High Prospect-ations

July 10, 2020
by Chris Steele

Reading timelines for baseball’s top prospects can be a challenge under normal circumstances.

With this season being turned upside down, I’m going to look at where some of baseball’s top prospects fit in a franchise’s abbreviated season in the American League.

Orioles: Adley Rutschman C

Impact: None.

It’s so hard to predict when catchers will come to MLB because their development isn’t going to be as natural as other positions. Adley Rutschman was the top pick in 2019. Most are sold on him being ready soon, but I would guess we won’t be able to see him in action until very late in 2021.

Blue Jays: Nate Pearson SP/RP

Impact: Wait and see.

This is a tough one because he should be an arm in the rotation, and he has the velocity to be a reliever immediately.

He’s proved he belongs already posting a 1.29 ERA with 11 strikeouts in seven innings this spring.

News coming out of the Toronto camp seems to have reporters doing backflips to figure out if he will be on the roster or added to the taxi reserve player pool.

I would guess Toronto will wait for 20 games to see how things are shaping up before they make a decision.

Keep in mind, this is a team that has looked for any excuse to play the arbitration game and keep guys under control as long as possible. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s strained oblique at the start of last season and how cautious they wanted to be with him is a prime example. Pearson throws lightning (80-grade fastball on MLB’s prospect report),  but he’s on the shelf until the Blue Jays signal otherwise.  

Rays: Brendan McKay SP/RP/DH (Maybe?) Wander Franco SS

Impact: Immediate

McKay was an intriguing prospect coming up through the minors because he was viewed as a two-way player.

However, his outstanding ability as a pitcher outweighs what he can do at the plate.

He’s going to just be an arm out of the bullpen, but if the situation breaks right I could see him being the swing guy that gets called on for a spot start.

This is an elite arm that should be viewed as a must-own in your league.

Wander Franco is the top prospect in all of baseball, but his time to shine is still a year away at best.

Red Sox: Jeter Downs 2B/SS

Impact: None.

He’s a year away from making a debut. Xander Bogaerts and Michael Chavis are blocking him from reaching the show. Bogaerts just got paid six years $120 million, and the Red Sox need to see if Chavis can be the bat he’s projected to become.

Yankees: Jasson Dominguez OF

Impact: None.

He’s 17-years old. He has great talent, but just knowing the name is enough at this point.

Indians: Nolan Jones 3B

Impact: None.

He’ll probably make the player pool. It’s very likely that it will be a year until we see him. Christian Arroyo will be the jack of all trades who gets time if any injury pops up on the infield.

Royals: Bobby Witt Jr. SS

Impact: None

He might make the player pool, but I doubt he will see any time on the field for the pro club.

Tigers: Casey Mize SP/RP and Spencer Torkelson 3B

Impact: Guys to think about for next year.

Mize is an elite arm, but he won’t play a major role in fantasy this season.

Spencer Torkelson is pure power, and he might make a debut this season.

He already has a record signing bonus of $8,416,300 because not even the Tigers wanted to screw this thing up.

However, this is the Tigers, and they will find a way to impede his progress at every turn.

The only way the Tigers use him this year is if they find themselves in first place — hahaha — I tried to think of some way, but the Tigers would be better off fielding an actual team of Bengal tigers this year.

Why Bengal tigers? Because they are intimidating and they know when to take a walk to get on base.

Twins: Royce Lewis SS and Alex Kirilloff OF/1B

Impact: Guys to think about next year.

This team is already stacked with thumpers. The odd addition of Josh Donaldson ended any flexibility the Twins had to get use out of these two highly regarded prospects. Kirilloff feels like he has the potential to be on the roster at some point, but this Minnesota team is too good to be raising their youngsters this season.

White Sox: Luis Robert OF, Nick Madrigal 2B and Andrew Vaughn 1B/DH

Impact: Right away/A few weeks/Next year

Luis Robert will start the season in center field for Chicago and the expectation is huge for the 22-year old.

The No. 3 prospect in all of baseball according to MLB.com, Robert can do everything fantasy owners want hit, hit for power and run. The White Sox didn’t play around with service time when it came to Lou Bob they signed him to a six-year $50 million deal.  

Nick Madrigal is a favorite of mine.

He’s a pure hitter at a position where it’s hard to find value.

He could see an everyday role and be a cornerstone at the keystone for the foreseeable future for the Sox.

They are going to wait a few weeks before they add him just so they can avoid arbitration.

A Golden Spikes Award winner Vaughn is a slugger who would probably be DHing for most teams this season, but the White Sox have a glut of guys who can fill that spot. Vaughn will probably taxi, but I would be surprised if he gets penciled into the lineup.

The future is now for White Sox’s fans.

Angels: Jo Adell OF

Impact: In a few weeks.

The service time being prorated, we will have to wait a few weeks to see Jo Adell, but he should be an instant starter.

I love Adell.

The only thing standing in Adell’s way at this point is Brian Goodwin. I would expect Adell to be a bench player and potentially earn an everyday role if he comes out of the gate fast.

What could stop him?

Well, I’ve been high on Adell for about three years, but I didn’t foresee Joe Maddon managing the Angels.  

Maddon did have some successes in Chicago with Kris Bryant and Javier Baez.

However, the struggles of Albert Almora and Maddon’s odd deployment has me a little worried.

Adell’s ability should be enough to rise above whatever gets thrown at him but keep an eye on how Maddon decides to deploy him.  

Astros: Forrest Whitley SP/RP

Impact: Soon.

Forrest Whitley has been a highly regarded prospect for a while now. The problem is that he’s been on the cusp of getting a chance with the big league team for about three years now. Injury has slowed him down, but Whitley was mostly healthy last season and he still was getting destroyed in AAA with a 7.79 ERA. He’s close this year, but wait until he shows you he’s worthy of the praise.

Athletics: Jesus Luzardo SP and A.J. Puk SP

Impact: Immediate.

These two have so much potential and should start the season in the rotation. This is a win-now year for the A’s since they will be unlikely (and unwilling) to resign mega-star Matt Chapman. And…. Luzardo has the coronavirus. This season is going to be fun. I’m having fun. This isn’t a mental breakdown — sigh. A.J. Puk made his debut with the team last season, and he didn’t disappoint. He pitched in 10 games and sported a 3.18 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 11.1 innings.

Mariners: Evan White 1B

Impact: Immediate

Evan White should be the starting first baseman out of camp this season.

I think he’s ready, but he’s going to bat low in the order and his value isn’t going to be high until he shows he can put up the power numbers you need to see from a starting 1B in fantasy. Sadly, for the Mariners’ fans, Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic are still way off in the distance.

Rangers: Nick Solak OF, 3B, 1B, DH

Impact: Bench.

From his positional disparity, you can already tell that finding a role for Nick Solak looks like a tough job. In Texas, Rougned Odor already has Solak’s natural position locked up at second base.

The Rangers need someone in the outfield who can catch with the crew of guys they currently have Danny Santana, Willie Calhoun and Joey Gallo.

Solak played some centerfield way back in spring training 1.0. He might find a spot in left with Calhoun still recovering from a broken jaw.

In 33 games last season, Solak batted .293/.393/.491 in his first stint with the team.