It's fair to say 2020 isn't the season for prospect hunting in Fantasy baseball. We're completely in the dark, as far as their development goes. Media coverage is limited to hearsay, and there are no stats for us to track a player's progress. It leaves little to analyze — or even anticipate, really — which means every prospect call-up will, to some degree, catch us by surprise.
But teams haven't been shy about promoting their prospects. Just in the past week, we've seen Alec Bohm, Dylan Carlson and Cristian Pache reach the big leagues, as well as Tigers hurlers Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal. Before them came Nate Pearson, Jo Adell, Spencer Howard and Nick Madrigal.
Of course, none of them have actually done anything notable — and the whole point of stashing a prospect in Fantasy is for the potential impact he could make when he does get the call — but what the most recent prospect call-up does of course has no bearing on what the next one does.
So who is the next one? Turns out it's Joey Bart, who was called up mere minutes after this piece was first published. Here's my scouting report for him:
2019 stats: .278 BA (313 AB), 16 HR, .824 OPS, 21 BB, 71 K
Several on the Giants beat were speculating as early as three weeks ago that Bart could be on the verge of joining the big club, what with veteran catcher Buster Posey choosing to opt out and all. It finally happened Thursday, and he'll presumably take over as the primary catcher and part-time first baseman.
Given that Bart was only drafted in 2018 and has lost significant development time since then to injury, this is an aggressive promotion at an especially demanding position. Given how few catchers have offered anything halfway usable in Fantasy so far, it makes all the sense in the world to take a flier on him, though the transition to the majors tends to be most challenging for players at this position because of the defensive demands.
And then came Sixto Sanchez just a couple hours later! Here's how I see that one going:
Sixto Sanchez, SP, Marlins
2019 stats: 8-6, 2.76 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 114 IP, 21 BB, 103 K
The Marlins have relied on a patchwork rotation since returning from their COVID-19 quarantine and would still have only three established starters even with Sandy Alcantara coming back. So it's refreshing to hear that their top prospect will be up for this weekend's series against the Mets, presumably to join the rotation.
His stuff has so consistently earned rave reviews that the suspect strikeout rate is just a side note. Like with Mize, I expect him to have more strikeout success once he's forced to work deeper counts against major-league hitters. His sinking fastball should make him enough of a ground-ball pitcher that he won't necessarily need an elite strikeout rate to matter in Fantasy, and since basically every team could use another starting pitcher, you should definitely make a play for him.
Those are two big call-ups, but there are eight more big-name prospects that I think have a reasonable chance of reaching the majors in the next few weeks, making them potential lottery tickets for those with the means to stash them. They're loosely listed in the order I'd choose to stash them, but it depends somewhat on format and need.
The two most notable exclusions are Rays shortstop Wander Franco, who's widely considered the top prospect in the game, and Mariners outfielder Jarred Kelenic. We already have pretty good indication they won't be getting the call this year, though their parent clubs could still have a change of heart.
With that in mind, here are the eight best remaining prospects to stash.
MacKenzie Gore, SP, Padres
2019 stats: 9-2, 1.69 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 101 IP, 28 BB, 135 K
The biggest call-up upset so far was the younger and less hyped Luis Patino beating his future rotation mate to the big leagues, but Gore, for being the top pitching prospect in baseball, didn't exactly dazzle in either spring training or summer camp. The Padres are positioned to contend and still haven't settled on a fifth starter, so it still seems likely they'll turn to Gore at some point. Stuff-wise, he's like a left-handed Walker Buehler, but with the added deception of a high leg kick.
2019 stats (minors): .347 BA (458 AB), 26 HR, 10 SB, 1.028 OPS, 61 BB, 102 K
2019 stats (majors): .240 BA (75 AB), 2 HR, 2 SB, .705 OPS, 7 BB, 24 K
Though we all presumed he would open 2020 as the Dodgers' starting second baseman after finishing last season in the role, Lux didn't earn it in camp. Manager Dave Roberts has insisted the snub was performance-related even amid speculation of service time manipulation, and it's worth pointing out Lux was a late report to summer camp, possibly putting him behind the eight ball. Still, after having one of the most eye-popping stat lines of any minor-leaguer last year, he will get his chance sooner than later.
Ryan Mountcastle, 1B, Orioles
2019 stats: .312 BA (520 AB), 25 HR, .871 OPS, 24 BB, 130 K
With just a little over a month remaining in the season, it would be all too easy for a rebuilding club like the Orioles to delay all their prospects until 2021, but with expanded playoffs, their near-.500 record still has them in the thick of things. At least for Mountcastle, there's the convenient excuse of him learning to play left field — no trivial matter for a player who has struggled to find a position. His prospect standing isn't as high as some on this list, but a hopeful scenario would see him produce something like Jose Abreu.
Matt Manning, SP, Tigers
2019 stats: 11-5, 2.56 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 133 2/3 IP, 38 BB, 148 K
In announcing the promotion of Casey Mize — who impressed in his MLB debut Wednesday —and Tarik Skubal earlier this week, the Tigers conspicuously left out the third leg of their pitcher prospect triumvirate, but general manager Al Avila did address the elephant in the room, telling the Detroit Free Press that Manning is still working on his command along some mechanical tweaks. Manning, a former first-rounder, already cut down on his walks at Double-A last year and has always had a penchant for strikeouts. The Tigers' willingness to pull the trigger on the other two would seem to make his arrival a foregone conclusion eventually.
Ian Anderson, SP, Braves
2019 stats: 8-7, 3.38 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 135 2/3 IP, 65 BB, 172 K
That Anderson still hasn't arrived even with the Braves down four starting pitchers (Mike Soroka, Mike Foltynewicz, Cole Hamels and Felix Hernandez) suggests they really don't think the 22-year-old is ready. And to be fair, there have been inconsistencies with his secondary arsenal, leading to some crooked numbers at Triple-A last year after he put together 2.68 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 11.9 K/9 at Double-A. Still, at some point, the need for another talented arm may overshadow the want for further development, especially if he begins turning heads at minor-league camp.
Alex Kirilloff, OF, Twins
2019 stats: .283 BA (375 AB), 9 HR, 18 2B, .756 OPS, 29 BB, 76 K
In the words of prospect evaluator Jim Callis of MLB.com, Kirilloff "has been raking" at the minor-league site, and that's about as deep as insights get into what's happening there. Nevertheless, it's an encouraging development for a player who struggled with a wrist injury last year after breaking through with a .348 batting average, 20 homers and .970 OPS in 2018. The next Byron Buxton injury could be Kirilloff's ticket to the majors, or he could also play first base if Miguel Sano continues to struggle.
Royce Lewis, SS, Twins
2019 stats: .236 BA (517 AB), 12 HR, 22 SB, .661 OPS, 38 BB, 123 K
The top overall pick in the 2017 draft was getting some buzz as a possible midseason call-up back when the midseason was still a thing, and that interest could be renewed with Luis Arraez scuffling and nursing a sore knee. Or Lewis could man center field if Buxton were to go down. He had some mechanical issues last year, dragging down his numbers, but rebounded to hit .353 with three homers and a .975 OPS in the Arizona Fall League, capturing MVP honors.
Andrew Vaughn, 1B, White Sox
2019 stats: .278 BA (205 AB), 6 HR, 17 2B, .832 OPS, 30 BB, 38 K
It would be a lot to ask from a guy who was only drafted last year and has played all of 55 games in the minors, but Vaughn was expected to move quickly and doesn't play a position that would require a lot of defensive reps. If the White Sox need another big bat down the stretch, they might be tempted to turn to him, especially now that they're in contention.