This was impossible.
It’s always tough to do the first list of the year because there are so many quality candidates, but because of the shortened season and because there are still so many players that qualify for prospects, this was much, much more difficult. We could have made a top 25 and I still would have felt like I was leaving off names.
A couple of reminders:
First. This is for 2020 only. This is not a list of the top prospects in baseball overall. This is specifically a list for redraft leagues and redraft leagues only. Second, this is a fantasy list. It is not a list over the top overall prospects. Defense matters because it allows a prospect to play, but this list is just about the pitchers and hitters who have a chance to provide fantasy value in 2020.
With those reminders out of the way, here’s a look at the top 10 fantasy prospects for the 2020 season.
1. Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox
2019 stats: 122 G, .328/.376/.624, 32 HR, 36 SB, 49 BB, 96 SO at High-A Winston-Salem, Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte.
This list was very difficult to put together. Picking the name that belongs on the top? Not really. Robert is locked in as the starting centerfielder for the White Sox, and while there could be some growing pains, they should come with some power and stolen bases while he makes the adjustment. Eventually, Robert has a chance to be a fantasy superstar, but for 2020, he’ll probably just be a good -- maybe very good -- fantasy option.
2. Gavin Lux, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers
2019 stats: 113 G, .347/.421/.607, 26 HR, 10 SB, 61 BB, 102 SO at Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City; 23 G, .240/.305/.400, 2 HR, 2 SB, 7 BB, 24 SO at Los Angeles.
If the season would have opened on time in 2020, Lux may have opened the year in Triple-A, but it seemed unlikely. Now, we definitely know that won’t be the case, and Lux appears locked into a regular role immediately. With the ability to hit for both average and power from the left side -- and enough speed to project a rate of double-digit steals -- Lux has a high fantasy upside and floor. It’s hard for me to believe that he won’t be productive in this shortened 2020 season.
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3. Jo Adell, OF, Los Angeles Angels
2019 stats: 76 G, .289/.359/.475, 10 HR, 7 SB, 30 BB, 94 SO at High-A Inland Empire, Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Fresno.
Adell has reportedly had some defensive issues in camp, but we all know the real reason he probably won’t be on the Opening Day roster. Even if the Angels hold him down for a week or two, he still is too talented to not place in the top three. He can hit for average, he can hit for power, and he should provide some stolen bases, as well; he certainly has the speed to do so. Again, you’ll have to be a little patient with Adell and that’s tough to do in a 60-game season, but those who are have a chance to be rewarded heavily.
4. Carter Kieboom, 3B, Washington Nationals
2019 stats: 109 G, .303/.409/.493, 16 HR, 5 SB, 68 BB, 100 SO at Triple-A Fresno; 11 G, .128/.209/.282, 2 HR, 0 SB, 4 BB, 16 SO at Washington.
Kieboom would have made this list anyway, but he definitely was one of the prospects who had their stock rise because of the shutdown. He’s locked into the starting third base job, something that may not have happened had the year started on time. You’ll look at those numbers with the Nationals last year and probably not be inspired, but it’s just way too small of a sample size to take seriously. Kieboom should be able to contribute right away, even if his long-term value outweighs the short-term. That’s true about all prospects.
5. Nate Pearson, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
2019 stats: 25 G, 101.2 IP, 2.30 ERA, 27 BB, 109 SO at High-A Dunedin, Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo.
We’ve seen the Blue Jays manipulate the service time of several prospects over the last few years, and we’ll see it again in 2020 even knowing Pearson is obviously one of the best starters on the roster. Still, the manipulation should only cost Pearson one start -- one out of about 11, so it does matter, but it could be worse -- and with a fastball that gets into triple-digits and two off-speed pitches that can miss bats, Pearson is the best starting pitching prospect for the 2020 season. He’s definitely worth a draft pick.
6. A.J. Puk, LHP, Oakland Athletics
2019 stats: 18 G, 25.1 IP, 4.97 ERA, 10 BB, 38 SO at High-A Stockton, Double-A Midland and Triple-A Las Vegas; 10 G, 11.1 IP, 3.18 ERA, 5 BB, 130 SO at Oakland.
You might have expected a different left-handed pitcher from Oakland to be in this spot, or maybe even a higher spot. We’ll get to him. But let’s talk about Puk. He’s going to open the year in the Oakland rotation, and he certainly has the stuff to succeed in that role. If there’s one question here it’s if Puk can stay healthy -- even in this truncated season -- as it’s been a struggle since 2017. Still, the left-hander has two out pitches in his fastball and slider, and he should throw enough strikes to be successful behind what should be a quality Oakland roster.
7. Dylan Carlson, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
2019 stats: 126 G, .292/372/.542, 26 HR, 20 SB, 58 BB, 116 SO at Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis.
Carlson is difficult to rank. If you want a little behind-the-scenes look at the making of this list, I had him as high as five and as low as nine. Ultimately, he’s here. And he might be perfect. The switch-hitting outfielder has the tools to be an elite fantasy hitter someday, and based on what we saw this spring and some limited looks at summer camp, he’s ready to be a pretty darn good one right now. The question is when he’ll be up, and it seems like he’s going to miss at least a week. Still, a worthy stash.
8. Kyle Lewis, OF, Seattle Mariners
2019 stats: 122 G, .263/.342/.398, 11 HR, 3 SB, 56 BB, 102 SO at Double-A Arkansas; 18 G, .268/.293/.592, 6 HR, 0 SB, 3 BB, 29 SO at Seattle.
Surprised to see Lewis this high? Understandable, but there’s some stuff to keep in mind here. First, don’t look at those minor league numbers; they are skewed from playing in a park that absolutely destroys right-handed hitting. Also, keep in mind that Lewis not only is locked into a starting role to start the year, and it appears he might hit in the middle of the lineup from the get. Not too many prospects you can say that about. Lewis comes with risk -- both injury and contact related -- but the reward is good enough that I’d want the outfielder on my roster to begin the season rather than risking him being available on the waiver wire.
9. Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
2019 stats: 25 G, 142.1 IP, 3.48 ERA, 55 BB, 135 SO at Triple-A Indianapolis; 11 G, 48 IP, 7.13 ERA, 16 BB, 65 SO at Pittsburgh.
Keller is going to open the season in the Pirates’ rotation, and despite those ugly numbers with Pittsburgh last summer, there’s a lot to like here. One of the things to like is that he was able to miss plenty of bats in his short time with the Bucs, and you just have to look at the 72 hits allowed in 48 innings and absolutely insane .478 BABIP (batting average balls in play) to note how unlucky he was in that timeframe. The Pirates probably aren’t going to give him a ton of chances to win games, but the rest of the rates should allow him to be a successful fantasy option.
10. Nick Solak, OF, Texas Rangers
2019 stats: 115 G, .289/.362/.532, 27 HR, 5 SB, 45 BB, 105 SO at Double-A Montgomery, Triple-A Durham and Triple-A Nashville; 33 G, .293/.393/.491, 5 HR, 2 SB, 15 BB, 29 SO at Texas.
Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I’ve been a fan of Solak for a long time, and nothing has happened to change that opinion. In fact, it appears that the former New York and Tampa Bay prospect is more likely to have a regular role now than he would have in March. Solak may not approach the numbers he did in his 116 at-bat sample with the Rangers, but that wasn’t a fluke; he can really hit, and he should be a solid fantasy producer in the shortened year for Texas/fantasy players.
Where the heck is Jesus Luzardo, genius?
You’re right to ask. Luzardo obviously belongs on this list if we’re just talking about talent; he’s one of the best starting pitching prospects in the game, and I expect him to have fantasy relevance as long as he’s healthy. However, he just reported to camp on Friday after testing positive for COVID-19, and it does not appear he’ll be operating as a starter to begin the 2020 campaign. I’d still be willing to draft Luzardo and definitely would want him on my roster, but the names listed above all are more likely to make a longer fantasy impact in 2020. Again, this was impossible.
Others to watch (in no particular order): Casey Mize, RHP, Detroit Tigers; Evan White, 1B, Seattle Mariners; Brendan Rodgers, 2B, Colorado Rockies; Dustin May, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers; Sean Murphy, C, Oakland Athletics; Jose Urquidy, RHP, Houston Astros; Nico Hoerner, INF, Chicago Cubs; Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Miami Marlins; Nick Madrigal, 2B, Chicago White Sox; Joey Bart, C, San Francisco Giants; Jarred Kelenic, OF, Seattle Mariners; MacKenzie Gore, LHP, San Diego Padres; Alec Bohm, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies; Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros; Brendan McKay, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays