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13 Prospects & Second-Year Breakouts (2020 Fantasy Baseball)

Feb 18, 2020

It would be wise for the Orioles to find a way to work Ryan Mountcastle’s bat into their lineup this year

The arrival of new prospects in the bigs is one of the most intriguing aspects of fantasy baseball. Whether it’s trying to figure out which new players will make the biggest impact or who has the highest chance of seeing a major league diamond this year, there’s no doubt as to how much these young athletes consistently alter the fantasy landscape. Our featured experts are here to share their insight on which prospects they’re excited about and when they might get called up. They also give their thoughts on which sophomores are set to experience a second-year surge.

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Q1. Which under-the-radar prospect is not getting the attention he deserves and what are your expectations for him?

Ryan Mountcastle (1B/3B/SS – BAL)
“Mountcastle from Baltimore has absolutely shredded minor league pitching across the last two years and is coming off a season where he slashed .312/.344/.527 across 127 games in Triple-A. The Orioles are sure to commit to the full rebuild soon (if they haven’t already) and Mountcastle can be a huge asset in the middle of their lineup for years to come. Where he’ll play in the field is uncertain, but there is an expensive, conspicuous lack of production from the 1B spot in the Orioles’ lineup at the moment, so that’s a strong possibility.”
– Bill Dubiel (RotoBaller)

Ryan Mountcastle gets knocked on prospect lists because he’s a defensive liability, but he won the International League MVP last year in his first season in Triple-A while topping the league in both hits and total bases. The O’s are looking to the future and will find a way to get his bat in the lineup even though he might not have a true spot with the glove right now. I think he plays close to a full season and is someone that ends up being rostered in even shallower formats.”
– Ryan Amore (Pitcher List)

Oscar Colas (OF – FA)
“Colas immediately jumped into my top-25 prospects when he defected to the United States this winter. He has to be signed as an amateur free agent because he is just 21 years old, which limits the upside on the money he’ll receive since MLB teams have a capped budget for that player pool. More than likely, he’ll wait until July 2 to sign because he’ll have more teams to decide between since most have already spent this year’s budget. As for the talent, his bat looks like a soon to be middle-of-the-order bopper to the highest degree. Think Yordan Alvarez as a reasonable upside projection. More than likely, though, we are looking at a Miguel Sano-type of player who may hit 35-40 homers with a .240-ish batting average down the line. When compared to other uber-prospects from Cuba, Colas is near the top of some great company. We have data from all of the following (Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, Luis Robert, Yordan Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Jose Abreu) as 17-year-olds in Cuba. Among them, only Cespedes (.883) and Colas (.863) had an OPS above .800. As you well know, each of them has proceeded to do big things, so it seems odd to expect any less from Colas, who dominated most of them. Since then, he has proceeded to become one of the best hitters in Japan despite being just 20 years old. Last year, he batted .302/.350/.516, which blows away Shohei Ohtant’s age-20 season against the same competition (.202/.252/.376). It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him make a major second-half impact this season after signing.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

A.J. Puk (SP/RP – OAK)
“Sticking with Oakland, Jesus Luzardo is the rookie hurler with all the hype. There’s good reason for that, but don’t overlook Puk due to Luzardo being the headliner. Puk is a big lefty who has serious heat and a four-pitch repertoire that should generate plenty of whiffs this season. After missing all of 2018 due to injury, he pitched at four different levels last year, racking up 51 Ks across just 36.2 IPs.”
– Nate Miller (FantasyPros)

Mauricio Dubon (2B/SS – SF)
“Dubon has been overlooked in some circles this draft season, but he will see time all over the diamond. Sure, he plays half his games at Oracle Park, but he has an above-average hit tool, can steal 10+ bags, and will likely hit at least 15 homers. Given that he should be a mainstay in the lineup, his counting stats should be valuable as well. You could certainly do worse as a middle infield bench option.”
– Carmen Maiorano (FantasyPros)

Q2. What prospect outside of Luis Robert are you most excited about this season and when do you expect him to be called up/receive playing time?

Sean Murphy (C – OAK)
“For fantasy purposes in 2020, I’m most intrigued by A’s catcher Sean Murphy. Much of my interest has to do with the shallow nature of the position and that Murphy seems to have the starting role on lockdown out of the gate this season. He got a taste of the majors last year and certainly did not appear overmatched, slugging .566 with four home runs and five doubles over 20 games (60 plate appearances). Combine that with a .293/.384/.580 slash line and 11 deep drives at the minor-league level and Murphy had quite a campaign in 2019. He’ll look to make a statement in 2020. I, for one, expect it.”
– Nate Miller (FantasyPros)

Jesus Luzardo (SP/RP – OAK)
“I love Gavin Lux and Jo Adell as much as anyone else but for me, it has to be Luzardo. The bona fide ace in the making was said by the A’s last spring to already be the best pitcher in the organization and could possibly start on Opening Day. This top prospect has absolutely shredded the minor leagues and then he looked excellent in his debut last year. Much like Walker Buehler back in 2018 and Chris Paddack last year, I’m expecting Luzardo to hit the ground running as one of the top-15 starting pitchers right away. Granted, his innings will likely be capped around 150, but while he is on the field, fantasy owners should be getting star-like numbers.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Dustin May (SP/RP – LAD)
“May was also my breakout pitcher for the year, so I guess I am officially the Dustin May hype man. While the Dodgers’ rotation is loaded, I think May will make at least 25 starts this year, given the injury history of David Price and how they’ve treated Julio Urias and Ross Stripling in the past. May has consistently suppressed homers and limited hard contact through his minor league career and in his cup of coffee with the Dodgers. I’m expecting him to take the next step and be a top-40 starting pitcher. He should offer an ERA below 3.50, a WHIP in the 1.20-1.25 range, and nearly a K/9 to boot. He should be in the rotation on Opening Day.”
– Carmen Maiorano (FantasyPros)

A.J. Puk (SP/RP – OAK)
“Puk has the Chris Sale/Randy Johnson-type profile that I think could turn him into a true ace in very short order. He’s likely to start the season in the rotation, which is also a big plus — you won’t have to sit on him for a month or more while he gets stretched out. The strikeout upside is incredible and he’s got one of the highest ceilings from a pitching prospect in the last few years.”
– Bill Dubiel (RotoBaller)

MacKenzie Gore (SP – SD)
“It’s Gore. I can’t wait to see him pitch on the big stage. It seems like he’s got everything you’d want out of a pitching prospect, including two breakers that he can get over for strikes. It’ll be very interesting to see how aggressive the Padres are with Gore. I’ll take a stab at it and say he gets the call sometime in late May/early June.”
– Ryan Amore (Pitcher List)

Q3. What second-year player do you believe will make the biggest leap in fantasy production in 2020?

Oscar Mercado (OF – CLE)
“Mercado should have centerfield locked down for the Indians heading into 2020 and he’ll get the opportunity to improve upon the mini-breakout he had in 2019. Mercado is a true speed demon with multiple 30-steal seasons under his belt in the minors and he was able to post 15 steals in 115 games with Cleveland. If you add that to the 14 steals he had in just 30 games in Triple-A, then he was right on the cusp of 30 again. That kind of speed is rare these days from guys who can also hit 15+ homers AND keep a respectable batting average. Assuming his health, Mercado could become a 20/30 player over the course of a full season.”
– Bill Dubiel (RotoBaller)

Austin Riley (3B/OF – ATL)
“Riley burst onto the seen in Atlanta last season, posting a .930 OPS with 14 homers over his first 42 games (174 plate appearances) in the bigs. However, the league caught up with the young slugger after that, particularly right-handed pitchers. Over his final 123 plate appearances for the Braves in 2019, Riley recorded an ugly .150/.203/.292 slash line alongside an egregious 42% strikeout rate. He enters spring training with a chance to show he’s made adjustments at the plate and win the ‘open’ 3B spot the Braves currently have. If he can figure things out versus RHPs, Riley has 30-40 home-run upside and could turn out to be a HUGE steal on fantasy draft day.”
– Nate Miller (FantasyPros)

Alex Reyes (SP/RP – STL)
“Technically, Reyes is still a second-year player even though he made his debut in 2016. Yes, he has dealt with injuries, but the stuff is still absolutely electric, as evidenced by his 2.21 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 53 MLB innings thus far. Most seem to think he is destined for the bullpen, but Miles Mikolas is dealing with an injury and if he misses the start of the season, Reyes will need only to beat out Kwang-Hyun Kim and Daniel Ponce de Leon for the No. 5 spot in the Cardinals’ rotation. Seeing as though the Cardinals are still hyping up Reyes’ ability, he should get the first crack at starts and if he succeeds, he’ll never look back.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Bo Bichette (SS – TOR)
“His teammate Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is a great answer here too, but I’m going to go with Bichette. He’s shown a strikeout rate under 20% throughout his entire minor league career and now we saw the power creep up last year. Add to that the ability to steal 20+ bases and you have yourself all the makings of a fantasy dynamo as the Jays’ likely leadoff man.”
– Ryan Amore (Pitcher List)

Willie Calhoun (OF – TEX)
“Calhoun has been in the majors for parts of three seasons, but 2019 was truly his first season as a big-league regular. This year, I’m expecting Calhoun to break out, launching over 30 homers and hitting at a .275 clip. Batting in the middle third of the order should help him approach 180 combined runs and RBIs as well. Calhoun is currently being drafted after pick 150, but I’m expecting him to go within the top five rounds in 2021 drafts.”
– Carmen Maiorano (FantasyPros)

Thank you to the experts for sharing which prospects and sophomores they’re watching. For more great fantasy advice, please be sure to follow them on Twitter.

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