Prospects have become increasingly key to winning re-draft fantasy leagues. They’ve always been major in-season acquisitions, but now they are more prevalent than ever at the draft table. With more fantasy managers knowing the prospects who are likely to make an impact in that season, the battle for their services has become much more fervent, leading some to just stash them for a month or two rather than take the chance of being able to pluck them off the wire once they are called up and risk losing them.
These rankings are now available on The Board on the 2020 Fantasy Rankings tab, where you can also see Shelly Verougstraete’s Top Dynasty Rankings!
The average draft position (ADP) data used is for 12-team NFBC Online Championship leagues that have a standard 23-man roster and 7-man bench with no IL spots.
1. Luis Robert | CHW, OF | Top 100: 7; ADP: 73
The dynamic outfielder is especially desirable on the fantasy landscape because the White Sox gave him a long-term contract ahead of his debut and guaranteed his roster spot from Opening Day. While the dream would be his 32 HR/36 SB/.326 AVG season from 2019 replicated at the big-league level, there’s plenty of wiggle room to deliver substantial profit while adjusting to the rigors of major league baseball. The premium speed and solid pop should keep him floor high.
His approach offers some pause as he’s probably going to strike out a quarter of the time while walking once every 20 plate appearances. Concerns will start to pop up if that strikeout rate creeps toward 30% as it’ll put a greater burden on his batted balls to find grass or the stands. At worst he should be able to replicate Victor Robles’ 2019 (.255 AVG/17 HR/28 SB), which made the Nationals outfielder a top 100 player.
2. Gavin Lux | LAD, 2B | Top 100: 2; ADP: 154
Lux’s power breakout culminated in an insane .392/.478/.719 line in 49 games at Triple-A and now he enters 2020 as the starting second baseman for a great Dodgers team. He didn’t do much in an 82 PA sample with Los Angeles last year (87 wRC+), but that hasn’t softened interest from the fantasy community. He’s slotted in the 8-spot of the Dodgers lineup right now, though Joc Pederson could still be dealt (again) and Lux could leapfrog Will Smith, so there’s some upward mobility in his spot in order.
While he did steal 17 bases per 600 PA as a minor leaguer, he was at 11 per 600 in the high minors, so his projection for 9-10 seems more in line with what we should expect. His 60-grade hit tool will drive his profile from the jump and should make him a batting average asset for fantasy managers in 2020. There’s still a non-zero chance he starts the season in the minors so as his roster spot becomes more secure, his draft price will rise.
3. Jo Adell | LAA, OF | Top 100: 4; ADP: 235
Injuries immediately stalled his 2019 campaign and limited him to 76 games, including a bumpy 27-game run at Triple-A. He went to the Arizona Fall League and played well to end his season on a high note, though it’s still likely that he opens the year at Triple-A for a bit more seasoning. His 32% K rate at Triple-A could be a glimpse into his primary issue in the majors, but the 21-year old is tooled up and his power could be a plus asset immediately.
The Joc Pederson deal that fell through made it clear that Adell isn’t in the Angels’ Opening Day plans. The fantasy community has responded in kind, as he’s regularly going later than pick-200. He’s a great pick in leagues where you can afford to stash someone for upwards of a month.
4. Jesus Luzardo | OAK, SP | Top 100: 6; ADP: 113
Luzardo flashed his excellence in 15 relief innings with Oakland and now it’s easy to dream on what he could do in a full season as a starter. The A’s have said there won’t be a hard innings limit on him or A.J. Puk, which doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll push 200, but I see 150 as a realistic count. He sits mid-90s with his fastball and backs it up with a plus-plus slider and strong changeup. All three pitches miss bats and he hasn’t had any trouble regularly controlling the arsenal despite his high-effort delivery. He’s getting a bit pricey in early fantasy drafts and will only go up, which really cuts into his margin for error and makes it so he has to perform at a pretty high level to return anything close to a profit.
5. Nick Solak | TEX, UT | Top 100: 109; ADP: 279
This is the first big spot where the prospect and fantasy communities diverge. The position-less prospect is already 25 years old and brings nothing with the glove, two big strikes when projecting growth, but he has consistently hit throughout his pro career, including a 126 wRC+ in his 135 PA major league debut. The Rangers are working him out at first base, making him playable at the four corners and second base so he should be able to accumulate at least 450 PA and perhaps more if injury or underperformance opens up a more permanent role. Being utility-only to start the season will keep his price more than reasonable in all drafts and I’m definitely buying the potential .280+ AVG and 20+ HR output.
6. Mitch Keller | PIT, SP | Top 100: 34; ADP: 230
Keller had an insanely volatile 11-start debut that saw him allow 5+ earned runs in five starts and two or fewer in the other six. The bottom line was a 7.13 ERA, but his FIP (3.19) and SIERA (3.78) make it easier to digest as he struck out 29% while walking just 7%. Longenhagen pointed out in his Top 100 that a new plus slider was key to reestablishing his prospect hype. Keller threw 151.7 innings last year, so he won’t have any restrictions in his first full season as a big leaguer. He’ll be stuck on a low tier team, but he should have solid ratios and plenty of strikeouts, making him viable in formats.
7. A.J. Puk | OAK, SP | Top 100: 25; ADP: 237
As mentioned in the Luzardo write up, the two rookie lefties for the A’s aren’t going to face a hard innings limit heading into the season. That doesn’t mean they won’t be managed, but the A’s want to stay flexible, which makes sense because once you put a number out there, you are kind of anchored to it. Puk doesn’t have the command and control of his rotation mate, so walks could be an issue and keep his WHIP a bit higher, but the swing-and-miss stuff is undeniable so the strikeouts will be plentiful.
Given that Puk actually even looks like him, it’s hard not to make Josh Hader comparisons but thankfully the A’s are giving him a real shot to start this year instead of just parking him in the bullpen. While Luzardo is better, I’m not sure he’s 120 picks better, so I’ll likely end up with more shares of Puk as I work my way through draft season.
8. Jose Urquidy | HOU, SP | Top 100: 101; ADP: 220
Urquidy’s added velocity fueled a big three-level season that saw him post a 3.95 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 41 innings with the Astros. He has a deep arsenal, solid command and control, and misses bats at an above average clip, making him a capable mid-tier starter. There should be a spot for him in the rotation on Opening Day with the departures of Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley. Inning-for-inning there are better prospects later in this list, but he has a great chance at 160 frames and that volume pushes him into the top 10.
9. Austin Hays | BAL, OF | Top 100: UR; ADP: 239
We recently covered about 7,812 outfielders on part 2 of our preview podcast and I somehow forgot to list Hays, so he went undiscussed. It was a total accident because while he didn’t crack the top 100 list, he will definitely be fantasy viable with a full-time role in hand. Rookies on bad teams can often be an avenue for fantasy goodness as the team has every incentive to let them play.
Hays did well in his 75 PA sample last year, but if I’m going to say that the poor samples in fewer than 100 PA are meaningless, I have to be consistent and point out that strong performances in similarly small samples don’t tell us much. Solid average power and speed make Hays a 25 HR/10 SB candidate, and if he maintains something around his 19% K rate from the minors, he could feasibly hit something north of a .270 AVG. That ballpark in Baltimore always adds to a hitter’s bottom line, too.
10. Nick Madrigal | CHW, 2B | Top 100: 41; ADP: 244
The White Sox seem to have strategically left second base open for Madrigal, either right out of Spring Training or quickly into the season. Leury Garcia isn’t going to block him but is a reasonable placeholder for 2-4 weeks. Madrigal has an extreme contact profile that has seen him strike out just 3% of the time as a pro while walking at a 7% clip. In a three-level season last year, he hit .311/.377/.414 with 4 HR and 35 SB in 532 PA. He’s going to bring those skills to the majors as early as this year and be an AVG and SB asset, but you’ll have to make sure you have enough power to cover him as he’s unlikely to crack more than 5-6 HR at his peak.
11. Forrest Whitley | HOU, SP | Top 100: 15; ADP: 296
The fantasy community loves to turn on a prospect when they don’t immediately hit the ground running at the major league level (see also: Kieboom, Carter), but Whitley suffers from the rare condition of being a bit forgotten after a poor minor league season. There were big expectations for the 22-year-old righty to come up and contribute in 2019, but instead he labored through a disastrous minor league season that was only salvaged by a solid AFL performance.
Longehagen grades him with five(!) plus pitches and still slotted him 15th in the top 100 despite the brutal season. He’ll likely start the season back in Triple-A, but Lance McCullers Jr. is returning from injury, Brad Peacock has never been trusted to be a full season starter, and even the aforementioned Urquidy is no sure thing so there will be opportunities for Whitley as long as he doesn’t fall on his face again. A huge Spring Training would likely bring the interest in Whitley back up, but it’s still surprising that he hasn’t been regularly tabbed as an interesting sleeper given how high the hype was ahead of 2019.
I’m open to stashing him for upwards of a month as he will eventually get his shot this year.
12. Dustin May | LAD, SP | Top 100: 14; ADP: 229
On just about any other team May would slot higher on this list, as most orgs would be champing at the bit to put this 22-year old righty in their rotation. He pitched well splitting time between the pen and rotation for 34.7 innings, capping off a three-level season that saw him succeed at Double- and Triple-A, too. All told, he threw 141.3 innings, setting him up for a full workload in 2020, but in typical Dodgers fashion, they have about 208 capable starting pitchers.
He may wind up as a better-in-real-life pitcher as we haven’t seen a ton of whiffs to this point, but he doesn’t walk batters, keeps the ball in the park, and plays for a great team. If he adds a bigger strikeout component to his game, there’s fantasy ace potential here.
13. Carter Kieboom | WSN, SS | Top 100: 21; ADP: 292
A 43 PA sample with a 17 wRC+ from Kieboom last year might’ve left a sour taste in your mouth if you got him off the waiver wire, but it’s legitimately a nothing sample that has zero bearing on his future outlook. The 22-year old’s pop is major league ready and while we could see some early swing-and-miss limiting his average, 20+ HR power and double-digit speed always plays in the fantasy world. The Nats had a natural opening for Kieboom when Anthony Rendon signed with the Angels, but they’ve backfilled with depth by retaining Asdrúbal Cabrera and Howie Kendrick while bringing on Starlin Castro.
Two of those guys are in their mid-30s and Castro needed a crazy second half surge to make him relevant again, so it’s not like Kieboom is completely blocked off. He’ll start the season in Triple-A (where he posted a 123 wRC+ with 16 HR and 5 SB in 494 PA last year) and should be in Washington as soon as something opens up.
14. Michael Kopech | CHW, SP | Top 100: 19; ADP: 282
It seems unlikely that Kopech will be on the team Opening Day as he returns from Tommy John surgery as there isn’t an obvious spot for him in the rotation and the White Sox may want to take it easy with his return. That said, we haven’t gotten a concrete timeline, which means things could flip on a dime. If any of their likely starters get hurt, it could open the door for Kopech. We need Spring Training to get more clarity on his 2020 outlook and then we can adjust his draft price accordingly.
Once back, there’s a lot to like with the flame throwing righty who should log a ton of strikeouts to sustain his fantasy profile. The WHIP could be an issue as he’ll likely have a below average walk rate, but the upside is massive. A strikeout rate approaching 30% with a sub-4.00 ERA will make a WHIP in the 1.30s a lot more palatable. You should have a reasonable idea how long you’ll have to stash Kopech if you draft in March and if it looks like it’s a month or less, consider vaulting him up this list to just behind Madrigal.
15. Nate Pearson | TOR, SP | Top 100: 8; ADP: 363
I was so happy to see Eric put Pearson as his eighth prospect as I’ve been a fan since seeing him at the AFL a couple years ago. Even though Pete Alonso turned his 103 mph heater the other way for a homer to right-center, I was still impressed with his electric stuff. That blistering heater earned an 80 grade and no one should feel bad when Alonso takes ‘em yard. He’s not just a big fastball, though, as his slider and changeup both grade as plus while his curveball shows promise.
He finished 2019 with 18 Triple-A innings so he’ll likely return there for a little while, but the 23-year old could very well be up within the first six weeks of the season. The Jays don’t have an obvious contender on their hands, but they’ve added some pitching depth to go with their budding lineup of stars so it’s not out of the question to get Pearson up sooner than later. Plus, with pitching prospects it doesn’t make sense to waste bullets in the minors even if the team isn’t exactly in the peak of their contention window. Barring a production collapse or injury, Pearson should be up by at least June and could be a major second half asset.
16. MacKenzie Gore | SD, SP | Top 100: 3; ADP: 273
Fantasy folks are definitely getting a Chris Paddack vibe from Gore as we’re hoping he can set the Cactus League ablaze and push himself into the Padres rotation. While that’s unrealistic, there is a reasonable possibility that Gore is up in the first half of 2020 as the Padres have not been shy about pushing their young stars. The 21-year old lefty has done a great job missing bats throughout his pro career, with a 34% K rate in 183 innings. He has two plus offerings and two others that are average with plus upside. We’ll gain more clarity on his outlook in Spring Training and can adjust his draft price from there. For now, taking a shot on him after pick 250 is OK.
17. Brendan McKay | TB, SP | Top 100: 17; ADP: 268
My general fantasy rule is to draft talent and let roles sort themselves out, but I’m more cautious about that with teams like the Dodgers and Rays as they’ve usually so incredibly deep that the even the premium prospects can get a bit buried. McKay is one such guy like that in 2020, at least to start the season. He’s probably seventh on the depth chart when it comes to starting, assuming they still see Trevor Richards as a starter, and thus he’ll be in Triple-A to open the year.
McKay’s core skills in 49 MLB innings last year were solid (26% K, 7% BB), but a high BABIP (.331) conspired with a 1.5 HR/9 to saddle him with a 5.14 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. There are a lot of 55s in his profile and plus to plus-plus command sets it all off. At his best, he’ll be a ratio stud with an above average strikeout rate.
18. Wander Franco | TB, SS | Top 100: 1; ADP: 456
The Rays are known for slow roasting their prospects, which makes it damn near impossible to see Franco in the majors this year, but Erik Neader has left the door open and that draft position will move up. He was given an 80 Future Value with plus marks across the board after just a brilliant season at A-ball and High-A. If he continues to rake like this in the high minors, the Rays will have no choice. That said, I could still only put him so high on a re-draft list as even a perfect world scenario doesn’t get him up until June.
19. Dylan Carlson | STL, OF | Top 100: 39; ADP: 305
After a slow build his first few years as a pro, Carlson enjoyed a breakout campaign last year at Double- and Triple-A, clubbing 26 HR with 20 SBs in 562 PA. Despite tabbing him for the breakout ahead of 2019, Eric now has some concerns after the big season. It seems the stats were ahead of the skills so now he has to kind prove the legitimacy of the big performance.
The Cards let Marcell Ozuna walk and didn’t make any big splashes in free agency, though, so they’ve got the door open for Carlson, especially if some of the guys they’ve been waiting on don’t come through (Tyler O’Neill and Lane Thomas), or if either of the more locked-in starters flop (Dexter Fowler and Harrison Bader). If the skills don’t quite match his ’19 production, he can still volume his way into fantasy usefulness as the power and speed are at least average and should yield double-double efforts every 500 PA.
20. Evan White | SEA, 1B | Top 100: 64; ADP: 352
White got a surprise six-year contract from the Mariners this offseason and should open the year as their first baseman. He put up a 132 wRC+ at Double-A last year with 18 HR in 400 PA last year. He could deliver an interesting profile for the position with plus speed, though he has just seven stolen bases as a pro. Since he doesn’t have the major power usually associated with 1B, if he doesn’t bring some SBs to the table, he might not be all that fantasy viable, even with playing time on lock. I favor some of the stash candidates over White just because their 4-5 month upside is better than his 6-month outlook.
21. Nico Hoerner | CHC, 2B | Top 100: 46; ADP: 380
The Stanford product skipped Triple-A and made his major league debut in September, hitting .282/.305/.436 in 82 PA. He has a contact-heavy profile that will make him a batting average asset with a handful of stolen bases. He’s basically an altered version of Madrigal with fewer SB, a lower AVG, and more pop.
22. Matt Manning | DET, SP | Top 100: 12; ADP: 437
23. Casey Mize | DET, SP | Top 100: 16; ADP: 353
The top 100 has Manning and Mize close to each other and they could join the majors together in 2020. GM Al Avila hinted at summer arrivals for the duo if they continue on their current excellent trajectories and while both are tough to draft in most formats, they do make for great stashes in deeper formats like the 50-round Draft Champions and AL-only leagues.
Manning has leapfrogged on lists on the basis of a healthier profile and being a year younger. Both are fantastic pitchers with deep swing-and-miss arsenals and strong velocity. Manning has refined his mechanics to trim the walk rate while maintaining big strikeout rates. He threw 133.7 innings at Double-A setting him up for a full workload across Triple-A and ideally the majors in 2020.
Mize has a brilliant four-pitch arsenal that fueled an electric two-level season including a no-hitter. A shoulder injury cut into his season in 2019 and as Eric points out, the injury history is starting to accumulate, with shoulder issues out of high school, elbow trouble at Auburn, and a PRP injection the summer before the draft. On a fantasy note, he hasn’t shown the kinds of strikeout rates that Manning has, despite a gaudy 14% swinging strike rate across High- and Double-A last year.
24. Brendan Rodgers | COL, 2B | Top 100: 31; ADP: UD
Shoulder surgery to repair a labrum tear will keep Rodgers shelved into May at the very least and then there’s the ever-annoying Rockies and their (mis-)management of young players that could keep him from playing beyond that. The hit tool carries his profile and with Coors Field aiding him as well, some .300 AVG seasons are on the horizon. He’s a perfect fit for the Draft Champions leagues at the NFBC with 50 rounds so you can comfortably wait on him. In standard formats, I’d rather wait until he’s back and get him off the waiver wire.
25. Sean Murphy | OAK, C | Top 100: 62; ADP: 207
The market likes him a lot more than I do, but I just don’t trust rookie catchers on the fantasy landscape. Over the last five years, rookie catchers with at least 250 PA have posted a .254/.317/.391 line with an average of 8 HR, 33 RBI, 34 R, and 2 SB in 291 PA. That’s essentially what Stephen Vogt did last year and he was the 21st catcher on the Auction Calculator. Murphy’s Steamer projection gives him a .250 AVG, 14 HR, 46 RBI, 44 R, and 2 SB, which is comparable to what Pedro Severino did last year and he was just two slots higher than Vogt on the AC. His price isn’t egregious, but I generally avoid rookie backstops.