When last we checked in on the top rookies for 2020, the World Series had yet to be decided, the Astros’ obsession with garbage cans was still a secret, and Neal Huntington was running the Pirates. A number of things around baseball have changed since the last update but few, if any, moves have rattled baseball rosters. In fact, to date, only a couple of free agents of note of signed.
None of those moves directly impact the projected playing time or potential impact of key rookies expected to reach the Majors in 2020… but the offseason is still in its infancy. Things should start to pick up now that teams have solidified their 40-man rosters. Conversations over free agent signings and potential trades are no doubt picking up steam as the annual MLB Winter Meetings approaches.
As a result, the list below could change a fair bit by opening day as rosters shift and get reworked but this list will help you start to prep for the 2020 fantasy season and beyond. Baseball has evolved. Rookies can have a huge impact on your season as managers and general managers are more and more willing to give significant playing time to inexperienced players. If you were lucky enough to have the likes of Peter Alonso, Yordan Alvarez, and Fernando Tatis Jr. in 2019 then you know how impactful those rookies were to your season.
Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings: Top 5
1. Luis Robert, OF, White Sox (ETA: May)
The White Sox will be looking to compete in 2020 and there has been some talk that the club will chase some veteran players to help fill out the thin outfield depth. Any of the moves, though, will likely be done with the expectation that Robert will reach the Majors after 20-30 more games at the Triple-A level. Robert rocketed through the minors in 2019 after starting the year in A-ball and ending with 47 games at the highest level in the minors. He had a 30-30 (HR-SB) season but his aggressive approach could mean some extremely hot and cold streaks at the MLB level in 2020.
2. Gavin Lux, SS/2B, Dodgers (ETA: April)
The Dodgers have quite a few decisions to make regarding the makeup of their 2020 roster. A number of key decisions could impact Lux’s playing time but he currently appears set to play second base for the Dodgers. He opened 2019 in Double-A but then hit .392 in 49 Triple-A games and forced his way onto the MLB roster late in the season. He could hit 20 home runs with lots of walks as a rookie and with eligibility at two or three infield positions if given an opportunity.
3. Brendan McKay, LHP/1B, Rays (ETA: April)
McKay was one inning away from losing his rookie eligibility for 2020. He pitched like a veteran at times in 2019 and showed the ability to miss bats and limited the number of base runners by attacking the strike zone. His biggest goal for 2020 will be trying to cut down on the home runs allowed, but that will be easier said than done if the juiced ball resurfaces. There aren’t many projected No. 4 starters in the Majors that are better than McKay and he'll eventually ascend to the top of the rotation.
4. Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Athletics (ETA: April)
With limited payroll flexibility, the A’s will always look to their farm system for impact talent to help them chase a playoff berth. The current projected starting rotation is rather thin so, if healthy, Luzardo should play a key role for the club. He would have been up in the Majors much earlier in 2019 if not for the terrible shoulder injury he suffered and subsequently rehabbed. He pitched 12 innings at the MLB level late in 2019 and looked like he belonged. Luzardo should miss a lot of bats but could be on a strict innings count in 2020.
5. Dustin May, RHP, Dodgers (ETA: April)
May isn’t as electric as some of the other young arms racing to the Majors but he showed two key skills in 2019 that are important in this homer-happy era. The young right-hander throws a lot of strikes and walked just five batters in 34.2 MLB innings in 2019. He also allowed just two home runs and has been extremely stingy with giving up home runs throughout his pro career thanks to well-above-average walk rates. And pitching for the Dodgers should give him a chance to rack up wins, too.
Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings: 6-10
6. Carter Kieboom, 2B/3B, Nationals (ETA: May)
Kieboom is well-positioned to see significant playing time in the Majors in 2020. Thanks to free agency, the World Series champions currently have openings at first base, second base, and third base. The rookie infielder could theoretically slot in at any three of those positions — if he can prove to the club that he can be counted on defensively. Kieboom has shown the ability to hit for average, take a ton of walks, and hit for some power — 15-20 home runs could be possible as a rookie.
7. Jo Adell, OF, Angels (ETA: May)
Injuries wiped out a good portion of Adell’s season in 2019 but he looked really good at Double-A before hitting a wall late in the season in Triple-A. He’s still learning to turn his raw power into reliable in-game pop but the young outfielder should eventually have 20-30 home run power in the Majors. He also has the speed to offer double-digit stolen base totals. With very thin outfield depth (outside of Mike Trout), Adell should have a good shot at piling up some MLB at-bats in 2020.
8. Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays (ETA: May)
Pearson was another prospect that played at three minor league levels in 2019 as more and more teams become aggressive at promoting their top assets. The hard-throwing pitcher finished the season with three starts in Triple-A and should be well-positioned, if healthy, to reach the Majors no later than May. Pearson held minor league hitters to a .176 batting average last season and also struck out 119 batters (with just 27 walks) in 101.2 innings.
9. Alex Kirilloff, OF, Twins (ETA: May)
Like Jo Adell above, Kirilloff’s 2019 season was seriously hampered by injuries. He still performed OK and had an other-worldly 2018 season that saw him hit .348 with 20 home runs. Kirilloff needs to tone down his aggressiveness a bit to reach his full potential in the Majors but he has a shot to settle into the Twins’ outfield — and strong MLB offense — in 2020. He'll hit for both average and power.
10. Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves (ETA: April)
Wright is one of the hardest players to rank. The Braves appears to have a few openings in the starting rotation and aren’t shy about relying on rookies. And Wright is much better than his overall 2019 numbers suggest. He was up-and-down between Triple-A and the Majors multiple times early in the year and his pitching schedule was very inconsistent. In his final eight starts, he posted a K-BB of 54-17 in 48.1 innings. With improved command, Wright could be an impact starter for the Braves.
Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings: 11-15
11. A.J. Puk, LHP, Athletics (ETA: May)
After having some real late-season success as a reliever, Puk should return to the starting rotation in 2020 as he continues to distance himself from his Tommy John surgery. After building his arm back up for a month or two in the minors, he should be good to go for an extended stay in the Majors. Puk sat at 97 mph in the Majors in 2019 and also has a wipeout slider so he should provide lots of strikeouts as a rookie.
12. Alec Bohm, 3B, Phillies (ETA: June)
The Phillies currently have a third base depth chart that features Scott Kingery and Maikel Franco so there is very little blocking Bohm from eventually taking over the hot corner in Philadelphia. Bohm’s first full season in pro ball ended with 63 games in Double-A where the prospect posted an OPS of .844. He made excellent contact with producing more than 20 home runs. With two or three months of additional minor league seasoning, Bohm should be ready to make an impact in the Majors.
13. Sean Murphy, C, Athletics (ETA: April)
Another A’s prospect on the list. Injury issues plagued Murphy in 2019 but he still showed well-above-average power in both the minors and MLB with 15 home runs in 61 games. He likely won’t be trusted to play every day as a rookie for a playoff contender but he should still receive the lion’s share of at-bats and could develop into a strong offensive catcher.
14. Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers (ETA: May)
Mize had an outside shot at reaching the Majors in 2019 — his first full season as a pro — but an injury derailed those hopes. The Tigers are in the middle of a rebuild but the club has a wave of exciting young pitchers about to reach the Majors — led by this former college standout. Mize doesn’t have the same electric stuff as Nate Pearson (ranked 8th) but he throws a ton of strikes, induces weak contact and has done a great job of keeping the ball in the park.
15. Wander Franco, SS, Rays (ETA: July)
The best prospect in baseball is just 18 years old but he could reach the Majors by mid-2020. He dominated A-ball and will likely open 2020 in Double-A. As a small-market team, the Rays are in the midst of a win-now stretch until their young stars become too expensive to keep. As a result, look for the club to be aggressive with the likes of Franco, Vidal Brujan, and Shane McClanahan. Franco doesn’t have the same raw power as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Fernando Tatis Jr. but he is a better overall hitter and should produce lots of doubles, walks and a few steals.
Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings: 16-20
16. Nick Madrigal, 2B, White Sox (ETA: May)
There are a few teams that show up on this list regularly and the rebuilding White Sox should rely heavily on prospects in 2020 after seeing outfielder Eloy Jimenez debut last year and perform well. Madrigal is a very different player than Jimenez or Luis Robert, who is featured at No. 1 on this list. The diminutive second baseman has almost no power to speak of, and he instead finds value in his ability to make above-average contact and get on base with his outstanding strike zone judgement. Madrigal also has the speed to steal 20-30 bases.
17. Dylan Carlson, OF, Cardinals (ETA: June)
With Marcell Ozuna’s disappointing tenure in St. Louis at an end, it lessens the outfield depth and creates a narrow opening for Carlson to potentially break through in 2020. With just 18 games under his belt above Double-A, the young outfielder will look to prove that his 2019 breakout was not a fluke. He’s a 20-20 (HR-SB) threat but will need to beat out more established young players, like Tyler O’Neill and Lane Thomas, for playing time.
18. Brendan Rodgers, SS, Rockies (ETA: June)
It’s been a slow climb through the Rockies system for this former first-round pick who will be entering his six pro season in 2020. After a strong start to the Triple-A season in 2019, Rodgers was promoted to the Majors for the first time in his career but struggled to find consistent playing time and then got hurt and missed the remainder of the year. He may not be healthy at the start of the year but Rodgers should get another shot to establish himself at the MLB level this year — whether with Colorado or another organization.
19. Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Twins (ETA: June)
Even with Jake Odorizzi accepting the Twins’ qualifying offer, the starting rotation features up to three open slots for 2020. That bodes well for Graterol in 2020. He made his MLB debut in 2019 out of the bullpen but threw very well as a starter in the minors. He should return to his natural role for the coming season and, after building up his arm strength after missing time due to injuries in 2019, he could be a key contributor in the second half of the year. Graterol has above-average control, keeps the ball in the park, and also misses a ton of bats.
20. Matt Manning, RHP, Tigers (ETA: June)
Casey Mize ranks higher on this list as the more advanced hurler but Manning is a beast that can really rack up the strikeouts with his blazing fastball. The 21-year-old hurler also keeps the ball in the park really well and has allowed only seven home runs in each of his past two seasons. Mize gets the edge for 2020 but Manning could be the better long-term prospect and reminds me of a young Justin Verlander.
Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings: 21-25
21. Sheldon Neuse, 3B/2B, Athletics (ETA: June)
Neuse would be a little bit higher on the list if he had a clearer path to playing time in 2020 — but he’s also a top candidate to be traded for pitching help given Matt Chapman’s presence at the hot corner. With that said, if the young infielder can prove his worth at second base, he could steal playing time away from Jurickson Profar. Neuse really has nothing left to prove in the minors after two straight seasons in Triple-A given the way he mashed the juiced ball in 2019. There is 20-homer potential here.
22. Cristian Pache, OF, Braves (ETA: June)
Pache reached Triple-A in 2019 at the age of 20 and continues to see his raw power develop into useable in-game pop. He’s an advanced hitter for his age but needs to tone down his aggressive nature to realize his full potential. With a couple of months under his belt in 2020, he should be ready to help the Braves improve their outfield’s collective offensive output.
23. Michael Kopech, RHP, White Sox (ETA: June)
The White Sox’s patience with Lucas Giolito finally paid off for the club in 2019 and Kopech could be the next prospect in line to impact the big league team — if he’s fully back and healthy after Tommy John surgery. The right-hander racked up huge strikeout numbers in the minors prior to his injury and went three straight seasons with 155 or more strikeouts. Keep an eye on his control once he returns; if he can find the zone OK then he could have a real impact in the coming season.
24. Ian Anderson, LHP, Braves (ETA: June)
Anderson is a step behind Kyle Wright on the Braves’ pitching depth chart but he has just as much — if not more — long-term potential. The 21-year-old hurler spent most of 2019 in Double-A but made five late-season starts in Triple-A. He showed swing-and-miss stuff last year with 172 strikeouts in 135.2 innings but he also struggled with his control. A few more months in the minors could prepare him to contribute to the Braves at the big-league level.
25. Tarik Skubal, LHP, Tigers (ETA: June)
This 22-year-old southpaw had a big breakout year in his first full pro season. Finally healthy, Skubal struck out 179 batters in just 122.2 innings while reaching Double-A. He also showed good control and also did a bang-up job preventing the home run. Skubal actually performed better against right-handed batters in Double-A and held them to a .135 batting average.
Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings: 26-30
26. Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Marlins (ETA: May)
The Marlins organization is starting to amass some pitching depth but there are few, if any, established starters at the big league level. That should lead to the club relying heavily on its minor league system again in 2020. Of the top arms in the system, Sanchez is a little further along than the likes of Edward Cabrera, Trevor Rogers, and Braxton Garrett. This young pitcher has outstanding control, three above-average offers and induces a ton of ground-ball outs, which helps to limit the home run impact.
27. Shane McClanahan, LHP, Rays (ETA: June)
Another breakout southpaw prospect in 2019, McClanahan opened the year in Low-A ball but finished the season in Double-A. He was overpowering in A-ball and held batters to a .190 batting average before hitting a late-season wall late in the season. The left-handed starter can tickle triple-digits with his heater but has historically struggled with his control. He improved in that area in 2019 and walked just 45 batters in 120.2 innings.
28. Joey Bart, C, Giants (ETA: June)
There’s no getting around it. Buster Posey is getting old. For the first time in his storied career, the veteran backstop was a below-average hitting catching, he hit just seven home runs, and struck out at his highest rate since 2011. Bart, meanwhile, has posted an .875 OPS since turning pro after being the second overall selection in the 2018 draft. He also reached Double-A in 2019 despite being slowed by an injury. If he shows enough with the glove, the Giants may not leave Bart in the minors for long, which would allow the club to rest Posey more often.
29. Nico Hoerner, SS, Cubs (ETA: June)
Hoerner was added to the Cubs’ roster last season, despite being in his first full season as a pro. It was out of necessity, though, as the club lacked other upper-level options when injuries struck the big league club. In a perfect world, Hoerner will spend most of 2020 in the minors. He did OK but not great in his debut. He’s shown that he has an advanced approach at the plate which should lead to a strong batting average and limited strikeouts. But he has almost no power to speak of and needs to get a little stronger to withstand a full season against big league pitchers.
30. Daulton Varsho, C/OF, Diamondbacks (ETA: June)
Carson Kelly laid claim to the starting catcher gig in Arizona in 2019 but that won’t keep Varsho down. The Diamondbacks experimented with the young athlete in center field in 2019 at Double-A and he looked good out there. He’ll continue to see time behind the dish, too, so the versatility should be an excellent gift to his fantasy owners once he reaches the Majors and comes eligible at both positions. Varsho is a very good hitter with the raw potential to hit more than 20 home runs and, if his time behind the plate is limited, steal 15-20 bases.