On Sunday, June 28th, Major League Baseball teams were required to reveal a list of sixty players to be included in their Club Player Pool (CPP) for the 2020 Summer Camp. This player pool can be up to 60 players deep, and each team will be required to submit a thirty-player active roster for the season by Opening Day. The active roster starts at thirty players, then will decrease to twenty-eight players after two weeks, and then will subsequently decrease again to twenty-six players after another two weeks have passed by. There will be a maximum of three players from each MLB team’s CPP that will travel to away games with the team, as this group has been named the Taxi Squad.
The major caveat with utilizing Taxi Squads is that one of those three players is required to be a catcher, which could also work in favor of teams with exceptional catching depth within their system. Taxi Squads are certainly going to benefit some teams more than others, as those will top prospects who potentially could step on the field and theoretically be a replacement level for their respective position. With the Universal Designated Hitter in play this season, positional Taxi Squad members could at the very least gain Plate Appearances in this role if injuries were to occur. Players that are able to make the Taxi Squad are going to be those who can be plugged directly into a Major League lineup and can be trusted to get the job done when they are eventually called upon.
With a sixty-game season looming on the horizon, many tough decisions lie ahead of fantasy managers regarding how to handle prospects who are far from guaranteed consistent playing time in 2020. Taxi Squads for each team will likely not get officially announced until closer to Opening Day, making roster moves and fantasy drafts fairly difficult to prepare for with so many unknowns still lurking. This theme strongly applies to the tier of prospects that by play for teams that have substantial depth throughout the entire organization, so even just being apart of the sixty-player CPP does not guarantee that a prospect will get quality development repetitions beyond the exhibition games in Summer Camp.
Though MLB teams have not yet announced their thirty-player Active Rosters, I present to you in this article a custom American League primer as to which players I believe deserve to hitch a ride as part of their respective team’s Taxi Squad for the 2020 season. This article will be more geared toward describing players who could have potential fantasy value if called upon, but nevertheless each player for each team will be touched on. This is a lengthy article, so feel free to skip around to the teams you are interested in. Let’s take a tour around the league to examine which players are strategically better fit to fill a Taxi Squad role for their clubs this season.
American League East
C | Austin Wynns
As previously stated in the introduction to this article, teams are not required to fill all three available slots on their Taxi Squads but are allowed to carry an extra catcher in that space if they desire to. There is nothing to lose by carrying a third catcher, and there is everything to be gained in regard to their professional development. In terms of fantasy production, there a very few of these catchers that will even see the field in 2020. Now to the Orioles.
Since Chance Sisco will likely be part of the Orioles’ Opening Day Active Roster as the primary backup catcher to Pedro Severino, Austin Wynns would be the next man up to make their Taxi Squad as an emergency catcher. Bryan Holaday is their only other additional catching option, which would force the Orioles to choose between adding a twenty-nine or thirty-year-old veteran to primarily serve as the bullpen catcher. Nothing to see here.
1B/DH | Ryan Mountcastle
Mountcastle was finally added to the Orioles’ CPP on July 8th, easily making him the most desirable candidate to fill a primary Taxi Squad slot. Over his past two seasons in AA and AAA, Mountcastle has accumulated thirty-eight Home Runs, 142 Runs Batted In, 144 Runs, and a .304 Batting Average across 981 Plate Appearances. One intriguing facet of Mountcastle’s profile is the fact that both his Fly Ball% and Pull% have simultaneously decreased over the past three seasons while his Home Run totals have steadily increased. This can be taken as a sign that he has been consistently optimizing his swing to succeed in his current environment. These refinements are leading directly to his swing becoming perfectly optimized to succeed in Camden Yards.
This is one of the more intriguing potential Taxi Squad players within the American League, as he could immediately step in and provide viable fantasy value for those needing a power surge if he sees the field. There are still currently many unknowns with how rosters will be constructed for Opening Day, but fantasy managers definitely need to track this situation and be ready to scoop up Mountcastle if an injury or COVID-19 related incident were to occur.
LHP | Keegan Akin
Twenty-five year old Keegan Akin has flashed signs of becoming a serviceable pitcher for the back-end of the starting rotation. He has not been added to the sixty-player CPP, but there is still time, and I won’t give up that easily. Akin has proven to possess the ability to strike out hitters at a 26 percent rate in AAA while he was also able to maintain a 4.13 FIP in back-to-back seasons. The main problem with Akin’s profile is that he has issued too many walks (12.1 BB%), which has led to subsequent inflation of his ERA to a mark of 4.73. Of all the pitchers in the Orioles’ system that are MLB-ready for the 2020 season, Keegan Akin would likely provide the best pitching value for the Orioles if needed in an emergency situation.
Boston Red Sox
C | Jonathon Lucroy / Connor Wong
The Red Sox can go one of two ways with their Taxi Squad catcher, as they can either choose to roster a seasoned veteran with great leadership qualities (Jonathon Lucroy) or they can roster their top catching prospect and start to develop him within a modified MLB environment (Connor Wong). Either way, neither of these two players are going to have an impact in fantasy leagues simply because they will not get the playing time to produce viable results.
3B/1B | Bobby Dalbec
If there is one prospect in the Red Sox’s system who is ready for his first cup of coffee at the Major League level, it undoubtedly is corner infielder Bobby Dalbec. In the past two seasons, Dalbec has flown through the Red Sox’s farm system by performing exceptionally well at all three levels (A+, AA, AAA) that he has played at. Historically, Dalbec has proven to possess the pedigree of an above-average power hitter that strikes out a tad too often, but who also has the unique ability to draw walks and get on base. With Mitch Moreland not getting any younger over at first base, all it would take is an IL stint for Dalbec to get some valuable at-bats for his development. He is in the same fantasy basket as Ryan Mountcastle, as the power production will surely be present, but the playing time may unfortunately not be.
LHP | Kyle Hart
Kyle Hart has yet to make his MLB debut for the Red Sox, and this may still reign true in 2020. Hart does not possess very high strikeout upside (19.4 percent), but is able to yield ground balls at a high enough rate (40.2 percent) to be considered as an above-average left-handed pitcher. There could be a very real possibility that Kyle Hart could take the mound in 2020 given the current state of Boston’s starting rotation. Ryan Weber and Brian Johnson are by no means “a lock” to stick in this rotation for the entirety of the season, even though it is substantially shortened. This bullpen and starting rotation are going to need help at some point this season, and Kyle Hart is a left-hander that deserves a chance to prove what he can do at the next level if called upon.
New York Yankees
RHP | Deivi Garcia
We got a limited look at Deivi Garcia in his Spring Training 1.0 debut, as he struck out three and walked one batter across two innings pitched against the Braves. Garcia could use another full season in AAA to further develop and refine his command, but we all know that the Minor League season will no longer be occurring. This is a prime opportunity for the Yankees to give massive strikeout pitcher like Garcia the opportunity to travel and develop with the other Major Leaguers on the team. Until he reached AAA, Deivi Garcia did not post a K% lower than 31 percent, but consistently posted BB% rates higher than 11 percent. Just given the eye test, it appears that Garcia very well could be ready to make his MLB debut regardless if fate allows for him to get that opportunity or not.
RHP | Clarke Schmidt
The Yankees do not really have any positional prospects ready to help the club this season, so why not carry two emerging stud pitchers to reinforce the bullpen and rotation? This is why the Yankees should add both Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt to their Taxi Squad. Schmidt has also impressed in Spring Training 1.0 and now in Summer Camp. He looks like he is MLB ready, commanding each of his pitches in any count to left and right-handed hitters each time he takes the mound. Most recently, he sat down teammate Giancarlo Stanton and company by freezing them with beautiful fastballs up in zone paired with offspeed pitches down and away. Schmidt may not possess quite as high of strikeout upside as Garcia, but he certainly will provide the higher floor for fantasy managers if given the chance to compete.
C | Chris Iannetta
Not much to say about Chris Ianetta, other than he is the Yankees’ best option for a veteran Taxi Squad catcher. No potential fantasy value.
Tampa Bay Rays
MIF | Wander Franco
The #1 Top Prospect in the league will certainly find himself apart of Tampa Bay’s Taxi Squad, though it remains very cloudy whether he will receive any playing time short of being an emergency replacement. With Willy Adames breaking out as an exceptional defensive shortstop that can sustain average offensive abilities and Brandon Lowe platooning with Joey Wendle at second base, playing time will be very difficult for Wander to muster up. If either of these three middle infielders for the Rays ends up faltering one-quarter of the way through the season, it is likely that Franco will be given the chance that he deserves to try and prove himself on a Major League diamond.
Wander Franco is only 18 and has some of the fastest hands you’ll see 👀🔥 pic.twitter.com/LVj7hhFT9D
— Baseball Bros (@BaseballBros) November 23, 2019
Unfortunately for Wander, it will likely take one of these three to underperform in order for him to see any sort of consistent playing time. Fantasy managers will have to pay very close attention to the middle infield situation in Tampa Bay, though Franco should certainly still not go undrafted no matter what the circumstances are for playing time in 2020.
P | Shane McClanahan
Surprisingly enough, the Rays do not have many pitching prospects that are ready to compete at the Major League level this season, but there could be one. McClanahan has proven to be nothing other than electric through AA, posting very high strikeout rates with astonishingly low walk rates. His 2019 season stats might appear to suggest negative regression lies ahead, but don’t overlook his .450 BABIP that came along with a 41.9 percent GB%. McClanahan got extremely unlucky in his first season in AA, as this can be extracted from pairing his 8.35 ERA and 4.12 FIP. At twenty-three years of age, McClanahan needs to develop at the next highest level in order to keep him on track. The best way for the Rays to do this is to give him the nod and slot him in as an emergency pitcher on the Taxi Squad.
C | Kevan Smith
Like most catchers mentioned in this article, there isn’t any fantasy value to be captured with Kevan Smith. This extra catcher slot will not have much value in Tampa Bay.
Toronto Blue Jays
RHP | Nate Pearson
The simple fact that Pearson has pitched for three professional seasons across five different levels (R, A-, A+, A+, AA, AAA) and has posted monster strikeout numbers while maintaining walk rates of 8.6 percent or lower. For a highly touted prospect who throws 100+ MPH with elite K-BB% rates, it is truly impressive that he doesn’t have walk rates that are through the roof like other pitching prospects that have similar profiles to Pearson’s (e.g. Darwinzon Hernandez). This is a pitcher that you need to jump on because the stuff is totally there and the command is there while getting better.
Long story short, Pearson is probably going to sit out for the first seven-game so of the season because of service time manipulation, of which five of those seven happen to be away games. If you do the math, Pearson very well could debut at home in Toronto and not lose a year of service time. Pearson is going to provide elite fantasy value right out of the gate if he can keep his walk rate somewhere below 10 percent.
LHP | Anthony Kay
Anthony Kay could certainly boost Toronto’s staff or bullpen if and when there will be individuals put onto the IL for whatever reason. Kay is an intriguingly crafty individual, having four really good pitches that he can command on most nights. Much like Pearson but without a power fastball, Kay flat out has the pedigree to post above-average strikeout rates while walking very few batters (7.9 percent) and to get hitters out at all costs. He had hiccups in his first cup of coffee with the Jays but he will certainly be diligent about fixing his mistakes if he gets a chance to take the mound in 2020.
C | Riley Adams
If the Blue Jays do decide to carry a third catcher, it will likely come down to them either giving Riley Adams a shot or leaning back on thirty-four-year-old veteran Caleb Joseph. Either way, neither player is relevant to fantasy baseball this season.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox
1B | Andrew Vaughn
Vaughn is currently the thirty-seventh ranked prospect in the MLB having just 245 Plate Appearances under his belt in 2019 across three professional levels (R, A, A+). He was fortunate enough to prove himself to potentially be considered for Chicago’s Taxi Squad, and a strong performance at Summer Camp 2020 could really improve his chances. It may be crazy to say he would be ready to join the MLB squad if necessary, but having just watched him play baseball it is apparent that he is ready to be challenged at a much higher level.
If Vaughn were to be given a chance to play on the Taxi Squad and travel with the team, you can bet that the White Sox have a darn good reason for him being there in the first place. If Abreu were to go down, there could be an opportunity there if Encarnacion doesn’t play the field. He could certainly mix in the first base and Designated Hitter rotation if injuries were to occur, but there is no telling how he would handle MLB pitching.
— Ian Eskridge (@ieskridge) February 28, 2020
2B | Nick Madrigal
There is not very much more to say about Madrigal that hasn’t been thoroughly covered throughout the industry thus far. The guy can absolutely fly on the base paths, possesses an above-average glove and defensive ability at second base, and to top it all off he has proven at every level that he can get on base at an elite rate (.398 OBP). Madrigal was likely originally going to be included on Chicago’s Active Roster early on in 2020, but with the extreme rule changes, it may be best for him to be part of the Taxi Squad. Leury Garcia had a good 2019 season, but I don’t think he sustains that in 2020 which will allow Madrigal to directly take his place in the lineup. He would likely be hitting in the nine-hole, which isn’t ideal for fantasy production but it actually might be a good spot due to that lineup being so strong this season. He could provide a much-needed speed and OBP burst for all fantasy managers if he sees the field in 2020.
C/1B | Zack Collins
The White Sox could really score with their Taxi Squad this season if Zack Collins is considered to be eligible at catcher and first base. This could undoubtedly be the best Taxi Squad in the AL, filled by three prospects that Chicago expected to officially arrive at the Dark Side in 2020 even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Collins offers some power and hasn’t quite been able to prove it at the Major League level when given an opportunity to do so, but he is just twenty-five years old and things could certainly click for him. Zack Collins isn’t of excellent fantasy value because he hasn’t proven himself in the MLB, but could be useful as a third power-hitting catcher as part of the Taxi Squad.
OF | Tyler Naquin
An alternate universe choice to Bobby Bradley and Nolan Jones, Tyler Naquin would probably be the safest and most logical choice for a positional slot on the Taxi Squad. This may be a very unpopular opinion, especially among the prospecting community, but Naquin has frankly been in multiple ALCS and World Series previously in his career so that experience may be smart for the Indians to take on the road. Likely an unpopular take, but if the Indians are going to win this sprint in the Central, then they are going to need depth that has the certain ability to perform on a Major League diamond. Naquin probably wouldn’t provide much fantasy value if he were to get a chance to play, but he would be a great candidate to help the Indians get back to another World Series (asterisk).
LHP | Logan Allen
The Indians are another team that lacks starting pitching prospect depth for the immediate future (exception of Triston McKenzie), but Logan Allen is in town and awaits his much deserved ride with the Taxi Squad. There is nobody better in the system to fill one of these slots, and a left-handed pitcher would surely be more than welcome onto the Indian’s Taxi Squad so that he can get the development and exposure that he needs to excel. Allen has one of the best changeups in the Minor Leagues and was a wizard at getting hitters to ground out last season (49.5 percent). The strikeouts haven’t been there as of late and he has been getting hit somewhat hard, but the Indians are a great developmental team that will help Allen will find his way soon enough. Potential fantasy value could lie ahead if given innings, and you never know what is going to happen with that staff and bullpen. Definitely a situation worth monitoring.
RHP | Matt Manning / Casey Mize
Detroit can’t really go wrong by selecting either Manning or Mize to fill a spot on their Taxi Squad, as both prospects were likely going to make their MLB debuts in a normalized 2020 season. Both prospects possess multiple plus pitches and the pedigree to become a number one or two starter for their Major League club within the next couple of seasons. Manning and Mize have massive strikeout rates, while also having the command to keep their walks under control. The best thing about both of these pitchers is the fact that they could be utilized out of the bullpen as well as in the rotation if necessary. They will be effective either way if they can limit their walks, as I could almost see Manning toward the back of the bullpen helping to anchor things down if there are any injuries. Service time is a big concern with both of these prospects, so it will be interesting to see how the Tigers choose to construct their Active Roster for Opening Day.
LHP | Tarik Skubal
With very few positional prospects ready to contribute at the Major League level in 2020, Detroit could really stack their Taxi Squad with two of the Big Three arms from their farm system. Again, service time comes into play, and so does the fact that neither of them has thrown past AA. Tarik Skubal is unique in the sense that he is the only left-handed pitcher who is advanced in Detroit’s Top Prospect pool, and his skill set is always being craved by MLB teams.
Skubal is a lefty with an overpowering fastball and strikeout rates through the roof (48.2 percent), but he had too high of a walk rate in 2019 (10.6 percent) which kept his stat line from looking almost immaculate. With Skubal and any combination of Mize or Manning, Detroit’s Taxi Squad would arguably have the most feared pitching prospects in the league. If given an opportunity, Skubal is going to rack up the strikeouts at every level but has to improve on his command to become a viable starter. The Tigers may opt to add a position player to their Taxi Squad, but there may not be a reason to do so.
C | Jake Rogers
Jake Rogers is a twenty-five-year-old catcher who is a defensive magician. He is graded out to potentially become an eighty-grade defensive catcher with a sixty-grade arm, plus having an average power rating that just hasn’t shown up at the Major League level yet. This will get him into the lineup alone. Rogers struck out way too much in his Tigers debut in 2019 (39.8 percent K%) and had an OBP lower than .300 for the first time in his professional career since A+. Rogers could very well become a fantasy relevant catcher for the Tigers but likely not in 2020 due to lack of any assured playing time. Austin Romine and Grayson Greiner aren’t anything special, so Rogers could very well get his second nod on the big league club if the other two catchers are stale at the plate. Could be a mid-to-late season waiver wire catcher pick up if all else fails in Detroit.
Kansas City Royals
OF | Khalil Lee
There is no better fit for Kansas City’s Taxi Squad than Khalil Lee. Most are going to give me flack for not saying Bobby Witt Jr. here, but Khalil Lee is going to be needed as an outfielder in Kansas City a lot sooner than Witt Jr. will be needed at third base or shortstop. He still strikes out too much (28.2 percent) but proved to be the definition of efficient speed (53 SB) combined with the ability to flat out hit the baseball (124 Hits: 470 AB). As stated previously, this is a “needs-based” decision, as quality outfielders are going to dry up awfully quickly for the Royals when Brett Phillips has to start in left field because Alex Gordon seems to always find the IL. Lee will be waiting in the shadows, and he can provide a much-needed source of speed while also not tanking your fantasy team’s Batting Average (or OBP) or Runs totals. If Lee makes the Taxi Squad, he is worth the stash.
RHP | Brady Singer
Another Royals prospect that is worth the stash if added to the Taxi Squad is twenty-three-year-old right-hander Brady Singer. There is a fairly common theme running in the American League right now where most of the top pitching prospects who are nearly MLB-ready have never even thrown a pitch in AAA. Brady Singer falls in this same category as Manning, Mize, Skubal, McClanahan, and others mentioned previously in the article. Besides Daniel Lynch and Kris Bubic, Singer is the best pitcher in Kansas City’s farm system who could hold his own in a Major League setting. Singer has thrown 147.4 innings across A+ and AA and has posted encouraging K-BB% rates thus far (17.6 percent in 2018, 15.3 percent in 2019). He hasn’t posted strikeout rates that are through the roof (22.1 percent), but has shown the ability to act mature on the mound and attack each hitter with a specific plan. Singer could provide some back-end of the rotation type fantasy value, especially with the fairly weak rotation that KC is sporting in 2020.
C | Meibrys Viloria
Twenty-three-year-old Meibrys Viloria will likely be the third catcher added to Kansas City’s Taxi Squad once he returns from the IL. Though he strikes out way too often for a catcher that doesn’t provide much power, he has proven to have a decent hit tool until he reached the MLB in 2019. If his pedigree persists, Viloria can be a .260/.340/.340 hitter if given the Plate Appearances to further develop. This could be a nice left-handed bat in the Royals’ lineup if all else fails once Perez can’t stick behind the plate anymore. No fantasy value here, but a catcher to keep your eyes on over time.
SS | Royce Lewis
This positional role on Minnesota’s Taxi Squad could realistically be filled by Royce Lewis, Trevor Larnach, or Alex Kiriloff. Whoever is chosen to fill this role will be based on what Minnesota needs depth at the most, which currently appears to be outfield. All three of Lewis, Larnach, and Kiriloff are not quite MLB ready, but if anyone, Royce Lewis is the closest. His hit tool may not be the closest, but the speed and power combination is almost ready for the MLB in its current state. If an infielder were to go down, Lewis would be the next man up. The hesitancy with choosing an outfielder for this Taxi Squad role is because Jake Cave is still lurking and waiting for his chance to keep hitting well for the Twins. If Cave wasn’t on the bench, this decision would be more inclined toward an outfielder.
Royce Lewis could provide a very unique skill set for fantasy managers but it is likely not going to appear until 2021 or 2022. He could very well nab a spot on the Taxi Squad and play if called upon, but the Twins are in “win-now mode” and could very well not distribute playing time as much as other teams. Be very cautious when drafting him in Redraft Leagues, but for Dynasty Leagues he could very well be a late 2021 arrival based upon the state of the Twins’ infield.
RHP | Jhoan Duran
For the record, Jordan Balazovic would be the choice for this Taxi Squad slot if he had been announced as part of Minnesota’s sixty-player CPP, but he sadly was not (there is still time). Jhoan Duran is also a very intriguing prospect who has a profile plays well no matter who is playing defense behind him. You cannot only look at a pitching prospect’s ERA, as poor defense can often inflate this indicator. In 2018, Duran started to find a great feel for his fastball, as his FIP becoming consistently lower than his ERA tells the story of how much better he actually pitched in contrast to how it appears on the surface. Duran has the potential to have three exceptionally lethal pitches if he can continue to develop in the Twins’ system. Don’t let his elevated BABIP fool you (.327), as Jhoan Duran is an excellent ground ball pitcher (63.3 percent) who has gotten unlucky with the defenses playing behind him. There likely won’t be fantasy value here in 2020, but there will be plenty of it sometime in 2021 or 2022.
C | Tomas Telis
Tomas Telis has proven that he can hit at the AAA level (.330 AVG), and has even hit over .300 at the Major League level back in 2016 with the Marlins. This is a catcher that would fit wonderfully on the Twins’ Taxi Squad. As an immediate World Series contender, Minnesota should want to have a veteran leader that has performed in the past as part of their traveling Taxi Squad. No fantasy value here, but an intriguing decision as to who Minnesota will choose as their third catcher. Telis provides the most offensive upside.
American League West
RHP | Forrest Whitley
Despite a lackluster 2019 season, Forrest Whitely is still one of the more electrifying right-handed pitching prospects in the MLB (#15 Top Prospect). Whitley currently has three sixty-grade pitches but none of that matters if you cannot throw them for strikes. In 2019 alone he posted an 18.4 percent walk rate in AA, and then again posted a 12.6 percent walk rate in AAA. While this is a good sign, his strikeout rate also experienced a 10.5 percent decrease down to 24 percent. Whitley still possesses the pedigree to become one of the best rookie right-handed pitchers in the league when he debuts, but it will all come down to his walk rate. Definitely hold Whitley in Dynasty leagues for now and monitor the coming weeks for any roster announcements. Forrest Whitley will likely not be fantasy relevant yet again in 2020 due to the unfortunate inner workings that a shortened season has to offer. If he is set to debut due to an injury in the rotation, he may be worth claiming in Redraft Leagues.
#Astros Forrest Whitley is an ace in the making, & his ability to rip off 3 straight nasty breakers is a big reason why. Each pitch is 81-82 mph, but notices how he changes the shape: 2nd pitch is an up-then down curve, 3rd a sharper off-the-table tilt 🔥 pic.twitter.com/V7JzrqUGLF
— Jacob Zweiback (@TheReelJZ) October 25, 2019
RHP | Christian Javier
Since the Astros are another team that really does not have many positional prospects that are ready for the MLB, they may very well go with a double pitcher stack on the Taxi Squad to supplement any IL occurrences that may happen within the rotation or bullpen. Christian Javier would likely be the second pitcher on the Taxi Squad along with Forrest Whitley. Javier has proven to tote high strikeout rates (36.4 percent) while also being able to limit his walks to a manageable rate of 9.1 percent. Posting a K-BB% higher than 20 percent across three levels last season (A+, AA, AAA) is a testament to how good Christian Javier could really be and nobody is talking about it. All eyes have been on Whitley, but when the day of reckoning comes for the Astros to win games, Javier will be right there in the conversation. It is worth watching him on the wire.
C | Jamie Ritchie
No fantasy value here, but Jamie Ritchie has proven to hit the ball fairly well across the upper levels of the Minor Leagues. He has the potential to be a .270 hitter at the Major League level if ever given a shot to crack the big league roster. There are much worse options to have as a third-string catcher. He is an OBP machine that knows how to take walks (similar to Yasmani Grandal), so he could very useful when Houston is in search of a more offensively inclined catcher.
Los Angeles Angels
OF | Jo Adell
Jo Adell is the most widely covered prospect across the fantasy baseball industry, so there is not going to be a whole lot added about his profile here. We all know what Adell is capable of, it is really just a matter of receiving the playing time for one reason or another. Everyone is eagerly awaiting the hit tool to fully come around and send his power potential into orbit, but until he is able to hit both left and right-handed pitching equally then he, unfortunately, isn’t going to make a full breakout. What else is concerning is the decrease in walk rate and an increase in strikeout rate, but this will come with prospects that start to somewhat sell out for some power. Adell could become fantasy relevant the moment that he steps on the field, as he should contribute in two-to-three categories. Make sure you have him when it’s his turn!
1B/OF | Jared Walsh
Since the Angels lack depth in pitching prospects for the immediate future, why not bring Jared Walsh along to the party because you never know if Albert Pujols is going to keep declining or not. Walsh has a refined approach at the plate, showing that he can hit for power while being able to walk at a decent rate to balance out the strikeouts. Walsh hit thirty-six home runs in AAA last season, but got called up to the Angels and struggled in his first thirty-seven games. He likely will not possess much fantasy value for this season unless the first base situation does open up for him, in which you can grab him in OBP leagues and for some supplemental power toward the end of the season. The Angels don’t have many other guys that could succeed at the MLB level at this instance.
C | Jack Kruger
No fantasy value to be had with Kruger. The Angels could really go with anyone for their third catcher, it will have zero fantasy implications unless Castro and Stassi somehow both go down. Even then, eh.
2B | Sheldon Neuse
This one is for Matt Williams (@MattWi77iams). But in all seriousness, Sheldon Neuse needs to be on Oakland’s Taxi Squad and there should be no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. Yes, he struggled in his first twenty-five games at the Major League level in 2019. Yes, he is a power hitter that strikes out a lot and doesn’t walk very often, but there is something to be said for the “eye test” as well. Neuse has appeared to reach his power breakout while also just arriving at his full hit potential. Given time on the Taxi Squad to develop with the team, Neuse would be a great addition to the Athletics because Tony Kemp just might not cut it. There isn’t much fantasy value at stake here, but if we do find out that he gets added to the Taxi Squad then he may be worth the deep-league stash.
RHP | James Kaprielian
James Kaprielian would be a nice utility pitcher to have on the Taxi Squad because he could serve in a multi-inning role if a starter or reliever were to go on the IL. He has proven that he can rack up strikeouts at the Major League level, so there could be a possibility of seeing him in some sort of role by the middle of this season. If he works his way into a “holds” situation, then he is absolutely worth picking up on the speculation that the Athletics will win a decent number of games. This is a situation worth monitoring, who knows what the A’s will do.
C | Jonah Heim
Jonah Heim is a 6’4″ catcher that is exceptional defensively and has started to make an offensive breakthrough over the past two seasons. Drafted at nineteen years old, Heim has been in the league for six years and has finally started to hit better than he ever has now at twenty-five years old (.358 AVG). The Athletics have two good catchers in Sean Murphy and Austin Allen, so Heim may be the Taxi Squad catcher but will likely not see the field in 2020. He is certainly a player to keep your eyes on over the next two seasons.
OF | Jared Kelenic
Ahhh, did you just see that home run that Kelenic absolutely destroyed in their intrasquad game the other day? Take a look at the video in the Tweet below, and turn the sound way up because the crack of his bat tells the whole story here. Kelenic is a Top Ten prospect in the MLB and would have undoubtedly arrived in Seattle this season if it were a normal year. He is going to be a three-to-four category contributor when he steps into his prime, and can even serve as a two-category contributor in 2020 if given an opportunity to play on the Major League team. There isn’t much stopping Kelenic from reaching the Majors this season as long as Haniger is still riding pine with another injury, because I don’t see Mallex Smith‘s skill set playing up in a shortened season. This is a complete side note, but Mallex Smith needs a large sample size of games to reach his stolen base potential since his offensive skills are very underwhelming. That skill set isn’t going to cut it and Kelenic will be the first to get the call. Draft him everywhere you can as long as you aren’t paying a premium in Redraft Leagues, but he could be fruitful in Dynasty Leagues as soon as 2020.
So a source sent me the video of Jarred Kelenic’s swing on the homer in live BP. The sound … pic.twitter.com/82RG82id4t
— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) July 7, 2020
RHP | Logan Gilbert
No other pitching prospect in the Mariners’ farm system deserves to be on the Taxi Squad more than Logan Gilbert does. Gilbert could provide fantasy value in 2020 if he were to turn a few quality starts, as he has proven to have the strikeout upside while also being able to really limit his walk rate (7.7 percent). He has been very sharp at every level he has pitched at, and deserves a chance to join the Taxi Squad in case Kendall Graveman just doesn’t cut it in Seattle. Gilbert is one of those prospects that really needed a Minor League season to develop late into the 2020 season, but Seattle may as well throw him right into the fire and develop him as much as they can while being part of the Taxi Squad. It is dangerous to draft Gilbert in Redraft Leagues this season just due to lack of assured playing time but he is worth still taking in Dynasty drafts as he could provide some late season value along with Kelenic.
C | Cal Raleigh
If anything, Cal Raleigh should be the extra catcher taken on the Taxi Squad for developmental purposes. There is no fantasy value to be salvaged here, unfortunately, but Raleigh was having a good spring for what it is worth.
RHP | Tyler Phillips
This system is fairly barren these days. Yerry Rodriguez would be the ideal pick for one of these developmental spots, but he just isn’t quite ready for an MLB stage. Tyler Phillips on the other hand has thrown through AA and has proven to be an above-average pitcher thus far. Ariel Jurado might very well be the pitcher that Texas chooses for their Taxi Squad, but that will be an absolute disaster and we all know it. Phillips has proven to possess exceptional command (which is even still developing), which has resulted in walk rates 5.2 percent or lower across all levels. There is definitely something to say about a pitching prospect who has such great command to get him this far, but now has to develop the stuff to make the jump to the MLB. Bryse Wilson is a very comparable prospect in the sense that they both have some of the best command across the Minor Leagues but can barely leap the 20 percent strikeout threshold. Not really any fantasy value, but now you know who Tyler Phillips is.
1B | Greg Bird
Ah yes, Greg Bird. Injuries have riddled Bird’s career thus far, but when healthy he has shown flashes of possessing a great hit tool that can produce some power to the pull side. We never got to see his full potential with the Yankees simply because he was never able to stay healthy. If Greg Bird is healthy, then the skill set should still intrigue some fantasy owners to either pick him at the end of drafts or watch for him on the waiver wire. There is no telling if he will be included on the thirty-player Active Roster on Opening Day, but he certainly deserves a chance to join the Taxi Squad if healthy. Proceed with caution, but pay close attention to the first base and Designated Hitter situation over in Texas.
C/OF | Blake Swihart
There isn’t any fantasy value with Swihart, but he is a versatile player that can potentially be eligible at both catcher and outfield. Multi-position eligibility is always an advantage in fantasy baseball, but the player has to actually step foot on the field for it to mean anything. Not much to take away here, whichever way Texas goes with their third Taxi Squad member.
Be sure to tune in to RotoFanatic.com next week to catch the second article of this MLB Taxi Squad series, as it will follow the same general outline but will cover all of the National League teams!
Thank you very much for reading!