FantasyPros has several prospect articles coming out in January, and this one should cover your needs for impact prospects for redraft leagues. This article focuses on players who should have relatively solid playing time from the jump. I have accordingly created projections, and have listed where each prospect is being drafted. These ADPs should help you identify draft bargains and players to stay away from at their current prices.
Sorry everyone, but Wander Franco probably isn’t coming up until the second half, best-case scenario. Feel free to grab him around the All-Star Break. For every other impact player, read below!
1. Luis Robert (OF – CWS)
Projection: 550 PA’s, 29 HR, 71 R, 80 RBI, 20 SB, .263 average
ADP (since 12/15/19): 104
The five-tool Robert just inked a long-term deal with the White Sox and is slated to be the everyday centerfielder. If he has extensive slumps at the plate (I don’t think he will), he should remain in the lineup due to his glove. He will hit in the bottom third of the order for most of the season, but the White Sox boast a suddenly potent lineup, so I don’t think this will affect him. I have Robert as top 60 hitter.
2. Mauricio Dubon (2B/SS – SF)
Projection: 525 PA’s, 18 HR, 57 R, 62 RBI, 14 SB, .270 average
This may be my most controversial rank. Dubon has the second base gig all to himself, and his hit tool should result in a solid average. I’m higher on homers than the projections, but he hit 24 homers across AAA and with the Giants. He also stole double-digit bases last year, and 38 in 2017. Hitting in Oracle Park will keep him under the radar, resulting in a nice year-long draft steal for you as a potential middle infielder.
3. Shogo Akiyama (OF – CIN)
Projection: 550 PA’s, 13 HR, 81 R, 56 RBI, 5 SB, .291 average
While he isn’t a prospect in the truest sense of the word, Akiyama slots in as the leadoff man in a great Reds lineup in one of the best hitting environments in baseball. He should also post a double-digit walk rate, increasing his value in OBP leagues. He probably won’t play every day in a crowded outfield, but will get extra at-bats hitting leadoff. For more info on Akiyama and another prospect below, read this great piece by Eno Sarris.
4. Nick Madrigal (2B – CWS)
Projection: 475 PA’s, 5 HR, 59 R, 42 RBI, 24 SB, .283 average
The White Sox are going all in, and we should see Madrigal up sometime in May. His well-above-average hit tool and speed will carry him, and batting in the nine-hole should result in a lot of runs scored. If you have your eyes on Madrigal, make sure to beef up on power early.
5. Dustin May (SP – LAD)
Projection: 150 innings, 12 W, 3.18 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 142 K
May had a great start to his career in 2019 but was hindered by an unlucky strand rate. His 64 percent strand rate was nine percentage points below the league average. If that number regresses, and he continues to suppress homers (as he has throughout the minors), he could finish as a top 40 pitcher. Of course, we don’t know how the Dodgers will manipulate May’s innings. Given that he tossed about 135 innings in 2019, 150 is a very reasonable jump.
6. Jesus Luzardo (SP – OAK)
Projection: 150 innings, 11 W, 3.61 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 161 K
The injury-prone Luzardo looks to put together his first full major league season in 2020. Given his setbacks in 2019, I doubt that Luzardo goes above 150 innings in 2020, despite oozing talent. This is a Chris Paddack situation – ride the wave as long as you can, because it will be worth it.
7. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (1B – TB)
Projection: 450 PA’s, 16 HR, 55 R, 60 RBI, 3 SB, .282 average
Like Akiyama, Tsutsugo isn’t a true rookie, coming over from Japan. He seems to do everything except steal, which means that you can get him at a discount. Between Ji-Man Choi and the Lowe brothers, Tsutsugo may have to start off hot to continue to earn playing time. But, I don’t think the frugal Rays would have signed him unless they intended to play him.
8. Jose Urquidy (SP – HOU)
Projection: 160 innings, 12 W, 3.87 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 158 K
Urquidy shined brightest during the playoffs last year, and that likely earned him a starting spot in the Opening Day rotation. You’re drafting Urquidy for the WHIP, given his low walk rate and great control. Knowing that he has a safe floor in the wins category by pitching for the Astros doesn’t hurt, either.
9. Nate Pearson (SP – TOR)
Projection: 125 innings, 9 W, 3.33 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 133 K
Pearson should come up within the first two months of the season, and he won’t stop striking hitters out for a long time after that. The variable that differentiates Pearson from similar prospects like Michael Kopech is that he has a bit more control, resulting in a lower WHIP and keeping balls in the yard.
10. Gavin Lux (SS – LAD)
Projection: 400 PA’s, 14 HR, 47 R, 48 RBI, 9 SB, .263 average
Lux does not have a full-time spot currently, otherwise, he would be in the top five. Lux will contribute in every category and will be a 30/100/100 candidate in a year or two. His ADP assumes that his situation will change (i.e., Corey Seager will be traded), but for now, we must project with what we know.
11. Brendan McKay (SP – TB)
Projection: 150 innings, 10 W, 3.72 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 156 K
McKay was a two-way player, but given his astute skills in the pitching realm, his hitting role has faded. McKay needs to avoid hitters’ wheelhouses (10.4 percent barrel rate, 90.5 MPH average exit velocity) to become a top 40 pitcher. His insane K rate (above 30 percent across three levels) and historical ability to suppress homers give me confidence.
12. Mitch Keller (SP – PIT)
Projection: 170 innings, 10 W, 4.12 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 193 K
This projection may seem aggressive, but Keller sported a 28.6 percent strikeout rate in 48 major league innings last year. His unsightly .475 BABIP will surely regress, considering he was above average in both average exit velocity and hard-hit rate. With a clear role in the rotation, I’m expecting Keller to make a big leap.
13. Jo Adell (OF – LAA)
Projection: 400 PA, 16 HR, 49 R, 50 RBI, 6 SB, .252 average
Don’t get mad at me for this one. Adell will likely be a better overall player than Robert in a year, but he likely will have to wait until May for a regular starting spot, and does not run as much as Robert does. His average strikeout rate throughout the minors also leaves me with something to be desired in the average category.
14. Sam Hilliard (OF – COL)
Projection: 400 PA’s, 16 HR, 48 R, 51 RBI, 6 SB, .243 average
Hilliard broke out in a big way last year, posting a 138 wRC+ and elite sprint speed. With the always crowded Colorado outfield (along with the Rockies’ brass refusing to give steady playing time to youngsters), Hilliard won’t play every day, but above-average power in Coors will always have a place on fantasy rosters.
15. Sean Murphy (C – OAK)
Projection: 450 PA’s, 19 HR, 57 R, 56 RBI, 0 SB, .242 average
Murphy sprinted out of the gates late last year, hitting four homers with a 135 wRC+ in 60 plate appearances. Murphy will be the primary catcher for Oakland in 2020, which will make him an accumulator at a somewhat thin catcher position. Murphy is both my 15th ranked prospect and overall catcher.
16. Nico Hoerner (2B/SS – CHC)
Projection: 400 PA’s, 6 HR, 47 R, 35 RBI, 6 SB, .286 average
The Cubs have done nothing this offseason, and there is an increasing probability that Hoerner leaves Spring Training with the second base job. Hoerner will be Madrigal-lite and cost much less.
17. Mackenzie Gore (SP – SDP)
Projection: 125 innings, 7 W, 3.90 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 137 K
Gore is the top pitching prospect in baseball – it’s just a matter of when he gets called up. I’m expecting the Padres to be aggressive with him, as ownership wants to win now, and the Pads pushed Paddack from AA to the majors last year. Gore has four above-average pitches that will get him whiffs.
18. Tony Gonsolin (SP – LAD)
Projection: 100 innings, 8 W, 3.68 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 102 K
Gonsolin will not have a clear role in the Dodgers’ rotation, but given how the Dodgers handle their pitching staff, Gonsolin should pitch at least 100 major-league innings in 2020. He doesn’t shine in one particular category, but should put up serviceable numbers in four categories.
19. Brendan Rodgers (2B/SS – COL)
Projection: 400 PA’s, 12 HR, 42 R, 50 RBI, 4 SB, .249 average
Rodgers lost most of his 2019 to a torn labrum but should recover to get most of his 2020 season in. As alluded to above, it’s impossible to trust the Rockies with a young player. I’m also concerned about how the time off will affect Rodgers’s rhythm and timing for the first month or two he is back. This ADP will rise as we receive good news on his recovery.
20. A.J. Puk (SP – OAK)
Projection: 100 innings, 7 W, 3.99 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 117 K
You can almost see the razor-thin margin between Gonsolin and Puk. Puk’s elevated HR/FB rate is what bumps him down. Like Gonsolin, Puk does not have a spot in the rotation, but I am expecting Chris Bassitt to falter or an injury to someone in the starting rotation, resulting in Puk grabbing a rotation spot for good sometime in June.
21. Casey Mize (SP – DET)
Projection: 100 innings, 5 W, 3.71 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 94 K
While he isn’t the strikeout pitcher that Puk is, Mize should be called up sometime in June and deliver good ratios from there on out. The Tigers are likely to play it safe, given that they won’t contend in 2020, and Mize was shut down last year due to injury.
22. Justin Dunn (SP – SEA)
Projection: 160 innings, 10 W, 4.28 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 163 K
This is one guy I’ll be targeting as a late-round flier in all of my drafts. Dunn has the fifth spot in the rotation (per Roster Resource) and got a cup of coffee at the major league level last year. Dunn’s lack of control is what keeps him from being much higher on this list.
23. Dylan Carlson (OF – STL)
Projection: 300 PA’s, 12 HR, 36 R, 40 RBI, 4 SB, .246 average
As it stands, the Cardinals have a bunch of average outfielders and have lost Marcell Ozuna to free agency. Carlson had a monster AAA season in 2019, which should give him confidence to get spurts of major league playing time in 2020. If he lands a full-time outfield spot during the spring, he rockets up this list.
24. Carter Kieboom (SS – WAS)
Projection: 350 PA’s, 13 HR, 41 R, 43 RBI, 4 SB, .246 average
Kieboom was in the top ten of my rankings in December but falls to the bottom of the list with the Starlin Castro signing and Asdrubal Cabrera signings. Kieboom could be flipped at any minute, so he could rise back up the ranks. If you draft Kieboom and his situation doesn’t change, you’re banking on an injury (which is certainly possible with Trea Turner).
25. Justus Sheffield (SP – SEA)
Projection: 170 innings, 10 W, 4.51 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 166 K
Sheffield is slated to be a mid-rotation starter for the scuffling Mariners, and his numbers look similar to a modern-day Jon Lester. Sheffield’s walk rate needs to go down a few standard deviations before we can even think about taking before pick 300. If the White Sox are aggressive with Kopech, or the Braves with Kyle Wright or Ian Anderson, they could easily bump Sheffield from this spot.
Kopech (SP – CWS), Wright (SP – ATL), Cristian Pache (OF – ATL), Forrest Whitley (SP – HOU), Wander Franco (SS – TB), Alex Kirilloff (OF – MIN), Alec Bohm (3B – PHI), Drew Waters (OF – ATL), Anderson (SP – ATL), Ryan Mountcastle (3B – BAL), James Karinchak (RP – CLE), Brusdar Graterol (RP – MIN), Sixto Sanchez (SP – MIA), Matt Manning (SP – DET).