High Prospect-ations: National League

July 20, 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 National League.

Braves: Drew Waters OF and Cristian Pache OF

Impact: Wait until next year.

If Yasiel Puig is able to recover from his positive COVID test, it solidifies Atlanta’s needs in the outfield. Once Nick Markakis opted out of the season, Drew Waters and Cristian Pache had the potential to make a debut. However, Atlanta has enough talent and experience in the outfield that Pache and Waters are unlikely to find their way onto the roster unless there are several injuries.

Adam Duvall is a great DH candidate, and Charlie Culberson has found his way onto the roster in Atlanta for the last two years.

I like Waters for fantasy, but his talent won’t be enough to get him on the field enough to matter this season. Pache is more of a glover first prospect, and his bat might take some time to develop on a big-league level.  

Nationals: Carter Kieboom

Impact: Opening day

He’s the favorite to take over the third base job after Anthony Rendon departed for LA. Kieboom has a great pedigree, but I’m not sold on his ability to hit for power at a power heavy position like third base. I want to see the boom in the Kieboom before I’m a full believer. If he struggles the way he did last season, Washington has options with Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilmer Difo and Starlin Castro all having versatility on the infield. He hit .128 in 39 plate appearances during his first major league debut. With a short season, he might have an even shorter leash if things go poorly out of the gate. He has a lot of potential, but I worry more about getting burned by him if he struggles this season.

Cardinals: Dylan Carlson

Impact: Wait and see.

This is a hard one because his name is in the mix for a potential starting spot.

However, I think the Cards need to make a determination on how they view Tyler O’Neil and the only way to do that is to let him play.

I’ve loved O’Neil since he made a name for himself with Seattle.

He just hasn’t done enough consistently to prove he’s more than a guy stuck between AAA and the pros.

Carlson is beloved in the prospect community, and he has great potential.

Carlson will probably be a very good pro, but I’m more obsessed with Nolan Gorman in the Cards system.

Gorman looks like he could be the potential No. 1 prospect someday.

The bench is weak for the Cardinals and Carlson might get a cup of coffee, but his long term fantasy value starts next season.

Carlson has the potential to supplant already established guys, but I would wait to see how this competition in a crowded outfield shapes up.

Cubs: Nico Hoerner

Impact: As soon as possible.

It looks like the Cubs are going to use a combo of Jason Kipnis and David Bote until they can add Horner on without losing a year of service time.

Horner impressed rising to debut in the majors last season. The Cubs need him so look for him to be the everyday starter the moment he is available. In 82 at-bats, he hit .282 with three home runs and he has sneaky good speed. If he takes another step this year, you can expect Whit Merrifield levels of production. Even if he doesn’t live up to that lofty and expectation, Hoerner should be expected to produce and potentially give the Cubs a solid option at the top of the lineup.    

Pirates: Mitch Keller

Impact: Opening day.

This is a hard thing to say but ignore his 1-5 record and a 7.13 ERA. Outside of getting destroyed in the first few innings during his first MLB stint. Keller showed everything that has made him a top prospect. He finished the season with 65 strikeouts in 48 innings pitched. He was in the 91st percentile for his fastball spin rate, and he threw his fastball nearly 60 percent of the time. Baseball Savant shows the most similar pitcher to Keller based on velocity and movement from last year was Lance Lynn who finished fifth in the Cy Young voting. Keller is a perfect sleeper this season. He’s going to be off people radar because his stock has fallen. He has a special fastball curveball combo to be an elite pitcher in the game.

Diamondbacks: Daulton Varsho C

Impact: Wait until next year

Daulton Varsho isn’t the organization’s top prospect, but he’s the Diamondback’s most interesting prospect. He has an elite power and speed combo which could make him the next J.T. Realmuto. However,  catcher is really a difficult position to predict because it’s such a difficult position for a young player. Varsho is in the taxi pool, but he’s blocked by a solid veteran backup like Stephen Vogt. It will take an injury and some desperation to see him on the field this year. However, I would keep him on a watch list because a catcher with this kind of tools doesn’t come around often.

Rockies: Brendan Rodgers 2B/SS

Impact: Opening Day

Yep, Brendan Rodgers is still considered a prospect. Rodgers has been considered a player on the cusp for three years now. He has a strong hit and power tool, but in his debut last year he fizzled out. With everyone cracking the ball out of the yard, Rodgers struggled to show the power that made him such a highly regarded prospect. He hit .224 and slugged just .250. Since Ian Desmond has opted-out of this season, Ryan McMahon will slide over to first leaving just Rodgers and the speedy Garrett Hampson to battle it out for second base duties. This is a prime opportunity for Rodgers, but he will have to take it from Hampson who will likely start the season at the keystone for Colorado.

Dodgers: Gavin Lux 2B

Impact: Opening day

This isn’t a hard one; Gavin Lux is the likely front runner for rookie of the year. The No. 2 prospect in all of baseball, Lux already has shown he belongs in the majors. Last season, Lux finished hitting 240 with two home runs and two stolen bases. His hard-hit rate was nearly 40 percent, and Baseball savant puts him in the 90th percentile for speed. There isn’t much Lux can’t do and you should buy all the hype. He’s ready for a breakout year.

Marlins: Sixto Sanchez SP

Impact: Wait and see

Sixto Sanchez is a name to know because his nickname is Little Pedro, after Pedro Martinez. He’s never risen above AA to this point, but he demolished AA last season finishing with a 2.53 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 103 innings. Sanchez is the real deal, but the rotation is set in Miami with all five starters returning. Despite the Marlins being terrible all of the pitchers have shown promise in one way or another. I think it will take an injury or a player getting sent down for Sixto to crack the rotation this year.  

Phillies: Alec Bohm 3B/1B

Impact: Wait and see

I love Alec Bohm. He has huge power potential and he should be playing right away as I have written here before https://forfantasysakeqc.wordpress.com/2020/07/02/welcome-back-baseball/

However, the Phillies are going to move Jean Segura to third base and with Josh Harrison and Neil Walker on the bench, the Phillies have options there. I would suspect the only thing holding Bohm back from being a part of the 2020 squad is his strikeout rate, which isn’t so bad that I would worry about it. This is the middle of the order power bat and he should be playing immediately. I would guess that the Phillies play it safe and we see him next year.

Padres: MacKenzie Gore SP

Impact: Wait and see.

MacKenzie Gore and Chris Paddack being in the same rotation could be an all-time combo if Gore lives up to expectations. Gore does everything well and is a great mesh of control and ability. I think it will take an injury to get a chance to see Gore pitch this season, but the Padres have Garrett Richards who has pitched 31 games in four years due to injury. Keep Gore on your radar, but don’t go out of your way to buy in too fast.

Giants: Joey Bart C

Impact: Could be soon.

With Buster Posey opting out, the Giants are scrambling for catching options. It would only make sense that Joey Bart gets the call behind the dish at some point. Bart has drawn comparison to Posey not just because they are in the same organization but because of how both of them were able to rise through the minors at such a quick pace. As I said earlier, catchers are hard to project. However, I think we will see Bart behind the plate at some point this season.