supposed to possess the simple swing mechanics and lightning hands that are displayed with ease. To say that Oneil Cruz is an anomaly might be putting it lightly. There was quite a bit of worry that Cruz’s foot fracture in April would hinder the profile for a long, long time. An extremely long-limbed hitter with a fracture in his foot? A lot of people feared the worst. Cruz returned in late June, and two months that ensued is one of the more impressive stories of the 2019 minor league season. The 21-year-old ended up posting a 154 wRC+ in just 35 games in the Florida State League before receiving a challenging promotion to the Eastern League. Figuring to endure some serious challenge against some of the most advanced pitching in the minors, Cruz lowered his strikeout rate while nearly doubling his walk rate, finishing twenty percent above league average throughout the final 35 games of the regular season. Despite everything working against him, the infielder continues to show signs of being able to consistently adjust to various levels of pitching on the fly is a huge plus for the profile. With such long levers, it’s been long assumed the 21-year-old would struggle with strikeouts once he arrived in the upper levels of the minors. So far, this simply hasn’t been true. And even if he does strikeout in his 25% of his plate appearances at the big league level, that leaves plenty of room for the earth-shattering, 80-grade raw power to shine through. We keep waiting on the Pirates to transition Cruz from shortstop to third base, but he actually played 100% of his 2019 games at the 6; it appears Pittsburgh is not treating a defensive move as though it’s inevitable. Cruz is a unique, athletic freak, and he cemented himself as one of the sport’s best prospects in 2019. Pirates Rank: 1st
Staff writer Adam Ehrenreich recently published his 2020 sleepers and breakouts. The hitters are here, and the pitchers are here. Check it out!
53. Logan Gilbert, SP, SEA. Age: 22
A confession: when I found myself stuck in a rut or suffering from writer’s block this winter while creating my preseason content, my ‘reset button’ would often be watching video of Logan Gilbert’s other-worldly extension. It’s truly a thing of beauty and the prospect equivalent of pornographic material. Gilbert’s fastball ticked-up throughout the 2019 season, sitting 90-92 in April before increasing to 92-95 a few months later. The heater only has moderate spin, but the pitch plays-up anyways thanks to the aforementioned, elite extension. The slider also improved rather drastically last season; it is now clearly an above average breaking ball (as is the curveball). The changeup is only average and clearly the fourth pitch in this repertoire, but Gilbert was actually more successful versus left-handed batters in 2019 than right-handed batters thanks largely to the CB/CU combo. The mound presence reminds me of that of Tyler Glasnow, and the pitchability + arsenal led to Gilbert wreaking havoc at three different levels last season (2.13 ERA, .198 BAA, 25.3 K-BB% in 135.0 total IP). The Mariners might manipulate the service clock more than we’d like, but there’s no reason Gilbert shouldn’t make his MLB debut this season. The expectation here is SP3, though the 23-year-old could reach the low-end SP2 mark at his peak. Mariners Rank: 5th
52. Jazz Chisholm, SS, MIA. Age: 22
No one in the prospect industry saw Chisholm more than I did in 2019, but he’s still an extremely difficult evaluation currently. The raw skills are absolutely undeniable: Chisholm hit 21 home runs and stole 16 bases as an under-aged player in Southern League despite slashing .220/.321/.441 and striking out in 32.1% of his plate appearances. And there’s no doubt he’s a long-term shortstop, and one of the best in the minor leagues at that. But with the good comes the bad, and Chisholm was often beat with velocity up in the zone throughout his 2019 campaign. The troubling part of the approach—other than some aggression—is an uppercut swing with the steepest path of any prospect I evaluated last season. In an era that features pitchers getting the most from their fastballs by commanding the pitch in the upper third, a steep uppercut swing is certainly a troubling flaw to possess. I didn’t see him live after he was traded from the Diamondbacks to the Marlins for Zac Gallen, but it appears Miami’s instructor began ironing out the issues post-trade: in 94 plate appearances, Chisholm hit .284 and struck out in only 25.5% of his plate appearances (which is around the best case scenario in the long-term for the 22-year-old). The bat speed electric, he’s a plus defender, he should maintain his speed throughout the majority of his career and he has a fantastic personality. If he can put it all together, he’ll undoubtedly become one of the biggest personalities in baseball. He finished the 2019 season trending in the correct direction, so I’m anxious to see if he can maintain those gains in 2020. Marlins Rank: 2nd
Have you weaponized your Twitter for the 2020 baseball season?
51. Brandon Marsh, OF, LAA. Age: 22
I caught Marsh during a Southern League series this summer, and I couldn’t find something about him I didn’t like. The hit tool was better than advertised. The raw power is plus. The speed is above average. The routes were good in the outfield, and the arm projects well from either center field or right field. The squat in Marsh’s batting stance was much more pronounced in 2019 than in prior seasons; generally speaking, scouts worry that too much knee bend can hinder a player’s power (like it did with Triston Casas, who you read about above). But I did not get that sense watching Marsh both in batting practice and in-game. The ball exploded off the 22-year-old’s bat to all fields, including an opposite-field homer in one of my live looks. Statistically, the 4.2 percent decrease in strikeout rate (27.3% in 2018 to 23.1% last season) is quite substantial. The improved slash numbers (.266/.359/.408 to .286/.367/.407) are certainly notable as well. Long hailed as a premium athlete who could potentially impact the game on both sides of the ball, it appears as though Marsh is in the process of putting it all together. Jo Adell will certainly grab the headlines as he debuts in 2020, but Marsh may not be too far behind him. Thru a more narrow lens, the outfielder might currently be the more underrated prospects in OBP leagues. Angels Rank: 2nd
50. Grayson Rodriguez, SP, BAL. Age: 20
Rodriguez cooked in the South Atlantic League for the entirety of the 2019 season, striking out a whopping 34.2% of the batters he faced (24.7 K-BB%) while posting a 2.68 ERA (2.94 FIP) in 94.0 IP. My Orioles contacts have been steadfast in their stance that DL Hall belongs ahead of Rodriguez on lists like this one, though they admit the margin is shrinking. It also surprised me to learn that the right-hander actually spins the ball a bit better than the southpaw (both have above average spin rates). That points toward the 20-year-old simply needing to harness his stuff a bit more (working on spin efficiency, spin axis, etc.)—which he certainly has time to do as a pitcher who has not yet reached the Carolina League. Rodriguez held his velocity well even in the final stretch of the 2019 season, and the 6-foot-5, 220 lb. frame is built to last over the course of a 162-game big league season. The safer of the two prospects thanks to consistent command, Rodriguez could officially overtake Hall in 2020 with additional improvement with his secondary pitches. Orioles Rank: 3rd
49. Nick Solak, UTIL, TEX. Age: 25
September-fueled big league samples are hard to put a lot of stock in, but it’s hard to not be at least a little excited by Solak’s first 33 games. The 25-year-old slashed .293/.393/.491 with 5 home runs and 2 stolen bases in just 135 plate appearances. I’m an equally big fan of the rates, especially the 11.1 BB% that looks a lot like the walk rates he posted throughout his minor league career. Solak has a history of patience, but he’s also got good bat-to-ball skills and the speed to maintain decent BABIPs throughout his big league career. This means he should be an asset in AVG and OBP leagues once he grabs an everyday role. Unfortunately, he has two things currently working against him. He’s not a good defender (it’s perceived he can be at least somewhat passable at second, third, and the three outfield spots as a big leaguer), and the Rangers are awfully incentivized to ride-out Rougned Odor for as long as they possibly can (Odor is currently in the middle of a 6 year/$49 million contract). However, Texas making offseason acquisitions that point toward ‘going for it’ should good for Solak. The signing of Todd Frazier puts a damper on the 25-year-old’s chances of breaking camp as the everyday third baseman, but a recent report suggests Solak will be given the opportunity during Spring Training to seize consistent playing time in centerfield. This move would allow for Danny Santana to be utilized as an all important ‘super utility’ player for the Rangers, leading to consistent lineup optimization throughout a grueling, 162-game regular season schedule. I’ll leave you with two separate quotes from Solak’s write-up in my 2019 top-200 prospect list, published in March of 2019:
“Better late than never, it’s officially time to PUT SOME RESPECK ON NICK SOLAK’S NAME! Honestly though, I’m not sure what else the 24-year-old has to prove to universally be known as a viable prospect.”
“My gut tells me someday, the prospect community will look back on Solak’s minor league career and think “why didn’t we give this guy more credit?” as he makes waves in the big leagues.”
Can’t help but think that prediction officially comes to fruition beginning in 2020. Rangers Rank: 1st
48. Nolan Gorman, 3B, STL. Age: 19
I received a bit of criticism for ranking Gorman 51st on my midseason list last summer, but I was unsure if the critics thought he should be ranked higher or lower until they citied the stats. Post-promotion last summer, Gorman slashed a lackluster .256/.304/.428 with 5 home runs, a 5.7 BB% and a 31.7 K% 58 games and 230 plate appearances. He was seventeen percent above league average offensively. The Florida State League, man. Ridiculous. The 19-year-old experienced the ebbs and flows that are typically attached to power-over-hit corner infielders who are challenged early in their professional careers. Gorman’s 28.8 Hard% was still a bit above average, and there are no reports that suggest the third baseman has strayed from the path that leads to above average power as a big leaguer. I’m hopeful the Cardinals let the third baseman cook in the FSL to begin the season before promoting him to the Texas League sometime this summer. We’ve got a ways to go to get there, but Gorman has 40 home run upside from the hot corner. Cardinals Rank: 2nd
47. DL Hall, SP, BAL. Age: 21
You see Hall’s 15.6 BB% in 2019 and say there’s no way he should rank this high on a prospect list. I see clean mechanics and pitch usage that leaned heavily on non-fastballs by organizational request—and I’m eagerly buying a statistical bounce back in 2020. Statistical evaluations don’t work this way, but indulge me for a moment and forget about the walk rate. Hall just posted a 3.46 ERA and .185 BAA and struck out a jaw-dropping 33.5% of the batters he faced—all while being the second youngest pitcher in the Carolina League. The southpaw possesses three above average or plus offerings (fastball, curveball and slider) and a changeup that could eventually give the left-hander a quartet of greatness. I would guess most of the prospects you’ll read this preseason will slot Grayson Rodriguez ahead of Hall, but the truth is this: Hall has better (and more consistent) velocity, better breaking balls and more athleticism. If you buy the dip and assume the left-hander’s walk rate will normalize when he’s ‘allowed’ to throw the fastball to his liking, Hall could be the best top-100 buy-low acquisition of the 2019-2020 offseason. Orioles Rank: 2nd
Recently, Connor Kurcon and I embarked on a data-driven journey in search of finding the players who were most affected by the juiced ball in the big leagues last season. Focusing on a certain strand of wOBAcon and a subsequently created ‘Benefit Ball’, here are our findings.
46. Shane Baz, SP, TB. Age: 20
Shane Baz is going to be one of the most-hyped prospects in all of baseball heading into the 2020 season. You’re bound to read a countless amount of drool-worthy takes regarding the right-hander, and with good reason. Allow me to temper your expectations momentarily with some differing opinions. There are multiple scouts within the Rays organization that view Baz as a future reliever. Most of the concerns stem from the lack of repeatability of his mechanics (especially late in appearances), which is a flaw most hoped would be put to bed during the 2019 season. Those same scouts also witnessed the right-hander excel in shorter appearances during the Arizona Fall League, which only furthered the notion the right-hander could be better suited as an elite fireman/swingman in the future—especially since that archetype has become extremely valued on MLB active rosters. “It’s one of those things where, once you see it, you can’t unsee it” is how Baz’s performance as a reliever in the AFL was worded to me. Now feels like a good time to bump some words of wisdom I was given from a fellow prospect writer: “The job of prospect media is to push. The job of a scout is to be realistic.” I don’t agree with the notion that Baz is destined for the bullpen, but you deserve to know there’s far from a consensus on his future role around the scouting world. I view the right-hander as a raw, 20-year-old pitching prospect with a lot of development left in the tank. Instead of harping on his struggle to repeat his mechanics in longer outings, I’d rather focus on the effortless delivery and dynamic arsenal. Baz boasts three different pitches—a four seam that explodes at the top of the zone, a slider that’s often devastating versus right-handed batters and one of the best cutters in the minor leagues—that all flash plus. I trust the Rays to do what’s necessary to ensure Baz benefits from a consistent release point; once that checkpoint is reached, the sum of the parts could form the top pitching prospect in all of baseball. Rays Rank: 4th
In his introductory article for the site, Cory Ott examined the correlation between Swing-Miss% and xBA. Check it out here.
45. George Valera, OF, CLE. Age: 19
How many “Are you worried Valera doesn’t hit in full season ball?” messages have been sent between dynasty leagues players this offseason after the then 18-year-old struggled in a measly six-game sample in the Midwest League last August and September? The facts are this: Valera has a chance to someday play as a plus hit, plus power centerfielder. It’s a short, compact frame, but the 19-year-old shows all the signs of unlocking his offensive potential. There’s natural loft in the swing plane, lower half engagement and raw strength that generates a ton of pull side power. There’s also some swing-and-miss and in the profile, though some of it can be credited to facing extremely advanced pitching for someone with Valera’s age and lack of experience. The body doesn’t ooze projection like a lot of the prospects you’ll read about on this list, but the 19-year-old has the instincts and reads to remain in center field throughout at least the early stages of his career. Valera could finish the 2020 season in the Carolina League. Indians Rank: 2nd
44. Brendan Rodgers, INF, COL. Age: 23
I found this November article from the Denver Post fairly interesting—especially the part where Rodgers said that, prior to undergoing labrum surgery in July, he had been experiencing shoulder pain since 2018. The 23-year-old was everything you’d expect from a pure hitter playing at a launching pad in an offensive-friendly Triple-A environment last season (147 wRC+). He was also nightmarish in his first stint in the big leagues, posting a microscopic 25 wRC+ and striking out in a third of his 81 plate appearances. Rodgers is, eventually, going to hit at the big league level. Assuming he returns to full health, we should witness him make strides in 2020—if for no other reason that it would be difficult to be much worse than his tiny 2019 sample. I do think the aggressive approach will lead to the 23-year-old hitting more pitchers’ pitches than we’d like, and there will always be more value in AVG leagues than OBP leagues thanks to minimal walk rates. There’s still .280 BA/.340 OBP/30 HR upside here, which would make him extremely valuable from second base in the fantasy world. It’ll just be more difficult to get to than we originally thought. Rockies Rank: 1st
43. Jordan Groshans, 3B, TOR. Age: 20
For a prospect who only played in 23 games after an undisclosed left foot injury derailed his season in early May, Groshans greatly increased his stock last season. Conversing with scouts from the Midwest League the weekend of the Futures Game, the 20-year-old was a voluntary topic of discussion. The reports are gushing. More than anything else, folks I talked to were impressed with a hit tool and approach that appeared to be better than it was advertised when Groshans was selected 12th overall in 2018. While third base appears to be the likely destination defensively once he fills out and slows down a bit, the Blue Jays are not yet making that concession (the 20-year-old played the entirety of his defense at shortstop in the Midwest League last season). Obviously the missed development last season stinks, but it’s quite possible the injury masked a performance that would have landed Groshans much higher on this list than his current standing; things were certainly trending that direction when the injury occurred. I expect the 20-year-old to take most of his swings in the Florida State League in 2020. Blue Jays Rank: 2nd
42. Noelvi Marte, SS, SEA. Age: 18
In December, I retweeted one of my old tweets from May 2017 that said “I think Ronald Acuña is a future all-star. I also think he’ll be one of the best players in the entire league. He’s ‘that’ guy for me.” May 2017, folks. Anyways, one of the replies was a question as to who I thought that guy could be in 2020 (the replier than specified he wanted a non-boring answer). My first thought was “LOL there are no Ronald Acuña’s in the minor leagues”, and that’s absolutely true. My second thought was this: if there’s a prospect who’s still a bit off the beaten path who could absolutely explode in 2020, it’s Noelvi Marte. This is a prospect who appears to be on the cusp of becoming one of the best players in the minor leagues. There’s raw power that profiles from anywhere defensively. There’s underrated speed (pay no mind to his speed grade elsewhere; by all recent reports, Marte is a 70 runner). The market within the prospect industry is already beginning to account for this, but the 18-year-old has a lot of the same ingredients that allowed Kristian Robinson to ascend into the top-10 a year after ranking in this range. Some think Marte will follow the Julio Rodriguez path, which means he’ll skip the Arizona and Northwestern leagues and instead debut in full season ball to open the 2020 season. With the former possessing a weaker hit tool and defensive skills a bit more unrefined from a higher-priority position than the latter, my money is on the 18-year-old playing for the Everett AquaSox (A-) for the majority of the summer. Marte is one of the few players on this list who have ‘top overall prospect’ potential. It only made sense that the 18-year-old was featured on my 2020 breakout prospect list. Mariners Rank: 4th
Staff writer Adam Ehrenreich recently examined a handful of fantasy first rounders….. for next season. Check it out here.
41. Ronny Mauricio, SS, NYM. Age: 19
I won’t lie: I become slightly aroused every time I read the phrase “this is what they look like” in a description of a teenage prospect. Throughout the industry, that sentence has become a popular descriptor of Mauricio, a 6-foot-4, 170 lb. string bean with quick-twitch athleticism and advanced bat-to-ball skills for his age and build (not to mention he’s a switch hitter). Don’t scout the stat line here. Instead, read the scouting reports and evaluations of those who have watched Mauricio in person. Almost uniformly, you’ll notice the focus on the teenager’s 12.0% swinging strike rate, which is considered an anomaly for a prospect at Mauricio’s age and with his long limbs—against full season pitching. The statistics might continue to be quite vanilla as the teenager continues to grow into his body, but no worries. There’s plenty of power on the way, perhaps in massive amounts. There’s a chance that—at full, physical maturation—Mauricio will be forced to shift from shortstop to the hot corner. If this becomes the case, it likely means the switch hitter has grown into 30 home run power. Mets Rank: 1st
40. Sixto Sanchez, SP, MIA. Age: 21
So many pitchers on this list will never reach their perceived upside because they don’t have the stuff most people assume they do after a quick glance at their FanGraphs’ page. Other pitchers will be relegated to less-significant role thanks to command that never materialized. If Sanchez never reaches low-end SP2 upside, it’ll be because injuries derailed what was sure to be a fantastic career. The 21-year-old’s arsenal is so deep that—at one point—there was actually a concern that consolidation was needed. If you include the different variants, Sanchez can throw anywhere from 6-8 different pitches for strikes (4.6 BB% in 2019). The curveball and changeup are the biggest bat-missers in the repertoire; the fastball is low-spin, but Sanchez’s two-seam was the protagonist for a fantastic ground ball rate last season. In a perfect world, he’ll begin to lean more on the former pair in pitcher-friendly counts moving forward. Strikeouts > ground balls. There is a long-ish track record of injuries for the 21-year-old, and 2019 was his first season to exceed 100 IP. The encore should—at some point—consist of Sanchez taking the ball every fifth day in Miami. Please stay healthy, Sixto. Marlins Rank: 1st
39. Evan White, 1B, SEA. Age: 23
Well, well, well. In November, White joined Eloy Jimenez, Scott Kingery and Jon Singleton (lol) as the only players to ink contract extensions without ever playing in an MLB game (you can now add Luis Robert to that list). The 23-year-old signed a 6 year, $24 million contract, which both gives him financial security while potentially costing him millions of dollars down the road. Regardless of how you perceive the extension, the contract undoubtedly helps White’s 2020 outlook. It’s likely he would have debuted at some point this season anyways, but without having to worry about service time manipulation, etc., the Mariners might make White their everyday first baseman before the Fourth of July. Having only accrued 18 plate appearances in Triple-A thanks to a temporarily promotion in 2018, it does make at least a little sense for Seattle to have their prized first baseman get his bearings about him in the Pacific Coast League before promoting him to the AL West. White has seemingly made huge improvements offensively each season as a professional, and he already boasts Gold Glove defensive skills. This is a player who is going to be very, very good for a really long time, and he’s just now beginning to tap into his power. With some tweaking to the swing plane, this could be a 30 home run profile at peak. The 23-year-old is sure to be a steal in 2020 redraft leagues with owners who know very little about prospects. Pounce on the opportunity. Mariners Rank: 3rd
38. Spencer Howard, SP, PHI. Age: 23
Howard does a lot of small things that allow multiple parts of his arsenal to play-up. The fastball sits 93-97 (T98). It’s not an elite spin pitch, but Howard’s fantastic extension gives the offering late life—especially up in the zone. Neither the curveball nor the slider are analytical darlings, but the 23-year-old creates a unique angle that allows the breaking balls to ‘get on’ hitters in a hurry. This angle also allows the right-hander to throw both pitches against batters from either side of the plate. And then there’s the changeup, an inconsistent pitch that Howard appears to finally be mastering. It’s especially devastating against lefties. Consistency with secondary pitches is the biggest box Howard has left to check before being considered a complete pitcher, and even that is trending in the correct direction. Assuming the 23-year-old is able to accomplish that feat, he’ll have top-tier SP3 upside once he settles into the Phillies’ big league rotation. Shoulder discomfort sidelined Howard for two months last season (he pitched 68.0 IP total at three different levels), so I suspect Philadelphia will be meticulous in how they handle their prized right-hander throughout 2020. A mid-summer debut is the most likely outcome here. Phillies Rank: 2nd
My 2020 high-value active player list has been released! You can check out my league winning infielders here and my underrated outfielders here. The pitching portion is two parts; you can read Part One here and Part Two here.
37. A.J. Puk, SP, OAK. Age: 24
Puk’s fastball leaves some to be desired from a Statcast standpoint, but his elite extension from a 6-foot-7 foot frame leads to a favorable disparity between actual velocity (the pitch averaged 97.1 mph from the bullpen in 2019) and perceived velocity. Puk has chosen to use this nuance to his advantage by often pumping fastballs low in the zone, inducing a lot of soft contact in the process. That’s fine, but fastballs don’t miss a ton of bats down in the zone in today’s game. I’m curious to see Puk’s plan of attack with his fastball in 2020 and beyond. If the southpaw’s strikeout viability relies on his secondary pitches, the slider, changeup and curveball all play-up thanks to a mixture of extension, arm slot and non-deceleration with his delivery. All flash above average or plus, and they’ve played a huge role in Puk’s long track record of massive strikeout numbers. The left-hander has low-end SP2 upside with some variance in the floor thanks to a history of spotty command and some uncertainty on the number of bats his heater will miss at the big league level. Puk will be on an innings restriction in 2020 as he pitches in his first full season removed from Tommy John surgery, but he figures to have relevance even in redraft leagues regardless of his short-term role with the Athletics. Athletics Rank: 2nd
36. Brendan McKay, SP/DH, TB. Age: 24
McKay came very close to graduating from prospect status, falling an inning short of the 50.0 IP threshold in first stint in Tampa Bay. I’m actually thankful I get to write him up one more time, as he will be an interesting case study in the evolution (or lack thereof?) of expected outcomes and Statcast numbers pre-and post-graduation. If you take away the big league sample, McKay was unconsciously good in Double-A and Triple-A: 73.2 IP, 1.10 ERA (2.06 FIP), 36.7 K% (30.2 K-BB%). Those are elite numbers. The MLB numbers are not. As a big leaguer, outside of the changeup (which he only threw 3.6% of the time), none of McKay’s pitches produced an xBA under .247. None of his pitches produced an xSLG under .447. The average Exit Velocity was in the 3rd percentile of all MLB pitchers. The Hard Hit% was in the 2nd percentile of all MLB pitchers. If you’re an optimist, you’ll be quick to note the 25.9 K% (18.5 K-BB%). Unfortunately, that wraps up the positives. I’m willing to place some of the blame on the newness of pitching at the sport’s highest levels. Nerves and adrenaline can both inhibit performance and take time (and experience) to overcome, and MLB scouting reports find microscopic flaws at supersonic speeds. McKay’s true talent likely falls somewhere between his MiLB and MLB numbers from last season, and that means he’ll be a very good big league pitcher. It should also be noted the Rays reportedly plan to utilize the 24-year-old’s bat more often in 2020; if this holds true, he may start the season as a two-way player in Triple-A. Rays Rank: 3rd
35. Nate Pearson, SP, TOR. Age: 23
If you’ve actually been reading this prospect list and haven’t just checked in to read my thoughts on the prospects you roster in your dynasty league, you previously learned some scouts fear Shane Baz may eventually be better suited for the bullpen. Scouts have the same fear about Pearson, but for different reasons. Baz struggles to repeat his delivery, especially in longer outings. Pearson repeats well for someone with his size, but his arsenal can be deceiving. Everyone knows the 23-year-old’s fastball is capable of hitting triple-digits with ease (the pitch sits 95-99 depending on the length of the outing). What you might not know is Pearson often struggles to miss bats with the offering thanks to command and overthrowing. I’ve also seen reports of the pitch cutting—whether on purpose or inadvertently—instead of riding, which perhaps speaks to unoptimized spin efficiency (which is fixable). This often leads to soft contact instead of the swings and misses you would think a triple-digit fastball would induce. The spin of the pitch is above average, so I assume the top-of-the-zone issues can be ironed out with further development. Pearson’s slider is his money pitch; sitting 88-91, it truly has potential to be one of the very best pitches in all of baseball amongst starting pitchers. The 30.7 K% throughout three different levels in 2019? The slider is to thank. Pearson also throws a changeup and curveball, but both are well behind the fastball and slider and are mostly utilized against lefties. So what’s it all mean? The more I research, study and ask around on Pearson, the more I become entrenched in my Noah Syndergaard upside comp: Big boned. Premium velocity on a pitch that never misses the amount of bats you assume it should. A devastating slider that acts as the foundation for strikeout viability. A changeup with average characteristics that plays-up thanks to velocity disparity. If Pearson never reaches Syndergaard’s status, I’d wager it’s because a multitude of minor and moderate ailments find ways to always hinder the right-hander’s workload. Blue Jays Rank: 1st
Staff writer Adam Ehrenreich has now published both portions of his Post-Hype Pandemonium series for the 2020 season. Read about his offensive sleepers and breakout candidates here. Read about his pitcher sleepers and breakout candidates here.
34. Trevor Larnach, OF, MIN. Age: 23
Larnach was the statistical model of consistency last season, posting a 148 wRC+ in both the Florida State and Southern leagues. He also finished with an above average 29.8 Hard%; hilariously, it only led to 13 home runs thanks to the fact he played 81 games in the FSL (he hit 6 in 361 plate appearances before hitting 7 in 181 Double-A plate appearances post-promotion). The 23-year-old needs to elevate the ball more often (47.5 GB%) to unlock the extent of his massive raw power; assuming this occurs as the Twins look to optimize the skillset, the .390 BABIP from last season will skydive much closer to .300. Of course this will hurt the batting average, but a consistent double-digit walk rate means Larnach will feast in OBP leagues. Something along the lines of .260 BA/.360 OBP/35 home runs from right field feels like a fair upside projection. That would basically make the 23-year-old 2019 Bryce Harper without the steals. The Twins have some decisions to make about their active roster before Opening Day, but Larnach should debut at some point in 2020 regardless. Twins Rank: 3rd
33. Nolan Jones, 3B, CLE. Age: 21
As far as bodies go, Jones has the look of a third baseman. He’s built from head-to-toe, with a sturdy lower half that acts as the foundation for the 21-year-old’s plus plus raw power. This impactful tool hasn’t been fully realized in-game yet because Jones hits the ball on the ground too often, but future adjustments and alterations should allow the right field bleachers at Progressive Field to become the third baseman’s playground. There have always been concerns Jones may eventually shift across the diamond to first base defensively, but the consensus amongst evaluators at the Futures Game was that he’s adequate at the hot corner (the common comparison I heard was Jones being more-equipped to stay at third than Alec Bohm). There’s some passivity in the approach that may be exposed by big league pitching early in his MLB career, but Jones has showed an aptitude for adjustments with a long track record of success at each level in the minors. With a double-digit walk rate basically a given, the 21-year-old can be a .260 BA/.380 OBP/30 HR MLB third baseman throughout his prime. If he ever fully realizes the pull side potential in his home park, that projection is probably light on power. It should be noted that Jones underwent thumb surgery in October (UCL reconstruction), though he’s expected to make a full recovery prior to the start of the Spring Training. Indians Rank: 1st
32. Vidal Brujan, INF, TB. Age: 22
If you roster Brujan in dynasty leagues and think there’s sneaky, 20 HR-power upside within this profile, I’ve got bad news for you. The 22-year-old’s Hard% (11.8%) in 2019 ranks seventh worst amongst all minor league players with batted ball data (compiled by Sports Info Solutions and published on Rotowire). Brujan had a worse hard hit rate than Xavier Edwards, Nick Madrigal and Luis Garcia (WSH)—amongst hundreds of others. It should be noted he has a preferable bat path to the aforementioned trio, so it’s not overly bullish to think Brujan will someday hit 10-12 home runs at the big league level. Regardless of power projection, it’s the culmination of other tools make him a hot commodity both in real life and throughout the fantasy world. The switch hitter is an elite athlete, projecting to steal 30-40 bases in the big leagues with fantastic defense that will probably end up at second base. There’s also the all-important feel to hit, which should allow Brujan to hit .280 annually once he settles in to a big league role. Much like current incumbent Brandon Lowe, Brujan is much better versus right-handed pitchers than lefties. I’m worried this will initially cause a prolonged ETA or platoon-like playing time post-promotion, but I’m confident the 22-year-old’s talent will eventually land him an everyday role. Rays Rank: 2nd
31. Brennen Davis, OF, CHC. Age: 20
My love for Davis is well documented. Last preseason, I predicted the outfielder would be a top-100 prospect by the end of the season. Shortly after he debuted in South Bend in May, I wrote a deep dive on Davis and confirmation bias. Other than injuring his fingers twice by being by a pitch while attempting to bunt (smh), it’s really difficult to find a flaw in the then 19-year-old’s unexpected full season debut. There were bat-to-ball skills, a patient approach, solid defense in center field and a surprising power output after Davis added a notable amount of muscle to his frame last offseason. Though I’d be ecstatic to see more willingness to steal bases in 2020 and beyond (he certainly has the speed to do so), the 20-year-old has the ingredients to be a five-tool, impact player at the big league level. The Carolina League awaits Davis this season, though—assuming good health—a late-summer promotion to the Southern League wouldn’t be totally shocking. Cubs Rank: 2nd
Have you weaponized your Twitter for the 2020 baseball season?
30. Drew Waters, OF, ATL. Age: 21
Let’s start this write-up where we should: a .435 BABIP, 28.6 K% and one of the most aggressive approaches in the upper-minor leagues. Regardless of your opinion on Waters, that’s where any conversation about his 2019 performance must start. For some added context, the highest BABIP in the big leagues last season was .406 (Yoan Moncada). The Hard% (29.6%) was above average, and there’s no questioning the ball often finds Waters’ barrel upon contact. But in my eyes (and after several live looks) the bigger story is the 21-year-old’s affinity to swing at just about anything and everything, which is something that will undoubtedly be exposed versus big league pitching regardless of hand-eye coordination or bat-to-ball skills. The left-handed swing is much better than the right-handed swing, to the point that some scouts think he should give-up switch-hitting and instead focus on improving versus southpaws as a left-handed hitter. He’s got age on his side (there’s plenty of time for refinement), he’s an explosive athlete and he could debut in Atlanta sometime in 2020—that’s why I’m ranking him higher than other, safer outfielders in this tier. But please consider this as we move closer to a new season: Generally speaking, Waters is valued more highly in the fantasy community than by a large portion of organizational scouts (though there are certainly scouts who love him, too). In my experience, these types of valuation disparities almost never end well for fantasy baseballers. Braves Rank: 2nd
Recently, Connor Kurcon and I embarked on a data-driven journey in search of finding the players who were most affected by the juiced ball in the big leagues last season. Focusing on a certain strand of wOBAcon and a subsequently created ‘Benefit Ball’, here are our findings.
29. Cristian Pache, OF, ATL. Age: 21
If all five tools held equal weight on this list, you could probably cut Pache’s rank in half and that still might be overly conservative. On a fantasy-focused list, the 21-year-old is still very much a work in progress. Pache is no longer an 80-grade runner, but it’s still easily plus straight-line speed. On paper, he should be able to steal 20+ bases a season with his speed. Unfortunately, the 21-year-old simply isn’t a very good base runner. In 2018 and 2019, Pache attempted 34 steals combined. He was caught stealing 19 times. That’s a ghastly 44.1% success rate for a player with plus speed (and -4 NSB total in those two seasons). You know the floor is extremely high because the defense will keep him on the field and in the batters’ box even when the offensive production doesn’t necessarily dictate everyday playing time, but the ceiling simply isn’t as high if we can’t rely on speed output to impact fantasy categories. I wrote this in the Ramblings last summer, but I view Pache similarly to Amed Rosario from a fantasy standpoint. It’ll be a slow burn that likely won’t pay huge dividends immediately. Each season in the big leagues should feature incremental growth, with the ultimate endpoint being a slightly above average hit tool and above average power. In a month or so, I would absolutely love to read reports that Pache spent the offseason working to improve his base running. Being able to rely on the outfielder for 10+ steals per season would be game changing for his potential fantasy outlook. As it currently stands, the future, hypothetical trio of Pache, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Drew Waters will likely be the best defensive outfield in baseball. Braves Rank: 1st
28. Taylor Trammell, OF, SD. Age: 22
I always feel the need to point this out before I begin a write-up like this: Trammell was my breakout prospect pick for the 2018 season. We watched his stock rise two seasons ago only to see it take a hit in 2019. Why? A swing change that—quite frankly—didn’t make sense. I can’t blame the Reds for the alteration because I can’t confirm they were behind the change, but Trammell’s upper body and lower body acted independently of one another in the early stages of 2019. In turn, he was incapable of turning on pitches the way he should have. In 94 games and 381 plate appearances with Double-A Chattanooga, Trammell slashed .236/.349/.336 with 6 home runs and 17 stolen bases (14.2 BB%, 22.6 K%), which was good for a pedestrian 106 wRC+. Then, as you know, the outfielder was traded to the Padres as part of a blockbuster, three-team trade that also included the Indians. Post trade, it appeared San Diego’s hitting instructors began ironing-out the issues they saw in Trammell’s swing. The stance became more upright, his hands moved further away his the body and his weight was shifted slightly to his back leg. The results speak for themselves: in 32 Texas League games, Trammell slugged .381. The ISO was .153, which was 48 points higher than his mark in the Southern League. Of course those aren’t superstar numbers by any stretch of the imagination, but we definitely saw signs of life (he also dominated the Texas League playoffs). The bottom line is this: we just witnessed what will likely be Trammell’s worst minor league season. He hit 10 home runs, stole 20 bases and posted a double-digit walk rate (and an above average wRC+)—all while making the toughest transition in the minor leagues. Assuming the Padres are able to continue improving Trammell’s swing mechanics, 2020 should be a big year for San Diego’s future everyday left fielder. Check in with your league mate before MiLB Opening Day to see if there’s a buy-low opportunity here. Padres Rank: 4th
27. Nico Hoerner, 2B/OF, CHC. Age: 22
There’s a real chance the tools here get to 55-hit, 50-power, 60-speed with up-the-middle defense. A hairline fracture in his wrist cost Hoerner more than two months of minor plate appearances last summer, zapping a lot of the 22-year-old’s power even after he returned. That tool might be the hardest of the five to project, though things seemed to be heading in the correct mechanical direction early last season (a toned-down stride and stiffer front leg appeared to add more loft to the swing plane). This led to a decreased GB% and increased FB% in 2019. What we know is Hoerner can really hit and run. He should be able to hit anywhere from .270 to .300 at the big league level without breaking much of a sweat. The sprint speed at the MLB ranked in the 89th percentile amongst all position players, though Hoerner’s track record of stolen bases dating back to his time at Stanford point to a level of disinterest in utilizing that aspect of his skillset. The expectation here is something like .290 BA/18 HR/15 SB from second base or center field at baseball’s highest level; with a high-floor profile, Hoerner should be able to reach these numbers fairly quickly once he settles into an everyday role. There’s a chance the Cubs choose to send Hoerner to Triple-A Iowa to open the 2020 season, and it’s a story worth monitoring as you look for value in the later stages of redrafts. Cubs Rank: 1st
26. Bobby Witt Jr., SS, KC. Age: 19
If the hit tool can just be fringe average, Witt will be a big league star. It feels weird to say that about a 19-year-old who is yet to debut in full season ball, but the other tools are simply that good. Witt has plus power projection, is a plus runner and has an above average glove and arm from shortstop. There’s also superb pedigree here, as Bobby Witt Sr. accrued 27.8 fWAR as a starting pitcher in a 16-year MLB career. The Royals will likely be very meticulous with their young star’s development, ensuring he checks certain boxes at each individual level before fans can even contemplate a possible big league call-up. In 2020, all eyes will be planted on Witt’s consistency in hitting some of the best velocity he’s ever seen from the batter’s box. He’ll likely do so starting in the South Atlantic League, though he could face High-A sequencing in the Carolina League before the end of the season. With the overflowing of tools, you can dream on .270 BA/30 HR/25 SB from shortstop at the big league level. That’s not too far removed from what Trevor Story is currently accomplishing in Denver. FYPD Rank: 5th, Royals Rank: 1st
25. Dustin May, SP, LAD. Age: 22
May induced a 13.1 Whiff% and 11.8 K% on a pitch (sinker) he threw a whopping 50.5% of the time during his first big league stint (34.2 IP). May has never struck out more than 24.1% of the batters he’s faced in a full professional season (2019 in Double-A, Triple-A and MLB). To plagiarize from a write-up I published following my 2019 end-of-season list: May finished the season with a very mediocre 8.7 SwStr%, which ranked 397th amongst big league pitchers with at least 30 IP in 2019. For reference, Dallas Keuchel finished with the same SwStr%. Felix Hernandez finished with an 8.6 SwStr%. These things absolutely must be discussed when evaluating the right-hander’s big league outlook and upside. In all likelihood, May is going to be a really good big league pitcher for a very long time. But throughout his professional career, we’ve been given no indication the right-hander will go about his business by missing a ton of bats and piling-up the strikeouts. Statistically, the outlook reminds me a bit of Zack Greinke: moderate amounts of strikeouts (8-9 K/9), minimal walks, above average groundball rates. This recipe won’t lead to a fantasy ace, but it will be consistent and reliable (low WHIP, moderate ERA) on a yearly basis. With all the moving and shuffling in the Los Angeles’ rotation late this offseason, it certainly appears May will be stretched out before beginning the 2020 campaign at Triple-A Oklahoma City. Dodgers Rank: 2nd
24. Luis Patiño, SP, SD. Age: 20
For the longest time, I struggled to be all-in on Patiño. Prior to 2019, I thought a mixture of his unspectacular height (6-foot) and alarming struggles versus left-handed hitters (.345/.421/.457 slash in 2018) would keep the right-hander from reaching the top-of-the-rotation ceiling many had projected. The latter completely evolved last season; lefties in the California and Texas leagues only slashed a moderate .262/.308/.443 versus the then 19-year-old. Still not spectacular, but a huge improvement that leads us to believe further improvement is easily attainable. When I see Patiño’s thighs (pound for pound, they may be the thickest of any player on this list), I’m reminded that every time I find a reason to doubt the right-hander, he emphatically proves me wrong. Sitting behind home plate during the Futures Game, the consensus amongst myself and other evaluators was that Patiño had the most explosive inning of any pitcher during the game (29.2 SwStr%, 41.7% CSW). The fastball is high-spin and will eventually top out in the triple digits. The slider is also high-spin and is perhaps the right-hander’s best weapon versus like-handed hitters. The changeup is still developing, but Patiño’s noted improvements vLHB last season is a promising sign the pitch will be at least average at the big league level; scouts lean on the 20-year-old’s athleticism and electric arm speed when projecting the pitch (in other words, they think the offering will eventually be an asset at the big league level). If the Padres continue to make moves this offseason and find themselves in contention for an NL Wild Card slot in July or August, there’s no reason Patiño shouldn’t make his big league debut before he’s legally able to consume alcohol. There’s top-end SP2 upside here. Padres Rank: 3rd
The pitcher portion of my 2020 high-value active player list is just around the corner. For now, you can read about my high-value infielders here and my high-value outfielders here.
23. Alec Bohm, 1B/3B, PHI. Age: 23
Bohm’s first full season as a professional: .305/.378/.518 with 21 home runs, an elite 35.7 Hard%, a double-digit walk rate and a minuscule 13.5 K%. Granted, those numbers are a bit skewed by the fact the then 22-year-old has no business ever being placed in the South Atlantic League or Florida League—but those are super ultra-elite numbers any way you slice it. The longer I research and evaluate statistics, the more I believe genuinely-poor batted ball luck (over a 200+ plate appearance sample) actually occurs quite rarely. That being said, Bohm was a victim to poor batted ball luck post-promotion to the Eastern League. A .265 BABIP despite an above average Hard%, a higher Oppo% than Pull% and a GB% over 40.0%? All while playing his home games in the bandbox in Reading? Come on. The Phillies truly believe the 23-year-old will be adequate defensively at third base in the big leagues. Scouts are still split, but there are more believers today than a year ago. Thankfully—in dynasty leagues—the bat plays anywhere. Barring a trade to a non-contender, Bohm will almost certainly debut in Philadelphia at some point this season. The ceiling here is .280 BA/.360 OBP/35 HR from a corner infield spot. There are folks within the industry (both in organizations and media) who soured a bit on the infielder after learning he’s an old-school player who relies on ‘feel’ instead of embracing modern-day analytics and technology; while I’ll watch with anticipation as he attempts to eventually overcome his first, real adversity at the big league level in the near future, I find it difficult to penalize a player with Bohm’s prolonged track record of success both at the amateur and professional levels. While I anticipate Bohm eventually shifting across the diamond to first base defensively, it’s certainly possible the Phillies keep him at the hot corner a bit longer than most teams would thanks to the structure of their active roster (see: Rhys Hoskins). Phillies Rank: 1st
22. Adley Rutschman, C, BAL. Age: 22
Eventually becoming the best catcher in fantasy baseball is not a hope when evaluating Rutschman; it’s the expectation. If this were a real-life list, the 22-year-old would be the top-ranked player from last summer’s MLB Draft. Heck, with fantasy removed, Rutschman is bar-none the best draft prospect I’ve evaluated since launching Prospects 365 in 2017. He’ll never steal bases, but the backstop is exceptional at everything else he does between the lines. There’s a feel to hit (from both sides of the batter’s box), plus raw power and elite defensive skills behind the plate. By a wide margin, Buster Posey was the best catcher in baseball between 2010 and 2019. Rutschman could assume that role throughout the next decade. The Orioles are currently nowhere near the same universe as the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox, so the organization will likely (and unfortunately) keep the 22-year-old biding his time in the minor leagues longer than they should. All things considered, I would imagine a September 2020 cup of coffee is the best-case scenario when evaluating the ETA. FYPD Rank: 4th, Orioles Rank: 1st
21. CJ Abrams, SS/OF, SD. Age: 19
The deeper I dig on Abrams, the more I see first-round upside in redraft leagues. Selected 6th overall last summer by the Padres, Abrams laid waste to the Arizona League from June to August, slashing .401/.442/.662 with 3 home runs, 14 stolen bases and a single digit strikeout rate (189 wRC+) in 32 games. The tools are everything you could dream of as a dynasty player: plus hit, above average raw power (perhaps more) and elite, 80-grade speed—all while playing a premium defensive position. There’s a lot of skepticism as to whether Abrams remains at shortstop throughout his professional career; it appears more likely than not—especially as a member of an organization that boats Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop—that Abrams will eventually settle in center field. Remember in 2016 when Trea Turner was promoted to the Nationals and exploded onto the scene while playing center field? If you want to dream big, that fits the top percentile outcome of Abrams’ career. FYPD Rank: 3rd, Padres Rank: 2nd
The infield portion of my 2020 prospect obsession list has been published and is yours to read.
20. Michael Kopech, SP, CHW. Age: 23
The most handsome man in baseball will be back with a vengeance in 2020, and it appears as though he may be a full-go by Opening Day. The good news for Kopech is he just missed an entire season, he now has a new and fully healthy elbow and he’s still only 23 years old. You’ve known about the stuff since Prospects 365 was created (I ranked Kopech 23rd on my first-ever prospect list in 2017), but you’ve also known about the spotty command. The ‘towards’ is commonly the final thing that returns to a pitcher’s repertoire post-operation, so it will be interesting to see how much it (further) hinders Kopech this season. The White Sox now have master framer Yasmani Grandal in the fold, so he should be able to help to a certain extent. Chicago will be a popular pick for an AL Wild Card spot in 2020, and while they’ve added rotational depth this offseason, they will likely need to tap-in to whatever upside they possess within their organization if they hope to make a legitimate postseason run. That means Kopech will have his chance to shine under the bright lights on the South Side at some point this season, though it’s likely best if expectations are a bit muzzled for a pitcher whose worst attribute was command before undergoing Tommy John surgery. The fastball and slider are both explosive and analytically elite; prior to going under the knife, the changeup was making strides as a viable weapon against left-handed hitters. After Kopech settles back in and becomes comfortable taking the ball every fifth day over the stretch of an entire regular season, Kopech’s ceiling is that of a high-variance, heavy strikeout SP2. A tight workload restriction will make the right-hander a frustrating player to roster in redrafts this season. White Sox Rank: 3rd
19. Matt Manning, SP, DET. Age: 22
Much like with Shane Baz (who you read about above), there are still concerns from the org side of scouting that Manning may be best suited in the bullpen. In my eyes, most of these issues were largely alleviated in 2019. The right-hander’s changeup made notable strides last season; it now projects a future, average big league offering that will play a big role against left-handed hitters the second and third time through the order. Manning doesn’t spin his fastball nor curveball exceptionally well, but his elite athleticism—which translates to fantastic extension—allows both pitches to play-up. With said extension and upper-90s velocity, the right-hander’s fastball has played particularly well up in the zone versus minor league hitters. With well below average spin, I will be interested to monitor its ability to miss bats at the big league level. The 22-year-old pairs his heater with a plus curveball, a pitch that’s thrown fairly hard and has proven to be effective against both righties and lefties. Manning’s walk rate has consistently improved throughout his minor league career, so further control refinement will focus on strike zone command rather than strike-throwing ability. The right-hander has the look of a pitcher who will only continue to improve with additional experience. The Tigers have no reason to rush the pitcher with the highest ceiling in their entire organization, though a mid-or-late summer MLB debut is justifiably expected. Everything clicking would mean Manning has become a mid-tier SP2 at the big league level. Tigers Rank: 2nd
Staff writer Adam Ehrenreich has published both portions of his Post-Hype Pandemonium series for the 2020 season. Read about his offensive sleepers and breakout candidates here. Read about his pitcher sleepers and breakout candidates here.
18. Casey Mize, SP, DET. Age: 22
There are so many factors that must be baked in to a valid Mize evaluation. I’ll divvy out as much as I can first, then we’ll try to draw some conclusions at the end. In his first full season since being selected at 1.1 in 2018, the 22-year-old struck 24.7% of the batters he faced in the Florida State League and Eastern League (19.3 K-BB% in 109.1 IP). That’s not a gargantuan punch-out rate like so many of the other pitchers within my top-50, but there was a train of thought amongst some evaluators that Mize purposely experimented with different patterns of two-strike sequencing at times last season. The fact Mize’s 14.1 SwStr% ranked third amongst all Eastern League pitchers (min. 70.0 IP) perhaps speaks a bit to some untapped strikeout potential moving forward. But if the right-hander truly is the 8-9 K/9 pitcher he was in 2019, the floor needs to be incredibly high to warrant a ranking inside the top-20. Statistically, Mize exemplifies this notion. He induces a ton of soft contact, doesn’t walk many hitters (0.94 WHIP in 2019) and should post consistently low earned run averages (2.55 ERA, 2.69 FIP in 2019). The bust risk here centered on injuries. There’s a long track record that validates this notion, ranging from shoulder concerns as a prep pitcher, to forearm and elbow ailments while at Auburn, to another shoulder injury last season that forced Mize to miss a month of Double-A action in the home stretch of the regular season. He posted a 6.61 ERA in eight appearances post-injury. The combination of an amazingly high statistical floor and (suspected) untapped strikeout potential means Mize—at his best—can be a mid-tier SP2 at the big league level. Tigers Rank: 1st
17. Alex Kirilloff, 1B/OF, MIN. Age: 22
Notice one of the positions attached to Kirilloff above. It’s not a forgone conclusion the 22-year-old ends up at first base, but reading the tea leaves here really only leads to one hypothesis. The Twins traded Lewin Diaz to the Marlins last season, seemingly creating an organizational void at first base. The organization also seems to love Trevor Larnach in right field, as it was Kirilloff who transitioned to first base when both played in Double-A Pensacola throughout the final month of the 2019 season. Lastly, Kirilloff appeared to lose a step last season, most of which can be credited to a thicker lower half than in previous seasons. These factors all point to first base likely being the eventual defensive destination. In depth, I’ve already discussed ignoring the dip in statistical output last season. Josh Donaldson signing with the Twins (which subsequently moves Miguel Sano to first base) throws a bit of a wrench in the outlook, but—assuming good health–the 22-year-old should be ready for a big league debut by July. There’s some aggressiveness at the plate that will create some ebbs and flows early in his MLB career, but Kirilloff has all the makings of an impactful big league slugger. As I stated in the link above, the ceiling here is in the region of .280 BA/.350 OBP/30 HR at first base. Minnesota should be in the driver’s seat in the AL Central near the trade deadline; Kirilloff would fetch a game-changing return at positions of need in order for the big club to make a deep postseason run. I’m just saying. Twins Rank: 2nd
16. Jasson Dominguez, OF, NYY. Age: 17
For a while, Maitanphobia hindered my evaluation and outlook on Dominguez. “This generation’s Derek Jeter” are words forever branded into the dark side of my brain. But that quote from behind a shield of anonymity; the reports on Dominguez have not. FanGraphs currently has the outfielder’s future grades at 55-hit, 65-raw, 65-speed, 55-field, 60-arm. He was the youngest player on their 2019-updated top-100 by nearly a year and a half (he ranked 58th). Baseball America’s grades for the teenager are equally loud, and their recently-released Yankees’ organizational report ($) projects Dominguez to be New York’s starting center fielder by 2023 (he’ll be 20-years-old at the time). These are huge, well-connected publications that are publishing these otherworldly reports. There’s always risk associated to a 17-year-old who is yet to play a single professional game, but sitting on your hands here likely means you’ll be left without a share of a prospect who could truly be one of the more remarkable players of the next two decades. Dominguez will likely debut in the Gulf Coast League this summer. FYPD Rank: 2nd, Yankees Rank: 1st
The entirety of my 2020 high-value active player list has been released. You can check out my high-value infielders here, my high-value outfielders here, part one of my high-value pitchers here and part two of my high-value pitchers here. Secure the bag.
15. Andrew Vaughn, 1B, CHW. Age: 22
Something you absolutely need to know about Vaughn: the real life floor here is a lot lower than we’d like from a prospect inside the top-20. A right/right first baseman is a profile that will always lean heavily on consistent, high-powered offensive output. It’s also a profile that—in the eyes of MLB organizations—can be adequately and cheaply replaced following inconsistent production or injury. As a 3rd overall pick, Vaughn will have a longer leash than any other first base prospect destined to debut within the next two seasons; he is the top-ranked first base prospect in baseball, after all. The White Sox are also in the process of pushing most of their chips to the center of the table, which means the 22-year-old won’t be left marinating in Charlotte longer than he should. Statistically speaking, Vaughn reaching his ceiling would mean he’s evolved into a right-handed Freddie Freeman: a first baseman who should consistently flirt with .300 BA/30 HR seasons throughout his prime. Even as a four-tool contributor at a corner infield position, that would mean Vaughn becomes a top-30 overall player in dynasty leagues. The Southern League likely beckons for the majority of the 2020 season. FYPD Rank: 1st, White Sox Rank: 2nd
14. Carter Kieboom, INF, WAS. Age: 22
Following Trea Turner fracturing his right index finger and before he was fully ready, Kieboom was thrust into in a big league role last April. It was quite clear pretty quickly the then 21-year-old needed more repetitions in the minor leagues; he was demoted back to Triple-A after striking out in 37.2% of his plate appearances and posting a 17 wRC+ in a microscopic sample (11 games). We’re definitely checking in with our league mates about a possible buy-low opportunity in dynasty leagues, because the reports from the Pacific Coast League last season were excellent. The infielder slashed .303/.409/.493 with 16 home runs and a 13.8 BB% (20.2 K%) in 109 games and 494 plate appearances (123 wRC+), reaffirming himself as one of the best infield prospects in the sport after leaving a bad taste in the mouth of the prospect world in his first, infinitesimal big league sample. The Nationals appear ready to give Kieboom every possible opportunity to break camp as their everyday third baseman, so in redraft leagues in which the infielder possesses shortstop eligibility, there’s certainly some intriguing value in the discounted price tag. Regardless of how the 22-year-old is able to turn the page on his disappointing MLB debut last season, it’s likely he’ll play a huge role in the Nationals’ success both in 2020 and throughout the next decade. Nationals Rank: 1st
13. Dylan Carlson, OF, STL. Age: 21
It was a monumental year for Carlson, breaking out statistically at Double-A Springfield before cementing himself as a top prospect in an 18-game sample at Triple-A Memphis. In all, the 21-year-old slashed .292/.372/.542 with 26 home runs, 20 stolen bases (71.4%), a double digit walk rate (20.6 K%) and a 28.8 Hard% (145 wRC+). Destined to become an everyday big league player in 2020, the only remaining question regarding Carlson centers on sustainability of tools. Older reports suggest a belief the switch hitter’s frame will thicken early in his career, leading to a transition to a corner outfield spot and a dwindling of speed output on the bases. But I didn’t get that vibe watching Carlson twice in 2019; though the stolen base output will rely a little more on instincts and quick-twitch reaction time than I’d like, there’s a low-maintenance frame and obvious athleticism within this profile. Attempting to dive into the mind of the Cardinals’ front office is equivalent to asking Albert Pujols to steal 40 bases this season, but Carlson should have an everyday impact in St. Louis by July at the latest. Cardinals Rank: 1st
Have you weaponized your Twitter for the 2020 baseball season?
12. Marco Luciano, SS, SF. Age: 18
So it’s quite possible—perhaps even likely—Luciano has the best bat speed of any prospect on this entire list. If I’m wrong, there are worse things in life than being second to Wander Franco. The 18-year-old has impact potential both from a bat-to-ball and power projection standpoint. There’s at least decent chance—a few seasons from now—Luciano finalizes his development as a plus-hit, plus-power slugger destined for MLB stardom. The cloudy portion of this profile is potential defensive position. Luciano doesn’t wow evaluators athletically (stolen bases will never be part of this skillset), and there are questions regarding his ability to make enough plays to remain at shortstop long term. A potential move to the outfield—or third base—would lower the real life floor while tempering the positional upside in fantasy, but I suspect the bat will hold redraft value regardless of defensive position. I’m really interested to see how the Giants handle Luciano’s placement in 2020. Do they go ahead and bite the cold weather bullet and place the teenager in the South Atlantic League to open the season? Do the Giants slow-play the development and place Luciano back in the Northwest League? Does he open the season at the complex before debuting in Augusta once it warms up a bit? That’s an aspect of prospect development that often goes overlooked or completely disregarded throughout the prospect world. Regardless, the best-case statistical scenario here is .300 BA/30 HR from shortstop. But even if those numbers come from the hot corner right field, Luciano has the ingredients to someday be an impact player at the big league level. Giants Rank: 1st
11. Kristian Robinson, OF, ARI. Age: 19
My 2019 breakout prospect pick was everything I hoped he would be last season, slashing .282/.368/.514 with 14 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 69 games and 291 plate appearances between the Northwest League (A-) and Midwest League (A Full). A year later, Robinson now finds himself near the top of any fantasy-focused prospect list and uniformly included within any real life top-100 prospect list. Now with a foundational track record of success, expectations will be sky-high for the 19-year-old in 2020 as he either returns to the MWL or is pushed aggressively to the California League to open the season. I do worry the unpolished spin recognition will lead to some bumps in the road once he’s introduced to High-A and Double-A pitching (especially because he’ll be so young), but it won’t be anything he’s incapable of overcoming. The swing itself is extremely short to the ball, and I expect the teenager’s work ethic and IQ to iron-out any wrinkles in his path. Robinson played all-three outfield positions last season and is athletic enough to hold his own in center, but I feel strongly his off-the-bat reads and routes are better suited for one of the corners (he has the arm for right). In my breakout prospect article last preseason, I comped the outfielder’s upside to prime Justin Upton. A year later, this is still firmly in play—especially since it’s beginning to appear as though Robinson (who recently showed up to minor league camp noticeably thinner than his playing weight last season) will maintain his speed throughout at least the first chunk of his hypothetical big league career. Diamondbacks Rank: 1st
10. Royce Lewis, SS, MIN. Age: 20
Imagine—last March—predicting Lewis would be the top-overall prospect in baseball by the end of the 2019 season. Everybody hurts. The 20-year-old’s swing became annoyingly noisy last season, implementing a huge leg kick and a lot of (read: too much) hand movement pre-pitch. The results were quite bad; Lewis regressed in every notable statistical category both in the Florida State League and post-promotion in the Southern League. What’s worse, the mechanics aren’t simply viewed as in need of additional refinement. There’s no corner to turn or hump to get over. They’re just bad. That means I’m ranking Lewis as a top-10 prospect while also admitting he needs to overhaul his swing to reach anything that resembles his gaudy potential. Fortunately, the 20-year-old has some of the best makeup and pedigree of any prospect on this list. The batting practices are still spectacular, and the plus (perhaps plus plus) raw power is still completely intact. Lewis showcasing a quieter set-up and swing this season and beyond would be a dream come true to scouts and evaluators alike. If I’m being greedy, the cherry on top would be the former 1.1 showing more willingness to work counts during his second go-around in the Southern League. Twins Rank: 1st
9. Forrest Whitley, SP, HOU. Age: 22
What a disaster of a 2019 regular season for Whitley. Only 59.2 IP. A 7.99 ERA. 44 walks (6.64 BB/9). Name removed, those are the statistics of a pitching prospect not worthy of a top-1000 list, let alone the top-10. But this is Forrest Whitley. There’s a long, established track record of success here. It was fairly obvious early in the season the right-hander’s mechanics were way out of whack. The numbers plummeted, then the 22-year-old was placed on the MiLB injured list with shoulder fatigue. A month later, Whitley returned, eventually working his way back to Double-A (he began the season in Triple-A) before the end of the regular season. Instead of making his MLB debut, the Astros announced Whitley would instead pitch in the AFL. The numbers bounced back to an extent in Arizona: 25.0 IP, 2.88 ERA, 30.5 K%, 8.6 BB%. With the reset button hopefully pressed and the struggles of the 2019 regular season now in the rearview mirror, Whitley has the stuff and organizational support to quickly prove his recent tribulations were simply blips on the radar. Following the AFL, scouts and industry folks I reached out to seemed evenly split on whether Whitley or MacKenzie Gore would begin the 2020 season as the top pitching prospect in baseball. Despite that, I’m worried enough about some aspects of Whitley’s mechanics—namely the effort and repeatability of his delivery—that I’m giving a late nod to Jesús Lúzardo as my second-ranked pitching prospect. The margin is microscopically thin. If everything eventually clicks, Whitley will become an undoubted SP1 and one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. I’m less confident about that outcome coming to fruition than I was a year ago. Astros Rank: 1st
8. Jesús Lúzardo, SP, OAK. Age: 22
Lúzardo only threw 12 innings after being promoted to Oakland on September 11th, but his small sample success gave the world a glimpse of why he’s one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball. And good googly moogly was Lúzardo’s curveball phenomenal in his first taste versus big league hitters. The southpaw threw the pitch 51 times (29.8%), allowing only two balls in play while inducing a .000 BAA, .046 xBA and 68.4 Whiff% (!!!). The arsenal distribution was also beautiful post-promotion; Lúzardo basically threw four different pitches at least 20% of the time. None of the quartet posted an xBA higher than .236. I question whether Luzardo’s fastball/sinker will ever be dominant enough to lead to the type of overall production that mimics a fantasy first rounder in redraft formats, especially if he’s unable to ever consistently shake concerns about his durability. But even if the curveball and changeup fuel the strikeout viability, connecting the dots on full, healthy campaigns in the near future would create a floor/ceiling combination that would make Lúzardo one of the safest pitchers in the sport. Athletics Rank: 1st
Recently, Connor Kurcon and I embarked on a data-driven journey in search of finding the players who were most affected by the juiced ball in the big leagues last season. Focusing on a certain strand of wOBAcon and a subsequently created ‘Benefit Ball’, here are our findings.
7. Gavin Lux, 2B, LAD. Age: 22
It’s darn near impossible to poke holes at what Lux accomplished in the minor leagues last season. In 113 games and 458 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A, Lux slashed an unconscious .347/.421/.607 with 26 home runs, 10 stolen bases, a double-digit walk rate and a strikeout rate less than twenty percent (166 wRC+). The performance was simply a punctuation mark after the 22-year-old officially broke out in 2018, and the infielder was consistently great for so long he forced the Dodgers’ hand and debuted in Los Angeles September 2nd. The subsequent big league numbers in 23 MLB regular games were modest, but Lux was named to the Dodgers’ NLDS roster and homered off Hunter Strickland in Game 1. The infielder is no-doubt a large part of LA’s immediate and distant future, though I’m sure manager Dave Roberts will find ways to rest the 22-year-old a little more than we’d like—especially as Lux continues to acclimate to big league pitching. The Dodgers don’t prioritize stolen bases, so I fear the infielder will never fully utilize a sprint speed that ranked in the 90th percentile amongst MLB players last season. And he obviously can’t be expected to mimic his MiLB slash numbers from last season as a big leaguer, but something like .280/.360/25 HR/10 SB should become the conservative norm for Lux once he fully acclimates to the best pitching in the world. That’s a top-5 second baseman in redrafts. Before the Mookie Betts trade, Roberts hinted Lux could see time “on the grass” in 2020. While those odds have certainly worsened since the Betts deal was officially announced, multiple positions of eligibility would really make the 22-year-old’s fantasy profile pop moving forward. Dodgers Rank: 1st
6. Jarred Kelenic, OF, SEA. Age: 20
Did you know Kelenic was actually drafted by the Mets? You see, the Mets traded him to the Mariners for then 36-year-old Robinson Cano (0.8 fWAR in 2019) and reliever Edwin Diaz (0.0 fWAR in 2019). It was a win-now trade for the Mets, who finished eleven games behind the division-winning Braves last season. Kelenic is now the 7th-ranked prospect in all of baseball, dominating three different levels in route to a 152 wRC+ in his first full season as a professional. The 20-year-old is often hailed for his well-rounded skillset. ‘Balanced’ was the most common descriptor I heard regarding the outfielder in Cleveland at the Futures Game. There are evaluators who believe Kelenic will slow down once he finalizes his physical development; I’m hopeful his work ethic and makeup allow him to maintain his speed throughout the majority (or at least first half) of his big league career. One of my favorite contacts promises Kelenic will make his big league debut at some point in 2020; as a top prospect in a Mariners’ organization once again destined for the cellar of the AL West, I’ll believe it when I see it. I have a hunch the power will continue to tick-up as Kelenic grows closer to the age of his opposition, so a .280 BA/.350 OBP/30 HR/15 SB upside projection feels about right. Mariners Rank: 2nd
5. Luis Robert, OF, CHW. Age: 22
There is an unfinished article currently sitting in the drafts of the queue on Prospects365.com. Its title? The All-Sell Team of the 2019 Offseason. The list was headlined by Luis Robert. I never got around to finishing the article, but I completed the write-up on Robert. It basically reads like this: The upside here is obvious, and the ceiling is something like .300 BA/30 HR/30 SB if everything clicks. The talent is truly transcendent, and at some point, Robert will likely be very good big league hitter. But how long does it take to get there? And more importantly, what if Robert is only human in his first big league stint? What if the aggressive approach and below average ability to identify spin manifest themselves a bit when facing the best pitching in the entire world, and Robert finishes the season at .250 BA/.310 OBP/20 HR/20 SB? Solid defensive skills might mean the outfielder is still a multi-win real life player even with those moderate offensive statistics, but in the fantasy world, those numbers would Robert a mixture of 2019 Amed Rosario and Lorenzo Cain. Or 2020 Scott Kingery. They would also come as a surprise to uninitiated stat line scouters who won’t easily understand how Robert can be too talented to be burdened by minor league pitching, but too aggressive to ever truly thrive offensively against big league pitching with his uber-aggressive approach and suboptimal breaking ball recognition. And the numbers above are not even the worst-case scenario. What role do those hypothetical numbers play on a contending dynasty league team? How long would it take for Robert to regain the trade value he currently has in your deep keeper league? Granted, I’ve baked the perceived risk into my valuation of the 22-year-old and he’s still my 5th-ranked prospect; the ceiling is just that good. But I do fear Robert’s value is currently as high as it will be for the foreseeable future, and that presents somewhat of a problem (or an opportunity) if you’re currently holding him in a dynasty league. A 6-year, $50 million contract signed shortly after the New Year means the 22-year-old should be Chicago’s starting center fielder on Opening Day; he’ll easily be one of the most polarizing players in the fantasy world moving forward. If we look back on this write-up in a year and laugh maniacally, it’ll be because Robert’s elite hand-eye coordination simply overwhelmed even the best pitchers in the world. It also would mean the 22-year-old will likely be drafted as a top-20 player in redrafts next preseason. White Sox Rank: 1st
I recently completed my 2020 vision series, outlining the still-immense potential of Corbin Burnes. Earlier in the offseason, I also wrote about the unlucky Mitch Keller and the Lance Lynn-esque Adrian Houser. If you’re a fan of analytical deep dives, I promise these articles are for you.
4. MacKenzie Gore, SP, SD. Age: 21
Gore has potential to be the best left-handed starter in all of baseball. When you read that sentence in 2020, you imagine that must mean the 21-year-old can really spin it, posting Statcast numbers that makes R&D departments across the sport drool. But this is simply not true of Gore, who has well below average spin on both his fastball and curveball currently. Instead, the southpaw relies on extreme athleticism, unique mechanics and elite pitchability to overwhelm hitters. Gore pitched 101 innings in 2019 between the California and Texas League, posting a 1.69 ERA (2.77 FIP) while striking out a whopping 35.7% of the batters he faced (28.3 K-BB%). In an Age 20 season at those levels, it’s impossible to not consider those numbers deeply impressive. The left-hander’s entire arsenal (fastball, curveball, changeup, slider) all play-up thanks to superb command, a quality that should also allow the 21-year-old to avoid split concerns at the MLB level. In 2019, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Patrick Corbin were the two best left-handed pitchers in baseball according to fWAR. Throughout his prime, I firmly believe Gore will battle the likes of Blake Snell (and perhaps Jesús Lúzardo) to determine the gold standard amongst southpaws at the sport’s highest level. Padres Rank: 1st
3. Julio Rodriguez, OF, SEA. Age: 19
It’s more likely than not that Wander Franco will still be a prospect this time next year, but I fully expect Rodriguez to be nipping at his heels for the title of best prospect in baseball. The outfielder was unspeakably good last season between the South Atlantic and California leagues, slashing .326/.390/.540 with 12 home runs in 84 games and 367 plate appearances. Rodriguez posted an unsightly, combined 164 wRC+ in those leagues despite being four years younger than the average competition in the Sally and Cal League. I haven’t even arrived at the most impressive part yet: the 19-year-old compiled an unfathomable 40.0 Hard% in 2019. Let’s think about that for a minute. Of all the balls Rodriguez put into play last season, two out of every five were hit 95 mph or harder. At the big league level, a 40.0 Hard% last season exceeded that of Michael Conforto, Hunter Renfroe, Nomar Mazara, Yasiel Puig and hundreds of others (Rodriguez would have ranked inside the top-200 amongst all hitters in Hard Hit%). There will be seasons throughout Rodriguez’s big league career in which projection systems peg him for north of 40 home runs. The approach has been to all-fields thus far, and Rodriguez has freakish bat-to-ball skills. If these facts remain unchanged, the teenager should continue to hit for high averages without striking out too much. Sitting down for this last part? The teenager will reportedly attempt to be a factor on the base paths in 2020. Being able to bank on 5-10 steals per season at the big league level would simply be the icing on the cake for a player whose baseline could be .280 BA/30 HR annually throughout his prime. That’s an arousing outlook. Mariners Rank: 1st
ICYMI: I debated the definition of a ‘breakout’ prospect, then I discussed four prospects who could do exactly that during the 2020 season. Perhaps we see at least one of the included prospects in this portion of my list next season?
2. Jo Adell, OF, LAA. Age: 20
I would say it’s a shame Wander Franco exists because Adell deserves to be the top-overall prospect in baseball, but who am I kidding? Franco is awesome. Anyways, Adell is built like the last thing you see before you’re laying on your back with a facemask full of grass on a football field. Kyle Muller had the best pitching prospect body I saw in 2019. Adell had the best position playing prospect body I saw. On paper, the 20-year-old’s raw tools are just as explosive as Franco’s. And despite what the season-long numbers might tell you, Adell has unlocked more of his in-game power at this point of his development. The difference in the pair is the bat-to-ball skills. Bat control. Adell does more damage when he connects, but Franco connects more often while showing everything necessary to fully believe he’ll someday access plus-or-better power in-game. With the Angels destined to contend—at minimum—for an AL Wild Card spot in 2020, Adell will either break camp with the big league team or make his MLB debut shortly thereafter. I don’t share the same magnitude of concern with Adell as I do with Luis Robert, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the 20-year-old was fairly pedestrian from a fantasy standpoint throughout his rookie season as he adjusts to big league pitching and big league scouting reports. Any redrafter who pays the ADP price on Adell target cheap outfield depth in the homestretch of their draft. Don’t worry, all-star production is on its way in dynasty leagues sooner rather than later. With only 132 plate appearances of (middling) experience in Triple-A last season, the Angels will likely keep their prized outfielder in the Pacific Coast League until June-ish. Angels Rank: 1st
1. Wander Franco, SS, TB. Age: 19
It takes a whale of a prospect to rank higher than Jo Adell, but Franco is exactly that. Listen: there are decent wrists. There are quick wrists. Lightning quick wrists. And then there are Wander Franco’s wrists. Packed into a 5-foot-10, 190 lb. frame, Franco is a bat-to-ball god who just walked at a higher rate than he struck out at two different full season levels… at the tender age of 18. He’s never stepped onto the diamond and not immediately been the best player on the field, and after a solid season defensively at shortstop, it’s likely Franco’s worst tool is now his speed (I’ve been told it’s not as impressive as public perception). Perhaps, maybe, someday—possibly—we’ll get to witness the 19-year-old face anything that resembles on-field adversity, just to see how effectively he handles it. Because as of today, he’s in the process of putting together one of the best minor league careers in the history of baseball. The switch-hitting shortstop will likely open the 2020 season in Double-A; from there, assuming good health, he’ll simply bide his time until the Rays decide he’s ready to assume an everyday role at the big league level. Tampa Bay should compete step-for-step with the Yankees for the AL East Crown in 2020, so it shouldn’t automatically be assumed Franco is destined to have tangible impact in redraft leagues this season. Willy Adames was a multi-win shortstop last season thanks to great defense, so it may be 2021 before Franco officially breaks through as a big leaguer. There are also a few ‘doomsday’ scenarios where the entirety of the Rays’ middle infield crop hits their ceiling and Franco eventually transitions to third base or a corner outfield spot. Don’t worry: the bat and skillset will play anywhere. He could very well be a top-20 overall player in redraft leagues by his Age 22 season. Monitor the stolen base output (or lack thereof) versus Double-A and Triple-A batteries this season, and don’t forget to bask in the glory of rostering a future face of baseball on your dynasty league teams. Rays Rank: 1st
For you spreadsheeters, you can access the entirety of my top-200 prospect list on Google Sheets by clicking here.
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