During the opening weeks of the 2020 season, our baseball drought was rewarded with many exciting prospect debuts that I detailed here. The calendar’s turn to August has also thrust tremendous prospect talent upon us. The names below infused rosters with immense potential in redraft and dynasty leagues alike.
The Elite Prospect Debuts
On the heels of Luis Robert’s debut during Week 1, Jo Adell followed up his fellow top 5 prospect outfielder in his debut for the Los Angeles Angels this past week. All that you’ve heard so far from the fantasy community is to keep expectations low for Adell in the short term. People commonly point to his 27 G performance in AAA to end 2019 with a high K rate (32%) and lack of over the fence power (0 HR). The first few MLB games have seen some strikeouts and adventures in the field as well. All understandable given a lay off from competitive games.
Listen. Adell is a special talent. Adell has handled early struggles with impressive poise indicative of his big league readiness. He stood out to me as the most MLB ready player on the entire field over a year ago during the Future’s Game in Cleveland. This is a side-by-side look at a group that includes a gaggle of MLB players such as Brady Singer, Daulton Varsho, Nick Madrigal, and Robert that earned the call already. Not all swing-and-miss is created equal. Adell is a premier athlete who has the skills to attack, make mechanical changes, and adjust pitch selection. You’ll know Adell is locked in when he drives the ball to right field, showing impressive lift the other way.
Outlook in 2020: Adell has already been claimed in FAAB over the weekend, so he shouldn’t be available anywhere at this point. Batting 7th in the lineup, Adell may still have run-producing potential even if he gets less ABs over the season. Assuming his quad injury is healed, he could also be given the opportunity to steal bases and manufacture runs given he won’t have the heart of the lineup hitting right behind him. There will be ups and downs that dip the ratios, but Adell should deliver counting stats in R, HR, RBI, and SB as he was announced as an everyday player for the Angels. Adell shined with his first multi-hit game and has short term breakout potential.
Outlook in Dynasty: Adell is a premier prospect and top 50 overall player in dynasty leagues. Adell is as close to a consensus top 5 prospect as you will see. Some will have pause over the AAA numbers, while others will simply have others with more hype pass him. The offseason saw Julio Rodriguez ascend within the top 5. And every day now, you can just look on Twitter and you’ll see Jarred Kelenic swatting daily HR’s in Mariners training camp. In a strange 2020, it is a perfect chance for Adell to get his feet wet and prepare to be a key contributor in all fantasy formats next year. I would absolutely be knocking on the door of any manager who rosters Adell and recognize if there is a buying opportunity.
The San Diego Padres tapped the impressive 20-year-old right-hander Luis Patiño last week. Patiño is an exceptional athlete with great lower half strength. With a lightning quick arm, the package helps Patiño maximize his 6’1″ frame. Patiño features a sizzling three-pitch mix with the fastball, slider, and changeup. He hits triple digits with the heat, which plays up given a good extension and the ability to spot it. The slider can be in different forms from 83-87 MPH and works vertically. On the pitch below, the hitter got eaten up because he has to respect Patiño’s ability to go back foot with the slider. Before he knows it, it’s not disappearing and it catches the bottom corner of the zone.
Outlook in 2020: Similarly to Adell, a top 25 prospect like Patiño can’t be sitting on the waiver wire anymore in a redraft league. Patiño is breaking in as a multi-inning reliever, which is a solid role for 2020. In his debut, Patiño looked great against the Dodgers. While Patiño gave up a big 3 run home run to Joc Pederson, the rest of the outing showed strong signs. For one, he was able to recover and get 5 straight outs following the blast, not an easy task in his MLB debut. Over the weekend, Patiño entered the game in the 7th against the Diamondbacks, staked to a 9-1 lead in relief of Dinelson Lamet. Patiño recorded five outs (three strikeouts) on 49 pitches. It was a low leverage position but he got into some trouble, yielding four walks. He yielded a home run on his last pitch, a missed location on a slider likely the result of a taxing outing. Patiño could work his way back into higher leverage with strings of scoreless outings, and both appearances so far have shown plenty of promise.
Outlook in Dynasty: Patiño is a starter for me long term and the difference maker is the changeup. With a viable third pitch, Patiño has a higher chance to turn big league lineups over. The changeup so far has generated whiffs and provides enough movement and velocity separation (89 MPH) to give hitters a different look. Patiño is super young and the fact that he’s up suggests how highly the organization views him. All of this makes Patiño a top 5 pitching prospect in the game with a ceiling as a top 15 starter.
The Philadelphia Phillies called upon righty starter Spencer Howard to take the mound for his debut this past Sunday. Howard was easily among the top pitching prospect risers in the past season, cementing himself among the top 50 overall dynasty prospects. Howard hurled 71 IP across three levels in 2019 (Rookie, High-A, Double-A), finishing with a sterling 2.03 ERA, 0.83 WHIP. He had a stingy 2.0 BB/9 and overpowered with an 11.9 K/9. Howard culminated a strong campaign with a brilliant 21.1 IP tour through the Arizona Fall League, where much of his season’s dominance carried over. Before the COVID shut down, Howard was a popular choice to break camp in the Phillies rotation. The Phillies secured an extra year of control by waiting until this past weekend, but we saw a glimpse of the talent that they have on their hands.
Outlook in 2020: Howard’s four-pitch mix was on display in his opening start against the Atlanta Braves. Howard gets good velocity on the fastball, but on Sunday it was hit hard and didn’t generate any swing and miss. He was working with it a lot in the middle of the zone, and the velocity settled through the outing. Howard’s best pitch is his changeup, which is simply nasty. He can attack the zone with it or get whiffs from hitters on both sides of the plate. The slider and curveball are similar velocity but have a different shape, with the slider being the favorite secondary in terms of usage. Howard needs the developmental innings this season and will be learning on the job, as he’s pitched only 30 innings at AA and none at AAA. Expect many flashes of his intriguing potential, but choose your matchups carefully in 2020.
Outlook in Dynasty: As mentioned before, Howard is a talented prospect who really needs significant innings under his belt before we know who he truly will become. A former college reliever, Howard amassed 211.1 IP over 47 games (47 starts) in the minors. As a point of comparison, Luis Patiño at only 20 years old edges Howard in professional innings by a handful (234 IP). If you’re a contender that rosters Howard in dynasty, it would be a great time to pair up with a rebuilder for that key missing piece to put you over the top. This doesn’t mean that I’m selling or out on Howard, it just suggests that it may take some time for Howard to make the adjustments he needs to be reliably successful every fifth day. We are going to have to see how Howard is able to work around the edges of the zone with his fastball instead of blowing it by less advanced hitters. But once he gets his feet under him, he could be a top 30 starter stalwart in fantasy with runs in higher ranges than that.
The Miami Marlins
The Marlins get their own section here due to unique circumstances that necessitated minor-league reinforcements. With a COVID outbreak in the Marlins big league clubhouse, a group of less seasoned but dynasty-relevant prospects were pressed onto the big stage.
Led by Monte Harrison, the borderline top 100 fantasy prospect brings counting stats intrigue in the power and speed departments. We all know about Harrison’s physical gifts, top-notch raw power strength, and sprinting ability. With bat speed for days, Harrison can become a Statcast darling. What will make Harrison approach his ceiling is moments like what is highlighted in the tweet below. If Harrison can more readily cut down on the swing length in favor of contact, he can find success as a solid OF3 in fantasy. We saw this approach in winter ball which generated excitement that Harrison has a bat beyond a speedy slugger. This will ultimately work because he has such big time power that he doesn’t need to sell out for it. Harrison should remain a high strikeout hitter, but may be worthwhile checking in on a buying window in dynasty should he struggle in the early going.
It was a brilliant debut for right-handed pitcher Humberto Mejía, who hadn’t pitched above High-A before taking the mound against the New York Mets. Mejía struck out six of the 11 Mets he faced while allowing only two hits (one home run). Mejía racked up 67 pitches and recorded eight outs, so despite some deep counts, he was able to execute with an effective fastball-curveball combo. One of my favorite under the radar and close to the majors pitchers heading into the season, Mejía carries back of the rotation potential who showed he could also succeed in a multi-inning role.
Two other notable Marlins pitching prospects made their big league debuts: Sterling Sharp and Jorge Guzmán. Sharp was the Marlins Rule 5 selection this past winter on the heels of a stellar AFL stint as one of the best pitchers out there. He made it to Double-A last season as a member of the division rival Washington Nationals. Sharp was a good acquisition who has a comparable ceiling to Mejía but a higher probability of starting than his counterpart. Guzmán was one of the centerpiece returns for the Giancarlo Stanton deal with the New York Yankees. On the older side as a prospect now, his high octane stuff has not historically missed enough bats as the arsenal would otherwise suggest. Guzmán has gotten run as a starter but could settle into a bullpen role where he can unleash the fastball/slider filth and have some forgiveness with the inconsistent harnessing of the command.
Other Notable Prospect Debuts
Ryan Castellani, a right-handed pitcher for the Colorado Rockies, turned it on big time as he twirled four no-hit innings in his first start in the bigs. Castellani isn’t the highest-ranked prospect in this article, but he really dazzled on the road against the Mariners. The tweet below shows how uncomfortable he can make hitters look with his fastball when he spots it, along with his curve and changeup. The Rockies pitchers this year have been a revelation (ironically, I have deep league shares of every starter outside of their ace German Marquez), so Castellani should stick in the rotation at least for the foreseeable future in 2020.
The Texas Rangers turned to switch-hitting infielder Anderson Tejeda who has already delivered a home run and stolen base in his first week in the big leagues. Tejeda is a defensively gifted middle infielder who should profile well on either side of the bag. It’s his defense and pop that earned the switch hitter the call despite peaking at High-A in 2019. Tejeda came into the season on the 40 man roster, so his presence on the club is not completely a surprise even though he hasn’t seen the high minors yet. Tejeda is a nice deep league target that provides relative safety and intrigue without a lofty ceiling.
Another infielder, Andy Young, made his debut for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Homering off of Luis Patiño to punctuate his debut week (highlighted below), Young also netted multiple plate appearances in four games (three starts) since August 1st. Young provides punch and on-base acumen to the lineup, as he slammed back-to-back 20+ home run seasons in the high minors to go along with a career .367 OBP. The 26 year old Young has played 2B, 3B, and OF defensively in his opening week, and could hit his way into a valuable role for the Diamondbacks.
A former blue-chip prospect, Albert Abreu has been slowly brought along over the last couple of years by the New York Yankees. Billed as the next great Yankee starting pitcher, Abreu ran into some injury woes and inconsistency in the high minors. As he has surrendered more contact, Abreu has looked more fallible and the rotation future has been in question. Abreu was tabbed with middle relief duties against Tampa Bay in his debut, where he got knocked around (three hits, two runs, two walks) and racked up 41 pitches to get four outs (two strikeouts). However, there is a big league future for Abreu based on the pedigree and scintillating pitch mix that could still land him in the rotation with refinement.
Deep League Notables: Franklyn Kilome (NYM), Nick Nelson (NYY), Yermin Mercedes (CWS), Joey Gerber (SEA), Ali Sanchez (NYM), Zack Burdi (CWS), Humberto Castellanos (HOU).