10 prospects who could have big impacts in '20
Much like a big Trade Deadline deal, calling up a top prospect can provide a quick jolt to a team’s postseason chances. The effect of adding a star rookie to the mix could be even more pronounced during a 60-game sprint to the playoffs in 2020.
Here are the 10 rookies who could have the biggest influence on the 2020 postseason field.
Jo Adell, OF, Angels
The signing of third baseman Anthony Rendon should take some of the pressure off reigning American League MVP Mike Trout, but the Halos’ roster remains extremely top-heavy. Adell (MLB’s No. 6 prospect) could help balance things out and make a rebound from 32-year-old left fielder Justin Upton less imperative. Adell, 21, struggled in Triple-A last season, posting a .676 OPS with no home runs over 131 plate appearances, but he finished with an .834 OPS overall and is considered to be one of the most powerful prospects in the game. Although Brian Goodwin is coming off a career-high 17 homers and 109 OPS+ last season, the Angels are unlikely to hold Adell back if they think the youngster is ready.
Jesús Luzardo, LHP, Athletics
The addition of Luzardo (MLB’s No. 12 prospect) could change the makeup of Oakland’s rotation in 2020. The A’s have won 97 games and earned an AL Wild Card spot in each of the past two seasons, but their starters have recorded a 6.9 K/9 in that span, the lowest in MLB. The 22-year-old southpaw posted a 10.8 K/9 in his Minor League career and fanned 16 batters over 12 innings in relief down the stretch for Oakland in 2019. Luzardo continued to impress in Spring Training earlier this year, recording a 1.08 ERA with 13 K’s in 8 1/3 innings spanning three starts. Beyond Luzardo, rookie catcher Sean Murphy (MLB's No. 33 prospect) and 6-foot-7 lefty A.J. Puk (No. 60) also could prove to be key contributors for Oakland this season.
Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays
After losing 95 games in 2019, could Toronto make some noise in this shortened season? If the team’s young core of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. continues to progress, and its rebuilt rotation led by Hyun-Jin Ryu lives up to expectations, then it’s possible. The X-factor might be the 23-year-old Pearson, a 6-foot-6 righty who recorded a 2.30 ERA with 119 strikeouts and 27 walks over 101 2/3 Minor League innings last year. With his overpowering arsenal, Pearson (MLB’s No. 8 prospect) would bring an element to the Blue Jays’ starting staff that the quintet of Ryu, Matt Shoemaker, Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson and Trent Thornton lacks.
Dylan Carlson, OF, Cardinals
St. Louis’ outfielders recorded a .755 OPS last season, which ranked 20th in the Majors and was the lowest among clubs that made the postseason, and left fielder Marcell Ozuna (.800 OPS in 2019) left the Cards to sign with the Braves. Before Spring Training was postponed, Carlson (MLB’s No. 17 prospect) was making a strong bid for an Opening Day roster spot, hitting .313/.436/.469 in 39 plate appearances. A switch-hitter with a well-rounded skill set, Carlson was one of 10 Minor Leaguers to notch at least 20 homers and 20-plus steals in 2019.
MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres
The Padres have a number of potentially solid starting options behind budding ace Chris Paddack, but none with the ceiling of Gore, the third overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft and MLB’s current No. 1 pitching prospect (No. 5 overall). San Diego projects to be a bubble team in the NL playoff picture, but if Gore debuts early on and dominates as a rookie, he could help the Padres make the postseason for the first time since 2006. The 21-year-old lefty recorded a 1.69 ERA with 135 K’s and 28 walks over 101 innings between Class A Advanced and Double-A last season.
Alec Bohm, 3B, and Spencer Howard, RHP, Phillies
The universal DH is expected to push Jay Bruce into regular duty, but in a 60-game season, the Phillies won’t be able to wait around for the streaky slugger to get going. If Bruce, who owns a .219/.287/.445 (96 OPS+) slash line since the beginning of 2018, continues to struggle, Philadelphia could quickly turn to Bohm (MLB’s No. 30 prospect). The 23-year-old also could be pressed into action if center fielder Adam Haseley doesn’t hit enough, forcing the Phils to use Scott Kingery in center and Jean Segura at second, with Bohm taking over at third. Bohm, the third overall pick in the 2018 Draft, finished 2019 with a .305/.378/.518 line and 21 homers in 125 games, including 63 at Double-A.
Howard (No. 34), too, could find himself with a prominent role soon after Opening Day, as Philadelphia’s rotation is very much up in the air behind Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Jake Arrieta. Although he missed two months due to right shoulder soreness last season, Howard made great progress with his changeup and recorded a 2.03 ERA with 94 K’s and 16 walks over 71 innings.
Wander Franco, SS, Rays
MLB’s No. 1 overall prospect, Franco is only 19 years old and hasn’t played at a level higher than Class A Advanced, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Tampa Bay find a place for him later in the season. Franco is the second prospect ever to receive an 80-grade hit tool from MLB Pipeline after Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and he has an advanced grasp of the strike zone, as evidenced by his 83-to-54 BB/K ratio over 768 plate appearances in the Minors.
Michael Kopech, RHP, and Luis Robert, OF, White Sox
While the White Sox bolstered their roster with a handful of veterans in the offseason, including Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnación, Gio González, Nomar Mazara and Steve Cishek, they still need their young players to progress in 2020. Given the question marks in their rotation, Kopech could be vital to Chicago’s postseason quest. The 24-year-old righty is more than 21 months removed from Tommy John surgery, and he touched 101 mph in his first outing during Spring Training back in early March.
Robert, meanwhile, is coming off a 32-homer, 36-steal, 1.001-OPS season in the Minors and is expected to be the White Sox starting center fielder going forward. If he provides similar production during his rookie year, Chicago’s offense might be able to carry it to the playoffs, even if its pitching staff repeats last season’s 4.90 ERA.