|Assets 1-25||Assets 26-50||Assets 51-75||Assets 76-100|
Segment three, or numbers 51-75, have been the spot where top prospects debut on this list, and this installment is no exception. There are six prospects who have yet to make their MLB debuts, but all of them (except for Rutschman) could compete in the league on Opening Day.
For some reason, each time one of these names comes up, some version of the following argument comes up: “Are you seriously saying that somebody who hasn’t played a game is better than (insert player here)?”
No. That is not what I am saying. I am saying he is more valuable in dynasty fantasy baseball leagues. How did I make that decision? You can read more about my methodology in the intro of the top 1-25 article, but for those of you who are averse to extra clicks, the CliffsNotes version is that I rank players by what level I think they can get to, and how many years I think they can stay at that level. I do this by watching them play, evaluating their statistics, and finally by playing in a handful of dynasty leagues. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about the current value of players just by sending trades to 75 or so people throughout the season. It’s by no means scientific — and not a good way to make friends, believe me — but it answers a number of questions you might ask.
51. Luis Robert, OF, CWS, Age: 22
Let the LouBob era begin! Plus power and plus speed is ready to take residency in south Chicago this year, very possibly on Opening Day. There are contact concerns with Robert, and some pitch selection issues as well. I’m not as worried about swing-and-miss potential as I am about his unwillingness to walk. Even when he was tearing up Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A in 2019, he still couldn’t muster a walk rate above 6%. Nevertheless, the tools are there. Robert genuinely has the potential to go 35/35. He might be the only prospect with that specific kind of potential.
52. Eloy Jimenez, OF, CWS, Age: 23
Eloy Jimenez gave us a preview of what he’s capable of after the All-Star break last season:
Power-wise, this is Jimenez’s baseline. There is 40+ home run potential. After all, he did hit 31 home runs in just 121 games last year. I’m not as sold on the average. There are indicators that suggest he could be a .290 hitter. He was a .311 minor league hitter and never really had a serious stint where he struggled to make contact, so maybe I’m biased.
53. Jo Adell, OF, LAA, Age: 21
I just want to be clear: I do not endorse owning Jo Adell in a re-draft league in 2020. I am, however, leaning heavily on owning him in dynasty leagues and beyond 2020. Don’t get me wrong: Adell’s path is probably a best-case scenario for any org that picks a high school outfielder in the first round. There have been, however, a couple of small speed bumps every time he advanced to both Double-A and Triple-A. That said, I believe when he gets to the show, he’s going to struggle similarly. I don’t have any concerns about his ability to overcome that struggle. All reports say he’s one of the most hard-working prospects in the minors.
54. J.D. Martinez, OF, BOS, Age: 32
What else can I say about J.D. Martinez? The only thing to really address at this point is the age. He will turn 33 before the season is over. What he does have going for him, though, is that he splits time at DH and OF, so he has a pretty low-impact situation. I’m still buying Martinez for the next two or three years. He puts up MVP-caliber numbers, and there is no sign yet of age affecting that.
55. Max Scherzer, SP, WAS, Age: 35
Putting Max Scherzer at No. 58 is hard for me. I’m willing to say that I think age is finally catching up with him. I don’t think it’s affecting his stuff, I think it’s affecting his ability to stay healthy. Three IL stints in the last three years — all related to back/neck issues is not a good sign. Just ask Clayton Kershaw what a back issue can do to a pitcher. Despite all that, he still has some of the best stuff in the game. In fact, his K rate keeps climbing (a career-high 12.69 K/9 in 2019) and the BB rate (1.72) was the lowest it’s been since 2014. I’m just worried he won’t be on the mound as frequently as we’d like — and it could get worse.
56. Stephen Strasburg, SP, WAS, Age: 31
Even though Scherzer is 35 and Stephen Strasburg is 31, I consider their bodies the same age. With Strasburg’s extensive injury history (11 IL stints since 2010), it really is a small miracle that he avoided injury in 2019. The former all-world prospect reached 30 starts for the first time since 2014 (also the last time he reached 200 innings). It would be nice to see him enjoy a few healthy years that go toward fulfilling his legacy. If he reaches 30 starts for a second consecutive season, he could actually move up some spots, but I’m not confident. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention his diminished velocity for the second consecutive year. He has so many pitches that it doesn’t matter if he’s sitting 93 or 95 mph, but if it drops to 91-92, he could run into a rough ending to his career without some kind of change to his repertoire.
57. Jack Flaherty, SP, STL, Age: 24
I have to say that I’m now fully on the Jack Flaherty train. I was skeptical a year ago because of his dramatic increase in walk rate to 3.5. Flaherty then went out and took a full point off that number while mostly maintaining his strikeout rate. Riding essentially a two-pitch repertoire, he throws just enough curveballs to throw hitters off his fastball/slider game. I’d like to see some improvement in the changeup, but it’s not necessary. He’s already got swing-and-miss stuff; it’s just a matter of not giving up free passes.
58. Forrest Whitley, SP, HOU, Age: 22
We’ve now reached the pitching prospect portion of the series. There are four elite prospects who will be in the majors in 2020. It’s obvious that the shine has worn off Forrest Whitley to most. Once the top pitching prospect in the league, he’s now viewed as a risky pick for very minor reasons. Yes, there have been a few injuries and some control issues — which probably were caused by the injuries — but Whitley’s stuff has not been affected in any way. Well, maybe in one way. His changeup isn’t as good, in both movement and effectiveness, as it was a year ago. That would be concerning if it wasn’t one of five plus pitches this kid has in his arsenal. Five! He still sits mid-to-upper 90s. He still has a plus fastball, changeup, slider, curveball, and cutter.
59. MacKenzie Gore, SP, SD, Age: 20
As far as I’m concerned, Whitley and MacKenzie Gore are almost the same, value-wise. I wouldn’t fault anyone for ranking Gore higher than Whitley, but if I had the choice, I’d rather go with Whitley’s higher ceiling. That being said, Gore has three plus pitches and good command. He’ll likely be called up after the All-Star break, but it could be earlier, considering how aggressive San Diego has been with top prospects. If you’re looking for someone to start your rotation with the future in mind, you can’t do much better than the Padres left-hander.
60. Jesus Luzardo, SP, OAK, Age: 22
Jesus Luzardo is right in the middle of these top pitching prospects because he is the perfect combination of all of them. He’s already got a starting spot in 2020, he’s got high-end velocity, high-end stuff, and very good control. He’s a little small, but that might only affect how long he’s going to be good — and that’s a problem for down the road. He has had Tommy John surgery, so there is some injury history, but his repertoire is also too good to ignore. He’s got three plus pitches, an innate ability to limit home runs, a low walk rate, and he’s left-handed. Luzardo is basically everything you’d want.
61. Casey Mize, SP, DET, Age: 22
I rank Casey Mize fourth in this group of prospects because even though he probably has just as good of stuff as Gore, his injury history is much more complicated. If healthy, I actually have the most confidence in Mize to be successful at the highest level over the other three pitching prospects above. His splitter might be the best single pitch in the minors. I just know that he has had multiple bouts of forearm stiffness and last season suffered shoulder inflammation. All of those point to future problems to a starting pitcher. I hope they don’t, so I’m cautious, but he’s also worth paying the sticker price for.
62. Blake Snell, SP, TB, Age: 27
I’m worried about Blake Snell, y’all. On the surface, everything looks fine. The velocity is still there, and there isn’t a change in his quality of pitches. What worries me is his control. He may have won a Cy Young with a walk rate of 3.19 per nine innings, but that won’t happen again for him. I don’t believe the way he pitches is sustainable. It’s never been a good model to allow base-runners, but in today’s homer-happy MLB, it’s catastrophic. Outside of Snell’s magical 2018, he hasn’t posted a WHIP below 1.20 for Tampa. A 1.20+ WHIP is just too high to be an ace. I’m sorry, but it is. You can throw all of the advanced stats at me you want, but if you allow almost one-and-a-third base-runners an inning and give up a homer a start, you’re not going to post a sub-3.00 ERA; maybe not even a 3.50 ERA.
63. Matt Olson, 1B, OAK, Age: 25
Matt Olson hit a home run every 13.4 at-bats in 2019. If you prorated his 36 homers in 127 games to a full season, he’d be on pace for 46. Part of this rating is a lack of first base options, but the other part is his insane power plus an acceptable BB rate (9.34%). It’s too bad he’s playing in Oakland. If he were in almost any other stadium, his numbers would be more impressive. Still, he turns 26 in 2020 and will bat cleanup for the A’s for the foreseeable future. Olson ranks in the top 20 in average exit velocity, hard-hit percentage, and barrels per plate appearance. He’s a top-three first baseman and the youngest in the top five.
64. Ketel Marte, 2B/SS/OF, ARI, Age: 26
He might be one of the most beneficial recipients of the power boom this season; Ketel Marte has transformed himself from a mediocre shortstop to an All-Star second baseman by straight up doubling his homer output. There is reason to think this change will stick, as his exit velocity (90.3 mph), barrel rate (9.9%), and launch angle (11.9 degrees) have all been trending in the right direction, leading him to this point. Marte also has a sound approach at the plate. Just don’t expect any stolen bases.
65. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, CHC, Age: 30
Like Martinez 14 spots higher, the only thing to really address about Anthony Rizzo at this point is his age. Maybe it’s just because of the offensive boost from which the entire league is benefiting, but Rizzo does not appear to be slowing down at all. There is no indication that he can’t do what he is doing for at least the next two years, which is 30 home runs and a near .400 OBP. If you can put up those numbers, you’re always in the discussion for the MVP, even if it’s in the No. 8 to 10 range.
66. Clayton Kershaw, SP, LAD, Age: 31
It’s sad that we’re at this point with Clayton Kershaw. Despite being younger, the situation I described for Scherzer has been happening to Kershaw since 2017. Nowadays when he’s healthy, he’s still a top 10 pitcher, but he hasn’t pitched 200 innings since 2015. The worst part is it’s not going to get better. Back injuries never fully heal, as you can see since his back has caused him to hit the IL three times in the last four years. Take it from someone who suffered a major back injury: You’re never the same. I hate that the best pitcher of his generation was cut down at 28, but you also have to value him accordingly.
67. Adley Rutschman, C, BAL, Age: 22
Adley Rutschman is an exceptional talent. He’s the best overall catching prospect, with an advanced bat, plus power and plus defense. He will stay at catcher, and if the Orioles want to fast track him, he could be up in 2021. What is different about Rutschman is that his defense is on par or better than his already advanced bat. He’s probably the only top-tier catching prospect you can say that about. Additionally, there is potential for a .290 hitter with 25 homers — at catcher.
68. Chris Sale, SP, BOS, Age: 30
Chris Sale was as up and down as possible in 2019. I’m going to be plain: I didn’t trust Dave Dumbrowski to figure out how to unlock the hidden potential of a bread clip. If I think he can’t figure out how to open one of those plastic squares to make a sandwich, it only makes sense that whatever plan he’s hatched to get more out of Sale would be a disaster. Why not stick with what works? Sure, Sale isn’t very good after Aug. 1, but he’s one of the best pitchers in the world before then. What’s the point in messing with that? Don’t you have to make it to the playoffs before worrying about winning the World Series?
Even this new management doesn’t inspire confidence. I know this is weird, but Sale can’t rise too much further anymore. Even if he is good now, he will always have that tinge of unpredictability about him. He’s simply too old to lose that tinge, too. He’ll never be back in the top 50.
69. Max Muncy, 1B/2B/3B, LAD, Age: 29
He’s a late bloomer, but Max Muncy deserves to be on this list due to his advanced approach, multi-position eligibility, and power. Muncy matched his career-high of 35 homers, but was slightly off in the overall power department and struck out a little more than in his 2018 breakout campaign. Despite being so good for two years, Muncy has ran a very low BABIP (under .300 both years). With an 89.7 mph exit velocity, I’m guessing he’s actually been a little unlucky the last few years. We could see his average jump 10-15 points this year.
70. Andrew Benintendi, OF, BOS, Age: 25
This is frustrating. I can only imagine what Boston fans must think about Andrew Benintendi. Just when we thought he took a step forward in 2018, he turned right around and looked exactly like the 2017 version. Don’t get me wrong: The 2017 version is a good player, but he’s not a top 50 dynasty asset. Now that Mookie Betts was forced out, there is a lot of pressure on Beni to become the face of that franchise. We’ll see if he can take that next step. If he doesn’t, he’s probably off this list entirely in 2021.
71. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, NYY, Age: 30
The only thing I have to say about Giancarlo Stanton is what I’ve been saying for the last two years: He’s only hit 40 home runs once in his career. Does it matter the reason/excuse?
72. Josh Bell, 1B, PIT, Age: 27
Josh Bell fell off a cliff after the All-Star break. This is truly disappointing, because he looked like an MVP contender in the first half. So which is he? Probably neither. I do know one thing though: We’ve been waiting three years for Bell’s power to show up. Now that it did, even if it’s for 81 games, you can’t unring that bell. Before 2019, it was all speculation of what he was capable of; now we know it’s in there. With a less “live” ball than in 2020, I’m not sure 37 homers is a realistic outcome, but 30 is certainly within the realm of possibility.
73. J.T. Realmuto, C, PHI, Age: 29
Like it or not, J.T. Realmuto is the only catcher who doesn’t hurt your offense. Yeah, Mitch Garver was awesome last year, but can you really trust that? Gary Sanchez has a lot of power, but he also swings with his eyes closed. Who does that leave? The steady .280/.490/.820 of Realmuto, who will also give you 25 homers and 10 stolen bases. I know he’s already about to turn 29, but he also doesn’t have nearly the mileage on his body as a catcher his age normally does. I think he could easily be the best catcher in the league for another two years.
74. Noah Syndergaard, SP, NYM, Age: 27
Thor has been the bane of my existence for the past two years. He is the most infuriating pitcher to watch. Now when I know he’s going to be on the hill, I can’t even turn on MLB.tv because even if he is pitching well, there are just too many missed opportunities. A guy with his stuff should be competing for Cy Youngs and strikeout titles. Instead, it appears he’s slowly gotten worse because he hasn’t changed anything about his repertoire since 2016. It’s starting to look like he’s the Bryce Harper of pitchers. There is still time to change, but with every 100 mph fastball blindly flying in the general direction of the plate, I become more unconvinced. He remains on this list because of his insane talent. Also, somebody get him away from the Mets.
75. Luis Severino, SP, NYY, Age: 25
Luis Severino is like that ex-girlfriend from a troubled relationship who broke up with you, and all you can do is remember the good times. There is no other way to explain why he is so high on lists. He’s a slightly undersized, maximum-effort pitcher with injury issues who hasn’t been good in 18 months and hasn’t been healthy in 12 months. Yes, he came back at the end of 2019 and was good as an opener in three “starts” against teams who were not trying to win in September. When the playoffs came around, he had mixed results. The good news is his fastball velocity came back the same after a shoulder injury; the bad news is the velocity on his slider did not. He actually lost four ticks on that slider, which is concerning if it continues into 2020. Historically, the slider has been Severino’s best pitch. If that pitch isn’t as effective, he’s not good enough to be on this list.
Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Rick Orengo (@OneFiddyOne on Twitter)