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7 Off The Radar Impact Rookies (2020 Fantasy Baseball)

by Bobby Sylvester | @bobbyfantasypro | Featured Writer
Feb 22, 2020

Dylan Cease already has one of the best fastballs in baseball

Every season, there seem to be two to four impact rookies who seemingly came out of nowhere. Two years ago, it was Juan Soto and Miles Mikolas. Last year, we had Pete Alonso, Austin Meadows and Mike Soroka. They were all selected towards the end of drafts in 2019, but this very article gave them high praise this time last year. Now, you surely don’t need to hear about the uber-prospects like Robert, who could go 30/30 this year, Luzardo, who might just be Oakland’s Opening Day starter or Jo Adell, who is a consensus top-five overall prospect. I’ll first remind you of those types of players before jumping into the meat of the article with seven off the radar impact rookies.

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Players who don’t need an introduction

ECR stands for Expert Consensus Rankings

Hitters

Nick Madrigal (2B/SS – CWS), ECR #310, ETA: April
If you are into the last few rounds and still looking for both batting average and steals, Madrigal can answer the bell better than anyone else available. It is no guarantee that he will come out of Spring Training with the starting job, but based on the lone remaining hole in White Sox depth chart, Madrigal seems to have a spot already prepared be it in April or shortly thereafter. While he doesn’t quite have the 20-30 home run upside right away that many others do, this 5’7″ polished prospect may very well have batting titles in his future to go with plus speed. Think of him as the younger-years version of Dustin Pedroia.
Fearless Prediction: 9 HR, 19 SB and a .288 BA in 456 AB

Sean Murphy (C – OAK), ECR #315, ETA: April
After Salvador Perez and Wilson Ramos come off the board, the next 10 catchers are all about the same in that they come with several question marks but some upside to finish among the top 6 or 7 fantasy catchers should everything break right. In Murphy’s case, the only real question is whether or not he will be up with Oakland for the extent of the season. If he is, you can bank on a top 12 fantasy catcher, as his power is MLB-ready and his batting average may end up being among the top catchers in baseball as well. This is all evidenced by him batting .281 between Triple-A and MLB last season while carrying a .900+ OPS as well.
Fearless Prediction: 17 HR, 54 RBIs and a .250 BA in 378 AB

Dylan Carlson (OF – STL), ECR #374, ETA: June
Although Carlson isn’t quite the prospect of a Jo Adell or Wander Franco, nor will he be up right away like Gavin Lux, he isn’t too far behind either group. He is a B-Tier prospect who is already knocking at the door and should Harrison Bader or Tyler O’Neil flop on their starting opportunities or Dexter Fowler suffers another injury, the Cardinals hand could be forced sooner than later. If you are asking me which prospect is most likely to be this year’s Pete Alonso or Juan Soto, it would be Carlson as he could push the envelope much earlier than most expect and should dominate right from the get-go as he is more polished than raw.
Fearless Prediction: 18 HR, 10 SB and a .263 BA in 312 AB

Brendan Rodgers (2B/SS – COL), ECR #521, ETA: May
For the final name on the list, I could have gone with players like Carter Kieboom, Nick Solak, Austin Hays or Sam Hillard who are all being drafted in most leagues but I have more concerns about them from a fantasy perspective than most do. This is especially true when I compare them to top-10 prospect, Rodgers, who only needs health and the trust of the Rockies to explode in Coors Field. It isn’t as though he has struggled in the minors but rather, his bat has been exceptional throughout, hitting .296/.352/.503/.855 through nearly 1,700 plate appearances. Should any Rockies’ infielder suffer an injury, you can bet your bottom dollar Rodgers will be up and once he is, his ownership should be near 100%.
Fearless Prediction: 22 HR, 78 RBIs and a .273 BA in 401 AB

Pitchers

MacKenzie Gore (SP – SDP), ECR #351, ETA: June
Everyone knows about Wander Franco and Jo Adell because they are the clear-cut top youngsters in the game but I actually believe Gore will be the single most impactful rookie this season, yes, even over Luis Robert, from the moment he steps on a big league mound. The problem, of course, is that it may not happen until the summer, but I’m drafting him anyways in case this is a Chris Paddack type of situation where the Padres think they can compete so they get their best arms in the rotation soon enough to find out. Paddack was great, of course, but Gore is better; much much better. He posted a 1.69 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 12.0 K/9 last year in the minors so don’t surprised if he dominates right away like Walker Buehler a few years back.
Fearless Prediction: 3.39 ERA, 7 wins and 101 Ks in 92 IP

Nate Pearson (SP – TOR), ECR #380, ETA: June
If not for Gore’s absolutely ridiculous season, we’d have been talking about Pearson as the top pitcher in minor league baseball last year. It certainly helps to throw 103 miles per hour whenever you darn well feel like it and his stats reflect that dominating arsenal. Pearson posted a 2.30 ERA with an 0.89 WHIP and 10.5 K/9 through three levels and over 100 innings last year. Since he only has 18 innings in Triple-A and the Jays are still a season or three away from competing, it seems likely that they won’t call him up until he has another month or three of seasoning in the minors. But from the moment he is up, Pearson should be owned in every single league as he should be a top 30 starting pitcher right away.
Fearless Prediction: 3.81 ERA, 5 wins and 87 Ks in 84 IP

James Karinchak (RP – CLE), ECR #418, ETA: April
Oh, you though Pearson and Gore’s stats were great, did you? Well, that’s cute. Karinchak puts their’s to total shame. There has never been a minor league pitcher in MILB history to post such gaudy numbers. Granted, Karinchak is only a reliever but c’mon, 81 strikeouts with just 29 hits allowed in 48 innings last year is just absurd. He carried that poise into Cleveland last September, striking out 8 and allowing 3 hits in 5 innings, and while that was a small sample-size, you can expect his overwhelming stuff to carry over into a full season. Should Brad Hand miss any time or slip up, we may quickly be talking about one of the best relievers in baseball much like when Roberto Osuna jumped into that tier right away a few years back.
Fearless Prediction: 2.79 ERA, 8 saves, 88 Ks in 54 IP

BONUS
Dylan Cease (SP – CWS) and Franklin Barreto (2B – OAK) don’t quite qualify as rookies any longer but both are flying under the radar with huge upside so keep them on waiver wire speed dial if you don’t have enough roster spots to draft them.

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Bobby Sylvester is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Bobby, check out his archive and follow him @BobbyFantasyPro.

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