Fantasy Baseball Position Preview - SP Prospects Due In 2020 Part 2
Ivar G. Anderson gives you some pitching prospects to consider in drafts and in the upcoming season that might not be on your radar but should be.
We return to the prospective arms that should be coming to the big leagues in the current season. The below list, when coupled with last week’s article, should in no way be considered exhaustive of the youngsters who may toe the rubber this season fresh off the bus in the minor leagues, but these are the top names (as of now) to keep an eye on going forward. Nor are all these SPs guaranteed to be fantasy relevant in 2020, so if you draft these hurlers for your roster, be discerning and do not be overly aggressive with the rookie talent available to select in your drafts or auctions. With those cautions stated, let us take a peek under the tarp as some future pitching goodness.
Jesús Luzardo LHP OAK
There were plans that the southpaw was going to open 2019 as part of the A’s starting rotation, but a rotator cuff injury followed by a lat strain put those plans on hold. He did come up in September for a cup o’ coffee, pitching a stellar 12.0 innings (IP) where he struck out 16 opposing hitters, and twirled a superb 1.50 ERA and 0.67 WHIP, collecting a pair of saves and holds each in his six appearances. He features four pitches which have plus potential, including a 97 MPH four-seam fastball and an 86 MPH change, to go along with a low 80s curve and a hard slider. Do not expect him to log more than 100 IP in 2020, though, especially given the recent injury history.
A.J. Puk LHP OAK
Puk is another young Oakland SP coming off an injury, as he had Tommy John surgery (TJS) in April, 2018. That he was able to return to action last season was a major accomplishment, and he should not be as limited in terms of innings thrown as Luzardo, with 140-150 IP a true possibility. As he settles back in on the bump following the TJS procedure, his control should improve, pushing down the 10.6 BB% he exhibited for the A’s last season back into single digit numbers. The 6-foot 7-inch lefthander hurls a 97 MPH four-seamer, and also relies on a 90 MPH slider to keep hitters guessing, and although not featured prominently in his arsenal as of yet, he also possesses a good curve and change. It has long been a truism that the Oakland coaching staff produces great young pitching, and with the two SP profiled in the opening paragraphs of this article, there is no reason to think that trend is going to end anytime soon.
Sixto Sanchez RHP MIA
Sanchez only reached Double-A last season with the Marlins, but did pitch over 100 innings between two levels in 2019, a welcome sign after being limited with elbow inflammation a couple of seasons back. He can bring his fastball at triple digits, but the major skill he brings to the mound is superb control. He is not a huge presence physically on the hill, topping out at six feet, and there is concern about his durability as a more compact hard thrower, so look for Miami to bring him along carefully. The projections are wildly varied as to how much time he will see in the majors, but he should see time in Miami with the big-league club this season. Just do not expect huge K numbers despite his impressive fastball, but with his control intact, the peripheral stats should play out well for fantasy purposes.
Kyle Wright RHP ATL
The first of the Brave prospect SPs in this week’s edition has nothing left to show in the minors, where he has been dominant. Once he steps on the major league diamond, however, his skill set has proven to be much less assertive. Major league hitters have been able to pound his offerings, largely due to his inconsistent ability to find the strike zone. In 19.2 MLB innings, he did collect 18 Ks but also yielded an alarming 13 free passes. Some young pitchers just need to work out the kinks before getting a handle on the big-league pitching process, and the Braves certainly want to give Wright the chance to break into the back end of their rotation this season. Even if he makes the team out of spring, this is probably not the year to bank on him being a major cog in your fantasy championship run, but in deeper keeper or dynasty leagues, he is a young arm to target for future value.
Ian Anderson LHP ATL
The 21-year old (he turns 22 in May) lefthander graduated to Triple-A Gwinnett last season, and he features a mid-90s fastball, which led to him gathering the fourth most Ks in all of the minors last season. He has severe problems locating his offerings, however, with his BB% consistently dwelling in the double-digit realm. His swing-and-miss stuff is extraordinary intriguing, as he whiffed 172 batters in just 135.2 IP in Double-A and Triple-A in 2019. Should he be able to improve his control, he would be an enthralling dynasty hold.
MacKenzie Gore LHP SD
Another southpaw to consider for your future rotation needs in fantasy, Gore is with the Padres who have a tendency to push their young pitchers forward a bit more aggressively than some other clubs. Still, he has only pitched at Double-A to this point and only just last month turned 21 years of age, so additional seasoning in the minors is likely in his immediate future. He has four plus-level pitches and also features excellent control, and thus the future is bright enough that sunglasses should be donned when examining his potential.
Dustin May RHP LAD
May is the odd SP who has more than four primary pitches he can rely upon, although the three best offerings in his repertoire all travel at nearly the same speed. Pitch velocity variance is one of key elements to keep hitters guessing while at the plate, and his sinker, cutter and four-seam fastball all travel in the lower to mid-90 MPH range. He is a prospect, though, and is not due to celebrate his 23rd year on this planet until early September, so there is no tremendous rush to nail down one or more of his other pitches…yet. He has also been extremely effective in limiting walks, even during his brief stint with the Dodgers last season. Another asset on the ledger for him is his demonstrated ability to keep the ball in the yard at every level he has pitched in pro career. He was shifted to the bullpen last season after starting four games for LA, and he is slated to make the team out of spring training and presumably is an injury away from rejoining the rotation this season.
Brusdar Graterol RHP LAD
It is going to take some time to figure out this pitcher’s name when writing about him as a major league arm, but he has the skill set that is going to make that a necessity in the future. He was being developed as a starting pitcher by the Twins until he reached Triple-A and then the majors in 2019. Part of that has to do with his frame, as the 6’1” righty pushes the needle on the scale to 265 pounds. That may be a cause of the back issues he has dealt with, and does not bode entirely well for his stamina as a big-league starter. Still, one can recall big boys making a name for themselves as SPs, although discretion advises not to point fingers at anyone in particular (Colon *cough* Sabathia *cough* Wells *cough-cough*). He is profiled here due to his past starting role, but it would not be a colossal shock to see him shifted to a bullpen role in Los Angeles this season. That would also be a faster path to stick in the bigs, as the Dodger rotation is pretty well set, as things stand today.
This wraps the prospect review for this spring, as far as starting pitchers goes. Should you come back to this space next week, expect discussion to focus more on established starters, albeit perhaps those who are questionable to open the season due to injury or medical-procedure recovery.
As ever, good luck and godspeed in your fantasy endeavors. If you have additional questions, send them via e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org