MINORS: Previewing rookie impacts in 2020

We’ve been spoiled with a plethora of rookie riches over the past several seasons. Several rookies have stepped into everyday lineups and have become key contributors for fantasy owners. Lately, they haven’t even been the prospects we’ve expected to make the biggest impacts in a given season.

It started last year with Juan Soto ascending several minor league levels to a June MLB promotion and instant superstardom. Two of this year’s top fantasy contributors, Pirates OF Bryan Reynolds and Reds OF Aristides Aquino, weren’t even Top 100 prospects this past offseason. In fact, Aquino was a minor league free agent the Reds re-signed after he tested the open market.

Major league teams are throwing away the book on development paths. With new technology, different coaching techniques, and a reliance on employing pre-arbitration players over veterans to save on the bottom line, teams are expecting more impact from rookie players than ever before. Likewise, fantasy owners are plugging away also, trying to find the right rookie to help them win their championship.

As we turn the page to 2020, here are a few prospects to consider for your offseason drafts:

2020 AL Rookie Thoroughbreds

Luis Robert of the White Sox split 2019 between three levels and he starred, especially in a 47-game Triple-A sample to end the year, where he hit 16 of his 32 home runs. Overall, the 22-year-old Cuban import slashed .328/.376/.634 and also added 36 stolen bases. Robert is built like an Adonis with tremendous athleticism and plus running speed. The right-handed hitter’s swing is electric, with natural loft off the barrel and an adaptable swing plan. He’ll bring power and speed, but he does struggle with spin, even fastball spin, and relies on his solid hand/eye coordination to make up for pitch identification issues. Because of this, Robert only walked 28 times in 551 plate appearances in 2019 and could struggle initially as pitchers take advantage of his aggressiveness. But long term, Robert has superstar potential.

Jo Adell will give the Angels a second superstar in the outfield to bank on. While he struggled with the swing-and-miss bug during a 27-game late-season Triple-A run, scouts aren’t worried about the sort of impact the 20-year-old will have next season and beyond. Overall, Adell has tremendous power potential and an advanced all-fields approach. Lightning quick hands, an adjustable swing path, and an advanced feel for hitting carry Adell’s profile. He can also run a bit, too. Adell has showed tremendous improvement in pitch recognition, especially laying off two-strike breakers that pitchers were trying to entice him to chase. Adell is next season’s Fernando Tatis. Analysts will likely make too much noise about his strikeout rate during draft season and will forget how incredibly talented and adjustable Adell is. The result could be a potential draft day steal.

Casey Mize of the Detroit Tigers is the most ready pitching prospect awaiting promotion to the big leagues. The 22-year-old dominated opposing hitters in 2019, finishing with a 2.55 ERA, a 0.94 WHIP and a 4.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Mize features four pitches, which all rate above-average or better. His best pitch is his splitter. He has plus-plus command of the it, along with terrific deception via his ability to add or subtract velocity and/or break. Mize’s pitchability is off the charts and in the same vein as 2019 rookies Mike Soroka (Braves) and Chris Paddack (Padres), so expect similar results in his rookie campaign. The Tigers have been conservative with Mize’s development due to a multitude of arm issues, including elbow injuries in college and shoulder inflammation this season. If healthy, expect Mize to contribute like a solid #2 pitcher in fantasy next season.

Other AL Rookies of Note: Pitchers Brendan McKay (Rays), Forest Whitley (Astros), and Jesus Luzardo (Athletics); outfielders Jarred Kelenic (Mariners) and Kyle Tucker (Astros); and infielder Wander Franco (Rays).

2020 NL Rookie Thoroughbreds

Gavin Lux of the Dodgers has had one of the best upper minor league seasons in recent memory. Splitting his season between Double-A and Triple-A, the 21-year-old infielder slashed .347/.421/.607 with 26 home runs, 59 extra-base hits, and 10 stolen bases. His terrific season earned him a September MLB call-up and semi-regular starts at second base. Lux broke out this season by increasing his swing trajectory to produce more pop while also using his lower half better to create more leverage. The left-handed hitter has a solid approach and works all fields. As he adds more strength to his athletic frame, Lux should tap into power the other way. An above-average runner, he struggles with SB percentage and was only successful in 10 out of 16 attempts. With opportunity at second base in L.A. next season, Lux will give fantasy owners a nice balance of average, on-base skill, and slugging at a weaker offensive position.

Like Lux, outfielder Dylan Carlson of the Cardinals had a breakout 2019 season. Splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A, the 20-year-old slashed .292/.372/.542 with 26 home runs and 62 extra-base hits. The switch-hitting Carlson projects to be an all-around solid player, with average-to-plus tools across the board, which play up due to a high baseball IQ and a plus feel for hitting. Carlson’s strike zone discipline is near elite, and it has continued to remain an asset throughout development. His gains in average and power this season were a product of his physical tools becoming more refined and swing adjustments, allowing for an increased hard-hit rate. Carlson’s 20 stolen bases were a career high and he should be a double-digit SB threat for the next several years. Because of his plate skills, Carlson is an elite grab for owners in on-base percentage leagues next season. Because of the high average and emerging power potential, Carlson should hold his own in other formats, too.

After injuries derailed Sixto Sanchez in 2018, the Marlins took it slow with the 20-year-old right-handed hurler and pushed back his 2019 debut until May 3. The early results were mixed. However, Sanchez dominated in 11 second-half starts with a 2.22 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 5.2 strikeout-to-walk rate in Class AA. The pitchability and movement of his high-velocity fastball receive most of the press. However, the increase in swings and misses this season have been attributed to the development of his hard slider and deceptive change-up. There’s some risk here due to Sanchez’s small stature. His mechanics continue to improve and has put solid muscle on his frame, which alleviate some concerns. Sanchez should produce like a solid #3 starter in his rookie season, with a chance to be better if the refinement of his secondaries continues to improve.

Other NL Rookie Thoroughbreds: Infielders Alex Bohm (Phillies), Brendan Rodgers (Rockies), Nico Hoerner (Cubs), and Ke’Bryan Hayes (Pirates); outfielder Cristian Pache (Braves); pitcher Mackenzie Gore (Padres).

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.