When it was announced back in the spring that we wouldn’t have a minor league season in 2020, my mind immediately went to this Fantasy Baseball Prospect Report that I’ve been writing weekly for the better part of two years. Luckily, even without the minors, there’s still been plenty of prospect news, notes, and promotions to report on with many top prospects being on their team’s 60-man rosters. As of August 3rd when this article initially publishes, we’ve already witnessed many rookie debuts, many of which have fantasy impacts this season. Headlining those are the debuts of White Sox center fielder Luis Robert and Blue Jays blossoming ace right-hander Nate Pearson. Both men are included below, along with other debuts, prospect notes, and top stashes, in this, the initial prospects report of the shortened 2020 season. Enjoy!
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Nate Pearson & Other Prospect Debuts
Nate Pearson (SP – TOR)
Redraft Impact: Medium to High – Immediate add in all leagues.
Longterm Projection: Real-life ace with SP1 fantasy upside.
Without question, the biggest prospect debut over the last week belonged to the 6’6 right-hander, Nate Pearson. Matched up with Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer on Wednesday afternoon, Pearson traded blows with the ace veteran for five innings, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out five in the no-decision. Not a bad way to start your Major League career.
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) July 29, 2020
In the outing, Pearson tossed 75 pitches in those five innings, with 69 of those being 4-seam fastballs or sliders, his two bread and butter offerings. The slider was on point as it usually is with Pearson landing it for strikes and below the zone to get hitters chasing, resulting in a 43.3% CSW on the pitch. Overall, Pearson recorded 36% CSW which is very good in general, especially in your MLB debut. Throwing mostly fastballs and sliders in this start wasn’t something that came as a shock to me. These are Pearson’s two best pitches, grading at an 80 (FB) and 70 (SL), and the two he appears to feel most comfortable throwing. As he gets settled into being a Major league pitcher, expect the curveball and changeup to be mixed in a bit more, especially the changeup.
The upside here is that of a future ace, both in real life and fantasy as well due to Pearson’s strikeout upside. Don’t be surprised to see his name mentioned as one of the top-10 pitchers in baseball within the next few years.
Nick Madrigal (2B – CHW)
Redraft Impact: Medium
Longterm Projection: Borderline top-10 fantasy 2B
The loaded Chicago White Sox lineup just got even better. On Friday, Chicago promoted one of their top prospects, second baseman Nick Madrigal, and immediately inserted him into their starting lineup. It was in the 9-hole, but that’s not surprising with the options already in this lineup. For now, Madrigal will likely remain very low in the order, but longterm, he projects as a solid #2 hitter due to his contact skills, low strikeout rate, and plus speed.
An 0/8 with a strikeout (gasp!) start was quickly forgotten with a huge 4/5 day on Sunday. Madrigal was a .309 career hitter in the minors with a microscopic 3% strikeout rate. His bat to ball skills are sound and you’ll be hard-pressed to find many prospects with better strike zone coverage and awareness. Just keep in mind that there’s very minimal power upside here with Madrigal. He’s combined to hit just 12 homers in 314 games between Oregon State and the minors with less than pedestrian estimated flyball distances in the 270-275 foot range.
Due to that almost non-existent power, Madrigal’s overall upside is capped to a degree. His ability to hit for a high average, get on base, and steal 30-plus bags annually has plenty of value, but the fact that he’s going to be a near non-contributor in HR and RBI will likely keep him from ascending higher than a back-end starting 2B in fantasy.
Daulton Varsho (C – ARI)
Redraft Impact: Low to Medium, depending on playing time.
Longterm Projection: Top-10 fantasy catcher that will almost assuredly play elsewhere.
This one is a bit trickier than the two above. Long-term, you have to be excited about the all-around upside that Daulton Varsho brings to the table. A potential .280/20/20 catcher? Yes, please! But, that catcher eligibility isn’t going to stick around long and the immediate playing time is quite foggy. While Varsho possesses the athleticism to play in the outfield and maybe even some at second base, the Diamondbacks don’t have a glaring opening at any of those positions. Maybe between catcher, DH, and the outfield, we could see Varsho in 2-3 games a week, but nothing is certain in that regard right now. It’d be nice if Arizona would just let him start regularly at DH, but we said the same thing about Kevin Cron and look how that’s turned out.
In dynasty, Varsho has been knocking on the door to my top-50 prospects for a couple of years now. While he doesn’t possess any one standout tool, he’s displayed above-average contact skills, power, and speed with a sound plate approach as well. That .280/20/20 upside I mentioned above is very realistic. And while that would look damn good with the big C next to his name, you’ll take that type of production as any position on the diamond. For re-draft leagues, I’d only target him in 2-C formats or one’s with deeper benches due to the playing time question marks.
Other Prospect Promotions
Tyler Stephenson (C – CIN): You won’t see Tyler Stephenson’s name very high on any prospect list, but this is the type of player that sticks around in a starting role for more than a decade in this league. Stephenson is productive on both sides of the ball with average contact skills, above-average power and defense, and a strong throwing arm. For fantasy, he’s more of a .260/15+ type that could sprinkle in a few 20-homer seasons. For 2020, you can safely ignore as there are plenty of other catching options on Cincinnati’s roster and he was sent back down quickly.
Cristian Javier (RHP – HOU): I’m sure everyone was hoping that Forrest Whitley was going to be the first prospect arm to get a start this season, but that just wasn’t realistic. In reality, Cristian Javier got the nod and looked pretty damn good in his first career start. In 5.2 innings of work, Javier allowed two hits, one earned run, and one walk while striking out eight. Both secondaries (CH/SL) looked good in this start and Javier averaged 92.6 mph on his fastball. Command and control are everything for Javier. The arsenal signals mid-rotation starter with high strikeout potential, but he’ll need to show more consistent command and control to reach that ceiling and avoid the bullpen as well.
Kris Bubic (LHP – KC): One of the plethora of intriguing Royals pitching prospects, Kris Bubic received his MLB debut last Wednesday, tossing 4.0 innings of two-run ball, allowing three hits and one walk while striking out three. Solid debut. This comes less than a week after Brady Singer made his Major League debut. Long-term, Bubic projects as an SP3/4 for me and a solid arm to fill out your fantasy rotation. But for 2020, he’s more of a deep league option or streamer in good matchups.
Luis Robert and other Prospect News & Notes
Luis Robert Already Beasting, Top-25 Dynasty Asset?
Is anyone really surprised by how well Luis Robert’s Major League career has started? Sure, the approach and pitch recognition concerns were and still are valid, but at the same time, Robert is a frozen rope machine with the highest pure upside of any prospect today. Yes, even higher than Wander Franco. Robert has already put that colossal power/speed upside on full display with two homers, one steal, and a 100th percentile sprint speed through the first week and a half of the season. He went absolutely bonkers on Saturday out of the leadoff spot with two doubles and a home run as part of his 4/6 day at the plate.
"Easy power from 88."
Luis Robert with the effortless 415 foot blast. pic.twitter.com/SXrpX0euLU
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 1, 2020
If you drafted Robert in redraft leagues or roster him in dynasty leagues, congratulations. This is a prospect with fantasy first-round upside that is already approaching top-20 overall status in my dynasty rankings. It’s all going to be up to the hit tool, if he can improve his pitch recognition, and keep those strikeouts in check. The sky is the limit here and Robert is already proving that at the Major League level. Just keep in mind that there will inevitably be some valleys mixed into the majestic peaks due to the aforementioned plate approach.
Monte Harrison On The Way (Other Marlins Prospects Up Soon Too?)
Unfortunately, we had our first “outbreak” of COVID cases since the shortened season started with more than around Miami Marlins players and staff testing positive last week. That’s a major chunk of the roster to fill. Not all those spots will be filled by prospects, of course, but you have to imagine a few will get that glorious call soon as many of the Marlins top prospects finished 2019 in the upper minors and are nearly Major League ready. So who should you be stashing in redraft leagues?
Well, the first domino fell here with Craig Mish reporting on Sunday that the Marlins will be calling up Monte Harrison this week, one of their top position prospects. With Harrison, he’s shown an enticing power/speed mix throughout his professional career, but the swing and miss concerns have hindered him majorly and caused constant bouts of inconsistency. That was very apparent in 2018 when he hit .240 with a 36.9% strikeout rate but also posted 19 homers and 28 steals. The 20/30 potential is intriguing, but he’s likely going to be a maddening player to roster due to the plate approach and lower batting average. After Harrison, Jesus Sanchez, Jazz Chisholm, and JJ Bleday are the next in line.
On the pitching side of things, Sixto Sanchez should be the first one to get the call. That might even happen this week as it was reported that Sandy Alcantara was one of the Marlins to test positive for COVID-19 last week. The star right-hander dazzled last season, posting a 2.76 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 20 starts, albeit, with a lower 8.1 K/9.
Although the repertoire is different, you could compare Sixto to Dustin May of the Dodgers. Both have a blazing fastball in the mid to upper-90s and two secondaries that grade as or flash plus. With Sanchez, his changeup is a borderline 70-grade offering and the slider flashes plus with hard, late break to it. And while he’s yet to miss many bats, his combination of stuff and command should lead to higher strikeout rates down the road. Next in line after Sixto would likely be Edward Cabrera.
Is Kyle Lewis For Real? Sell High?
Many have asked me this on Twitter. It’s easy to see why with how Kyle Lewis has performed so far this season. After another homer on Sunday, the hot-hitting rookie now has three homers in 10 games this season and nine in his first 28 career games. But unfortunately, that third home run was accompanied by his 16th and 17th strikeouts. Only Ronald Acuña Jr has more strikeouts this season than Lewis does. And for those wondering, that’s a 38.6% strikeout rate for Lewis this season. Yeah, not good. On top of that, Lewis had a ridiculous .737 BABIP entering Sunday which paced the Majors by more than 150 points.
So, is Lewis for real? The simple answer is yes and no. As fellow Fantraxian and Garrett Hampson supporter, Chris Clegg, mentioned in his article Saturday, Lewis’ power is for real. He’s 100% right. Lewis has borderline double-plus raw power with 30-plus homer potential, but his minor league numbers won’t reflect that. Part of the issue was getting everything back in sync after a gruesome knee injury back in 2016. You can feel pretty confident that the power will be robust, but as for the AVG and speed, that’s another question entirely. Lewis, at best, has an average hit tool, and his once double-digit speed was killed by the knee injury.
With that said, Lewis should still settle into the .260-.270 range more often than not and still has enough speed and athleticism to add a handful of steals annually. A .260/30/5 player is a great outcome for Lewis longterm, but that’s more in the “good asset” category than “elite stud” as he’s performing to start 2020. Right now is the ideal time to sell high on his scorching hot start before he comes back down and joins us mere mortals in the real world.
When Do We See Jarred Kelenic?
This has been a popular question thrown my way on Twitter ever since the season started. And it’s a great question to ask. Jarred Kelenic is a no-doubt top-5 dynasty prospect right now with plus offensive tools across the board. Without question, Kelenic could and should be starting now in Seattle’s outfield, but since when to Major League teams factor in what we want in the fantasy baseball world, right?
Hard to see, but that sound …
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 27, 2020
However, if Kelenic continues to mash in summer camp as he has, he very well might force Seattle’s hand. It seems like every other day there’s a video or report that Kelenic is spanking opposing pitchers in camp with long home runs or four-hit scrimmages. With roster spots so valuable this season in redraft leagues, it’s hard to stash Kelenic right now. However, if you’re off to a hot start and have the flexibility to stash him, I won’t stray you away from doing so. Kelenic has legit .300/30/30 upside and could make a significant impact this season if given the chance.
Forrest Whitley Hurt
Ugh. A report out of Houston the other day mentioned that Forrest Whitley is dealing with some discomfort in his throwing arm while at the Astros alternate site this summer. He hasn’t been shut down as of yet, but this is mildly concerning as Whitley dealt with shoulder issues last season. Whether this “discomfort” is up near the shoulder or down in the elbow/forearm area remains to be seen, but I’ve seen “arm discomfort” turn into a lengthy absence or surgery more than once or twice. I’m not here to try and scare everyone with this, but this is certainly concerning and dampens the chances that we see Whitley in any significant role with the Astros this season.
James Karinchak, Elite Closer in the Making?
It’s not often that a rookie reliever can make a substantial impact in fantasy leagues. But then again, James Karinchak is no ordinary rookie reliever. The Bryant University product is a potential elite closer in the making that posted a whopping 22.0 K/9 last season in the minors. In case you’re wondering, that’s 74 strikeouts over 30.1 innings of work. I’m not even sure I’ve ever achieved that in video games.
With Karinchak, the plan is simple; fastball up, curveball down. His fastball sits in the mid to upper 90’s with a good spin rate that creates solid armside life up in the zone. The curveball is a true 12-6 hammer that hitters have a tough time squaring up when he’s locating it well. But that’s been an issue for Karinchak at times. His overall command and control are subpar, with his higher walk rate (5.5 BB/9) putting him into some tricky situations that he had to dance out of in the minors.
For that reason, he’s probably never going to be one that posts elite ratios, but his stuff is good enough to keep those ratios in check (think 2.75-3.25 ERA and 1.2-1.3 WHIP) while his elite strikeout upside could put him in top-10 fantasy RP discussion when he eventually moves into the closer’s role. And who knows, if Hand continues to struggle or gets dealt, that could come later this season.
Top Redraft Prospect Stashes
The weekly prospect stash lists factor in proximity to MLB playing time and potential 2020 impact.
- Dylan Carlson (OF – STL)
- Joey Bart (C – SFG)
- Alec Bohm (3B – PHI)
- Gavin Lux (2B – LAD)
- Jo Adell (OF – LAA)
- Monte Harrison (OF – MIA)
- Ryan Mountcastle (1B – BAL)
- Jarred Kelenic (OF – SEA)
- JJ Bleday (OF – MIA)
- Andrew Vaughn (1B – CHW)
HM: Drew Waters (OF – ATL), Cristian Pache (OF – ATL), Bobby Dalbec (1B/3B – BOS), Ke’Bryan Hayes (3B – PIT), Jesus Sanchez (OF – MIA), Jazz Chisholm (SS – MIA), Jared Oliva (OF – PIT), Jake Fraley (OF – SEA), Brendan Rodgers (2B/SS – COL)
We’ve heard rumblings of Dylan Carlson and Joey Bart’s promotions over the last week, even though Bart’s has quieted down for now. Still, these are my top two stashes right now for their offensive potential and proximity to playing time at the Major League level. I’m expecting both up within the next couple of weeks, especially Carlson. Alec Bohm could be as well, but it’s been rather quiet on that front since the season started.
Everyone would love Jo Adell and Gavin Lux to be up right now and mashing for fantasy lineups, but that doesn’t appear to be imminent. With Adell, Angels’ skipper, Joe Maddon, said last week, “The guy’s high ceiling all the way around. But he has things to work on, quite frankly.” That doesn’t give me hope that Adell is up in the next week or two. With Lux, the Dodgers have no need to rush him. Their lineup is loaded top to bottom and have both Chris Taylor and Kiké Hernandez that can play the keystone, not to mention Max Muncy as well if needed.
As for the rest of the top-10, Monte Harrison is a prime callup candidate for the depleted Marlins this week. His enticing power/speed upside would warrant immediate mixed-league consideration if given the call. Just keep your expectations in check s there are plenty of swing and miss concerns here with Harrison. I don’t call him a poor man’s Luis Robert for nothing!
Recent reports out of Chicago note that top first base prospect, Andrew Vaughn, has been taking grounders at third. Does it mean anything? Maybe not. But it’s sure worth keeping an eye on moving forward. Jarred Kelenic also sneaks into the top-10 just on potential alone. There haven’t been any rumblings of him being called up soon, but he’s the best outfielder they have in their system. Better than Julio Rodriguez (slightly) and better than the currently-mashing Kyle Lewis.
- Spencer Howard (RHP – PHI)
- Casey Mize (RHP – DET)
- Sixto Sanchez (RHP – MIA)
- MacKenzie Gore (LHP – SDP)
- Matt Manning (RHP – DET)
- Clarke Schmidt (RHP – NYY)
- Ian Anderson (RHP – ATL)
- Tarik Skubal (LHP – DET)
- Brendan McKay (LHP – TB)
- Edward Cabrera (RHP – MIA)
HM: Deivi Garcia (SP – NYY), Forrest Whitley (SP – HOU), Logan Gilbert (SP – SEA), Edward Cabrera (SP – MIA)
Late last week it was rumored that Casey Mize would get the ball for Detroit’s game on Sunday. That obviously didn’t happen, but the 2018 #1 overall pick should be up soon and needs to be stashed now. This is one of the 5-6 best pitching prospects in baseball with the skills to develop into a frontline starter at the Major League level. Before all the COVID madness last week, it was sounding like Spencer Howard would receive his Major League debut as well. That’s now been put on hold as Philly hasn’t played in a week, but Howard is on the cusp of joining the Phillies rotation and is a top-10 pitching prospect with three pitches that grade as or flash plus. The upside for both of these arms is considerable.
Speaking of considerable upside, when the heck are we going to see MacKenzie Gore? It’s been rather quiet on the Gore front lately, but don’t be surprised if we see him debut at some point this month. The Padres haven’t shied away from promoting their prospects aggressively and Gore should be another example of that. I’d be stashing now if you have deeper benches.
Two of the prospects in this top-10 have timetables that coincide with another. Until we see Mize get the call, we can’t really start the countdown for Matt Manning or Tarik Skubal. While I believe we’ll see Manning get an extended look in 2020, I’m less confident that the same can be said for Skubal. Regardless, both arms would be immediate mixed league targets when called up.
Media Credit: MLB Pipeline/Tacoma Rainers, Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire, MLB Pipeline
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