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One prospect to watch on each team

February 13, 2020

The future is now. As Spring Training gets underway, there will be position battles and players with much to prove. But there will also be highly touted prospects who will be putting their talents on display against Major Leaguers during Cactus League and Grapefruit League action. Here's a guide to

The future is now. As Spring Training gets underway, there will be position battles and players with much to prove. But there will also be highly touted prospects who will be putting their talents on display against Major Leaguers during Cactus League and Grapefruit League action. Here's a guide to help navigate the prospect landscape and identify the players from each organization you should keep your eye on.

MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

BLUE JAYS: Nate Pearson, RHP (No. 8 on top 100)

The Blue Jays’ No. 1 prospect enters camp as one of the club’s biggest stories. Pearson’s fastball routinely touches 100 mph, but his excellent slider can make him truly dangerous on the mound. He’s made just three starts in Triple-A, so the likely outcome is that Pearson starts in Buffalo and joins the Blue Jays midway through the season. But his spring starts should be circled on your calendar in bright red ink. -- Keegan Matheson

ORIOLES: Ryan Mountcastle, 1B/OF (No. 94 on top 100)

Mountcastle has some of the best all-fields power in Minor League Baseball. He’s also the reigning MVP of the International League, having hit .312/.344/.527 with 25 home runs in his first crack at Triple-A. There are questions regarding his plate discipline and defensive home. But the soon-to-be-23-year-old is going to be one of the bigger draws at Orioles camp, and could make a run at the Opening Day roster with a good showing in Grapefruit League play. -- Joe Trezza

YANKEES: Deivi Garcia, RHP (No. 92 on top 100)

Garcia, the Yankees’ No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline, dominated at the Class A and Double-A levels last year with an electric arsenal that got him to Triple-A by season’s end. He figures to be in the mix for the No. 5 starter vacancy, and while the Yankees would prefer to see Garcia get more seasoning in the Minors, they may not be able to hold back a hurler who has received favorable comparisons to Pedro Martinez. -- Bryan Hoch

RED SOX: Tanner Houck, RHP

The fifth-starter competition is wide open, so keep an eye on Houck, Boston’s first-round pick from 2017. A non-roster invitee this spring, Houck would have to show command of his changeup to win the spot. He has a fastball that can hit 98, but he’s better when he focuses on his two-seamer. His slider is nasty on righties. Houck could also factor into the bullpen mix -- he got bullpen exposure at Triple-A Pawtucket with 14 relief appearances last season. -- Ian Browne

RAYS: Wander Franco, SS (No. 1 on top 100)

It remains to be seen if Franco makes his MLB debut in 2020, but buzz around camp has already begun. Franco has the tools to become a superstar, but the one that stands out is his hitting. MLB Pipeline gave Franco an 80 hit grade, and he backed it up by slashing .339/.408/.464 at Class A Advanced Charlotte. There’s a chance he starts the season with Double-A Montgomery, but he could make an appearance at Tropicana Field in 2020. -- Juan Toribio

AL CENTRAL

INDIANS: Daniel Johnson, OF

With the overcrowded outfield, Johnson may not head north with the Tribe out of Spring Training, but the 24-year-old will certainly be on the club’s radar. After an impressive showing during Spring Training last year, he hit .306 with an .867 OPS for Triple-A Columbus. Johnson’s above-average defense and outstanding arm will also be entertaining to watch in camp. If he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, it may not be long before he reaches the Majors. -- Mandy Bell

ROYALS: Nick Heath, OF

Heath may not crack the 26-man roster out of camp. But there seems little doubt that Heath, who stole 60 bases between Double-A and Triple-A last season, will get the call to the big leagues at some point this season. “I hope so,” manager Mike Matheny said. “He’s a center fielder who can flat-out go get it.” -- Jeffrey Flanagan

TIGERS: Bryan Garcia, RHP

While other starting pitchers will get the bulk of the attention in Tigertown this spring for what they mean to Detroit’s future, Garcia has the chance to help in the big leagues right now. The former University of Miami closer was on the fast track to the Majors before Tommy John surgery in 2018. He made his Major League debut as a September callup last year, and could follow Joe Jiménez’s previous path up the bullpen pecking order. -- Jason Beck

TWINS: Royce Lewis, SS (No. 9 on top 100)

Lewis is coming off a disappointing ‘19 campaign in the Minors followed by a red-hot stint in the Arizona Fall League, where the former No. 1 overall pick was named MVP. The 20-year-old won’t crack the Opening Day roster, but his speed and athleticism should be on display throughout camp if the Twins opt for a slow ramp-up for starting shortstop Jorge Polanco. Lewis needs to refine his hitting for his production to play up to his potential. -- Do-Hyoung Park

WHITE SOX: Luis Robert, OF (No. 3 on top 100)

Robert had an injury-plagued 2018 campaign where he finished without a home run and a .694 OPS over 50 games. Those numbers climbed significantly over three Minor League stops in 2019, where the 22-year-old slashed .328/.376/.624 with 32 homers and 36 steals. The White Sox are confident this five-tool talent could end up as the fulcrum of the entire rebuild, as evidenced by the six-year, $50 million contract he signed this offseason. -- Scott Merkin

AL WEST

ANGELS: Jo Adell, OF (No. 6 on top 100)

Adell will compete with Brian Goodwin for the starting job in right field. Goodwin remains the favorite, but Adell is the club’s best prospect since Mike Trout and brings speed, power and plate discipline. Adell struggled at Triple-A last year, which is why he may start the season in the Minors. He could still be called up early in the season if he fares well, and he is in any case expected to make his MLB debut this season. -- Rhett Bollinger

ASTROS: Forrest Whitley, RHP (No. 19 on top 100)

Whitley once again comes to camp with high expectations following a disappointing season. In 2018, his season was cut short by a suspension and an injury. Last year, he posted a 7.99 ERA with 44 walks and 86 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings over four Minor League levels. But he finished strong with another eye-opening performance in the Arizona Fall League, and could compete for a spot at the bottom of Houston’s rotation. -- Brian McTaggart

ATHLETICS: Daulton Jefferies, RHP

After an impressive first season back from Tommy John surgery that earned him A’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors by MLB Pipeline in 2019, Jefferies enters Spring Training expecting to be restriction-free. He’s yet to pitch above Double-A, so it’s unlikely he’s on the big league club come Opening Day, but Jefferies stands a good chance to earn a call-up at some point this season if he continues his success at Triple-A Las Vegas, where he’s likely to begin the season. -- Martin Gallegos

MARINERS: Jarred Kelenic, OF (No. 11 on top 100)

The biggest prospect to keep an eye on this spring is Kelenic, as he’ll be looking to set the stage for a possible promotion to the big leagues later this year. The Mariners intend to start the 20-year-old at Double-A Arkansas, where he finished last season. But they’re leaving the door open for a second-half arrival if Kelenic continues his surge, with center field the likeliest target for the prized prospect acquired from the Mets in the Robinson Canó deal. -- Greg Johns

RANGERS: Leody Taveras, CF

The 21-year-old switch-hitter is a plus defensive player in center. He played in 65 games at Double-A Frisco and hit .265/.320/.375. The Rangers have challenged Taveras during his development and he has often been one of the youngest players in his league. That’s why he doesn’t have gaudy offensive numbers. Texas would like to see more offensive improvement, but his defensive skills make him a player to watch on a team that could use a premium center fielder. -- T.R. Sullivan

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

BRAVES: Kyle Wright, RHP (No. 52 on top 100)

Wright has gained Major League experience over the past two seasons, but his inconsistencies last year created reason to remember he’s thrown less than 300 professional innings. The right-hander could fill a spot in Atlanta’s rotation while Cole Hamels misses at least three weeks with a sore left shoulder. But the goal is for him to become a mainstay within the rotation this year. His repertoire includes two fastballs, a pair of breaking balls and a changeup. -- Matt Bowman

MARLINS: Sixto Sanchez, RHP (No. 22 on top 100)

Even though the Marlins are handling their top prospect with care and insisting he won’t be rushed, it’s clearly just a matter of time before Sanchez takes that next step to the big leagues. Just 21, Sanchez projects to start off at Triple-A Wichita. If he shows he’s ready, he could be in the big leagues as early as June. Ultimately, performance and an organizational plan will be part of that process, as will be managing his innings. -- Joe Frisaro

METS: David Peterson, LHP

Peterson’s climb through the Minors hasn’t always been smooth, but he found some success at Double-A Binghamton last season and, at age 24, appears ready for a jump to Triple-A Syracuse. A lefty with a heavy fastball and one of the lowest home run rates in Minor League Baseball, Peterson could be a contributor as soon as this season. If nothing else, he’ll likely start a few games early in Spring Training. -- Anthony DiComo

NATIONALS: Carter Kieboom, INF (No. 21 on top 100)

Kieboom will not only vie for a spot on the Major League roster, but will do so at a new position. Kieboom, who played the majority of innings at shortstop last season in Triple-A, will be tasked with a new role at third base following the departure of Anthony Rendon. The Nationals will be watching the 22-year-old’s growth at the plate, too. He hit .128/.209/.282 in 11 Major League games and .303/.409/.493 (16 home runs) for Fresno last season. -- Jessica Camerato

PHILLIES: Spencer Howard, RHP (No. 34 on top 100)

The Phillies are relatively thin in the rotation, which is why many inside the organization are hoping that Howard starts the season pitching well in Triple-A. If he does and the Phillies need rotation help come mid-May, it is easy to see Howard pushing for a promotion. The Phillies believe he is the real deal, which is why so far, they are unwilling to consider trading him, even for somebody like Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. -- Todd Zolecki

NL CENTRAL

BREWERS: Drew Rasmussen, RHP

Rasmussen will be fascinating to watch for a couple of reasons, starting with a fastball that touches triple digits. He pitched at three Minor League levels in 2019 -- Class A Wisconsin, Class A Advanced Carolina and Double-A Huntsville -- while striking out 77 batters in 61 innings. He’s unlikely to crack the Opening Day bullpen, but it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility that Rasmussen could see Triple-A at some point this year, and maybe even Milwaukee by season’s end. -- Adam McCalvy

CARDINALS: Dylan Carlson, OF (No. 17 on top 100)

The Cardinals will be monitoring Carlson as a candidate for their outfield vacancy, and the 21-year-old switch-hitter has a shot to make his MLB debut this season. There are still some outfielders ahead of Carlson in terms of Major League experience. But Carlson’s numbers last year can’t be ignored: .281/.364/.518 in 108 games with Double-A Springfield and .361/.418/.681 in 18 games for Triple-A Memphis. If he has a good spring, Carlson could crack the Opening Day roster. -- Anne Rogers

CUBS: Nico Hoerner, INF/OF (No. 51 on top 100)

Hoerner has a real shot at cracking Chicago's Opening Day roster. The 22-year-old was summoned from Double-A last September as an emergency replacement for shortstop Javier Báez. Hoerner held his own both at short and in the batter's box. This spring, the Cubs will be monitoring him closely as a candidate for the vacancy at second base. The front office and player development staff will also be debating whether Hoerner would be better served by opening with Triple-A Iowa. -- Jordan Bastian

PIRATES: Mitch Keller, RHP (No. 39 on top 100)

Keller dealt with game-calling issues and extremely bad luck last year, but he also didn’t help himself often enough, going 1-5 with a 7.13 ERA and 1.83 WHIP during his debut. There’s a lot to like about Keller, and the Pirates know they can’t afford to waste his talent. Keep an eye on his development, because he could change the dynamic of Pittsburgh’s rotation in a hurry if he pitches up to his potential. -- Adam Berry

REDS: Nick Lodolo, LHP (No. 48 on top 100)

Lodolo is on an express route to the Major Leagues. Over 18 1/3 innings combined in the Pioneer and Midwest Leagues, he notched 30 strikeouts and zero walks while posting a 2.45 ERA. Lodolo projects to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues, but there is a feeling he could reach even higher. He needs to improve his secondary stuff, namely his changeup. Despite having a competitive personality, Lodolo demonstrates composure in the heat of battle. -- Mark Sheldon

NL WEST

D-BACKS: Daulton Varsho, C (No. 76 on top 100)

While it’s unlikely he opens the season in the Majors, we might see Varsho in a D-backs uniform at some point this year. A catcher by trade, Varsho demonstrated his athleticism by playing center field for Jackson during the Double-A playoffs. The organization still views him as a catcher, but his versatility could get him to the big leagues faster. Last year at Jackson, he slashed .301/.378/.520 and was the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year. -- Steve Gilbert

DODGERS: Gavin Lux, SS/2B (No. 2 on top 100)

Gavin Lux is the one player other teams wanted in trade talks with the Dodgers over the winter, and the one player the Dodgers wouldn’t trade. There is nothing that screams “prospect to watch” like being untouchable. The 22-year-old middle infielder was the 16th overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, and projects as a perennial .300 hitter with 25-30 home runs and 15-20 steals in the Majors. -- Ken Gurnick

GIANTS: Joey Bart, C (No. 14 on top 100)

Bart isn’t viewed as a candidate for the Opening Day roster, but it shouldn’t be long before the 23-year-old catcher is ready to debut in San Francisco. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 Draft, Bart reached Double-A Richmond last year and emerged as one of the most promising prospects in the Arizona Fall League before fracturing his right thumb. He’ll likely open the season at Triple-A, though he could force the issue with a huge spring. -- Maria Guardado

PADRES: MacKenzie Gore, LHP (No. 5 on top 100)

Gore is in big league camp for the first time, but he has a shot at making an impact this season -- and perhaps even cracking the Opening Day rotation. He’s coming off a season in which he posted a 1.69 ERA at two separate levels of the Minors. A season ago, Chris Paddack was in the same situation, and he earned his way into the rotation. There’s no reason to think Gore couldn’t do the same thing. -- AJ Cassavell

ROCKIES: Sam Hilliard, OF

Called to the Majors last August, Hilliard hammered seven home runs, four doubles and two triples in 77 at-bats. Can he slug his way into the lineup this spring and maintain into the season, or will he need Triple-A time to hone his style? Interestingly, one of Hilliard’s hitting mentors is Brad Hawpe, who in the first decade of the century went from a lower-round pick to a mainstay in right field for the Rox. -- Thomas Harding