Top Rookies for 2020 Production
I cannot believe it, there will be baseball games played this week that have meaning! This 60 game sprint will be the strangest season we have seen. Also, it will be interesting to see how teams utilize their taxi squad. Will, it actually be a taxi squad, with a bunch of movement, or will it be used as an extended spring training for some of their top prospects? I have a feeling that most teams will go with the latter scenario. I’m wondering what the long-term effects will be for some of the games top prospects as it seems they will miss real in-game action this year. Sure, they should still get reps but they will miss that ‘mental aspect’ of real in-game play.
That being said, there are many prospects that will have an impact this season. If you are in a win-now mode in your dynasty league, these might be some guys to target. If you are more in the re-building phase, this might be a good time to move the guys as prospects on the cusp of the majors are typically at the height of their value.
Arizona Diamondbacks – Kevin Cron – 1B/DH
The DH being added to the National League really boosted Cron’s ability to contribute this season for the D-Backs. While he will not help you in batting average, he most definitely will help you in RBI and home runs. Cron has played the last two seasons in Triple-A and last year he absolutely destroyed the league. In 377 plate appearances, he smacked 38 home runs and hit .331/.449/.777 with a 182 wRC+. Yes, the league was a launching pad but he was still 82% better than the league average. Currently, Christian Walker and Jake Lamb are holding the 1B and DH spots but I really feel that Cron is the better hitter and he will get plenty of playing time this season.
Atlanta Braves – Cristian Pache – OF
I found the Braves pretty difficult to pick an impact prospect for but decided to go with Cristian Pache. There are two pitchers, Kyle Wright and Bryce Wilson, that should have an impact from Day One but their ceilings are pretty limited, especially with the news that the Braves plan to go slow with their pitchers initially. As for Pache, someone will have to underperform or get hurt before we see him. I don’t have much faith in Austin Riley’s ability to hit and Marcell Ozuna really needs to get out of the outfield so we could see Pache relatively soon in Atlanta. He is a top-notch defender with a chance to have double-digit power and stolen bases, in a normal 162-game season.
Baltimore Orioles – Austin Hays – OF
I could have gone with either with Ryan Mountcastle or Austin Hays here. Both should contribute but Hays has a starting spot out of the gate. Hays should hit at the top of the Baltimore lineup so there will be plenty of chances to impact your batting average and run categories. He also has above-average speed so he could get a few of those precious stolen bases to move you up a couple of spots in that category.
Boston Red Sox – Bobby Dalbec – 1B/DH
I could have gone with Jonathan Arauz, a Rule 5 draft pick from the Houston Astros but he offers little except maybe average. However, Dalbec should see some time in Fenway this year. Mitch Moreland has had trouble staying healthy and Michael Chavis needs to lay off those high fastballs. Dalbec has above-average power, which could win you your league if he gets hot at the plate.
Chicago Cubs – Nico Hoerner – 2B
For some reason, the Cubs purchased Jason Kipnis’ contact so he will have the first crack at the starting job. However, it should go to Nico Hoerner. While there is nothing overly flashy about Hoerner, he just does everything well. He made his debut late last year but probably would have been called up sooner if he had not broken his wrist. He has also played in centerfield so that could also be a path to playing time if Albert Almora or Ian Happ continues to struggle.
Chicago White Sox – Luis Robert – OF
When I started writing this post, picking Lou-Bob was by far the easiest selection. Robert busted on to the scene and shot up the prospect ranks with the unbelievable 2019 season. He will start the season hitting at the bottom of the lineup but if he hits the ground running, and Tim Anderson struggles, we could see him move to the top of the White Sox lineup. That being said, Robert could struggle this year. He has trouble recognizing spin and major league pitchers could take advantage. Even so, the White Sox and Robert will sure be Must Watch this season.
Cincinnati Reds – Shogo Akiyama – OF
With a truncated season, you really want to focus on getting as many plate appearances as you can. Akiyama is projected to be the leadoff hitter for a stacked Reds team. It might be stretching it a bit but the 32-year-old Akiyama is a rookie. Honorable mentions go to Jose Garcia, a shortstop that killed it last year in High-A and Tyler Stephenson, a catcher with some pop in his bat.
Cleveland Indians – James Karinchak – RHP
Karinchak’s season last year was mind-boggling. He would have made his debut sooner if it wasn’t for a hamstring injury that put him on the injured list for a couple of months. Karinchak made stops at four levels and had above 30% strikeout rate (most were above 50%!) and above 15% swinging strikeout rate (most were above 20%!). He has an electric fastball that sits in the high-nineties and a wipeout slider. With Brad Hand struggling down the stretch last year, I think Karinchak leads the team in saves this year and if not, he will rack up the strikeouts.
Colorado Rockies – Sam Hilliard – OF
The Rockies have two prospects that could impact your team so I went with my favorite of them, Sam Hilliard. Hillard brings the perfect combination for power/speed/Coors Field that makes fantasy players like us drool. However, we have been frustrated with the Rockies organization recently as they seeming ‘hate’ their prospects and are willing to play their veterans players. That being said, I still think Hilliard should get plenty of run in left field, especially after Ian Desmond opted out of the season. However, the Rockies could Rocky and have Raimel Tapia play instead of him.
Detroit Tigers – Casey Mize – RHP
With Jordan Zimmermann hitting the 45-day IL this past weekend with forearm tightness, there is a chance we see one of the top three pitching prospects the Tigers have. If you have read my articles in the past, you know how high I am on Matt Manning. I think he has the chance of being a top 10 starting pitcher at some point in his career. However, he still has some work to do, especially when it comes to command, so I think we see Casey Mize before Manning. Mize should contribute in strikeouts and both ratio categories but, this should come as no surprise, struggle in wins. If Tarik Skubal was healthy, he would have been my pick here but since he has yet to report to camp, he has too much work to do to get a chance this year.
Houston Astros – Bryan Abreu – RHP
With Roberto Osuna very slowly ramping up in Summer Camp and Jose Urquidy yet to report, Bryan Abreu has a chance to be the top rookie for the Astros this year. Abreu has three above-average pitches, especially those breaking balls, that have some really disgusting break to them. He has the makings of an elite reliever and could be the Astros closer in the very near future. There was thought of including Forrest Whitley here, past on his performance and lack of starting pitching depth with the Astros, but I need to see more of the changes he made before I buy back in.
Kansas City Royals – Josh Staumont – RHP
While the Royals have drafted well in recent years, most of their top prospects are a year or two away from contributing. Staumont has the chance of being a pitcher that can rack up strikeouts. He has a fastball that sits in the upper-nineties and a nasty curve. However, the dude walks a ton of batters. If he can harness his command, we are looking at an elite closer but that is a tall ask for the 6’3″ righty.
Los Angeles Angels – Jo Adell – OF
The Angels were another team that was an easy selection. I love Jo Adell. He has the makings of MVP level talent in the future. However, he still has things to work on. He missed a bunch of time last year to injury but did make it to Triple-A late last season. That being said, Adell still has a concerning amount of strikeouts especially when he starts out at a higher, more challenging level. The possibility that Mike Trout opts out of the season before or after his first child is born, means we could see Adell sometime this year. I’m all-in for the long-term but I’m not sure how much Adell will contribute this season.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Gavin Lux – 2B
Gavin Lux should be the everyday second baseman for the Dodgers but will hit at the bottom of the lineup since they have an All-Star level lineup. That being said, Lux is an absolute beast and should contribute in home runs as well as average and RBI. I would like to give an honorable mention to Edwin Rios, a first baseman/DH prospect. He has hit at every single stop and is hitting well in Summer Camp. He should get some playing time, especially with the NL adding the DH.
Miami Marlins – Monte Harrison – OF
Harrison came to Miami in the Christian Yelich trade but has struggled since the move. His strikeout rate has ballooned to nearly 30% last year in Triple-A but has performed pretty well in Spring Training and Summer Camp. He is currently projected as the fourth outfielder but with Harold Ramirez holding down the RF spot, there is a big chance we see Harrison play the majority of the time in Miami. There is that tantalizing power/speed combo but beware of the strikeouts. Harrison is your typical boom or bust prospect, I’m hoping for the boom.
Milwaukee Brewers – Devin Williams – RHP
The Brewers have one of the worst farm systems and possibly one of the most veteran-laden teams in the majors right now. If I had to pick a prospect that has the chance of contributing this year, I’d go with Devin Williams. Williams is a 6’3″ righty with an above-average fastball and slider and has performed well in Summer Camp. The Brewers already have a pretty nasty bullpen but Williams could get a chance later this season.
Minnesota Twins – Lewis Thorpe – LHP
The Twins team from an offensive and defensive standpoint are stacked! However, they are lacking in their backup starters so I could see Lewis Thorpe having some impact this year. As I said, the Twins are stacked so Thorpe could provide you with those pesky wins everyone will be chasing this year. Devin Smeltzer could also provide the same type of value but I prefer Thorpe ever so slightly.
New York Mets – David Peterson – LHP
Just like the Brewers and Twins, the Mets are pretty set in their lineup as well as starting rotation and bullpen. However, if there is an injury to anyone in the rotation, David Peterson could become the next starter for the Mets. While Peterson does not have overwhelming stuff, there is a possibility to sneak in some wins if he can go five innings. (If we are being honest, just avoid the Mets for possible prospect contributions.)
New York Yankees – Clarke Schmidt – RHP
With the injury track record of some of the Yankees starters, Clarke Schmidt could provide you with some needed wins and ratio boost in the middle of the season. Schmidt has looked really great in Summer Camp and it seems like the Yankees are viewing him as the next great starter over Deivi Garcia. If your league is deep enough, it might be a great time to buy now as soon as one of these pitchers go down, the amount of FAAB you will have to spend will be off the charts.
Oakland Athletics – A.J. Puk – LHP
The A’s have three prospects that should contribute the year; Sean Murphy, Jesús Luzardo, and A.J. Puk. If 2020 was a normal year (and don’t we all wish it was), Luzardo would have been the prospect I would put my money on as contributing the most. However, Luzardo was late to Summer Camp, due to COVID-19, and will not be part of the starting rotation, at least to begin the season. Long-term, I think Puk should move the ‘pen as he could Josh Hader-esque but until then, he should be an interesting starter with some great but also some awful outings. Assuming his shoulder is ok. Woof.
Philadelphia Phillies – Spencer Howard – RHP
I am not the biggest fan of Phillies prospects but I am really high on Howard. If we are being honest, it wasn’t until I had a chance to watch a couple of his starts from last year on MiLB.com that I really started to buy in on Howard. Howard has four pitches with three of them above-average and his changeup is straight-up devastating. If the Phillies want to really go for it this season, Howard should be in the starting rotation from Day 1. Even if that does not happen, Howard’s talent along with the Phillies lineup should give your fantasy teams many opportunities for wins.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Mitch Keller – RHP
Another easy selection here as Keller has locked up the #2 starter spot in Pittsburgh. We can all look at his stats from last year (7.13 ERA, 1.83 WHIP, .475 BABIP) and know he is a much better pitcher than that. I have liked what I’ve heard from many Pirates pitchers this year about their new pitching coach and approach as well as knowing that Keller purchased his own Rapsodo this offseason to help him improve his spin efficiency.
San Diego Padres – Edward Olivares – OF
I’m not sure why Olivares has not been talked about more. Maybe it is because the Padres have one of the best minor league system in baseball? Anyway, Olivares has hit at pretty much every level and has secured the fourth OF position after the trade of Franchy Codero this past week. His SwStk% dropped from 11.7% in 2018 to 9.2% last year shows that his pitch recognition is improving. He hit a career-high 18 home runs and also swiped a career-high 35 bases in his first taste at Double-A. He is currently blocked by Tommy Pham (who is often injured), Wil Myers, and Josh Naylor. I’m willing to take a gamble on the power/speed combination.
San Francisco Giants – Mauricio Dubón – 2B
Oy vey. The Giants are not very good, y’all. Also, most of their prospects are about 1.5-2 years away so I guess Dubón is my pick here. He should have the playing time (which is great!) but if he is hitting seventh or eighth for the Giants, what are you really expecting here. I’m afraid to say this but just avoid the Giants this year.
Seattle Mariners – Evan White – 1B
Other than Luis Robert, I’m not sure any other American League prospect will see as much playing time as Evan White. White has above-average hit, power, and run all while playing elite defense at first base. While the Mariners lineup is not the greatest, there is still enough there where White, who should start the season hitting lower in the lineup, should contribute in average and RBI.
St. Louis Cardinals – Dylan Carlson – OF
I really wish the Cardinals would have Carlson starting in the outfield on Opening Day but, well, we all know why that is not the case. Even with that being said, Carlson is the best outfielder that the Cardinals have and I have this sneaky suspicion we will see him about a week after that first game. Carlson brings great bat-to-ball skills with average power and speed. If he is not already drafted, he should be your high bid during the next FAAB run.
Tampa Bay Rays – Yoshitomo Tsutsugo – 3B
This might come as a shock to you because it did to me, but Tsutsugo is projected to be the leadoff hitter for the Rays. He has also been playing some third base during Summer Camp, which just adds to his roster flexibility. While he might not see everyday playing time, there is still a lot to love here. Tsutsugo brings above-average power and hit so runs and RBI should be plentiful.
Texas Rangers – Nick Solak – IF/OF
This was another easy selection. Outside of Choo and Gallo, Solak might be the best hitter in the Rangers lineup. Prior to the season, the Rangers thought about putting Solak in center field but they quickly moved off that idea. Solak was then penciled in for reps at first and second base but with a hip injury to Willie Calhoun, he should get every day playing time in left field. Solak brings an exciting power/speed with above-average feel to hit.
Toronto Blue Jays – Nate Pearson – RHP
With Chase Anderson hitting the IL with a strained oblique, Pearson should start the season with the Blue Jays, but we all know that he won’t. That being said, he should be in the rotation within the first couple of weeks and should rack up the strikeouts for your team. He has had trouble staying healthy but most of his injuries were more of the one-off (getting hit in the arm by a batted ball) instead of a chronic arm or shoulder injury.
Washington Nationals – Carter Kieboom – 3B
Everyone knows how much I like Carter Kieboom so it should come as no surprise to see him on this list. Kieboom can just straight-up hit and should contribute in batting average as well as RBI. He is currently slated to hit ninth in the Nationals lineup but should have Trea Turner and Adam Eaton hitting behind him after his first at-bat.