Every Saturday for the abbreviated 2020 season, I will be posting a list of 10 hitting 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 they can be expected to make, and how you should value them in various redraft formats.
For today’s column, coming out less than a week before the regular season is (finally) set to begin, I am going to give my best guess as to which prospects will not be on big-league rosters to begin the campaign. So, you will not see Luis Robert, Carter Kieboom, Gavin Lux, and Sam Hilliard on this list, as they will be in the major leagues, and owned in most fantasy baseball leagues, on Opening Day. I also omitted Nico Hoerner and Brendan Rodgers, who are both listed as on major league rosters at this time according to Roster Resource.
Here is my first take at the 10 best prospects to stash for this abbreviated season, as I think they will be up sooner rather than later and will have an impact in redraft leagues in 2020.
1. Dylan Carlson, OF, STL – ETA Early August
The Cardinals have a plethora of outfielders to take with them into the regular season, and a recent report from Anne Rogers of MLB.com suggested that Dylan Carlson, despite being among the top-15 prospects in all of baseball, may not be among them.
Rogers wrote that the left field battle is between Tyler O’Neill and Lane Thomas, suggesting the Cardinals want to see what they have in O’Neill and Thomas before they look elsewhere.
This could very easily be a ploy to keep Carlson down for a week in order to secure another year of service time over the toolsy 21-year-old, who hit a blistering .361/.418/.681(!) in 18 games at AAA last year.
Carlson does lack experience above AA, to be sure, but it is hard to imagine he is not a better option than O’Neill or Thomas this season—even if those guys are both nice post-hype sleepers who could benefit from some Cardinals devil magic.
Carlson blasted 27 home runs with 20 steals last year between AA and AAA, and there’s plenty of reason to believe the power surge is real. If he gets the call in Week 2 of the 2020 season, he should be owned across the board. If you have the ability to stash him for the first week of the season (and you likely will, since so many guys will be on the IL) you won’t regret it.
2. Jo Adell, OF, LAA – ETA Early August
The gap between Carlson and Jo Adell is razor-thin, but I prefer Carlson for a few reasons. Adell is a year younger, for starters, and he posted far inferior statistics in his small Triple-A cameo last year. Plus, Adell has a manager, Joe Maddon, who couldn’t wait to tell reporters how not ready for the major leagues he is.
“He has things to work on, quite frankly,” Maddon told reporters. “Don’t be deceived by a couple of well-struck balls in a Spring Training game, whether it’s here now or in an actual spring that we just went through. He’s making progress. He is a Major League player in the making. But don’t try to rush a young man like this, you want to make sure that when you do pull the switch and put him out there that he’s absolutely ready for it, that he stays here and he continues to progress.”
That, coupled with Adell’s 67 wRC+ and 32.6% strikeout rate in AAA last year, has me less optimistic that he will come up and immediately contribute to your fantasy team in 2020.
Adell is a top-4 prospect in baseball, without a doubt, and his value in dynasty formats is sky-high. But in a 60-game 2020 season, where he will likely be held down for at least a week or two, I need him to hit the stuffing out of the ball—or at least steal a bunch of bags—in order to justify rostering him in a redraft league. And it is by no means a guarantee that he will immediately succeed when called up to the big leagues. Of course, that’s the case with any prospect (including Carlson) but Maddon doesn’t seem likely to keep giving Adell chances if he is deemed not ready, and his AAA showing is perhaps a sign he needs more time before he will be ready to go.
Adell will be a huge fantasy stud in the near future, but I’m hard-pressed to bank on it happening in 2020. Still, the upside is high enough to keep him stashed for anyone who can afford to, particularly in 12+ team leagues.
3. Nick Madrigal, 2B, CWS – ETA Early August
I believe White sox second baseman Nick Madrigal is more MLB ready than anyone on this list, including Carlson and Adell, and I even think there is a great chance he ends up with more big-league at-bats than either of them.
However, his profile is of someone who is far more valuable in real life than as a fantasy asset, and I’m not sure he will ever be much more than a batting average stabilizer in standard redraft leagues.
Madrigal, 23, advanced from High-A to AAA last season, posting absolutely elite contact rates and hitting a torrid .331 in AAA and .341 in AA. His 16 strikeouts in 532 plate appearances last year is simply jaw-dropping, and a walk rate over 8.0% is nothing to scoff at either.
Still, he only hit four home runs, and while his 36 total extra-base hits aren’t too bad, it’s still not enough for him to really make a big impact outside of runs scored and average—unless he steals bases, which will be the ultimate kicker for Madrigal’s fantasy future.
Madrigal swiped 35 bags last season, while getting caught 13 times, a success rate of 72.9%. He’ll need to prove he can steal bases at the big league level, a skill that does not translate from the minors to the pros nearly as much as many other skills do.
If Madrigal gets the call early into the season, which I suspect he will considering the dearth of talent in front of him, he’s a guy who could hit near the top of Chicago’s order, which will provide ample opportunity to score some runs. I have little doubt he can provide a .300+ average, which is certainly valuable, but unless he can steal 10 or so bases in a shortened season, I think he’ll be bench fodder in 10-12 team leagues.
Doesn’t mean he’s not worth stashing if you have an empty spot and need to gamble on some steals, but until the power comes (if it does) he won’t be a true fantasy stud.
4. Alec Bohm, 3B, PHI – ETA August
When Scott Kingery went down with COVID-19, it looked like there was at least an outside chance that star third base prospect Alec Bohm would begin the season with the Phillies.
Now that Kingery is back, it’s looking more and more likely that the team will keep Bohm down at least the six days necessary to gain a full year of team control, and possibly even longer if they don’t feel they need him. Rhys Hoskins and either Kingery or Jean Segura will start at the corners, and a plethora of other corner infield options (including Logan Forsythe, Neil Walker, Josh Harrison, and Ronald Torreyes) could make Bohm less of a need right away.
The 23-year-old rose three levels last year, ending at AA where he posted a 146 wRC+ and 14 home runs in 63 games. Bohm has proven he is among the best hitting prospects in all of baseball, and his raw power and above-average contact rate should make him a fantasy darling when he is playing every day.
I’m confident enough to say that will happen at some point in 2020, and I would not mind taking him with one of my final picks in a 12-teamer, or at least keeping him high on my watch list.
5. Jarred Kelenic, OF, SEA – ETA September
It was tough to know how to rank Kelenic. If every player on this list were given the exact same number of plate appearances in the major leagues this season, there’s a real chance the just-turned 21-year-old Mariners outfielder would outperform everyone—he’s that talented.
However, he is also the most likely to not play in the major leagues at all in 2020, if the Mariners decide they want to see what they have in Kyle Lewis, Jake Fraley and Braden Bishop—with the added benefit of service time manipulation that would keep Kelenic under team control for longer.
Kelenic’s recent performance at Summer Camp has been absolutely jaw-dropping, flashing perhaps the prettiest left-handed swing since another young Mariners prospect, Ken Griffey Jr. He absolutely tore up low-level pitching last season, but he only appeared in 21 games above High-A—which would be used to justify Seattle’s decision if they decide to hold him back.
I have him No. 5 on this list because the talent is far too high to ignore, but I’m probably not drafting him in any redraft leagues unless they are insanely deep (500 player range or so). However, you will want to keep a close, very close, eye on him throughout the year. As soon as he’s promoted, he needs to be owned across the board—and you won’t want to miss out.
6. Ryan Mountcastle, 1B, BAL – ETA August
While I don’t expect slugging infielder Ryan Mountcastle to begin the season with the Orioles, I doubt they will be able to keep him down long. For starters, the absence of Trey Mancini and Dwight Smith makes an already shallow corner infield/outfield situation even more dire in Baltimore, and Mountcastle’s .312 average with 25 home runs, 83 RBI and a 117 wRC+ in AAA last year proves he is more than ready to contribute at the next level.
After coming up a shortstop, Mountcastle made the transition to third base and then spent most of 2019 at either first base or left field. That type of versatility could make him a super-utility guy, although I suspect he’s good enough to garner everyday at-bats in Baltimore for the majority of the season.
He has plus power and plus bat control, which helps make up for his lack of speed and some concerning plate discipline issues, namely a 4.3% walk rate last year.
Still, I’d be happy taking a shot on Mountcastle in deep redraft leagues and will have him on my watchlist in all other formats—as a call-up seems imminent and his chance of contributing in 12 and even 10-team leagues is high.
7. Monte Harrison, OF, MIA – ETA August
There’s a very real chance Monte Harrison ends up on Miami’s opening day roster, thanks in part to an excellent summer camp performance—as well as the recent placement of both Lewis Brinson and Matt Joyce on the injured list.
Harrison slashed .274/.357/.451 with nine home runs and 20 stolen bases in just 56 games at AAA last season, giving him a full season pace of roughly 25 and 55. Obviously it is unlikely he will ever reach that threshold in a 162 game season, but the toolsy 24-year-old proved he is ready to produce at the big league level, and the power-speed combination is enough for me to have him squarely on my radar in all formats.
Miami still has Jonathan Villar, Corey Dickerson, Harold Ramirez, Magneuris Sierra, Jon Berti, and Garrett Cooper around, which makes finding a spot for Harrison a bit more difficult. And while he is ultimately talented enough to win a starting job, his massive strikeout issues will no doubt hamper him at the big league level.
Still, the tools are good enough that I would happily pick him up in 12-teamers if he is given a starting role—and will keep an eye on him until that happens.
8. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, PIT – ETA August
As of this writing, Pirates third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes has yet to appear at summer camp, and no explanation for his absence has been given. That certainly leads to speculation about a potential COVID-19 diagnosis, although it’s entirely possible his absence is unrelated.
Regardless, his chances of making the opening day roster are squarely zero at this point—as he already had a slim chance to unseat starter Colin Moran and now won’t even be ready for game situations when the season begins.
However, Hayes is too good to be ignored all season, provided he gets healthy, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him making his big league debut before the end of the season.
A potential future Gold Glover at the hot corner, Hayes struggled a bit at the dish in 2019, posting a pedestrian 92 wRC+ at AAA with a .265 average in 110 games—although his 10 home runs and 12 stolen bases show the potential he has to be a five-category contributor. I’m more than happy to pick Hayes up as soon as he gets the call, and in deeper redraft leagues (or NL-only) I think he’s a decent option to stash on the bench while we wait for his debut.
9. Isaac Paredes, SS, DET – ETA Mid August
As I was writing this (no joke) Tigers third baseman Isaac Paredes was cleared to rejoin the team after a stint on the injured list, likely (although not confirmed) related to COVID-19.
Paredes is now behind on his reps, but he was almost certainly not going to start the season with the big club anyway—after all, he is just 21 years old and has not played above AA.
Still, Paredes hit really well at Double-A Erie last year, posting a .282/.368/.416 slash line with a 133 wRC+, 13 home runs, five stolen bases, and nearly as many walks (57) as strikeouts (61) in 127 games played.
As I wrote in my Bold Predictions piece, where I postulated that Paredes could start at 3B by mid-August, the Tigers have an abhorrent lack of talent at the hot corner. Some combination of Jeimer Candelario, Brandon Dixon, Willi Castro, and Dawel Lugo will likely handle third base in 2020 —which is not good.
Paredes is better than all of them, and if the team decides to give up a year of control (which is a huge if) then he could easily pull down some fantasy value—particularly in deeper leagues. He makes a lot of contact, can nab a few bases, and has burgeoning power that could lead him to have a Jhonny Peralta-esque career when all is said and done.
You’re not drafting Paredes in redraft leagues, even really deep ones, but you should have your eye on him.
10. Andrew Vaughn, 1B, CWS – ETA September
Let’s have some fun. There are perhaps other hitting prospects (Jorge Mateo, Cristian Pache, Brent Rooker, Daz Cameron) who are more likely to debut this year than Vaughn, but if you’re looking for the ultimate boom-or-bust, dart throw prospect that could help catapult you to a victory late in the season, you’ll probably want to take a shot on Vaughn over anyone else.
Vaughn, 22, was the third overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, considered one of the most pure hitting prospects to come into the pros in quite some time. He appeared in 55 MiLB games down the stretch, hitting six home runs with a batting average hovering over .250, but a stellar OBP in the .360 range.
Vaughn probably needs more minor league seasoning before he is ready for everyday big-league at-bats, and the White Sox have veterans Jose Abreu and Edwin Encarnacion entrenched at 1B and DH, as well as guys like Zack Collins, Cheslor Cuthbert and Nicky Delmonico waiting in the wings, but at the end of the day, the bat is so good that he might be worth gambling on in very deep leagues.
I could see a reality where injury or illness prevents one of Encarnacion or Abreu from finishing the season, and the White Sox—who I expect to make a push this year—needing to inject some oomph into their lineup. They won’t get it from Collins, Cuthbert, or Delmonico, so maybe they turn to Vaughn for a few weeks to try and catch lightning in a bottle.
Crazier things have certainly happened, and you won’t want to watch another team beat you in the finals after Vaughn hits three home runs in his first week in the show. Keep him on the watchlist.
Others given consideration: Cristian Pache, Drew Waters, Jorge Mateo, Daz Cameron, Daulton Varsho, Alex Kirilloff, Brent Rooker
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)