Every Saturday for the abbreviated 2020 season, I will be posting a list of 10 pitching prospects to stash in redraft leagues. This is important, as I am solely evaluating players for their ability to impact fantasy teams in 2020 – and not beyond.
During the season, the list will exclusively feature players who are not currently on major league rosters, and will include my prediction for when they will be called up, what kind of impact I expect to make, and how you should value them in various redraft formats.
We had a few wild turn of events over the week leading up to the season, which resulted in a pair of pitching prospects – Dustin May and Brady Singer – getting called upon to make early starts for the Dodgers and Royals, respectively.
May looked good in a short outing with LA, but his stay in the big leagues may not be permanent. It’s impossible to tell with the Dodgers, but as long as Clayton Kershaw is out I’d be happy to hold onto May and see what he can do his next time out.
Singer was a bit of a surprise, handling an early spot in Kansas City’s rotation. I’m not ready to christen him a must-add in all formats, even after he fanned seven in five innings, although he is worth a look in 12+ team leagues. For a ridiculously detailed outlook on Singer, check out Nick’s GIF breakdown.
Without further ado, here is a look at 10 pitchers who are not (yet) in the major leagues, and why you should consider stashing them in redraft leagues.
1. Nate Pearson, RHP, TOR – ETA Early August
Toronto officially left Pearson off the regular season roster, but they did add him to their taxi squad. Despite not beginning the season with the Blue Jays, Pearson is expected up soon (while maintaining his service time for an additional year) which could put him in line for a call-up on July 29.
I think Pearson will be rosterable in all formats when he is pitching every fifth day, especially since his home ballpark won’t be the band box located at the Rogers Centre. However, he did struggle in a scrimmage outing against the Red Sox last week, and while that was likely just some jitters, it is worth noting he may not come in and light the world on fire right away.
Be patient, but Pearson could still pay off in a major way in redraft leagues in 2020 – and if he was dropped or went undrafted in your 12-teamer, he is worth picking up as soon as possible.
2. Spencer Howard, RHP, PHI – ETA August
Although Howard is two years older than Gore, he has almost the exact same amount of experience above High-A, and similarly faces a decent group of starters ahead of him in Philadelphia. However, Philly’s depth drops off pretty quickly, which could open up a spot for Howard should anything go wrong.
Plus, if the Phillies decide to go for it – which they should based on their roster construction – it might make sense for Howard to get the call earlier rather than later.
While I believe Gore is the better pitcher, Howard might have a clearer path to the big leagues this season, making the choice between the two of them a tough one.
3. Casey Mize, RHP, DET – ETA August
His competition for a rotation spot, now that Jordan Zimmermann is on the IL, includes Ivan Nova and oft-injured youngsters Daniel Norris and Michael Fulmer, as well as fellow prospects Manning, Tarik Skubal, Alex Faedo, Tyler Alexander, Beau Burrows and Kyle Funkhouser.
Mize could be up as soon as early August if the Tigers decide he’s worth taking a look at this season, after they secure another year of team control of course.
If that ends up being the case, Mize will be worth adding in nearly all formats. He does not have the strikeout stuff that many of his counterparts, including Pearson and Gore, have – which limits his fantasy value – but he’s still good enough to merit ownership in basically all formats while he’s pitching in the major leagues. If you have an empty spot and aren’t inspired by the big league pitching on your waiver wire, I would be more than happy adding Mize to the end of my bench for what will likely only be a few weeks before he’s in the show.
4. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, SD – ETA August
The Padres are sitting on the best pitching prospect in all of baseball, left-hander MacKenzie Gore, and it seems all but certain he will be pitching in the major leagues at some point in 2020.
I’d have him at the top of this list if I was more confident he would be up early in the season, but San Diego has a solid rotation and seems more likely to hold Gore down, partly for service time reasons and partly because he’s just 21 years old and has only thrown 21.2 innings above High-A.
Still, Gore is a must-add in all formats when he gets the call, and once again he’s a player I would happily target in 12-team leagues with one of my final picks, if I have the flexibility to be patient.
I’m less confident he will be up the first week of August, but I’m very confident he’ll be worth the wait when he does get the call – more so than any other pitching prospect in baseball.
5. Forrest Whitley, RHP, HOU – ETA August
The Astros have an extremely solid top of their pitching rotation, anchored by Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers, and the depth to fill out the rotation looks solid as well, including Josh James, Jose Urquidy, Framber Valdez, Brandon Bielak and Cristian Javier.
Of course, Urquidy is out for an undisclosed amount of time after missing most of summer camp, and James was recently scratched from an exhibition start as well.
However, Forrest Whitley’s absolutely disastrous 2019 season (12.31 ERA in AAA, 5.56 in AA), makes him a huge enigma heading into 2020 – and it is difficult to project how Houston will use him this season, if at all.
The cancellation of the minor league season will have a big impact on Whitley, who likely needed a few strong showings in AAA to convince the Houston brass he had made the mechanical and mental adjustments to right the ship after 2019’s debacle. He’ll now have to prove those things in intrasquad contests, but if he can, he has a great chance of joining Houston’s rotation at some point in 2020.
Whitley’s stuff has never been in question. He boasts a wicked fastball in the high-90’s, an elite cutter and one of the game’s best changeups, and truly has top-of-the-line ace potential if he can consistently command the zone.
I’m not sold that he will be a huge fantasy contributor in 2020, because of last year’s struggles and Houston’s depth, but the reward is really high here, and I’d rather stash a wildcard like Whitley than some of the more boring, less risky pitching prospects not listed in this article. If he gets a chance to pitch as a starter in the big leagues, he is worth a look in most formats – although he does have the potential to blow up considering last year’s struggles.
6. Tony Gonsolin, RHP, LAD – ETA August
Gonsolin wasn’t even the top Dodgers pitcher stash last week, but he checks in on this list now that Kershaw is on the disabled list, allowing May to take over a spot in the rotation for the time being. With Kershaw and Jimmy Nelson both out, I believe Gonsolin is the No. 6 guy in the rotation, and there’s a good chance he will be pitching in the big leagues soon.
That could be out of the bullpen, however, which would obviously kill his fantasy value unless he manages to pitch himself into a high-leverage role, which is unlikely.
Gonsolin threw 40 big league innings in 2019, across 11 games and six starts, while posting a 2.92 ERA (3.86 FIP) along with a 1.02 WHIP and a 22.7% strikeout rate. He has an outstanding split-finger and a pair of plus breaking pitches, and the Dodgers have proven excellent at developing starting pitching prospects.
I’d be happy to throw Gonsolin on my bench in deeper redraft formats, and have him on my watchlist in all leagues. Once he gets the call into the rotation, he will be worth rostering across the board – and you won’t want to miss out.
7. Logan Gilbert, RHP, SEA – ETA September
Gilbert is a tough one for me. Talent-wise, there’s no doubt he could be a big-time fantasy stud if given the opportunity this season. However – it’s just really hard to know when, or if, the Mariners will give him that chance.
Gilbert threw 50 innings at AA last season, posting a 2.88 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and a 28.7% strikeout rate with a 7.7% walk rate.
While none of Gilbert’s pitches stand out, he has four very solid offerings that all show 50-grade potential. Tack on his 60-grade command and you have a guy who should settle in as a No. 2/3 starter, and who could get there as soon as 2020.
Seattle already has a handful of pitching prospects who will pitch in 2020, including Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn, and the temptation to leave Gilbert down for an extra year of service time, especially when they aren’t expected to be competitive, has me concerned that we won’t see much of the big right-hander this year.
If he gets the call, he is a must-add in nearly all formats. If you want to roster him before that time and can afford to wait, by all means give him a shot – the talent is unmistakable and Seattle’s use of a six-man rotation makes it more likely he will get a look.
8. Matt Manning, RHP, DET – ETA September
I’ve been on the record a handful of times as preferring Manning over Mize (including above), but all signs indicate that Mize, if healthy, will get the first look among Detroit’s pitching prospects this summer.
That doesn’t mean Manning will be passed over entirely, in fact they could both get their shot at the same time if the Tigers are aggressive at the trade deadline and free up a few rotation spots.
If that ends up being the case, I’d prefer Manning. He has more strikeout potential, less injury risk and in general has pitched better than Mize thus far in their careers, which have overlapped at the same levels for the last few seasons.
Manning posted an outstanding 2.56 ERA with a 2.53 FIP, 0.98 WHIP and a 28.1% strikeout rate in AA last year across 24 starts. He is very close to ready for the major leagues, and some might argue he’s ready now, even at just 22 years old.
Mize may be a slightly more practical candidate for fantasy relevance in 2020, but I’m taking Manning long term without a doubt, and would argue for him in redraft if I felt they were going to have an equal amount of innings. It’s a situation for fantasy players to watch closely this season, and either would be a respectable stash in deeper redraft leagues.
9. Brendan McKay, LHP, TB – Mid-August
While Rays left-hander Brendan McKay is among the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, his unexplained absence from summer camp and subsequent assignment to Tampa’s alternate site is conspicuous enough for me to knock him down to No. 9 on this list.
Once we know more about his situation, he could find his way back into the conversation as a stash candidate in 10 or 12 team leagues – but for now I wouldn’t be picking him up outside of very deep leagues or dynasty formats.
McKay hardly even qualifies as a prospect, having thrown 49 big league innings last year with an ugly 5.14 ERA and 1.41 WHIP, but a far more palatable 25.9% strikeout rate and 4.03 FIP.
The Rays have a lot of pitching depth and I don’t envision them rushing McKay back onto the bump before he is ready to go.
When that does happen, however, I think he’s worth rostering in 12+ team leagues thanks to his strikeout potential and plus command, which makes him an asset in all four pitching categories.
I’m less inclined to stash him as I would have been had he had a healthy summer camp, but I still think he is worth a look in deeper redraft leagues, and like everyone else on this list he is a prime candidate for the watch list.
10. Dane Dunning, RHP, CWS – ETA Mid-August
If you’re still looking for an arm to stash this season, and the above nine guys are taken, why not take a shot on White Sox right-hander Dane Dunning? Dunning looked very good during summer camp, his first time off a mound since late in the 2018 season.
Dunning underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2019, and he managed to ramp things up during summer camp, to the point where he is stretched out enough to come in and start, should the White Sox need him.
Acquired as the third piece of the Adam Eaton trade, alongside Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, Dunning had a 2.76 ERA with a 1.29 WHIP and a 26.3% strikeout rate in AA in 2018, across 11 starts. He possesses a well above-average slider and a good changeup, although his fastball is a tad underwhelming – likely limiting him to a No. 4/5 starter.
However, he should get a chance to pitch in Chicago this season, and considering how many of the White Sox games are against Kansas City and Detroit, the 25-year-old could be worth stashing in deeper redraft formats.
Removed: Sixto Sanchez
Graduated: Dustin May
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)