MLB Prospects Spring Review/2020 Fantasy Outlook – American League
As recently as a week ago, I wasn’t expecting to write these pieces for another week or week and a half. But with the coronavirus running rampant around the world, Spring Training games for 2020 are done. As much as it sucks, it’s the right call. But even with two fewer weeks of game action, we still got a look at some prospects that have a chance to make an impact at some point in the 2020 season along with some other surprise performances. So let’s take a look at how they faired this spring and when we might be seeing them this season.
We hit up the National League a few days ago and now turn our attention to the star-studded American League. If you thought there were a lot of enticing rookies in the NL, just wait until you scroll down the page. The AL is absolutely loaded this year.
Fantasy Baseball season is upon us with plenty of leagues drafting today on Fantrax. So what are you waiting for? Join a league today!
MLB Prospects Spring Review/2020 Fantasy Outlook – American League
Ryan Mountcastle (8/34, HR, 0/9 BB/K): One thing is for certain about Ryan Mountcastle and that’s his bat. Defensively, Mounty is a major work in progress and has been shifted around the field from shortstop to third to first and even some outfield. Baltimore wants to get his bat in the lineup early this season and did their due diligence in camp to find a spot where they could hide his below-average defense. Mountcastle has .275/25 upside and should be up with Baltimore very early in the 2020 season, whenever that decides to start. He makes for a solid stash in mixed leagues with deeper benches.
Austin Hays (5/28, 3 2B, 4/7 BB/K): While Mountcastle might not be in the opening day lineup, Austin Hays likely will be. In fact, he might even be batting leadoff for the rebuilding (I’m trying to be nice) Baltimore Orioles. After a dominant 2017 season in the minors, Hays got a cup of coffee (more like a shot) with the big club but hasn’t been able to break through since. He’s shown that he has the tools to hit for both average and power and should have the opportunity to run with the center field job this season. Using a late-round waiver on Hays wouldn’t be the worst idea in mixed leagues.
Boston Red Sox
Bobby Dalbec (5/22, 2 2B, HR): Bobby Dalbec is a player I got a ton of live looks at during his time with Double-A Portland. This is a legit 35-plus homer bat at the Major League level with a swing built for power at Fenway Park. But with that power comes some equally as mighty swing and miss concerns and contact woes. Dalbec is never going to hit for a high average, but his higher walk rate gives him some added value in OBP formats to go along with that mammoth power. He’ll likely start out at Triple-A Pawtucket and could be up this summer, playing either of the corner infield positions.
Jarren Duran (6/23, 3B, HR, SB): I’m not expecting Jarren Duran to make a big Major League impact in 2020, but if there are some injuries to the Red Sox starting outfielders, Duran could get a shot later in the season. His speed would make him at least worth monitoring if regular playing time is thrust upon him.
Tanner Houck (6.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 6 BB, 7 K): So in the grand scheme of things, Tanner Houck isn’t a prospect to get excited about. Sure, he’s one of the Red Sox top pitching prospects, but is more of a back-end starter ranked highly in a rebuilding farm system. His inclusion here is solely due to the fact that Boston’s starting rotation is a train wreck right now and Houck might get a chance to start some games this season. If he does, there MIGHT be some low-end AL-Only value here.
Chicago White Sox
Luis Robert (10/30, 4 XBH, HR, 3 SB, 3/7 BB/K): Without question, the rookie in spring training that had the most buzz/hype surrounding him was Luis Robert. It’s not hard to see why after a .328/32/36 line last season across three minor league levels. Sure, there are some pitch/spin recognition issues and a less than desirable 28/129 BB/K ratio, but the power/speed upside here is enormous. Robert possesses plus power and double-plus speed with a legit shot to go 30/30 within the next few seasons.
Here’s a Luis Robert home run that travelled approximately 965 feet pic.twitter.com/Pn1jN3wiSg
— White Sox Talk (@NBCSWhiteSox) January 2, 2020
Will that happen in 2020? Absolutely not, and not just because we’re going to miss a month or two due to COVID-19. But what Robert most definitely can do is play at around a 25/25 pace this season. Even if that comes with a .250ish batting average and low-.300 OBP, the power/speed potential makes him an exciting pick in the back-end of the top-100 with top-50 upside this season. He’ll be starting in center field for the White Sox on opening day, whenever that may be.
Nick Madrigal (6/27, 2 K): Am I the only one that sees the two strikeouts before anything else? One aspect of Madrigal’s game that makes him an enticing prospect with a high floor is his double-plus hit tool and the fact that he loathes striking out. I mean, nobody likes to strike out, but he hates it more than basically everyone else. Madrigal has minimal power upside with 10 homers serving as his ceiling right now, but when that comes with a potential .300-plus batting average and 25 steals, you can live with it. Second base on the south side is going to be Madrigal’s home very early in the 2020 season, giving him plenty of appeal in re-draft leagues.
Andrew Vaughn (7/23, 2 2B, HR, 5/4 BB/K): Andrew Vaughn doesn’t have a 2020 ETA, but the 2019 first-rounder is a very polished hitter and won’t need a ton of minor league seasoning. The White Sox gave him plenty of run this spring and it’s not entirely out of the question to see Vaughn later in 2020 if there are injuries to Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Abreu. That wouldn’t be until July at the earliest and still a slim possibility, but Vaughn is one of the top-20 dynasty prospects in the game with .300/30+ upside.
Zack Collins (6/18, 2 HR, 8/6 BB/K): With the addition of Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarnacion, there’s no room for Zack Collins in Chicago to start the season. His two areas of strength were put on display this spring with two homers and eight walks, but without a spot in Chicago’s lineup, Collins isn’t a 2020 target. However, he would have value in two-catcher or AL-Only formats if playing time does arise for him.
Michael Kopech (1.0 IP, 1 K): Although his amount of game action this spring was limited, one inning was all it took for Michael Kopech to remind us of how filthy he can be. In his one spring inning, Kopech was topping 100 mph on the gun and breaking off some nasty sliders. If Opening Day is sometime in April, I’m not sure Kopech makes the rotation initially due to other options and the White Sox easing him back in. But the longer this season start is delayed, the better chance we see Kopech back in the rotation sooner rather than later. He’s still worth drafting in the later rounds due to his immense upside.
Michael Kopech painting 101mph on the corner for the strikeout after showcasing a stellar curveball and slider.
I can't wait for his 2020 MLB debut. pic.twitter.com/7MGGIaZbAx
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) March 10, 2020
Bobby Bradley (9/27, 3 HR): We all know the story with Bobby Bradley. There’s a ton of power upside here, but lower average upside due to contact issues and swing and miss tendencies. His walk rate gives him more value in OBP formats, but I’m not expecting a big 2020 impact.
Logan Allen (6.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 7 BB, 5 K): Allen has gone from a top-100 overall prospect to someone that gets forgotten more often than not. Granted, the upside is a back-end starter at this point, but those in AL-Only formats should keep him on your radar as he could get double-digit starts in 2020. For mixed leagues, he’s merely a streaming option in good matchups.
James Karinchak (5.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 9 K): Those of you in holds leagues, listen the bleep up. James Karinchak is a beast. The big 6’3/230 right-hander carved up the minor leagues with a 2.67 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 30.1 innings. That’s a freaking 22.0 K/9 and 59.2 K% right there. Karinchak was a key piece in my relief pitchers with elite closer upside article and he should be an attractive target to anyone that has holds as a category this season.
Willi Castro (8/25, 4 2B, 1/9 BB/K): When it comes to prospects, Willi Castro is far from exciting and is more of a low-end option than one that people run out to acquire in fantasy leagues. But the 22-year-old shortstop is ready to contribute at the Major League level and did so down the stretch last season. Over a full season, Castro’s upside is in the ballpark of a .280/10-15 HR/20 SB line at most and is better served as an AL-Only option if he’s given a chance to run with the starting shortstop gig in Detroit over Niko Goodrum, which isn’t a lock by any means.
Riley Greene (5/12, 2 HR, 6/2 BB/K): Riley Greene has zero 2020 value and likely isn’t up until 2022, but I needed to add a public service announcement here. In FYPDs, everyone is going bonkers over all the upside guys like Jasson Dominguez, C.J. Abrams, Corbin Carroll, etc., and it’s feeling like Greene isn’t getting the respect he deserves. Greene is my #6 player for FYPDs and is one of the most polished high school bats of the last few years with .300/25 upside. Don’t overlook him for other flashier and riskier options. I would take him all day over Robert Puason, Eric Pena, and others like them.
Other positional prospects that should debut in 2020 are Daz Cameron and Isaac Paredes. Cameron endured a down 2019 season, but possesses the speed to make a fantasy impact once up. On the other hand, Paredes continues to fly under the radar due to his ceiling not being overly high. But there’s sneaky 20-homer upside here with a .270-plus average and fairly high OBP due to his advanced plate approach. Jake Rogers is also ready for a shot but is behind Austin Romine and Greyson Greiner on the depth chart.
Matt Manning (5.0 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 K)
Casey Mize (4.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K)
The Matt Manning and Casey Mize debate is one of my favorites for prospects right now. In my opinion, Mize has the higher floor and Manning the higher ceiling. But we’re nitpicking here. Both have the potential to turn into frontline starters in the Majors with massive fantasy upside. I give Manning the slight edge in fantasy due to the higher strikeout upside, but again, I’d be thrilled to have either on my fantasy teams and do in many leagues. Both studs have similar ETAs and should be up with Detroit after a couple of months at the Triple-A level. If you have deeper benches, both make for phenomenal stashes due to their potential. If not, be ready to pounce when their promotions appear to be imminent.
Tarik Skubal (4.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K): The third musketeer and the one with the lowest likely 2020 impact, Skubal impressed this spring and continued to flash his strikeout stuff. He’s found himself well inside basically every top-100 prospect ranking, fantasy focused or not, and should be up later in the season. Once up, Skubal has immediate fantasy upside due to his strikeout potential.
Abraham Toro (3/24, 2B): To be honest, I’m not a major Toro supporter. He’s a solid prospect with .275/15 potential, but without much speed upside or a path to playing time in 2020. It’s going to take an injury to Alex Bregman or Carlos Correa (I know, that’s kind of likely these days) for Toro to get a chance to start, and even then, Houston might just move Yuli Gurriel over from first base and play Kyle Tucker at first. Even with a starting gig, Toro would only be a low-end asset.
Jose Urquidy (8.1 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 8 K): Meet my pitching Abraham Toro. Long-term, I project Urquidy as more of a #4 starter and back-end fantasy asset. He’ll fill the #3 spot in Houston’s rotation to start the season and could be that back-end fantasy asset right off the bat. Just don’t go bonkers trying to acquire him.
Forrest Whitley (6.0 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 7 K): The 2019 season was one to forget for Forrest Whitley. You know what? That sounds like a good idea. Let’s just forget that Whitley’s 2019 season happened. He was injured, suspended, working on a new arm slot, etc. The result was further and enhanced command and control issues and atrocious surface numbers. Forget that if you can and remember that Whitley is one of the most talented pitching prospects around. If he can get back on track in Triple-A to start 2020, Whitley should be up with Houston later this season.
Kansas City Royals
Khalil Lee (6/33, 3B, HR, SB, 2/12 BB/K): The only positional prospect I see having any sort of impact this season is Khalil Lee. The speedy outfielder didn’t show much progression offensively, but finally fully unleashed his speed with 53 steals in 129 Double-A games. Expecting more than a .260-.270 average and 10-15 homers annually from Lee will likely leave you disappointed, but the speed upside here is tantalizing and makes him mixed league relevant when he comes up. Lee should start at Triple-A with a debut in Kansas City sometime in the second half of the season very possible.
The big four of Daniel Lynch, Brady Singer, Kris Bubic, and Jackson Kowar all got some run in spring training this year but none more than 5.2 innings (Singer) due to the abrupt end of camps two weeks early. All four men have mid-rotation upside and are likely within a year of debuting with Kansas City. For 2020, Singer or Kowar are the most likely to debut as both reached the Double-A level in 2019 with Bubic and Lynch both ending in high-A. If the Royals turn to either Singer or Kowar, there would be some potential low-end mixed league for each and definitely AL-Only value.
Los Angeles Angels
Jo Adell (7/25, 2 2B, 0/13 BB/K): You don’t need me to tell you that a 50% strikeout rate isn’t ideal. Granted, spring numbers always need to be taken with a grain (or two) of salt, but Adell proved that a bit more Triple-A seasoning isn’t a bad idea for him. He also struggled after a late-season promotion to the level with a 32.8% strikeout rate and zero dingers in 27 games, albeit, with 11 doubles. The upside with Adell is immense with a chance to put up some .280+/40/15+ seasons, but he’s not quite as advanced as the other top rookies for 2020, Luis Robert and Gavin Lux. I’d still draft Adell later in drafts, but I’m not expecting him to become a fantasy force quite yet.
Royce Lewis (5/25, 2B, 2 HR)
Alex Kirilloff (9/21, 2 2B, 2 HR)
Trevor Larnach (8/24, 3 HR, SB, 5/3 BB/K)
Brent Rooker (6/21, 2B, SB)
While the White Sox garner a lot of attention with the lineup they’ve assembled, we must not forget that Minnesota is absolutely loaded as well with plenty of veteran bats up and down the lineup. That doesn’t leave a clear path to playing time for any of the four names above. Lewis has played some third base and second base in addition to his natural shortstop but Jorge Polanco and Josh Donaldson are locked into the left side of the infield and Luis Arraez has done nothing to warrant being moved to a bench role.
Lewis and Kirilloff are coming off rough 2019 campaigns that saw their performance dip and Kirilloff battling a wrist injury early in the season. So, it might not be bad for Minnesota to give them plenty of time at Double and Triple-A this season before bringing them up, which they can afford to do. In a perfect world (for Minnesota), Lewis and Kirilloff aren’t playing big roles this season. If either does get thrust into regular playing time, each would be mixed league relevant. Not too far behind them is Trevor Larnach, but he’s a late-season call-up at most and Brent Rooker hasn’t been able to break through to Minnesota yet. He’d be more of a low-end or AL-Only option as he’s mostly empty power.
New York Yankees
Clarke Schmidt (7.0 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 K)
Deivi Garcia (7.1 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 8 K)
As many of the prospects in the Yankees system are at the lower levels, the only two with any 2020 value are Clarke Schmidt and Deivi Garcia. And with Luis Severino done for the season, James Paxton out until June, and Domingo German suspended, one or both of Schmidt/Garcia could play a role with the big club sooner than anticipated. As of now, most depth charts have Jordan Montgomery (remember him?) and Jonathan Loasiga rounding out the rotation, but it wouldn’t shock me at all to see Schmidt or Garcia get a chance early in 2020.
In general, I like Schmidt more longterm as I have questions about Garcia’s command and longterm durability due to his small frame, but both would be worth a look in mixed leagues if given the chance. Garcia is more likely to get the first shot as he pitched in Triple-A last season while Schmidt only made three starts in Double-A.
Jesus Luzardo (8.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 13 K): Prospect or not, Jesus Luzardo was one of the most impressive pitchers this spring. Highlighting his dominant spring was an 8 strikeout performance in 3.1 innings on March 7th that you can see below. There’s no need to drag this out. Luzardo is one of the top-5 pitching prospects in baseball and the top rookie arm for the 2020 season. He has a rotation spot locked up and has the potential to push top-25 SP value this season. Draft with confidence in the middle rounds.
I think this Jesus Luzardo dude is supposed to be pretty good…
Here are all 8 Ks from his 3.1 IP outing today pic.twitter.com/lhBVBpyt8c
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) March 7, 2020
A.J. Puk (3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K): After Oakland announced that A.J. Puk was going to make the Opening Day rotation, his ADP began to rise, and rightfully so. On upside alone, Puk is one of the most talented pitching prospects in the game today with filthy stuff. But inconsistent command and control have kept me from ranking him higher than I have. Still, with a rotation spot heading into 2020, Puk’s upside made him well worth drafting outside pick 200. A shoulder strain dampened that a bit but with the 2020 season starting late, that gives Puk more time to rest his shoulder. There will likely be an innings limit here and he’ll almost surely be eased back into things after a limited spring, but Puk still deserves to be rostered in all mixed leagues.
Jorge Mateo (6/26, 4 SB, 6/6 BB/K): Coming into Spring Training, the second base spot in Oakland was wide open following Jurickson Profar’s departure. The two main competitors for the starting job were Jorge Mateo and former top prospect, Franklin Barreto. At the plate, Barreto was more impressive, hitting .306, but Mateo was able to work six walks and swipe four bags as well. This situation is far from clear as some depth charts even have Tony Kemp as the starter (of course), but for fantasy purposes, Mateo is the best option. If he gets the gig, his speed would at least put him on the mixed league radar in deeper leagues.
Sean Murphy (3/8, 2B, HR): Murphy only received eight at-bats this spring after a slow start to spring training due to knee surgery last October. While his long-term upside isn’t the highest for fantasy, Murphy is a polished bat with the tools to play at a .275/15 pace this season. If you wait on your catcher, as some do, you could do worse than Murphy in the later rounds this season.
Jarred Kelenic (6/26, 2B, HR): Honestly, I haven’t seen a high school player this advanced in several years. Jarred Kelenic is tearing through the minor leagues and already reached Double-A less than a month after his 20th birthday. A .290/29/35 line through his first 173 professional games shows just how talented of an offensive player Kelenic is and with his rapid ascension, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him up sometime later this summer. There are a ton of mouths to feed in this Seattle outfield but once Kelenic is up, it’s not going to be to ride the pine. He’ll start regularly and has the skillset to make a major impact in fantasy. Get ready to scoop this offensive dynamo up.
Evan White (8/24, 3 2B, SB): After signing a contract extension in the offseason, Evan White is slated to start at first base for Seattle once the 2020 season finally begins. He might not have the huge upside or the big prospect name, but White has the chance to make a real impact this season as someone drafted in the late rounds or not at all. While playing one of the toughest parks for right-handed batters in the minors, White put up a .293/.350/.488 line with 18 home runs in 92 games. That’s damn impressive. White has an above-average hit tool, plus raw power, and more speed than most first basemen. Something along the lines of a .270/20/5 pace this season isn’t out of the question for White. If you need a corner infielder in the final round or two, I’d recommend looking his way.
Jake Fraley (6/26, 2 2B, 2 HR, SB)
Kyle Lewis (5/29, 3 HR)
Both Jake Fraley and Kyle Lewis are slated to occupy two of the three outfield spots in Seattle to start the season. That’s where the similarities end. Both have a chance to carve out some fantasy value this season but in much different ways. Lewis’ calling card is his plus raw power that could lead to some 25-homer seasons in his career. However, beyond that, his hit tool doesn’t suggest a high batting average. Meanwhile, Fraley is more of an AVG/SB asset, but one that has developing power. For fantasy, I’m investing more in Fraley than I am Lewis this season.
Logan Gilbert (4.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K)
Justin Dunn (6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 10 K)
Justus Sheffield (8.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 12 K)
As for the pitching prospects set to debut this season, Justus Sheffield is the only one with a rotation spot and damn did he impress this spring. I’m still concerned about his command, but with a rotation spot locked up, Sheffield has value in AL-Only leagues and deeper mixed leagues. That same value can be applied to Justin Dunn as well who appears slated to begin 2020 in Triple-A. The best of the bunch longterm, without question, is Logan Gilbert who more than impressed in his limited action this spring. He’s closer than people think and has SP2 upside longterm. Basically, you’re going to want him on your roster when he’s up which should be sometime later this summer.
Tampa Bay Rays
Randy Arozarena (8/20, 2 XBH, 3 SB, 9/2 BB/K): While the Rays dealt away one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, Matthew Liberatore, they did acquire an underrated outfield prospect in Randy Arozarena in the return package with Jose Martinez. Arozarena tore up the upper minors to the tune of a .344 average in 92 games along with 15 homers and 17 steals. Keep your pants on, he’s not a .344 type of hitter or a huge power/speed threat. But Arozarena does profile as a .275/15/20+ hitter that can provide sneaky-good fantasy value if starting. With the 6.2 million options in Tampa Bay, regular at-bats will be tough to come by initially, but keep an eye on him.
Brendan McKay (2.1 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 K): Two-way McKay only pitched this spring and honestly, I’m glad. He’s much more valuable on the mound than he is in the batter’s box. However, with both Ryan Yarbrough and Yonny Chirinos starting full-time alongside Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, and Charlie Morton, there’s no spot for McKay to start the 2020 season. Well, there is, but it’s in Triple-A and that doesn’t help us at all! When he’s back up and starting for Tampa, McKay has top-50 fantasy SP upside and one of the higher floors for current pitching prospects. He’s a great draft and stash candidate.
Should I? No, I shouldn’t. Screw it, I am. WANDER FREAKING FRANCO. That’s right, the uber-prospect we all love dearly received seven at-bats this spring and recorded two hits. It might seem crazy to include him here as he turned 19 on March 1st. However, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Franco debuts this season. Juan Soto anyone? He debuted at 19 after tearing up the minors and I’ve likened Franco to a young Soto before due to his hit tool and advanced approach.
Now, I don’t expect Franco to be up as soon as Soto was back in 2018 (and not because of the COVID-19 delay) or perform as well as Soto did initially. So why are you mentioning him here Eric? I’ll tell you why reader. Trade value! If Franco does come up and you’re able to scoop him up or stashed him a week or two before, his name alone will likely bring you something in trade. This is for re-draft leagues though. I’m not here advocating that you trade him in dynasty leagues.
Nick Solak (7/36, 2 HR, SB, 3/12 BB/K)
Like with the Yankees above, most of the Rangers’ top prospects don’t have a 2020 ETA. But one that does is Nick Solak who I’ve said many times is criminally underrated. Solak posted an .850 OPS in the minors and never once had an OPS below .833 in any season. Now, OPS isn’t always the greatest number to go off, but this shows that Solak has performed at every single level. That didn’t stop in Texas last summer either with an .884 OPS over 33 games. Even with that success, Solak came into spring without a starting gig until Willie Calhoun got walloped by a Julio Urias fastball and broke his jaw.
Depending on when the season gets underway, Solak should start in left and still get close to everyday playing time at third base, second base, or the outfield even when Calhoun is back. And don’t forget, Todd Frazier has missed 76 games combined over the last two seasons and Ronald Guzman is far from a sure bet at first base. If Frazier gets hurt or Texas decides to move Frazier to first and Guzman to the bench, that would open up the hot corner for Solak. Long story short, Solak needs to be owned in all standard leagues as he can hit for a solid batting average with a 20/20 pace to go with it.
Toronto Blue Jays
Nate Pearson (7.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 11 K): Nate Pearson is a beast, y’all. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until every person reading this knows it. That’s not just due to his physical size either. Pearson brings the heat on the mound with triple-digit fastballs offset by one of the filthiest sliders at any level, including the Majors. The kid gloves are finally off and I’m anticipating a monster season from Pearson in 2020, starting at Triple-A and then continuing in Toronto. Depending on your league size, Pearson could be a great late-round target/bench stash. If you can’t stash him, you better be ready to scoop him up off the waiver wire or bid aggressively in FAAb to secure his services.
Outside of Pearson, Anthony Kay will likely be back up with Toronto after debuting with them last season. However, he’s more of an AL-Only streaming option than a mixed league one this season.
Media Credit: Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire, PitcherList, Alex Fast, White Sox Talk.
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