Baseball is back and the first week barraged us with storylines, enough to make your head spin. We’ll focus on the week that was and highlight the “Debut Dandies,” rookie-eligible players that made their MLB debuts over the past week and represent the next wave in fantasy baseball. We’ll break down instant impacts in redraft leagues as well as dynasty league outlooks. Over 60 players made their debut to start the 2020 season, so let’s hone in on some key names.
The Elite Prospect Debuts
Week 1 saw a handful of consensus top prospects make their much-anticipated debuts.
After signing a MLB contract in the off-season, Luis Robert of the Chicago White Sox has lived up to the hype in the early going. Robert has started every game so far, typically batting 7th and playing CF. After an injury to Tim Anderson over the weekend, Robert soared up to the leadoff spot, promptly responding with a titanic opposite-field blast (highlighted below). He’s slashed .351/.385/.595 with 13 H, 2 HR, and 1 SB. Robert has 2 BB to 11 K, one of his only blemishes during the opening week. It’s not entirely surprising given his career marks and scores on the projection systems. Robert has been served well with an aggressive approach in the early going, where six of his hits and both home runs have come on the first offering in an AB. Robert is showing his all-around skill set as a bona fide future fantasy stud. There’s a reason he’s a top 5 prospect in the game, and we’re all smiling ear-to-ear with every highlight. Outlook: Robert is elbowing his way up rankings with a strong MLB showing, putting pressure on a spot within the top 25 overall dynasty players.
Luis Robert is g̶o̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶b̶e̶ big time trouble. pic.twitter.com/xmOvi7VFdZ
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) August 2, 2020
On the pitching side, “Nasty” Nate Pearson of the Toronto Blue Jays lived up to his nickname in his debut start against the Nationals on Wednesday. Pearson had an important tuneup start against Boston at the end of Summer Camp, during which he made critical adjustments after initially struggling with command. Pearson showed in his official debut that he can attack the zone with all of his offerings. When the righty is getting called strikes and chases on his wicked slider, hitters are in for a long night (highlighted below). He gets excellent velocity separation between his off-speed pitches and his high heat. Pearson threw 75 pitches in his opening start and should be on a strict pitch count as he has been his entire professional career.
Widely considered among the top pitching prospects, Pearson may have ups and downs and rack up pitch counts during some of his starts in 2020. Beyond this year, he’s bound to be a PitchingNinja GIF factory and one of the scariest starters in the majors. Outlook: Pearson gets a slight ding pitching in the tough AL East, but nonetheless possesses a rare SP1-SP2 fantasy ceiling. Over the next few years, his career path projects similarly to that of Tyler Glasnow in terms of potential for conservative usage. Once he’s unleashed, he could ascend to one of the top starting pitchers in fantasy.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 29, 2020
The Next Wave of Top Prospect Debuts
Week 1 also saw a group of prospects in the 50+ overall rankings make their MLB debuts.
Evan White of the Seattle Mariners, like Robert, signed an MLB contract during the off-season. White has run with the 1B job from the jump. White has been great on both sides of the ball. A rare right-handed batter and left-handed thrower, White has shown exceptional defensive instincts and smoothness with the mitt. He’s bound to stick in the lineup even through offensive dry spells due to the glove, which helps his fantasy managers lock down a shallow position. White has hit in the 2 and 5 holes in the lineup so far.
He’s at a double-digit BB rate and he is delivering 91st percentile hard contact (highlighted below). White may be a more modest 2020 performer in terms of hits and power output but long term, he can be a 20-25 HR player and prove an asset in both average and on-base formats. There aren’t too many 1B that can also chip in some SB. White is one of those rare exceptions.
Evan White w/ a shot last night.@PhilOfSports’s take:
My sleeper pick for AL ROY. This clip shows you here: his timing & attack angle has improved throughout his pro career. He’s not only hitting the ball hard, he’s also finding the barrel more frequently.#Seattle #MLB #PLive pic.twitter.com/frU8KYevER
— Prospects Live (@ProspectsLive) July 28, 2020
In somewhat of a surprise promotion, Andrés Giménez broke camp with the New York Mets to open 2020. Giménez has netted a single start; nonetheless, he has found his way into 9 of 10 games. He’s played 2B, 3B, and SS defensively and served as a pinch runner. Giménez is a good SB threat in 2020 and beyond. Notoriously young at every level of his development, he is still just 21 years old. Giménez carried over his hot Arizona Fall League performance to the big leagues.
Ever since I first saw Giménez back in 2018, he’s had the ability to drive (not slap) the ball the other way (highlight below). While there are some infield logjams, Giménez is certainly contributing every night in some fashion. He’s a beneficiary of the universal DH in 2020, and a middle infielder I am high on in dynasty.
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 29, 2020
The Kansas City Royals are using 2020 to showcase many of their young arms, and Brady Singer was the first man up. The 6’5″ righty had two starts this week, with nearly identical results in both: 5 IP, 2 ER, and right around 80 pitches. Singer K’d seven against Cleveland and three more against Detroit.
The fastball/sinker and slider are the primary offerings, with a show-me changeup right around 6% usage (though only 2 in his opening start). He was able to turn to the late-breaking slider in tough spots and generate swings-and-misses. Singer generates significant horizontal movement on both the sinker and slider. He projects as an innings-eater who can unlock his ceiling with further utilization of his changeup (highlighted below).
Here was the Brady Singer changeup that put the cherry on top of last night's outing: pic.twitter.com/D89SQ77ZwV
— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) July 31, 2020
Nick Madrigal also debuted for the Chicago White Sox on July 31. Madrigal boasts some of the strongest bat-to-ball skills in professional baseball. He strikes out at absurdly low rates, and the question will be how this translates into driving the ball for fantasy. There’s high potential for strong batting average and he possesses plus speed. He hit 9th in the lineup in his debut weekend, so his short term value could be capped with that lineup placement. Madrigal showcased his hit tool prowess with a 4 hit day over the weekend, all singles (highlighted below). Madrigal plays a strong defensive 2B, earning the call to become the fixture at the keystone in Chicago.
Nick Madrigal's day just kept getting better. Baseball's No. 39 overall prospect racked up his first four (!) big league hits as his #WhiteSox finished a three-game sweep in KC. pic.twitter.com/ABTx2wjVPl
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) August 2, 2020
In the opposite dugout to Madrigal, the Kansas City Royals Kris Bubic drew the home opener against the White Sox. The nearly 23-year-old lefty hasn’t pitched above high-A professionally, which is a testament to his polish and compelled the Royals to grant Bubic competitive innings this season. Bubic held his own during his debut, getting tough outs after yielding some traffic on the bases.
Bubic surrendered a three-run homer – the extent of the damage in the outing. Bubic had a 1-2-3 third inning, striking out two facing the heart of the White Sox order. Bubic features a low-90s fastball, a devastating changeup (highlighted below), and deceptive delivery. He slots in right alongside other Royals starters Jackson Kowar and Brady Singer in terms of projectable rotation contributors.
Versatile catching prospect Daulton Varsho made his big league debut this week for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Varsho was detailed by RotoFanatic’s Mike Carter in this stellar deep dive article. The Diamondbacks love carrying a deep catching corps, and Varsho should be able to catch enough to maintain valuable catcher eligibility given his offensive upside.
He’s a potential 20 HR, 20 SB hitter at his peak with a strong hit tool and on-base prowess. He could also get his bat in the lineup via starts in the outfield. Varsho has been limited to pinch hitting over the weekend in getting 2 plate appearances (1 BB, 1 K), so it remains to be seen exactly how the Diamondbacks will deploy him in 2020. With a great AA track record already, Varsho may simply be getting a taste of big league action for a more expanded role heading into next year.
Other Notable Prospect Debuts
Left-handed starter David Peterson made his big league debut for the New York Mets against Boston. Peterson pitched 5.2 innings and surrendered two runs on seven hits to go along with a pair of walks and three strikeouts. Peterson dazzled in his next start against division foe Atlanta. Peterson showed good use of the slider and changeup as putaway offerings, helping particularly against righties. Peterson netted a quality start: in 6 IP, he limited the Braves to 5 hits and racked up 8 strikeouts against only 1 walk. The lefty is a groundball machine who also has a good ability to miss bats with a five-pitch arsenal. He has what it takes to stick in the Mets rotation, and is a name trending up.
Cristian Javier followed up a scoreless inning of relief on July 25 with a stellar first start in the big leagues. On July 29, he fired 5.2 IP with only 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB and 8 K on 82 pitches; thus, he became a popular FAAB target over the weekend. Historically Javier has had a high BB rate but showed how tough he can be when his command is on. Consistency will be key, but Javier should get some run in 2020 on the suddenly pitching-starved Astros.
Yoshi Tsutsugo has gotten into all but one game so far for the Tampa Bay Rays. I covered Tstutsugo in a recent episode of the “On the Bump” Podcast and think he can be a solid source of power and on-base ability, hitting from the middle of the Rays lineup. He’s also handy with dual-eligibility on multiple platforms. The 28-year-old Tsutugo hit 255 career home runs spanning 10 professional seasons in Japan.
Daniel Johnson made a cameo for Cleveland and the outfielder brings a nice blend of athleticism with power-speed potential. He’s always had a knack for getting on-base and could blossom into a viable fantasy outfielder. The outfield isn’t as wide open for playing time as it was previously in Cleveland, but Johnson should have an up-and-down taxi squad role with the big club this season.
Like Johnson, outfielder Leody Taveras had a quick up-and-down stint for the Texas Rangers. Taveras is just 21 years old, though he has seemingly been a touted prospect for many years. There’s some prospect fatigue with Taveras but the speedy outfielder projects a hit tool and stolen base potential. He is an elite defender but his ultimate power ceiling along with in-game production questions could limit his status to fourth outfielder or second division regular duties. He was recently optioned to the taxi squad in an “offensive move” to replace him with Adolis Garcia. That may be the case today, but here’s hoping Taveras can pass Garcia in the depth chart.
Edward Olivares caused some buzz as he debuted this week for the San Diego Padres. The toolsy outfielder has turned himself into a legitimate dynasty prospect after putting up consistently strong offensive performances during his professional career, dating back to his time in the Toronto organization. Offering power and speed off the bench, Olivares finds himself in a crowded outfield situation in San Diego; nonetheless, he could squeeze his way into more playing time with better production against LHP, especially if Wil Myers regresses.
Shogo Akiyama has come out of the gate in a strict platoon role for the Cincinnati Reds. The 32-year-old Akiyama has started two games while entering every other contest as a pinch-hitter. He is 0-3 against southpaws, but has a .263 AVG and .364 OBP in 22 plate appearances against RHP. Akiyama represents a particularly skilled source of on-base potential, though he will have to get more regular at bats to maintain fantasy appeal.
Two talented catchers made their debuts: Tyler Stephenson of the Cincinnati Reds and William Contreras of the Atlanta Braves. Stephenson is an imposing 6’4″ and he swatted a titanic blast in his first plate appearance. Stephenson could be a good offensive catcher for dynasty leagues; likewise, Contreras was pressed into duty due to two senior circuit catchers landing on the IL. Contreras has been a pleasant surprise since his debut, delivering four hits including a double in 10 at bats as of this writing.
Deep League Talents: Joe McCarthy (SFG), Enoli Paredes (HOU), Jose Marmolejos (SEA), Jonathan Arauz (BOS), Taylor Widener (ARI), Alex Vesia (MIA), Santiago Espinal (TOR), Taylor Jones (HOU), Jordan Holloway (MIA), Jake Cronenworth (SDP), Nick Heath (KCR).
Ben is a member of the RotoFanatic team as a Minor League Prospect Analyst and Dynasty Fantasy Baseball writer. Ben is a longtime fantasy baseball player with a focus on deep dynasty leagues. Ben broke into baseball writing in 2017 as a team writer at realmccoyminors.com. In addition, Ben currently writes for Prospects1500.com covering the Red Sox system. He has also been a team writer at Fantrax and contributor to notesfromthesally.com. Ben is also a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA). Follow Ben on Twitter @TBDubbs11 for player video and dynasty baseball content.