2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Top 10 prospects to stash away for their eventual promotion
Willing to wait for a big payoff? Scott White has some stashing suggestions.
Some prospects you know full well to draft in Fantasy. Jesus Luzardo and Luis Robert are obvious. Gavin Lux and Sean Murphy as well. Evan White and Carter Kieboom don't have the same sizzle, but each has the inside track on a starting job. Those who do draft them are expecting immediate returns.
For the 10 below, it's a different story. They're expected to begin the year in the minors with no guarantees as to when they'll be ready to contribute. But it could be soon, and it could be big.
Understand that not all of these prospects are worth stashing in every league, and if you try to pile multiple on your bench, you'll be handcuffing yourself in the near-term. But in leagues where more than 300 players are rostered, it makes sense for them to be among them.
Notable exclusions include A.J. Puk and Brendan McKay, who may begin the year on the IL and could find themselves with big-league jobs immediately upon rehabilitation. You also won't find players like Austin Riley and Nate Lowe who've gotten too many big-league at-bats to still qualify as prospects. Riley may well win the starting third base job for Atlanta. Lowe I would probably slot eighth here given the playing time crunch in Tampa Bay.
1) Dylan Carlson, OF, Cardinals
2019 minors: .292 BA (489 AB), 26 HR, 20 SB, .914 OPS, 58 BB, 116 K
Carlson has really opened eyes this spring, overtaking Jo Adell for the No. 1 spot on this list. And with the Cardinals actually having an opening in their outfield, it's still possible he forces his way onto the opening day roster. But the odds are against it, for all the usual reasons, and besides, we've been waiting years for 24-year-old slugger Tyler O'Neill to finally get his shot. Still, Carlson is the more rounded player, disciplined and offering speed to spare, and if he torches the hitter-friendly PCL like he did Double-A (a likely scenario given the way the ball was flying at Triple-A last year), it's not like the Cardinals couldn't find another spot for him. What is Dexter Fowler still doing in right field?
2) Jo Adell, OF, Angels
2019 minors: .289 BA (305 AB), 10 HR, 7 SB, .834 OPS, 30 BB, 94 K
The Joc Pederson trade that never was briefly drew the ire of prospect hounds hoping to see Adell in the opening day lineup, but it wasn't a realistic scenario to begin with. Not only are there the usual service time considerations — i.e., the unwillingness of most every team to give away a year of control — but it's also not at all clear that he's ready. His move up to Triple-A and the arcade-like environment of the PCL last August met with a sad trombone as he hit .264 with a .676 OPS in 121 at-bats, and contact issues followed him in the Arizona Fall League. Adell has the upside for a Luis Robert-level breakthrough, and with the Angels expected to contend, they'll take him when it comes. But there's work to be done.
3) MacKenzie Gore, SP, Padres
2019 minors: 9-2, 1.69 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 101 IP, 28 BB, 135 K
The consensus top pitching prospect in baseball made only five starts at Double-A last year, so it stands to reason the Padres want to see more of him in the upper minors. Keep in mind, though, this is the same organization that awarded Chris Paddack a rotation spot last spring. He was coming off a 90-inning season, too, while Gore topped 100 last year. With a sneaky mid-90s fastball, plus control and a well-developed secondary arsenal, all bolstered by a high leg kick that adds extension to his already long frame, Gore should make quick work of the upper minors, and the Padres, who are transitioning into contention mode, have already shown they're willing to pull the trigger when the time is right.
4) Nick Madrigal, 2B, White Sox
2019 minors: .311 BA (473 AB), 4 HR, 35 SB, .792 OPS, 44 BB, 16 K
Madrigal, drafted fourth overall in 2018, is technically still competing for the starting second base job, but he hasn't wowed in a way that would convince the White Sox to begin his service clock sooner than optimal. He's kind of an odd fit in today's game anyway, committing to making contact with little regard for power, but he does what he does exceptionally well, striking out just 21 times in his 163 minor-league games. And because he also stole 35 bases last year, there's hope he might contribute in that scarcest of categories, which in and of itself makes him worth earmarking for later in Rotisserie leagues that offer the requisite bench space. Leury Garcia won't last long in a starting role, not with the White Sox looking to contend this year.
5) Michael Kopech, SP, White Sox
2018 minors: 7-7, 3.70 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 126 1/3 IP, 60 BB, 170 K
2018 majors: 1-1, 5.02 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 14 1/3 IP, 2 BB, 15 K
Kopech's start to spring training was delayed by his continued recovery from Tommy John surgery, but he was throwing 100 mph gas in his debut Monday, reminding those who lost sight of him during the long layoff just how talented he is. He, of course, already has major-league experience, making a four-start debut before tearing his UCL in 2018, and while that final start with an achy elbow left him with crooked numbers, he was in the strike zone throughout that stint. It continued a transformation that spanned his final seven minor-league starts, when he walked only four for a 1.84 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 12.1 K/9. The White Sox rotation is seemingly full, but as soon as Kopech is built up, finding a spot for him figures to be a top priority. Dude was on the verge of something special.
6) Dustin May, SP/RP, Dodgers
2019 minors: 6-5, 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 106 2/3 IP, 29 BB, 110 K
2019 majors: 2-3, 3.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 34 2/3 IP, 5 BB, 32 K
May earned his spot with his performance late last year and into the playoffs, but the Dodgers are ridiculous with their pitching depth, adding Alex Wood to an already deep inventory, which allows them to put their top pitching prospect on ice for later. May has needed his share of ice this spring, too, having yet to make his Cactus League debut because of a sore oblique, but whatever innings he isn't throwing now will leave him with more in the tank for later, when attrition will have taken its toll. There's some question as to how much of a bat-misser he'll be, but with ground-ball tendencies and plus-plus control, he's like a harder-throwing Mike Soroka with all the advantages of the Dodgers' supporting cast.
7) Ryan Mountcastle, 1B, Orioles
2019 minors: .312 BA (520 AB), 25 HR, .871 OPS, 24 BB, 130 K
Lest you think the introduction of the drag-resistant MLB baseballs made Mountcastle no more of a standout than anyone else at Triple-A last year, note that he was named MVP of the International League — which, it's also worth noting, didn't rise to the same level of absurdity as the Pacific Coast League. In an organization with something to play for, a prospect putting up those numbers at Triple-A gets a late-season look, but the 54-win Orioles of course had nothing to play for except service time manipulation. As soon as they've secured that extra year of control this April, Mountcastle will be on his way up to play one of the four corner spots. He doesn't walk much, but the hit tool is legit, making for a possible Nick Castellanos-like outcome.
2019 minors: .305 BA (475 AB), 21 HR, 30 2B, .896 OPS, 57 BB, 73 K
As easily as Bohm, the third overall pick in the 2018 draft, took to the high minors last year, it seems almost a foregone conclusion he'll make the climb to the big leagues this year, which has made for some controversy over whether the Phillies should shift Jean Segura or Scott Kingery to third base in the meantime. Kingery would most likely move to center field to accommodate Bohm, presuming everyone is healthy. It's just a matter of Bohm continuing to climb the latter, which should happen quickly. His bat control and strike zone judgment are especially impressive for a hitter his size, and both have been on display in limited action this spring.
9) Nate Pearson, SP, Blue Jays
2019 minors: 5-4, 2.30 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 101 2/3 IP, 27 BB, 119 K
No other pitching prospect has generated the headlines Pearson has this spring, looking completely unhittable against genuine major-leaguers. The Blue Jays are most interested in developing him responsibly, and as careful as they were about limiting his innings last year, it's no certainty he'll make a worthwhile contribution in the majors this season, especially with the team likely out of contention. But 130-140 innings should still last him a while, and if his stuff (namely the 80-grade, triple-digit fastball) plays as well at Triple-A as it has this spring, they may not be able to hold him back. It'd take a deeper-league scenario to stash him under such uncertain terms, but the rewards could justify it.
10) Brendan Rodgers, 2B, Rockies
2019 minors: .350 BA (143 AB), 9 HR, 10 2B, 1.035 OPS, 14 BB, 27 K
2019 majors: .224 BA (76 AB), 2 2B, .522 OPS, 4 BB, 27 K
Rodgers saw a little bit of major-league action last season before needing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder in July, and he's been limited to DH duties early in spring training. It doesn't look like he'll be full-go at the start of the year, which is fine since the Rockies don't really have a spot for him anyway. They do have question marks all over the diamond, though, from Daniel Murphy's durability to the viability of Ryan McMahon, Sam Hilliard and Garrett Hampson. Maybe that younger trio legitimizes itself in the first month, giving the Rockies the makings of a nice core, but Rodgers is supposed to be a better prospect than all three and looked like he may have turned the corner at Triple-A last year. It'll take a misfire from only one of those players for him to get his shot.
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