10 MLB prospects who will make an impact in 2020

It’s fair to say the 2019 MLB season has been the year of the rookie. All around the league, first-year players have burst onto the scene to make immediate impacts, and in some cases have become instant stars. Just look at what some of these guys have done:

The Mets’ Pete Alonso currently leads the majors with 47 home runs.

Before he got hurt, San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr. was hitting .317 with 22 homers and 53 RBI in only 84 games.

Houston’s Yordan Alvarez has crushed 22 long balls in only 240 at-bats.

Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hasn’t quite dominated the way he did in AAA, but he’s shown immense power and potential, and the show he put on at the Home Run Derby will be talked about for years.

Atlanta’s Mike Soroka is a legitimate NL Cy Young candidate.

The Pirates’ Bryan Reynolds is hitting .328 and could well win the batting title.

The list goes on and on. Keston Hiura, Christian Walker, Eloy Jimenez, Austin Riley, among others look like cornerstone everyday players in the big leagues.

This unprecedented wave of talented players making their debuts all around the same time got us thinking. Let’s take a look at 10 players who could make a similar rookie impact in 2020.

1. Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox

The White Sox system has been strong for several years now, and while Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and the above-mentioned Jimenez have already thrived in the big leagues, Robert figures to join them in the near future. The native Cuban dominated three separate minor league levels in 2019, hitting .328 with 32 homers and 92 RBI while stealing 36 bases and adding 31 doubles and 11 triples. He was recently named the minor league Player of the Year by USA Today, and it’s a reasonable assumption that he’ll be patrolling center field at Guaranteed Rate Field very early next spring.

2. Gavin Lux, IF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Lux’s status on this list is a bit tenuous, as he was just promoted to the big leagues this week, and it’s likely going to be close whether or not he accumulates 130 at-bats and loses his 2020 rookie status. Provided he doesn’t, he should be the hands-down favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year next season. In the minor leagues this season the 21-year-old slashed an astounding .347/.421/.607 while crushing 26 homers and driving in 76 runs. He’s a natural shortstop who has played second in his early exposure in the big leagues, a position that may become his ultimate home given the presence of Corey Seager. Regardless at what side of the second base bag he lines up defensively, Lux can flat out hit, and it’s no surprise the Dodgers wanted to give him a look down the stretch to see if he can make a push for a postseason roster spot.

3.  Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros

Houston has been waiting for the talented left-handed slugger to go from dominant minor leaguer to dangerous middle-of-the-order bat in the big leagues, and it seems fair to assume that transition will finally occur next season. With AAA Round Rock in 2019, Tucker hit .266 with 34 homers and 97 RBI — the third consecutive minor league season he drove in over 90 runs. Perhaps even more impressive is the 30 stolen bases he racked up, as no matter what level you’re playing in, it’s incredibly difficult to produce 30/30 seasons. Tucker’s blend of power and speed have long made him desirable to other teams in trade discussions, but the Astros have consistently hung up the phone before talks could get off the ground. His organization’s belief in him hasn’t been deterred, however, and it’s time for the 22-year-old to reward its patience.

4. Carter Kieboom, IF, Washington Nationals

The Nationals took Kieboom in the first round out of high school three years ago, and he’s done nothing but shoot through their system since. In 412 at-bats in AAA this year, the young infielder hit an impressive .303 with 16 homers and 79 RBI while also tallying 24 doubles and 203 total bases. Injuries necessitated a brief big league promotion in late April, and while he did hit his first two big league homers during that 39 at-bat stint, Washington shipped him back to Fresno when it got some veterans back. Next season, however, the Nats figure to have an opening at second base, as Brian Dozier signed only a one-year free agent pact last winter, and his performance has not warranted Washington doubling down, especially given the presence of Kieboom, who conceivably will team with shortstop Trea Turner to form this team’s long-term double play combination.

5. Casey Mize, SP, Detroit Tigers

Mountcastle is far from a perfect prospect, but his power potential is simply hard to ignore. In a little over 500 at-bats for Baltimore’s AAA affiliate in Norfolk, the 22-year-old hit .312 with 25 long balls and 35 doubles. His .527 SLG percentage finished sixth in the International League, and it’s easy to see why the Orioles are high on his bat. That said, Mountcastle does have things to work on. For starters, he doesn’t really have a defensive position. He played third base in 2018 and predominantly first this season while also mixing in some work in left field. A future as a big league DH could very well be in the cards. Plate discipline is also of some concern as the big right-handed slugger walked only 24 times all year, making his .344 OBP simply remarkable. All told, while Mountcastle is raw, the O’s are in no position to not take a flier, and if he gets consistent at-bats in 2020 it may just become too difficult to get him out of the line-up.

8. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates

The son of longtime major league third baseman Charlie Hayes, Ke’Bryan has blossomed into quite the hot corner prospect. In 110 games in AAA this season the Pittsburgh’s first-round pick from back in 2015 hit .261 with 10 homers and 55 RBI, but those numbers only tell some of the story. His 31 doubles, 13 steals and renowned defense at an important position help paint the picture of a solid player who can do just about everything on a baseball diamond. The Bucs have started Colin Moran or Jung-Ho Kang most nights at third base this season, and while Kang is no longer in Pittsburgh, Moran is not someone who should block the team’s best position player prospect. Hayes doesn’t profile as a can’t-miss star, but he should be an above-average everyday third baseman for a long time, potentially beginning as soon as next opening day.

9. Justin Dunn, SP, Seattle Mariners

Dunn came to Seattle in the much-discussed winter trade with the Mets that netted the Mariners outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic, and while that alone would seem to make the deal a heist for the M’s, the righty has the potential to make this one of the most one-sided trades of all time. In 25 starts in AA in ’19, the Boston College product worked to a strong 3.55 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP while punching out 158 hitters in 131.1 innings and limiting the opposition to a .236 batting average. Scouts don’t look at Dunn as a future big league ace or even a No. 2, but a strong showing in spring training would put him in discussion for a rotation spot, and it’s certainly feasible he could become a key cog in Seattle’s starting five sometime in 2020.

10. Nate Pearson, SP, Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto is a team to buy stock in, as with youngsters Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio already contributing to the parent club, the organization’s farm system has more talent coming. Pearson paces that group. In 25 minor league starts this season the right-hander posted a 2.30 ERA in 101.2 innings while delivering an 0.89 WHIP and a .176 batting average against. He struck out well over a batter/frame while issuing only 27 free passes all season. And on a team with little to be excited about on the mound, particularly after Marcus Stroman was traded for New York, Pearson is quickly going to become a name to know among baseball fans in Canada.


By: Justin W Mears

Here’s the plan for Orioles, baseball’s biggest losers

By Justin Mears  |  Last updated 8/22/19

A last-place finish in the American League East in 2017 convinced Baltimore Orioles management the team needed to jettison veterans and start over with younger, cheaper talent. The results of the new organizational philosophy have been disastrous: Baltimore finished 47-115 in 2018, an astounding 61 games behind first-place Boston, and this season’s team again has MLB’s worst record (41-86).

Only three teams in the modern era (since 1900) have lost more than the Orioles did last season: the 1962 New York Mets (40-120), 2003 Detroit Tigers (43-119) and 1916 Philadelphia Athletics (36-117). Baltimore’s home attendance has plummeted, too. In 2018, Camden Yards often has looked like a ghost town. The Orioles drew only 1,564,192 fans last season, their lowest recorded home attendance in a non-strike shortened season since 1978. This season they are on pace to draw even fewer fans.

So what’s the plan for Baltimore to pull out of its dreadful spiral?

Two of the prospects Baltimore received from the Dodgers in the Manny Machado trade last summer — outfielder Yusniel Diaz and pitcher Dean Kremer — are expected to become  centerpieces of this organization’s next contender. The Orioles hope right-hander Kremer can join first-round picks from 2017 and 2018 (southpaw DL Hall and righty Grayson Rodriguez) to form 60 percent of the club’s long-term rotation. They think Diaz can be a dangerous right-handed hitter — they better be right. Baltimore once held similar hopes for outfielder Austin Hays, a third-round pick in 2016, but he has underwhelmed. The Orioles believe the switch-hitting catcher they took first overall this past June, Adley Rutschman, will be a superstar. Baltimore likely will have the No. 1 overall pick in the next draft, too.

But even if those players develop the way the organization hopes, none will help the Orioles soon. And none of them can change the fact that before Memorial Day most Baltimore sports fans were focused on NFL season.

The remainder of this season must be spent determining the long-term keepers on the roster. First baseman Trey Mancini is Baltimore’s best offensive player, and while he’s on pace to hit more than 35 homers, he’ll be 28 before opening day next year. Is he more useful to the Orioles in the middle of their lineup or as trade bait for talented young minor leaguers? The answer is almost certainly the latter. Switch-hitting second baseman Jonathan Villar’s case is similar. With a breakout offensive performance, 25-year-old third baseman Renato Nunez is firmly in Baltimore’s plans. The Orioles were thrilled to add shortstop Richie Martin, the No. 1 pick in last year’s Rule 5 draft, but he has looked overmatched in the majors. Baltimore must decide this winter if the 24-year-old deserves an extended look .
With the exception of lefty John Means, the team’s lone All-Star, the Orioles don’t have another pitcher we could make a reasonable case for inclusion on the team in two years. Closer Mychal Givens is the team’s most talented pitcher, and while he has struggled this season, it’s stunning the club didn’t attempt to move him at the trade deadline. He could still be traded in the offseason.

Baltimore also must resolve what to do at first base. Chris Davis hit 53 homers for the O’s in 2013 and nearly won MVP, but the massive contract he received in 2016 is an albatross.  Davis’  batting average again is well below .200, and the club owes him $17 million a year through 2022. Baltimore couldn’t get a rosin bag for him in a trade now. Eating more than $50 million in salary doesn’t seem like a good option, but it wouldn’t be stunning if he were released in the winter.

Baltimore’s plan to rise from the depths mirrors efforts by the Astros and Cubs. San Diego’s rebuilding effort is another good example for the Orioles.

From 2011-2013, the Astros never won more than 56 games in a season. In all, Houston endured six straight losing seasons. But extended futility led to high draft picks that turned into George Springer, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker. The Astros missed in the draft on pitchers Mark Appel and Brady Aiken, but the organization had built up enough depth to overcome that.

When Houston’s young core matured, the team became attractive for veteran free agents. In one winter, the Astros supplemented youth with the likes of Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick and Brian McCann. The result was the team’s first World Series title in 2017. Now Houston may be MLB’s model franchise.

The Cubs’ story is similar. Baseball’s once-lovable losers suffered through losing seasons from 2010-2014. But they used their high picks to draft Javy Baez, Albert Almora Jr., Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant.  Chicago traded for a young, unheralded first baseman named Anthony Rizzo. Because the core developed into one of the NL’s best and the Cubs continued to draft well, Chicago could afford to deal immensely talented minor league infielder Gleyber Torres to the Yankees at the 2016 trade deadline for closer Aroldis Chapman. The Cubs finally won the World Series that season, breaking the Curse of the Billy Goat and sending the Windy City into delirium.

There are risks to a full re-build rather than a retooling. Until Baltimore wins consistently attendance will continue to suffer. Casual fans won’t attend games or watch on TV. A generation of young fans could become turned off by the game. Franchise marketability will take a hit. Nobody expected Baltimore to be good in 2019. But few expected them to lose games 23-2, as the Orioles did recently against the Astros.

Bottom line: Orioles fans must be patient. This re-construction is going to take awhile.


Ranking the 15 most significant MLB trades in July

A lot went down prior to Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline. More deals could be coming in August, but for now, let’s rank July’s trades by how much impact the moves will have on each team’s roster:

O’s Still Wondering If They Should Trade Machado

Written by ESPN News Staff at ESPN.com

Dan Duquette met with reporters Thursday after the Rule 5 draft concluded baseball’s winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Manny Machado was again the center of conversations, as the Orioles mull whether to trade their All-Star third baseman.

Here’s what Duquette, Baltimore’s executive vice president, said about where his team stands in regard to Machado and any potential deal.

“We’re talking to other clubs about potential deals and we’ll follow up with them probably a couple today and then we’ll follow up with them over the weekend.”

“We’re going to leave here and then take a look at what our options are back in Baltimore. So don’t expect us to make a deal later today.”

“We’re going to do what we can to put together the best club we can and obviously there’s a lot of interest in the players on our roster who are going to be free agents, so we need to sort through the extent of that interest and see if a trade makes sense.”

Machado is a free agent after the 2018 season. Duquette said offering any potential trade partner a window to negotiate a long-term deal with Machado is not a “viable option.”

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Orioles Fielding Calls For Machado

Written by Mike Axisa at CBS Sports.com

The Orioles are in a difficult spot right now. They went 75-87 and finished in last place in the AL East in 2017, and next offseason core players Manny Machado, Zach Britton, and Adam Jones will become free agents. Britton’s name has reportedly already come up in trade talks.

Now, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Machado’s name has popped up in trade rumors as well. The O’s are getting calls about their superstar third baseman, and while they aren’t actively shopping Machado, Heyman says they are willing to listen to offers. There’s no harm in listening. Here’s more from Heyman:

There are no known offers, and it would obviously take a ton for the Orioles to even consider moving such a superstar. The Yankees and Phillies are among many teams expected to have interest in Machado, who is eligible for free agency after the 2018 season – though the call list isn’t known.

While this is going on, behind the scenes the Orioles are also discussing whether to try to make a play to keep Machado long-term. He could be expected to receive a contract in the range of Giancarlo Stanton’s record $325 million deal as a free agent, and other teams believe that might be too steep for the Orioles, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try.

Given the fact Machado will be a free agent next winter, and is likely to test the market in hopes of landing a record contract, it stands to reason only contending teams would show serious interest in acquiring him. A rebuilding club wouldn’t want to risk trading top prospects for Machado only to watch him sign with a big market team as a free agent next winter.

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Orioles Might’ve Went Too Low With Machado, Might Be Out Of Baltimore

Written by Dayn Perry at CBS Sports.com

Orioles star third baseman Manny Machado has surged in the second half and reestablished himself as one of the most coveted young players in the game. He’s still just 25, owns a career OPS+ of 117, recently notched his third straight 30-homer season and is an elite defender at the hot corner. He’s also eligible for free agency following the 2018 season.

Given that Machado is so good and will be so young relative to most free agents, he’s going to command a huge contract. Said contract will be more than the Orioles will be willing to pay. As such, perhaps the O’s might be willing to trade Machado in order to get something back for him before he walks. On that front, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports has the scoop …

In any case, there is no evidence they would consider trading him this winter. One Orioles person said in regard to their intention not to trade Machado, “It would take us 35 years to find another player like him.”

That’s a defensible stance, and the O’s can always reconsider leading up to next year’s non-waiver trade deadline if they wind up not contending. So what about a contract extension for Machado? As implied above, he’s too close to free agency for anything to happen now, unless the Orioles came close to market rates. Time was when, however, that the O’s may have been close to inking Machado to a long-term deal.

According to Heyman’s sources, the team was within range of locking up Machado but didn’t quite go high enough. Heyman’s story has the details, and O’s fans might find them frustrating in retrospect. In any case it’s certainly looking like the 2018 season will be Machado’s final one in Baltimore.
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Quintana Strikes Out 12 In First Game With Cubs

Written by Jesse Rogers at ESPN.com

It might be premature to call the trade for Jose Quintana a complete success already, but if Sunday is any indication, the Chicago Cubs have found a top-of-the-rotation pitcher.

Quintana was outstanding in striking out 12 Baltimore Orioles over seven innings while surrendering only three hits without issuing a walk. His performance propelled the Cubs to an 8-0 win and a series sweep.

“It really could be a big boon to us,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after the win. “All the other starters saw it. We grabbed a lead, and then he pitched really well with that lead. There was no messing around with it. There were no walks, no bad counts. He did everything really well.”

Quintana had movement on all his pitches, especially his curveball. The 12 strikeouts were one off his career high, and combined with his 10 strikeouts in his previous start for the Chicago White Sox before the trade, he joined Randy Johnson as the only pitchers since 1900 to record double-digit strikeouts for two teams within the same season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“I just tried to hit my spots,” the low-key Quintana said. “This one is special for me. First one with the Cubs. I’m really happy.”

The Cubs are happy too. After giving up two highly touted prospects for Quintana, a lot is riding on his left arm. By all measures, the defending champions underachieved in the first half but have come out on fire since the All-Star break, outscoring the Orioles 27-11 in three games.

“I think we are back,” Cubs catcher Willson Contreras declared. “We are back to where we were last year.”

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Trey Mancini Goes Yard To Walk Off For O’s

Written By Mandy Bell and Jeff Seidel at MLB.com

Trey Mancini proved to be Wednesday night’s hero with a three-run walk-off homer in the 11th inning, lifting the Orioles to a 9-6 victory over the Pirates at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

With two on and two out, Mancini stepped to the plate against Wade LeBlanc, who surrendered Mark Trumbo’s walk-off single on Tuesday night. On the first pitch he saw, Mancini sent the pitch to the stands with an exit velocity of 108.8 mph, per Statcast™, to give the Orioles their sixth walk-off win of the year. The Orioles also improved their extra-innings record to 9-1.

Trailing 6-2 in the ninth, the Orioles put runners on the corners with no outs, prompting the Pirates to call on closer Tony Watson, who was fresh off his fourth blown save of the season on Tuesday. After a sacrifice fly by Joey Rickard and a double by J.J. Hardy, the Orioles cut the deficit to two. Down to the team’s final out, Mancini pinch-hit for Seth Smith and knocked a two-run homer on the eighth pitch of the at-bat to knot the game at 6 and force extras.

Mancini became the first player since Atlanta’s Brian McCann (May 17, 2011) to knock a game-tying pinch-hit homer in the ninth inning or later followed by a walk-off shot during the regular season.

“Again, baseball is the game where you never know what can happen,” Mancini said. “Along with that, I can’t say enough about the rest of the game here. We’re down here 6-2 in the ninth inning, and everybody battles back, has great at-bats and gave me the opportunity to come up there in the ninth, so without that, none of that happens.”

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Manny Machado Needs To Play Better

Written by David Schoenfield at ESPN.com

It’s not that Manny Machado has been terrible. I mean, he has 10 home runs, takes his walks and plays good defense. It’s hard to complain about a player on pace for 36 home runs and 90 RBIs. But let’s complain! He’s 44 games into his season and hitting .218 with a below-average .308 OBP. Machado is supposed to be one of the game’s elite stars, yet he ranks 106th out of 108 qualified regulars in wOBA. His recent skid — he has hit .183 with four RBIs in his past 14 games — coincides with the Baltimore Orioles’ own skid. Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins dropped them to 3-10 in their past 13 games.

Machado is clearly in a funk, one of those stretches when you’re not seeing the ball, guessing wrong or flailing at pitches off the plate. He had a terrible at-bat in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s loss to Ervin Santana, swinging at three pitches out of the zone, going down on a pitch that bounced a foot in front of home plate. Now, we’re still early in the season, and a weeklong hot stretch could pull his numbers back up to the triple-slash line we’re used to seeing from him, but I noticed even Orioles fans are a bit frustrated. Some tweeted about Machado, 24, not running out a grounder.

Allow me a “get off my lawn” moment here and a theory about Machado.

We all know the direction of the game in recent years: more strikeouts, more home runs, fewer singles. As Joe Sheehan just wrote in his newsletter, back in 1995 we saw strikeouts outnumber singles for the first time, with a difference of 313. Last season the difference was 11,443. This year, the projected pace is more than 13,000 more strikeouts than singles. Does that sound insane? It’s a little insane. I’m with Joe: I don’t think it’s good for the game, if only because it’s a less interesting game with less variety in the types of action that occur. That’s another column.

Back to Machado. Everyone wants to hit home runs. Machado, I think, is trying to hit home runs every time up. Remember his first full season in 2013? He began that season at 20 years old and was spraying doubles all over the place. At the All-Star break, he was hitting .310 with 39 doubles. The league caught up to him in the second half, but given his age and ability to make hard contact, I saw a guy who could develop into another Edgar Martinez. Maybe not with Martinez’s plate discipline, but he had the same hand-eye coordination and ability to go foul pole to foul pole, and to hit .300 with a ton of doubles and 25-plus home runs as he matured.

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At Least The Nationals Came back To Win

Written by Eddie Matz at ESPN.com

Clear eyes, full beard, can’t lose.

That’s what it read, in faded black letters, on the front of the custom gray T-shirt that Jayson Werth was wearing as he sat in front of his locker and talked about his game-altering, series-shifting, marathon at-bat. Inspired by the movie “Friday Night Lights” (“clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose”), the shirt was a gift from a fan a few years back. Even though this was a Wednesday night, the message couldn’t have been more apt.

A half-hour earlier, the Washington Nationals had walked off against the Baltimore Orioles in a 7-6 win — with Matt Wieters’ two-run single capping a dramatic ninth inning comeback. But it was Werth who started it all.

With the Nats trailing 6-4 and staring down the barrel of a third straight Beltway Series loss, the 37-year-old outfielder stepped in against Baltimore’s Brad Brach to lead things off. An All-Star last year as a setup man, Brach — who recently took over the closer gig for injured teammate Zach Britton and has been good enough to record eight saves already — features three plus-pitches, a rarity for a reliever.

After getting ahead of Brach two balls and a strike, Werth fouled off a 95 mile-an-hour heater that evened the count. Brach then went fastball-slider-fastball, and Werth went foul-foul-foul. The next pitch of the at-bat, the eighth one, was the pivot point. The first splitter of the at-bat, it dove down and away, begging Werth to wave his wand. Instead, he spat on it.

“That was the pitch of the at-bat,” Werth said afterward. “Because now it’s 3-2 and chances are he’s not going to mess around and try to throw something that’s a strikeout pitch. Because if he walks me, now he’s gotta deal with the guys behind me.”

For the record, the guys behind Werth were Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy, a modern-day Murderer’s Row who came in hitting .370, .410 and .333, respectively. Also for the record, Brach did not mess around. Instead of the slider or the splitter, he came with two straight fastballs, both 96 mph, both of which Werth fouled off. By then, 10 pitches into the at-bat, Werth felt like the balance of power had shifted.

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