MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2020 Top 100 Prospects list with a one-hour show on MLB Network and MLB.com on Saturday, Jan. 25, at 3 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.
Could the Rookie of the Year be a left-handed pitcher in 2020? At least in the American League, there’s a very good chance.
A trio of this year’s Top 10 left-handed pitching prospects should be very large contributors to big league staffs in the AL in 2020, with Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk both having the chance to be a part of the A’s rotation and Brendan McKay almost certain to be part of the Rays’ staff at the start of the season. In the National League, don’t rule out Padres phenom MacKenzie Gore, who switches places on this list with Luzardo from a year ago, getting to San Diego early enough to figure into the voting.
There’s a total of six southpaws on this list who were there a year ago. That includes the top three in Gore, Luzardo and McKay, along with the recently traded Matthew Liberatore, now a Cardinal, Puk and the Orioles’ DL Hall. The Tigers’ Tarik Skubal is the highest-ranked newcomer, followed closely by the lone 2019 draftee on the list, the Reds’ Nick Lodolo.
The Top 10 (ETA)
1. MacKenzie Gore, Padres (2020)
2. Jesus Luzardo, A’s (2020)
3. Brendan McKay, Rays (2020)
4. Tarik Skubal, Tigers (2021)
5. Nick Lodolo, Reds (2021)
6. Matthew Liberatore, Cardinals (2022)
7. A.J. Puk, A’s (2020)
8. Daniel Lynch, Royals (2021)
9. Brailyn Marquez, Cubs (2021)
10. DL Hall, Orioles (2021)
Complete list »
Fastball: Marquez (80)
Marquez’s fastball has gotten better and better since he signed in 2015. He was in the low-90s in 2017 but was sitting 96-98 mph in 2019, and he was only 20. It’s one of the best fastballs from a lefty we’ve seen in quite some time.
Curveball: Gore, Liberatore (60)
Both have plus power breaking balls, all thrown with plus spin, depth and bite. If we had to pick just one, it might be Liberatore’s, which serves as his true out pitch.
Slider: Puk (65)
It’s hard, averaging almost 90 mph, and it’s nasty. He threw it nearly 25 percent of the time during his brief big league debut in the A’s bullpen in 2019 and had a nifty 37 percent whiff rate as a Major Leaguer.
Changeup: Luzardo (65)
It’s not just the best changeup among lefties. It’s the best changeup among all pitching prospects, period, getting some votes as the best secondary pitch among pitching prospects from executives. It has fade and sink and he commands it to both sides of the plate, getting swings and misses as well as a ton of ground-ball outs.
Control: Gore, Luzardo, McKay, Lodolo (60)
We may overuse the “pitchability lefty” label, but this group not only can command the baseball well, they do it with really good stuff. Gore’s the high man with a 2.6 BB/9 rate in the Minors (McKay is at 1.9 and Luzardo has a 2.0 rate), with all of them showing the ability to move in and out, up and down with all of their stuff. Lodolo’s just getting started, but he set the bar high by not walking a batter during his pro debut.
Highest ceiling: Gore
With 60s across the board -- four plus pitches along with plus control -- it’s hard to see him as anything but a frontline starter. Add in his projectable frame, his athleticism, his feel for pitching and the fact that he’ll be just 21 for all of the 2020 season, and it would be wrong to put any kind of ceiling on him.
Highest floor: Lodolo
Several of the southpaws on this list seem fairly sure bets to become big league starters. Lodolo’s feel for the strike zone and advanced ability to mix his pitches well already all point to a lot of confidence that he’s at least a mid-rotation starter.
Rookie of the Year candidate: McKay
How do you choose? The two A’s on this list could be in the conversation as well, but we’ll give the nod to McKay mostly because he has more time in the big leagues and will take the lessons learned into the Rays rotation in 2020. Plus, he has the ability to impact the game offensively as well.
Highest riser: Skubal
At the start of the 2019 season, Skubal was ranked No. 20 on a relatively thin Tigers’ Top 30 list. By the end of the year, after dominating across two levels and reaching Double-A, he was at No. 4 on that list and firmly a member of the Top 100.
Humblest beginning: Skubal
He’d always been known as having good stuff; it’s just that few got to see it. Tommy John surgery cost him nearly all of his first two collegiate seasons and he was inconsistent as a junior. The Tigers took a chance by taking him in the ninth round of the 2018 Draft and going above pick value to sign him. Looks like they nailed it.
Most to prove: Puk
No one doubts that Puk has the pure stuff to get big league hitters out. He showed that during his debut in 2019. But he does need to prove he can be durable coming off of Tommy John surgery and throw enough strikes to remain a starting pitcher. The good news is that even if that doesn’t pan out, his power repertoire will be even nastier in shorter bullpen stints.
Keep an eye on: Seth Corry, Giants
It took Corry, taken out of the Utah high school ranks in the third round of the 2017 Draft, until his third year of pro ball to reach full-season ball, but when he did, he dominated. Corry used his three pitch mix to lead the South Atlantic League in both ERA and strikeouts. He’ll need to refine his command as he moves up, but he has the ingredients to be a solid big league starter.