Fantasy Baseball prospects 2020: Top 30 pitchers for dynasty led by Jesus Luzardo, MacKenzie Gore

There's no end to the number of pitching prospects in baseball. Not only is it half the game, but the level of attrition associated with this particular half makes redundancies a must.

Still, it feels particularly robust this time around. A series of bad breaks has caused the talent to bottleneck at the top. Jesus Luzardo and Forrest Whitley were expected to graduate from this list last year but didn't. Michael Kopech, A.J. Puk and Brent Honeywell probably would have a couple years ago if not for injuries. Brendan McKay and Mitch Keller saw significant time in the majors last year but fell just short of the 50 innings necessary to remove them from this list.

They're claiming spots that could have gone to expected 2020 contributors like Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield, Bryse Wilson and Tony Gonsolin. Anthony Kay. Jose Urquidy, even. The lack of turnover here has made it so there's too much high-end talent to pass up for a short-term play.

But it could mean a windfall is coming for a position sorely in need of it.

Note: This list is intended for a variety of Fantasy formats and thus weighs short-term role against long-term value. Not all of these players will contribute in 2020 — most, in fact, will not — but among prospects, they're the names Fantasy owners most need to know.

1. Jesus Luzardo, Athletics

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: Rookie, high Class A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: 2-1, 2.51 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 43 IP, 8 BB, 57 K
Major-league stats: 0-0, 1.50 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 12 IP, 3 BB, 16 K

A strained rotator cuff prevented Luzardo from claiming a rotation spot in spring training, and a strained lat kept him from doing it midseason. While his debut ultimately came in relief, it was as seamless as advertised, positioning him for an ace turn in 2020 with his three plus pitches and pinpoint command.

2. MacKenzie Gore, Padres

Age (on opening day): 21
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: 9-2, 1.69 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 101 IP, 28 BB, 135 K

The third overall pick in 2017 was always going to need some breaking in, being drafted out of high school, but is now beginning to look like the most talented pitcher in all the minors, falling just a few innings short of setting an all-time record with a 1.02 ERA in the notoriously hitter-friendly California League. He's like a left-handed Walker Buehler with his two plus breaking balls, and his long reach makes his fastball appear even faster.

3. Casey Mize, Tigers

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: 8-3, 2.55 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 109 1/3 IP, 23 BB, 106 K

A bout with shoulder inflammation derailed what was a storybook first season for last year's No. 1 pick -- one in which he put together a 0.92 ERA through 13 starts. It raises some durability concerns perhaps, but such efficient mastery of Double-A at such an early stage of development obviously speaks to his upside and readiness. More of the same in 2020 will necessitate a midseason call-up, rebuild or not. 

4. Michael Kopech, White Sox

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: Did not play -- injured
2018 minors: 7-7, 3.70 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 126 1/3 IP, 60 BB, 170 K

The 5.02 ERA from Kopech's four-start debut back in 2018 is misleading. One horrible start tipped off the need for Tommy John surgery, which has kept him sidelined since. But the buildup to that debut saw the prospect made famous for a 105-mph fastball dial it back just enough to find the strike zone with it, and the result was a 1.84 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 12.1 K/9 over his final seven minor-league starts.

5. Nate Pearson, Blue Jays

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: 5-4, 2.30 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 101 2/3 IP, 27 BB, 119 K

After a fractured forearm sidelined him for most of the previous year, Pearson was one of the biggest prospect risers of 2019, introducing himself as sort of the next Kopech with an 80-grade fastball and wipeout slider. The Blue Jays were excessively cautious with his workload, often limiting him to two innings in the early going and not letting him exceed five until almost August, so we'll need to see how his ratios hold up the third time through a lineup.

6. Forrest Whitley, Astros

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: Rookie, high Class A, Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: 3-7, 7.99 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 59 2/3 IP, 44 BB, 86 K

What was supposed to be his final push to the majors turned into a nightmare scenario for the ex-No. 1 pitching prospect whose command totally abandoned him. But there were whispers of him tweaking his mechanics to maintain better posture after some early-season shoulder issues, and Whitley appeared to be back in form in the Arizona Fall League, compiling a 2.88 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 11.5 K/9 across six starts. 

7. Brendan McKay, Rays

Age (on opening day): 24
Where he played in 2019: Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: 6-0, 1.10 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 73 2/3 IP, 18 BB, 102 K 
Major-league stats: 2-4, 5.14 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 49 IP, 16 BB, 56 K  

While the Rays haven't totally abandoned the idea of making him a two-way player, they reached a point this summer when they could no longer hold back McKay's arm, which had carved up every level of minor-league competition with pinpoint control and a difficult-to-square cutter. He lacks a true swing-and-miss pitch, so you can't expect him to dominate the majors as thoroughly, but the floor is high.

8. Matt Manning, Tigers

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: Double-A
Minor-league stats: 11-5, 2.56 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 133 2/3 IP, 38 BB, 148 K

Though he has never been wanting for strikeouts, Manning's overall performance has only improved with each step up the minor-league ladder, finally bringing him to a point where the scouts buy into the numbers instead of assuming his length will make his delivery unrepeatable. The son of an NBA player, Manning's 6-foot-6 reach causes his already lively fastball to sneak up on hitters, but it's the curve that sets him apart.  

9. Ian Anderson, Braves

Age (on opening day): 21
Where he played in 2019: Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: 8-7, 3.38 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 135 2/3 IP, 65 BB, 172 K

The third overall pick in the 2016 may finally be at the precipice of the majors after thoroughly dominating Double-A with a 2.68 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 11.9 K/9, but the trappings of a juiced ball-infused Triple-A got the better of him late in the year. There's disagreement over what his ultimate ceiling might be given some of his inconsistencies, but he gets bonus points for his deceptive, over-the-top delivery and his advanced pitch sequencing.

10. Sixto Sanchez, Marlins

Age (on opening day): 21
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: 8-6, 2.76 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 114 IP, 21 BB, 103 K

If there's one thing the new Marlins regime seems to do well it's develop pitchers, so it's fitting that the oft-celebrated but slow-moving Phillies farmhand appears to have taken the next step under their watch. Simply crossing the 100-inning threshold makes the majors seem more attainable, and while Sanchez has never had the big strikeout rate to match the front-line stuff, it's partly because he's so good at throwing strikes.

11. A.J. Puk, Athletics

Age (on opening day): 24
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: 4-1, 4.97 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 25 1/3 IP, 10 BB, 38 K
Major-league stats: 2-0, 3.18 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 11 1/3 IP, 5 BB, 13 K 

Puk has already made his return from Tommy John surgery, getting a late-season look in relief this year, but the hope is he shows up next spring throwing the way that nearly won him a rotation spot in 2018, before the elbow trouble surfaced. As a tall lefty with a high-90s fastball and devastating slider, he has the look of a Randy Johnson lite and, fittingly, has some control issues to work through still.

12. Mitch Keller, Pirates

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: 7-5, 3.56 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 103 2/3 IP, 35 BB, 123 K
Major-league stats: 1-5, 7.13 ERA, 1.83 WHIP, 48 IP, 16 BB, 65 K   

Though it has held back his numbers at times, all the work Keller has put into making his changeup a decent third offering may finally be paying off. He was one of the most effective pitchers at a level that was ravaged by juiced balls, and though his major-league stat line is nothing to write home about, his respectable swinging-strike rate and 3.47 xFIP point to him becoming a quality pitcher, as long predicted.

13. Luis Patino, Padres

Age (on opening day): 20
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: 6-8, 2.57 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 94 2/3 IP, 38 BB, 123 K

Patino has a special kind of fastball that not only offers premium velocity but also late movement, and once he began throwing strikes consistently with it, he took off, compiling a 2.31 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 11.6 K/9 over his final 17 starts. Advancing to Double-A as a teenager is itself a testament to his upside, so the big question is which of he, Gore and Chris Paddack will be the Padres' ace two years from now.

14. Dustin May, Dodgers

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: 6-5, 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 106 2/3 IP, 29 BB, 110 K
Major-league stats: 2-3, 3.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 34 2/3 IP, 5 BB, 32 K

May loses a little luster in Fantasy circles given that his game is geared more for generating ground balls than missing bats, but clearly, there's a baseline level of talent here from which the Dodgers are sure to extract something worthwhile. He has three plus pitches, including a high-spin curveball that may be the key to unlocking an even higher ceiling and an advanced feel for pitching that showed in his 2019 debut.

15. Brusdar Graterol, Twins

Age (on opening day): 21
Where he played in 2019: Rookie, Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: 7-0, 1.92 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 61 IP, 23 BB, 61 K
Major-league stats: 1-1, 4.66 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 9 2/3 IP, 2 BB, 10 K 

Graterol appeared to be making an ace turn at Double-A before a shoulder impingement sidelined him for 2 1/2 months, necessitating a move to the bullpen if he was going to be of any help to the big club down the stretch. Presumably headed back to the minors to await a rotation opening, Graterol will continue to work on a third pitch to bring out the most of his arsenal, but even with what he has, he could succeed as a ground-ball specialist.

16. Tarik Skubal, Tigers

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: 6-8, 2.42 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 122 2/3 IP, 37 BB, 179 K

The breakout nobody saw coming had a higher K/9 (13.1) than any of the pitchers ahead of him on this list, and it jumped to an unfathomable 17.4 in his nine starts at Double-A. Some lists will play it safer than this, but I see no obvious control issues and a fully developed secondary arsenal (featuring not one, but two swing-and-miss breaking balls) from a guy who's already within shouting distance of the majors.

17. Grayson Rodriguez, Orioles

Age (on opening day): 20
Where he played in 2019: low Class A
Minor-league stats: 10-4, 2.68 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 94 IP, 36 BB, 129 K

As a high school hurler drafted as recently as 2018, Rodriguez may seem like he's far away still, but the strides he made in 2019 may have been transformative enough to put him on the fast track. There are shades of Jose Fernandez here with a fully developed secondary arsenal and strong command of it all, but what stands out most is a fastball that continues to pick up velocity to go along with armside run.

18. Matthew Liberatore, Rays

Age (on opening day): 20
Where he played in 2019: low Class A
Minor-league stats: 6-2, 3.10 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 78 1/3 IP, 31 BB, 76 K

Particularly for someone so far down the ladder, Liberatore's numbers may not blow you away, but the left-hander is already so advanced that he's sort of just playing out the string in the minors, his mobility stalled so that the Rays can up his innings responsibly. His ceiling will ultimately depend on how well he commands his secondary arsenal, but he's about as safe as a recent high school draftee can be.

19. Spencer Howard, Phillies

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: Rookie, high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: 3-1, 2.03 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 71 IP, 16 BB, 94 K

Howard is only beginning to realize his massive potential, and losing two months to shoulder soreness this year didn't help. Ultimately, though, his fastball was too overpowering to keep him out of Double-A, and judging by the early results there, the same may hold true for Triple-A. At this point, it's mostly about developing consistency with his secondary arsenal, which shows potential, but he'll need some reps.

20. Logan Gilbert, Mariners

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: low Class A, high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: 10-5, 2.13 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 135 IP, 33 BB, 165 K

As with Howard, Gilbert's development may lag behind his production a bit, not that two promotions did anything to slow him down. The long levers of his 6-foot-6 frame helped make his fastball difficult to hit but also made the motion of his breaking balls inconsistent. He had no trouble finding the strike zone with them, though, and clearly saw his stock rise with his rapid ascent up the minor-league ladder.

21. Brent Honeywell, Rays

Age (on opening day): 24
Where he played in 2019: Did not play -- injured
2017 minors: 13-9, 3.49 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 136 2/3 IP, 35 BB, 172 K

As if needing Tommy John surgery while at the precipice of his major-league debut wasn't bad enough, Honeywell then fractured his elbow while on the road to recovery, so the last time he started a competitive game was back in 2017. It's impossible to say whether his stuff will be the same that made him arguably the top pitching prospect then, but at last check, he boasted a ridiculous five-pitch arsenal that included a screwball.

22. Kyle Wright, Braves

Age (on opening day): 24
Where he played in 2019: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: 11-4, 4.17 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 112 1/3, 35 BB, 116 K
Major-league stats: 0-3, 8.69 ERA, 1.88 WHIP, 19 2/3 IP, 13 BB, 18 K 

It's true Wright has some residual shine as the fifth overall pick in 2017, but after a miserable start to 2019 that actually began with him in the big-league rotation, he recovered to deliver a 2.61 ERA, 1.18 and 10.2 K/9 in his final 10 minor-league starts, all with the juiced balls at Triple-A. He has the ingredients to succeed -- a high-velocity fastball and complete secondary arsenal -- but needs to shore up his command and settle on a plan of attack.

23. Edward Cabrera, Marlins

Age (on opening day): 21
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: 9-4, 2.23 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 96 2/3 IP, 31 BB, 116 K

Sixto Sanchez has rated among the top pitching prospects for a couple years now, but Cabrera was such a triumph for the Marlins farm system this past year that scouts believe his ceiling may be about as high. His fastball is among the best in the minors, pushing triple digits with some sink, but it's the improvement of his secondary pitchers as well as his command that have moved him up the most.

24. DL Hall, Orioles

Age (on opening day): 21
Where he played in 2019: high Class A
Minor-league stats: 4-5, 3.46 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 80 2/3 IP, 54 BB, 116 K

Hall's 6.0 BB/9 this year immediately stands out as a problem, but a trip to the Futures Game in July seemed to put him on the right path, dropping that rate to 4.0 over his final five starts. His delivery is athletic and repeatable, so scouts don't expect control to be a long-term hindrance. The stuff, meanwhile, is electric, and he already has the breaking ball and changeup needed for his 70-grade fastball to play up. 

25. Deivi Garcia, Yankees

Age (on opening day): 20
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: 5-9, 4.28 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 111 1/3 IP, 54 BB, 165 K  

The Yankees moved Garcia aggressively during a breakout season that saw him rise two levels, prompting whispers he could get a late-season look in the bullpen. Already equipped with a north-to-south curveball, the addition of a slider gave hitters another plane to contend with, combining with his high-spin fastball to give him one of the best swing-and-miss arsenals in the minors. His small size gives some evaluators pause, as do the walks, but there's a lot to like here.

26. Shane Baz, Rays

Age (on opening day): 20
Where he played in 2019: low Class A
Minor-league stats: 3-2, 2.99 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 81 1/3 IP, 37 BB, 87 K

Baz is pure stuff at this stage of his development, but there's already evidence he's in the right hands with the Rays, who've transitioned him from a guy who generates ground balls with sinkers and curveballs to a guy who generates whiffs with four-seamers and sliders. It's a power arsenal for a pitcher with plenty to spare, and it gives him a foundation similar to another Rays success story, Tyler Glasnow, who came over in the same trade as Baz. Syncing up his his delivery will be the key to finding consistency.

27. Hunter Greene, Reds

Age (on opening day): 20
Where he played in 2019: Did not play -- injured
2018 minors: 3-7, 4.48 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 68 1/3 IP, 23 BB, 89 K

Greene's upside has been hyped since the Reds made him the second overall pick in the 2017 draft, but he still hasn't gotten much of a chance to show it because of an elbow ligament issue that ultimately required Tommy John surgery. Hopefully, having that chance reset will be what gets his development off the ground, because while we all like the idea of a guy who throws 103 mph, there's work to be done with his secondary arsenal.

28. Brady Singer, Royals

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: 12-5, 2.85 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 148 1/3 IP, 39 BB, 138 K

The Royals selected four pitchers in the first round of the 2018 draft (Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch and Kris Bubic), and they're all so similar in performance and projection that ranking them feels like playing favorites. Singer was the highest drafted at 18th overall and seems like the lowest-risk of the bunch, exhibiting plus control with strong ground-ball tendencies.

29. Nick Lodolo, Reds

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: Rookie, low Class A
Minor-league stats: 0-1, 2.45 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 18 1/3 IP, 0 BB, 30 K

The first pitcher selected in this past year's draft, Lodolo showed his polish by steamrolling the lower minors, his strikeout-to-walk ratio basically telling the story there, and should make quick work of the minor leagues in general. He's not thought to have an ace ceiling, but being a near-finished product makes him well worth the investment in dynasty, especially since his command and three-pitch arsenal give him such a high floor.

30. Josiah Gray, Dodgers

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: low Class A, high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: 11-2, 2.28 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 130 IP, 31 BB, 147 K

Gray was an intriguing prospect in the Reds system last year, so of course the Dodgers have maxed out the projection, watching him rise two levels with a running fastball that induced weak contact when he wasn't straight-up blowing it by hitters. He edges out the Mariners duo of Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield for this final spot in part because I trust the organization handling him and in part because he so thoroughly dominated, his highest ERA between the three levels being 2.75.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Raised in Atlanta by a board game-loving family during the dawn of the '90s Braves dynasty, Scott White was easy prey for the Fantasy Sports, in particular Fantasy Baseball, and has devoted his adulthood... Full Bio

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