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Hot Prospects To Watch: Stretch-Run Rookies

Perhaps there's nothing more tantalizing in fantasy baseball than drafting an up-and-coming prospect or rushing to the waiver wire to bid on a Triple-A call-up. With no minor leagues this year, our favorite prospects are now playing on taxi squads, making it difficult for us to fantasize about since we can't get eyes on their progress. However, that doesn't mean we don't know who's on the cusp of making the big leagues.

With just under three weeks remaining in the season, big-league clubs are trying to punch their tickets into the playoffs, while fantasy managers aim to bring their squads over the finish line in first place. MLB teams in contention will ride hot bats and arms down the stretch run no matter what credentials they may have, while teams out of the race may look to give way to some players of the future. If you own a rookie already in the bigs, it's important to know where they stand in the lineup with the end of the season in sight.

Today we'll point out some hot hitters and pitchers who will continue to impact their real-life clubs and their fantasy owners down the regular season's stretch run. 2020 is providing us with a plethora of rookie call-ups, but it's essential to filter through which ones can help win us the fantasy gold.

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Tarik Skubal - SP, Detroit Tigers

Tarik Skubal was on a short leash over his first two big-league starts, throwing a combined 4 1/3 innings while allowing five runs. Since then, he's taken on a formidable Twins lineup in back-to-back starts, and he's shut the door on their offense allowing just three runs over 11 IP combined. The lefty still hasn't surpassed 78 pitches in an outing, but his efficiency of surrendering just five hits and two walks in these starts has allowed him to go deeper into games. It appears Skubal is starting to find his groove in the majors and could provide managers with some decent starts down the stretch run.

Sixto Sanchez - SP, Miami Marlins

With every start Sixto Sanchez makes, it's looking more and more likely that the Marlins have found their ace of the future. The team's top prospect has dazzled over three starts and 19 innings so far, holding an incredible 19/1 K/BB with a 2.37 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Although his four-seamer can hit triple-digits, Sanchez's changeup is his most frequently used pitch, and for good reason since opponents are 3-for-29 against it with no extra-base hits. With the Marlins surprisingly in contention for a playoff spot, Sanchez will be an essential cog for his club to reach October and for managers looking to win a fantasy championship.

Tony Gonsolin - SP, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers

With the departure of Ross Stripling, Tony Gonsolin now has a full-time spot in the team's starting rotation after making some spot starts earlier this year. In his most recent outing versus the Rockies, the right-hander struck out eight over six frames while allowing just three hits and one run with no free passes issued. He's down to an outstanding 0.76 ERA and 0.72 WHIP with a 25/5 K/BB over 23 2/3 IP for baseball's most winningest team this season. Gonsolin is still searching four that elusive first win of the season, but with his dominance so far, it's only a matter of time before he officially earns the credit.

Willi Castro - 3B, SS, Detroit Tigers

With more attention drawn on Detroit's higher-end prospects this season, Willi Castro has snuck under the radar despite his excellent play. He's hitting .400 over his last 12 games and is slashing .349/.364/.556 with three homers, 10 runs, and 12 RBI on the season. Castro has hit well on both sides of the plate as a rookie with a .308 BA versus southpaws and a .362 BA against righties, numbers that have helped propel him to the fifth spot in the lineup. The 23-year-old could undoubtedly improve in plate discipline since he sports a dreary 3.0% walk rate and 26.9% K-rate, but as long as he continues to hit, he belongs on fantasy rosters.

Sam Hilliard - OF, Colorado Rockies

Sam Hilliard entered the 2020 campaign with as much hype as any rookie making the Opening Day roster, but has sadly disappointed with his overall numbers to date. The lefty swinger has picked up his play over his last 14 games, however, slashing .295/.340/.682 with five homers, seven runs, seven RBI, and two steals for good measure. Hilliard has struggled against southpaws primarily, but with the addition of Kevin Pillar, the Rockies don't need to put him in the lineup against these hurlers. With Hilliard starting to get more comfortable in the majors and able to hit righties exclusively, he's in the environment to rack up some late root stats the rest of the way.

Ke'Bryan Hayes - 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates

Since his promotion to the majors on September 1, Pittsburgh Pirates second-ranked prospect Ke' Bryan Hayes has turned heads with his bat over the past week. The former first-round pick went 2-for-5 with a double and a home run in his big-league debut and is currently 7-for-18 (.389) at the dish this season. Although he's sitting at an unattractive 31.6% K-rate, he's stayed in the mid-teens in this category over his minor-league career, so we shouldn't read too much into the small sample. Hayes doesn't hit for the most power or for the highest average among all prospects, but he can do a little bit of everything to help fantasy squads over the final three weeks.

Andres Gimenez - SS, New York Mets

Andres Gimenez has raked in September since he was activated from the injured list in late-August. He's 8-for-20 this month with seven runs and six RBI, and he now has a souvenir for hitting his first career long ball last week. The Venezuelan native was generating fantasy appeal prior to his stint on the COVID IL with seven steals, but he's now forced Amed Rosario out of playing time with his bat as well. With the Mets trying to chase down a playoff spot, they'll continue to keep Gimenez's hot bat in the lineup, and fantasy managers should also follow suit.

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