Every Sunday 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.
The trade deadline, and a handful of call-ups, impacted the list this week, with three players from Week 6 (Deivi Garcia, Dane Dunning and Clarke Schmidt) all getting the call while a handful of other prospect arms (Keegan Akin, Luis Garcia and Jose Urquidy) all got a look as well.
With almost exactly a month left in the season, in 10 and 12-team leagues I believe fantasy players are far better off using empty roster spots on streamers than stashing most of the below mentioned players. Nate Pearson, Spencer Howard and Tarik Skubal helped prove how volatile even the best pitching prospects are in their first big league starts, and while there are a few names I’m definitely willing to add if/when they get the call, I think this is a tough year to stash pitchers – especially at this stage of the season.
I’ll still write up my top-10 stash candidates, and I’ll give my reasoning why they are on the list, but unless you are in a redraft league deeper than 12 teams I’m not sure many (any?) of these guys are worth rostering right now – although nearly all of them will be ownable if/when they get the call.
So, 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 (deeper) redraft leagues.
1. Logan Gilbert, RHP, SEA – ETA September
The Mariners made one of the first big moves at the trade deadline, shipping veteran Taijuan Walker to the Toronto Blue Jays for a player to be named later. Walker’s departure opened the door initially for fellow prospect Ljay Newsome to make his first career start. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see big right-hander Logan Gilbert follow suit – much like the Mariners did with both Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn last year.
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.
However, the temptation to leave Gilbert down for an extra year of service time – especially with Seattle already well out of contention – does have me a little concerned we won’t see much of him this year – especially now that Kendall Graveman is back from the IL and Sheffield and Dunn – and even Nick Margevicius – are pitching quite well.
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 could make it more likely he will get a look.
2. Edward Cabrera, RHP, MIA – ETA Mid September
Cabrera likely would have joined the Marlins around the time Sixto Sanchez made his debut, but a right forearm injury slowed his progress at the team’s alternate site and delayed his debut timeline.
A recent report from Joe Frisaro of MLB.com indicates that Cabrera could be an option to join the team in the last few weeks of the season, however, making him a decent stash candidate in deeper (16+) team leagues. Plus, Miami sent away left-hander Caleb Smith at the trade deadline, and Elieser Hernández is out for the rest of the season with a lat strain, potentially opening up some spots in the rotation for the final few weeks.
Cabrera is electric, with a triple-digit fastball and a plus slider to boot. He doesn’t have a curveball and his changeup needs some work, as does his command, but the overall package has the potential to be very elite at the next level.
While I’m not confident a 22-year-old with only two plus pitches at the moment, and who didn’t throw a lot this summer, will immediately dominate big league hitters, I do think he’s worth keeping an eye on if and when he gets the call this season.
3. AJ Puk, LHP, OAK – ETA September
Puk is expected to get the call in the next few days, and while he will be working out of the bullpen for the rest of the season, his ability to get strikeouts and potentially pitch multiple innings will still make him a valuable fantasy asset in deeper leagues. Plus, he could potentially start in a few double-headers, since the A’s have a few of them coming up after missing some contests with a positive COVID-19 test.
After missing all of 2018 with an arm injury, Puk threw 36.2 innings between High-A and the majors last season, striking out 51 and walking just 15. His 27.6% strikeout rate and 3.18 ERA in 11.1 big league innings prove he can provide plenty of value – even if he’s not in a consistent starting role just yet.
Puk’s eventual role will likely be in the rotation, although his high-90’s fastball and power slider may make him a Josh Hader esque bullpen arm as well.
At least for this year, however, Puk will be a valuable bullpen piece in fantasy and is worth adding in deeper redraft leagues – particularly those that count holds and/or K/9.
4. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, SD – ETA Late-September
Ugh. The Padres are sitting on the best pitching prospect in all of baseball, left-hander MacKenzie Gore, and it seemed all but certain he would be pitching in the major leagues at some point in 2020, but here we are and Gore – despite recently working out at Petco Park – has yet to get the call.
The team’s recent addition of Mike Clevinger certainly won’t help matters for Gore either, and at this point I think it would take an injury (or two) for him to find his way to San Diego before the 2021 campaign.
It seems clear the team is going to take a look at Luis Patino, who is already in the big leagues in a relief capacity, before they bring up Gore. Patino has struggled in a relief role so far, but regardless it does seem like it could be a while until we see the electric Gore in a Padres uniform, as Patino, Luis Perdomo and now Michael Baez will fill any additional openings in the rotation – even with Adrian Morejon‘s injury and the trade of Cal Quantrill.
Gore is a must-add in all formats when he gets the call, and he is a player I would happily pick up in 16+ team leagues to stash on the bench while we wait for his arrival to the show. It’s a tougher sell to roster him in 12-teamers right now, but if you have a spot and are hoping to a boost come playoff time, Gore is a high-risk, high-reward gamble.
I’m very confident he will be worth the wait when he does get the call – more so than any other pitching prospect in baseball.
5. Daniel Lynch, LHP, KC – ETA September
Jakob Junis is back on the injured list, joining left-hander Mike Montgomery as Royals pitchers on the mend. Kansas City already turned to their bevy of young pitching prospects earlier this season when they promoted Brady Singer and Kris Bubic, and while Matt Harvey got the first crack at a rotation spot in Junis’ absence, it’s not at all crazy to imagine that Lynch may not be far behind – especially since Harvey gave up seven runs and walked four in 5.2 innings in his first start.
Lynch is arguably the most appealing of KC’s young pitchers, armed with an elite fastball/slider pairing and a pair of solid secondaries behind that in his curveball and changeup. Toss in a developing cutter and potential 55-grade command and you have all the makings of a mid-rotation starter with plus strikeout potential, and the polish to potentially contribute right away as a 23-year-old, despite only making 15 appearances at High-A last season.
Lynch also hasn’t shown that strikeout potential in game action just yet, and while I fully believe he can develop into an average or even above average strikeout guy, it may not happen this season if and when he gets the call.
He’s more of an arm to monitor than one to stash at this point, although I’d happily store him in deeper formats or AL-only leagues with Junis’ recent injury and the likelihood of Harvey’s stay in the rotation being a short one.
6. Shane McClanahan, LHP, TB – ETA Mid September
McKay likely would have been the top option to replace Chirinos in the rotation, but instead Tampa went with a bullpen game, and is now using non-prospect Josh Fleming in the rotation for the time being.
However, despite giving starts to guys like Fleming and Aaron Sledgers, I do think the injuries in Tampa create an opportunity for uber-prospect Shane McClanahan to pitch meaningful big league innings this season, enough so to give him a spot on this list even with the return of Charlie Morton.
McClanahan, 23, ascended three levels of the minors last year, striking out 154 in 120.2 innings. While he struggled in a small cameo in AA, there’s little doubt McClanahan’s ridiculous fastball/curveball combination won’t play up at the next level.
Of course, Tampa likes bringing their pitching along slowly, and often their top prospects start out coming out of the bullpen – which is an entirely reasonable prediction for McClanahan this year.
In deeper leagues, (16+) I could see taking a dart throw on McClanahan to potentially provide some value down the stretch – although I think it will be as a multi-inning reliever if anything.
7. Thomas Szapucki, LHP, NYM – ETA September
I don’t like insulting major league players, as it takes a hell of a lot of talent and work to reach the big leagues, but my god the rotation the Mets are putting out there right now is…..let’s go with sad.
With Noah Syndergaard and Michael Wacha on the injured list, and with Steven Matz getting demoted to the bullpen, the Mets have a current six-man rotation of Jacob deGrom, David Peterson, Rick Porcello, Robert Gsellman, Corey Oswalt and Seth Lugo. Yikes.
If New York wants to inject some life into that rotation, they could turn toward their other left-handed pitching prospect, Thomas Szapucki, to fill-in for the time being. Szapucki’s career has been marred by lengthy injuries, only throwing 29 innings in 2017 and missing all of 2018.
When healthy, his deceptive fastball and 60-grade curveball help him miss a lot of bats (72 strikeouts in 61.2 minor league innings in 2019) and could make him a fantasy relevant starter sooner rather than later.
In very deep leagues, I think Szapucki is worth tossing onto your bench if you have room. In standard 12-team redraft leagues, he seems like a plausible streaming candidate if and when he gets the call.
8. Tucker Davidson, LHP, ATL – ETA Mid September
Now, with Soroka out for the year, Hamels still on the IL and Newcomb and Folty both sent to the alternate site, the team is left with just Fried.
They have tried a variety of remedies, including finally giving Ian Anderson a look, and their most recent addition was veteran Tommy Milone – who they acquired in a trade with the Orioles.
I’ve definitely soured on Tucker Davidson as a candidate to pitch meaningful innings for Atlanta this season, as the team seems committed to looking elsewhere (Robbie Erlin, really?) instead of going with the young lefty.
The 24-year-old left-hander did post a 2.03 ERA in 21 starts at AA last year, along with a 2.84 mark at AAA in four starts. He also went to Driveline over the offseason and added ticks to his fastball, which now sits in the mid-90’s, and his slider which reaches the high-80’s.
I believe there is real potential for Davidson to step in and immediately contribute, making him a player worth keeping a close eye on if he does gets the call, but Atlanta is seemingly planning to go another direction which knocks him down a ways on this list.
Command issues are something to keep an eye on as well, and Atlanta’s unwillingness to give him a spot so far does give me pause about stashing him outside of deep, deep leagues, but the talent is there.
9. Josiah Gray, RHP, LAD – ETA September
The Los Angeles Dodgers are hardly a team I want to pin any hopes and dreams of seeing prospects on, especially after the Gavin Lux/Tony Gonsolin fiascos, but after shipping Ross Stripling to the Blue Jays the team does have a little more of an opportunity to find a spot for 22-year-old right-hander Josiah Gray to make his big league debut.
Gonsolin and Dustin May are both finally fixtures in LA’s rotation, alongside Julio Urias, Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, and the team also has Alex Wood in the bullpen and Mitch White and Josh Sborz alongside Gray at the team’s alternate site, so it will probably take either an injury or a bevy of double-headers for Gray to get a look – but if/when he does he will be an extremely rosterable fantasy asset.
Gray threw 130 innings across three levels last season, striking out 147 and walking just 31 while keeping his ERA just above 2.00. He posted a 2.75 ERA and a 25.5% strikeout rate in eight starts at Double-A, and his impeccable command of his four-pitch mix – which includes a plus fastball, two plus breaking balls and an average changeup, should make him a solid fantasy asset in 12 to 14 team leagues if/when he gets the call this season.
10. Connor Seabold, RHP, BOS – ETA September
The Boston Red Sox have perhaps the saddest pitching rotation in major league baseball this season, and while recently acquired right-hander Nick Pivetta is likely going to be stretched out into a starter as soon as possible, it is the other piece acquired in that trade, Connor Seabold, who interests me as a fantasy asset this year.
There’s no concrete evidence Seabold will get a look this year, but the 24-year-old has thrown over 100 innings in AA, including 40 innings of 2.25 ERA ball last season with a 36:10 K:BB ratio. Seabold doesn’t have overpowering velocity but his slider is a plus pitch and the development of his changeup has been critical to his recent success in the minor leagues. He strikes me as a very solid back end of the rotation junk arm, and while the strikeouts likely won’t show up in a big way, he still has the stuff to be a decent fantasy asset – at least as a streamer against weaker offenses.
I wouldn’t rush to pick Seabold up in any redraft leagues just yet, but if he does get the call he will be worth a look in deeper leagues.
Added: AJ Puk, Josiah Gray, Connor Seabold
Others given consideration: Jhoan Duran, Jackson Kowar, Daulton Jefferies, Nick Lodolo, George Kirby, Reid Detmers, Jackson Rutledge, DL Hall, Mitch White
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)