With the Corona Virus Pandemic refusing to go away, Minor League Baseball had no choice but to cancel their entire season. While we will still enjoy a shortened 60-game season of Big-League ball, cutting the minors out of the equation will stunt the growth of many of baseball’s top prospects.
Top young prospects like Wander Franco, Adley Rutschman, and Julio Rodriguez, guys that are still a year or two away from cracking a Major League lineup, are now going to miss a pivotal year of experience and development. And while not having a place for these young players to grow is upsetting, MLB did institute a way to get some of the more Major League ready prospects onto the field and into the game.
MLB has allowed the teams to have a 60-man player pool to draw from. While the playable rosters will only be 26-man, 27-man for double-header games, teams can move players up and down from the active roster to the player pool. The rest of these players that are not on the active roster will be held at an alternate training site, likely the clubs Minor League ballparks.
While we still don’t know exactly how this will look, the thought is that these players will have a season-long spring training type atmosphere, and be ready to be called into action at any time, while being quarantined and constantly tested for Corona Virus.
You can expect to find a lot of baseball’s top prospects working out at these training sites, waiting for the call up to the Big Leagues. In this article, I am going to highlight the five top prospects that could play MLB in 2020 and how them getting called up could affect your bets. Let’s get started!
Luis Robert – Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox are absolutely loaded with young talent. Guys like Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, and Eloy Jimenez are all budding superstars in their twenties, but no guy has had quite the hype of outfielder Luis Robert. Robert is one of baseball’s top prospects, and depending on who you ask, he might be the single best player out there that has yet to play a Major League game.
Robert put on a show last year in the Minor Leagues as he tore apart pitchers at all levels of the game. He started out in A-Ball, where he slashed an absurd .453 with 8 home runs and 24 RBI in just 19 games. He played the majority of the season at AA-Ball and AAA-Ball, and the increased competition didn’t slow him down a bit.
The next superstar 🌟
— White Sox Talk (@NBCSWhiteSox) September 5, 2019
In a combined 103 games between double and triple-A, he smashed 24 homers and drove in 64 RBI while hitting north of .300. When you take a look at his entire body of work in 2019, he hit .328 with 32 homers, 92 RBI, and 108 runs scored in 122 games. That is MVP level production, and the White Sox can’t wait to get him on the field in 2020.
The White Sox lineup is stacked with players that can hit for power and average, so Roberts will likely end up batting in the eight or nine hole to start the season, but his high on-base percentage and elite speed makes him an ideal fit for a leadoff man. The White Sox are hoping that all of their prospects all grow up at the same time, and if they do, this team is a World Series contender.
Chicago has already seen Moncada, Jimenez, and Anderson turn into elite players at very young ages, and if Roberts can join them as a breakout star in 2020, this White Sox team is going to be very, very good. The Twins are going to be tough in the AL Central, but I see the White Sox as a team that will absolutely contend with them, and I have them penciled in as a playoff team in the American League, likely a wild card.
Jarred Kelenic – Seattle Mariners
No team in the Major Leagues has a longer playoff drought than the Seattle Mariners. Seattle last made the playoffs way back in 2001, and the franchise remains the only team in the game that has never made it to the World Series.
After coming oh so close to making the playoffs for several years, the M’s finally decided to blow it up and start over in 2019. Gone were guys like Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, Jean Segura, and James Paxton, instead, replaced by prospects looking to establish their place in the game like Daniel Vogelbach, J.P Crawford, and Justus Sheffield.
Seattle had plenty of veterans that they were able to flip for prospects, and those efforts are beginning to bear fruit, as Seattle now has a respectable farm system, with several players that have All-Star level potential in the pipeline. While some of those guys are still a year or two away, most notably top ten prospect Julio Rodriguez, there is one guy that could make the team in 2020, that has a real chance at making an impact, and that is Jarred Kelenic.
Oxford defines opportunity cost as the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. That is the lingering issue the #Mets face with the Jarred Kelenic trade. https://t.co/7d37fopIfc
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 7, 2020
One of the major moves Seattle made to get younger was trading Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the New York Mets. The Mets sent a big package of players back to Seattle, highlighted by former first-round draft pick Kelenic. Normally you are going to need several years to gauge how well a trade did or did not work out for a team, but this deal felt like a home run for Seattle from the minute they pulled the trigger on it.
It helped that Cano and Diaz both had awful seasons last year, but the reason Seattle fans are finally getting a chance to smile is that they have a prospect as good as any player they have had since Alex Rodriguez a generation ago. While comparing Kelenic to A-Rod is certainly premature, this kid is a natural with a high baseball IQ and was tearing up the Minor Leagues last year as a teenager.
Kelenic played in A, A+, and AA ball last season at age nineteen. Combined, he hit .291 with 23 home runs, 68 RBI, 31 doubles, and 80 runs scored in 117 total games. He also showed his smart baserunning and speed by snagging 20 stolen bases and hitting 5 triples.
Most people think that Kelenic is probably still a year away, but the fact that Seattle is still clearly in rebuild mode with little ability to compete for the playoffs this year, makes me think that Kelenic will find a way to make the team before all is said and done. The Mariners have added him to their 60-man player pool and assuming they fall out of contention early, I think they let him cut his teeth in the majors as he won’t have any ability to gain experience in the minors this year.
Adding Kelenic to the lineup isn’t going to turn the Mariners from a last place team into a first place team, but this Mariners roster reminds me a lot of the Chicago White Sox from a couple of years ago. It is littered with high-end prospects that are all maturing at the same time. With players like Kelenic, Evan White, and Julio Rodriguez all coming up, are the Mariners a threat to finally make a run to the World Series in 2022? Seattle fans sure hope so!
Gavin Lux – Los Angeles Dodgers
It seems like we have been waiting for Gavin Lux to get his shot to play Major League ball forever now. The former first-round draft pick was named the Dodgers top Minor League player in back to back seasons and what he did in the minors last year was staggering. The fact that he is still somehow just 22-years old is almost incomprehensible as he has been on the Big League radar for so long.
Last year, Lux somehow got better when making the move from AA to AAA ball. He saw basically every recordable stat improve as he moved closer to the show. In 49 games at AAA Oklahoma City, Lux hit .392 with 13 homers, 39 RBI, and 54 runs scored. That is absurd production at AAA for a player that was barely old enough to buy a beer.
The Dodgers did call him up last year for the playoff run, and while he didn’t get a lot of playing time as the Dodgers lineup was already loaded with established stars, he did get a chance to pinch-hit in the playoffs and became the youngest player in Major League history to hit a pinch-hit home run in the postseason.
— BKM (@AZsports73) July 10, 2020
In a testament to just how great this young hitter is, he is being penciled in at the top of the lineup, currently projected to hit second for the Dodgers, behind Mookie Betts, ahead of sluggers like Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Max Muncy, and Justin Turner.
This is another case of the rich getting richer as the Dodgers were going to be the favorites in the National League without Lux, but if he is even close to the production he had in AAA last season when he had an on-base percentage of .478 and slugged .721, he could be one of the best hitters on the National Leagues best hitting team. If I am buying stock in one player this year, it is Lux, and the fact that I can get him at +250 to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award, feels like free money.
Jo Adell – Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels are ready to win now. The Halos made the major move to bring in World Series hero Anthony Rendon in the offseason, and when you pair him with the best player in baseball in Mike Trout, and the most versatile player in baseball, in Shohei Ohtani, it gives the Angels a very potent middle of the lineup, that should be enough to keep them in contention all season long in the American League West.
But when you look at the roster as a whole for LA, it does have some holes. The pitching staff is weak, particularly the bullpen, and the lineup has some weak spots as well. One spot where the Angels are weak, is in the outfield, where they are expected to go with Brian Goodwin, Justin Upton, and Mike Trout. Trout and Upton are great, but Goodwin is a career .255 hitter with limited upside that has just 36 home runs in four career Big League seasons.
Last season was the first time that Goodwin got a chance to play every day after bouncing around between the Washington Nationals, Kansas City Royals, and the Angels in his short career. I wouldn’t say he had an awful season, but he is about to turn thirty and isn’t the long-term answer in the outfield for LA. That is where super prospect Jo Adell comes into play.
Adell isn’t as much of a sure thing as Lux, Robert, and Kelenic seem to be, but he is a top ten prospect and is ready to play this year if the Angels call his name. He strikes out way too much, and despite pedestrian home run numbers so far in his pro career, he has a fast bat that has pop and is expected to eventually turn into a power hitter in the majors.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) February 28, 2020
Adell has played center field for his entire career, but with Trout entrenched in center for Los Angeles, he could catch on by playing a corner outfield spot, particularly if Upton can’t stay healthy, or Goodwin fails to produce. It was a little bit concerning that Adell didn’t hit a single home run in 121 plate appearances last year at AAA, but his bat passes the eye test, and he should find his power stroke sooner rather than later.
A blue-chip prospect like Adell is just what the Angels need to add some more depth to this lineup. Even if Adell can’t catch on as an everyday player, don’t be shocked if the Angels keep him around to fill holes and pinch-hit when needed. The condensed schedule is going to put a lot of pressure on players to play every day and stay healthy, and having a set of young, healthy legs, on the bench, like Adell, gives the Halos the ability to stay fresh.
Wander Franco – Tampa Bay Rays
You can file this last guy under my wish list more than anything else at this point. Wander Franco is the best hitting prospect we have seen in generations. He is the highest-rated hitter in the history of MLB pipeline’s rankings, tied with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. We saw what baby Vlad did last year at 21 years old in his rookie season, and if Franco lives up to the hype, he could be an all-time type of hitter.
Oh, and did I mention that he is still a teenager? Franco just turned 19, and when you watch him swing a bat, you just know this kid is destined for big things. He reminds me of a young Ken Griffey Jr, a guy that swings the bat effortlessly, and when he makes contact, the ball explodes off of the bat. I try not to fall too in love with guys this young that have never played above A-ball, but man is this guy tantalizing.
What makes Franco’s situation even more intriguing is the fact that the Tampa Bay Rays need his bat so badly. The Rays have one of the best pitching staff’s in the game. Their rotation is stacked with Cy Young Award candidates like Charlie Morton, Blake Snell, and Tyler Glasnow. The bullpen is the best in the American League.
But what they don’t have a lot of is hitting. Austin Meadows and Yandy Diaz both have high upside potential, and Hunter Renfroe gives them a solid veteran bat, but after that, the outlook at the plate is bleak for Tampa Bay. That makes getting Franco to the Big Leagues, that much more important.
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) January 25, 2020
We have seen players make it to the majors as teenagers in recent years and have success. Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Juan Soto all come to mind as players that had a lot of success playing as teenagers in the last decade. While it is a major stretch, it wouldn’t be unprecedented, and if any guy is going to be able to do it, it’s a generational level talent like Wander Franco.
He is probably a year away at this point, but we have seen the Rays do a lot of unconventional things in the last several years, and if there is one team that you can bet on to push the envelope, it is Tampa Bay. If Franco gets the chance to play and shows us that the hype is real and that he can hit and get on base at an elite level right away, it makes the Rays one of the favorites to win the World Series.
The 2020 Major League Baseball season is just a couple of weeks away from finally kicking off, and there has never been a season with as much uncertainty as this one. Between the inevitable injuries, Corona Virus infections, veteran players opting out of playing, and the fact that we won’t have a Minor League Baseball season, we may see more elite prospects in the game than ever in 2020.
If recent history has shown us anything, it is that guys are getting better at a younger age than ever before. The league has never had more stars under the age of twenty-five, and it wouldn’t shock me if all of the players listed above join that fraternity of baseball’s best young players this year. Thanks for reading and make sure that you stay tuned to The Sports Geek all season long for all of the sharp MLB betting advice that you crave!