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 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 Mitch Keller, Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk and Kyle Wright on this list, as they will be in the major leagues, and therefore don’t qualify as “stash” candidates.
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. Nate Pearson, RHP, TOR – ETA Early August
The Blue Jays have one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball at their disposal, a guy with an electric fastball and a pair of elite secondaries who dominated both AA and AAA last year. Yet, Toronto is currently sporting a rotation that features four pitchers with a projected ERA above 4.75.
So yeah, I don’t expect Nate Pearson to be down for long. The power right-hander with the legitimate 80-grade fastball will almost certainly make his debut this year, and is a reasonably good bet to be up after the first week of the season – allowing Toronto to control him for one more season before he hits free agency.
Pearson’s stuff is far too good for him to be left on the waiver wire, as his current NFBC ADP of 256 suggests, and in 10 and 12-team leagues I think he’s an excellent player to target in the last few rounds, as he’ll likely be up after just one turn in the rotation – and his performance could easily place him among the top-25 starting pitchers in the league by season’s end.
2. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, SD – ETA Early 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 above Pearson if I was more confident he’d be up right away, but San Diego has a more 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.
3. Spencer Howard, RHP, PHI – ETA August
I could more or less copy and paste what I wrote for Gore here for Howard. In fact, Howard and Gore are one spot apart in NFBC ADP (275 for Gore, 276 for Howard), and one spot apart in Nick’s latest version of the list (both behind Pearson), so it is clear they are being treated relatively equally in the fantasy landscape.
Although Howard is two years older than Gore, he has almost the exact same amount of experience (30.2 innings) above High-A, and similarly faces a decent group of starters ahead of him in Philadelphia. 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.
4. Dustin May, RHP, LAD – ETA August
When it was announced that David Price was going to opt-out of the 2020 season, folks immediately moved a pair of Dodgers prospects, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, up on their fantasy rankings. However, it’s looking more and more like neither of them will actually begin the season in the big league rotation.
Gonsolin was recently optioned to minor league camp, while May is still competing with Ross Stripling for the vacant spot in the rotation. There are rumblings May could end up beginning the season in the bullpen as well, and while I think he’d provide decent value as a reliever (like he did most of his time in the big leagues last year), I’m not sure his current ADP of 234 is worth the risk that he only makes a handful of starts, if he starts at all this season.
We know Dodgeritis is a thing, and expecting more than a handful of starts and a few bullpen appearances out of May is probably foolish. However, he has proven how effective he is throughout his minor league and brief major league career, and while he likely won’t be a big strikeout guy (which hurts his value), he’s still worth a look as a stash candidate in 10 and 12-team redraft leagues, or at least a must-own streamer when he’s known to be starting.
5. Casey Mize, RHP, DET – ETA August
In fact, manager Ron Gardenhire made it sound like he believes Mize is ready to contribute to Detroit’s rotation right away – although he was quick to say that likely wouldn’t happen.
“I’d like to have him — right now,” Gardenhire said. “But we know the protocol, we know what we’re trying to do here and step-by-step, but I just think he’s very poised and he knows what he needs to do and wants to do. It’s fun watching him, pitch, he’s in control, and like I said, he’s got a great plan on what he needs to be successful. So, he’s moving really quick and for me, it can’t be quick enough. I like him a lot.”
“We know the protocol” sure sounds like service time manipulation to me, but it could also mean Mize is a candidate to be up as soon as the first week of 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 and Beau Burrows.
I’m betting that Mize, like May, will get a handful of starts in the big leagues this season. However, also like May, his lack of dominant stuff makes me think he will be a good, but not great, fantasy asset in 2020. His 3.20 ERA in AA was backed up by his peripherals last year, but his 23.5% strikeout rate is rather pedestrian, and could limit his future fantasy value, which is why he’s a little further down on this list.
Still, in deeper leagues he’s a perfectly solid stash option, although I would probably just keep him on the watchlist in 10 and 12-teamers.
6. Forrest Whitley, RHP, HOU – ETA Mid-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.
That, coupled with Forrest Whitley’s absolutely disastrous 2019 season (12.31 ERA in AAA, 5.56 in AA), makes him a huge enigma heading into 2020.
The cancellation of the minor league season has 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.
7. Matt Manning, RHP, DET – ETA Mid-August
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 owners to watch closely this season, and either would be a respectable stash in deeper redraft leagues.
8. Brendan McKay, LHP, TB – Mid-August
McKay originally slotted in at No. 5 on this list, but the fact he hasn’t (as of this writing) reported to summer camp with the Rays has me extra worried. Even assuming he returns right away, there’s almost no way he will be ready to pitch in games for at least two weeks, and that could push his MLB debut into mid-August.
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, even with Yonny Chirinos currently out as well, 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 owning 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’s worth a look on deeper redraft rosters right at the start of the season, and like everyone else on this list he is a prime candidate for the watch list.
9. Sixto Sanchez, RHP, MIA – ETA Mid-August
Sanchez is the youngest pitcher on this list, but he has more innings pitched at AA than almost anyone else – having amassed 103 innings in 18 starts last year while posting a stellar 2.53 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP, backed by a 2.69 FIP.
The former Phillies farmhand has done nothing but shove since joining the Marlins system, and even though they have a plethora of young pitching already in the show – including Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Elieser Hernandez – Sanchez seems like a good bet to get some innings in 2020.
While he suffers a similar fate to May and Mize in that he’s not a huge strikeout guy, I think he would still be worth rostering in most formats if and when he gets the call, and he’s worth a stash in deeper redraft leagues at this point – and well worth a spot on the watch list in 10 and 12-team formats.
10. 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 him 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 Gilbert 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. I’m just not nearly as confident he will pitch in 2020 as the other names ahead of him on this list, at least at this point.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)