Eleven of our top writers (and Adam Lawler) drafted the 120 rookie-eligible players who are most likely to play in 2020. This is no mock draft. These picks matter! We will be keeping track of each writer’s roster to figure out whose picks recorded the most games played and innings pitched. First place gets a Cadillac El Dorado (not really). Second place gets a set of steak knives (maybe). Third place is you’re fired (probably). Fourth place and below are fine (definitely).
Each manager will be posting the thought process involved in making their picks in the coming days, starting with mine here. The draft board can be found here and an introduction to the league concept and explanation of how this can help your team can be found here. Here…we…go…
1. (Pick 4) Jesus Luzardo, LHP, OAK, Age: 22
I’m happy to get Jesus Luzardo with the fourth pick. He could have easily gone second or third. Barring injury, Luzardo is penciled in to be the A’s third or fourth starter. In the first two rounds, I wanted to pick a pair of guys I knew would put points on the board at the beginning of the year. If everything goes right, Luzardo will approach 100-120 innings, which would be very solid for a first-round pick. There is some injury history; Luzardo had Tommy John in high school and had some shoulder problems last season, so that inning total could easily be cut in half. Still, all things equal, Luzardo is one of the few rookie-eligible players who owns a starting spot before spring training even begins.
2. (21) Sean Murphy, C, OAK, Age: 25
Speaking of a rookie who owns a starting spot, the A’s starting catcher right now is Sean Murphy. He is such an elite defender that even if Murphy pulls a Danny Jansen at the plate in 2020, he still will have enough value to start most of the games this season. He does have a little competition in Austin Allen, but Allen’s defense is non-existent. His bat certainly rivals or even beats Murphy’s, but Allen is more likely to be a pinch hitter/back-up catcher/first baseman. Sure, because Murphy is a catcher, even if he starts all year, he won’t start all year. One hundred and sixty-two games is out of the question. Say he misses one game a week. That is still 136 games—I’ll take that.
3. (28) Forrest Whitley, RHP, HOU, Age: 22
Adam Lawler scooped Dylan Carlson up before I could get him, so I went with more of a gamble: Forrest Whitley. I have a few rookies who I think if things go right would end up playing major roles on their teams in 2020. Things are in flux in Houston right now because of the sign stealing. It’s hard to tell what will happen player-wise until the season starts, but there shouldn’t be a lack of opportunity. Whitley was set to join the Astros in 2019; minor injuries and control issues eliminated that possibility. In fall ball, Whitley looked almost like the five-pitch magico we thought we’d see in 2019.
Let’s also not forget that Houston lost Gerrit Cole. They will be starting two inexperienced pitchers to start the year—whether it is Jose Urquidy, Josh James, or Whitley. I’m betting that even if he doesn’t make the squad in March (which he probably won’t), his talent will win out over the season and he’ll spend at least half the year in the rotation, which would be something like 75 innings. I could also see him going the Chris Sale route; in 2011, Sale pitched 71 innings of relief before the White Sox decided to make him a starter. Sounds good to me.
4. (45) Kevin Ginkel, RHP, ARI, Age: 26
Since I took a bit of a gamble in the third round, I went with one of the safer picks in the draft: reliever Kevin Ginkel. While most of the other managers went with giant swings, I’m playing small ball to try to win this. I’d like as many players who will play games as possible—with as few guys who aren’t actually in the league right now. That’s why I picked three relievers. Ginkel was electric in 24.1 major league innings last year to the tune of 1.48 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP, and 28 Ks. That was just for the Diamondbacks. In total, he pitched 65 innings in 2019, making him a candidate for 70ish innings in 2020. I could also remind you that Arizona’s bullpen is mediocre at best. There is a chance he is the best reliever on their roster by June. And if the Diamondbacks wish to hold onto Archie Bradley at closer, Ginkel will get as many innings as he can handle.
5. (52) Andres Munoz, RHP, SD, Age: 21
Reliever No. 2 off the board is Andres Munoz. The flame-throwing righty wasn’t as impressive as Ginkel in his 23-inning MLB debut, but his repertoire and his results were good enough to make me think he’ll have an integral part in the Padres bullpen in 2020. It’s possible Munoz sees high leverage duties in March. And since he pitched 58 innings between the minors and the majors, he doesn’t really have a workload limit coming out of the pen. I don’t think he’ll get to 70 innings, but somewhere in the 60s is pretty sweet. That is a solid number to add to my total considering there are a number of guys in Double-A coming off the board in the fifth round. Now, San Diego has a better bullpen than Arizona, so there is a chance if he starts off bad, Munoz just might not get as many opportunities, but when you throw 103, you’ll still get opportunities.
6. (69) Trevor Larnach, OF, MIN, Age: 23
My second gamble. Although the Twins are pretty much locked into their starting lineup for 2020, there are some scenarios in which they would bring up Trevor Larnach early. The first is Miguel Sano struggling. Now, Larnach isn’t a first baseman, but Max Kepler has played first base multiple seasons in the minors and could easily be moved over. The second is that Nelson Cruz realizes he’s 39 years old and falls off a cliff. If that were to be the case, Larnach is an experienced college bat who has performed at every level he’s seen. He could start the season in Triple-A, making him the prime candidate to be called-up, even over Alex Kirilloff because of his college history. This is purely a shot in the dark and unlike most of my picks; it needs luck rather than just the player performing well to pan out.
7. (76) James Karinchak, RHP, CLE, Age: 24
My last reliever is the insane James Karinchuk. Just so we’re clear: Karinchak has the highest ceiling of all the relievers I picked. The reasons I didn’t pick him before the others are (1) he didn’t have as long of a debut in 2019 and (2) he’s had more of a history of nagging injuries. Nevertheless, the dude is a beast. We got a glimpse of that in September, when he struck out eight in five innings with a 0.78 WHIP. The guy had a 21+ K/9 in the majors before getting called up. He’s a strikeout machine. There are opportunities in Cleveland’s bullpen to get a lot of innings. What worries me a little is that, since being moved to a reliever in 2018, Karinchak hasn’t pitched 50 innings in a season. Even so, if he gets me 45-50 innings in the seventh round, I’d be very happy.
8. (93) Luis Patino, RHP, SD, Age: 20
I was hoping to grab Tony Gonsolin with this pick, but he was sniped by Zach Lindren, so I went with Luis Patino. We know that the Padres are aggressive with promoting their prospects if they feel they will be successful. They showed that just last year with Chris Paddack and Fernando Tatis, Jr. who were both given a starting spot out of spring after despite not playing in Triple-A. Enter Patino. Although he’s new to Double-A, Patino has been flat-out dominant since the Pads signed him in 2017. The insanely talented Patino has pitched 234 innings in the majors, striking out 279 with a WHIP of 1.10. There are completely separate paths where Patino doesn’t even get the call in 2020, or where he gets called up as early as May. For as much as San Diego wants to win, its rotation is very shaky. Aside from Paddack, there is the talented Dinelson Lamet, the steady Garrett Richards, and the questionable Joey Lucchesi. Beyond that, it’s a mystery. Even Lamet and Lucchesi are just two terrible months from being sent down. There is an opportunity here. I took it.
9. (100) Nick Gordon, INF, MIN, Age: 24
There is a point where an organization just has to bring up a former top prospect to see what he’s got. We are approaching that with Nick Gordon. Like I said earlier, the Twins’ lineup is set for now, but Gordon does get called up sometime in 2020. The worst-case scenario is he’s filling in for an injury. Best-case is he’s a utility man. Jorge Polanco had ankle surgery in November; he’ll be back by spring training, but there is already a bit of an opening. They just signed Josh Donaldson, but his health isn’t exactly consistent. Byron Buxton had shoulder surgery in September. These are all positions Gordon could fill. They will bring him up because he hit well in Triple-A in 2019 and he’s a former first-round pick.
10. (117) Jose Rojas, 3B, LAA, Age: 27
Everything I said about Gordan can be applied to Jose Rojas (except being a first-round pick): At some point, an organization has to bring up a performing prospect just to see if his skill translates. Rojas had a decent chance of making the roster before the Angels signed Anthony Rendon to play third base. Now, there aren’t many spots left, so there will be some luck involved with getting him any more than a handful of games. Fortunately for Rojas, he does have some things going for him. First: He’s from the LA area so there might be some pressure to see a hometown kid. Second: He did this in Triple-A last year:
Those numbers are correct: 101 runs and 107 RBIs in just 126 games. The Angels have also been moving him all around the infield the past few years, so a utility spot could be in the works. Bring the kid up!
Featured Image by Michael Packard