Major League Baseball is pushing through time lapses in testing procedures in its quest to fake having a plan until it makes one, but two things have become crystal clear: 1) players will be opting out, and 2) players will be catching the virus. 

Players can opt back in at any time if the situation changes, so that could make for some interesting faab runs.

Other side of that coin: players can opt out at any time. 

Along with the danger and chaos comes opportunity, so let’s scan the NL Central for players poised to climb that ladder.

 

Chicago Cubs

Closer Craig Kimbrel is adding a change up, and while that could be a very good thing, it also lines up with the general worry that he’s lost a little confidence in his once untouchable fastball, curveball mix. Early reports from summer camp, like those from Spring, have not been encouraging. To that end, RHP Rowan Wick is a hot spec pick, and other big arms like RHP Dillon Maples gain a little traction in dynasty leagues. No closer will be able to manage all his team’s save opportunities in the condensed schedule, but the Cubs might be looking at more of a timeshare than our draft boards are built to accommodate. 

RHP Cory Abbott has been a favorite of mine since the early 1800’s. That’s how it feels anyway. Utterly dominant finish to 2019 on the seams of a slicey new cutter. 

Here’s what I wrote about him on November 3, 2019 in Top 2020 Prospects: Chicago Cubs:

Cory Abbott found a plus cutter in 2019 and used it to eviscerate AA hitters. He also started spiking his curveball and saw instant results there. A tinkering pitcher getting results is an interesting pitcher here at Itch industries. Maybe a mediocre fastball holds Abbott back; maybe he pitches off the cutter and makes it work well enough to carve out a big league gig in 2020. I’m betting on the latter in part because he kept improving throughout the season, rocking a 1.17 ERA and a 0.71 WHIP over his last nine starts. Should the then 23-year-old have been promoted to AAA? Who can say? Certainly not the Cubs.”

2B Nico Hoerner might’ve gotten the year off, but the DH opens up the whole field to his versatile glove. He’s not a redraft target for me, but I think he’ll spend much of the season with the big club. 

OF Ian Miller was white hot in Spring and could carve himself out a semi-permanent role with a solid couple weeks. I think he’ll open the year with the active 30. 

LHP Brailyn Marquez throws 102 from the left side and will be an enticing option if the team burns through its pitching. He’d probably be effective enough in relief, but I’ll bet the club wants to slow play his service clock in hopes he becomes a core rotation piece. 

RHP Adbert Alzolay has a window to get that money now that Jose Quintana cut his thumb off while washing dishes. Kidding. He didn’t lop the whole thing free from the hand, but still, I’ve got questions. 

Rinse your sharp knives right away, dear readers. Dropping them into the sudsy water is asking for trouble.

 

Cincinnati Reds

Here’s my Top 2020 Prospects: Cincinnati Reds rundown from November 6, 2019.

SS Jose Garcia is pretty much the only game in town behind starter Freddy Galvis, though perhaps the club thinks Josh VanMeter could fake it in a pinch. Even so, Garcia probably needs an injury to Galvis and a fast start for the team to see the field this year. 

C Tyler Stephenson should force a timeshare at some point in 2020 given his strong plate skills and the general gauntlet of the condensed season.

3B Jonathan India has been better than the prospect world gives him credit for but remains extremely blocked at all his potential positions. 

OF Mark Payton is a 5’8” sparkplug who slashed .334/.400/.653 in AAA last year then got plucked from Oakland in the Rule 5 draft. He’s facing an uphill battle, but I think he’s got a decent chance to edge out a bigger name to make the opening day 30. 

OF Shogo Akiyama: a prospect in name only, or PINO, in the sense that he’s a 32-year-old who’s been a professional for a decade. The fantasy community has already penciled him into an everyday role. People are buying as if stolen bases and batting average will be there. For their sake, I hope they’re right.

 

Milwaukee Brewers

Gonna be brief because there’s not much help fermenting in Milwaukee. Here’s my minor league flight of Top 2020 Prospects: Milwaukee Brewers.

A pile of vets needs to be monitored: 3B Jedd Gyorko, 1B Justin Smoak, 1B Ryon Healy, 2B Brock Holt, 2B Eric Sogard, RHP Shelby Miller, and a slimmed down 1B Logan Morrison. Kind of a wow for me. 

2B Mark Matthias was a roster casualty in Cleveland who brings plus patience to an opportunity in the thin system.

OF Corey Ray just got added to the pool. Hopped in the pool? I hope he made contact with the water. Certainly misses the ball enough that contact is never a given. 

I’ve long had a soft spot for RHP Trey Supak, who just got added to the pool this week. 

RHP Zack Brown got smacked around last year but remains in line for a trial by fire in 2020.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates

Here’s my November 13 rundown of how to Pirate. 

SS Cole Tucker has reworked his swing to generate more loft and will get a chance to see it in action come September.

3B Ke’Bryan Hayes had some redraft fantasy baseballers out of their skis this Spring. Manager Clint Hurdle pointed out some moguls the other day when he said Colin Moran would be the everyday 3B.

Pretty much every prospect except Tucker and Hayes is sequestered in Altoona and figures to stay there throughout a mostly lost season in Pittsburgh. 

SS Oneil Cruz isn’t likely to play but did recently get traded for Wander Franco in winter ball. Transactions!!

 

St. Louis Cardinals

Here’s my Top 2020 Prospects: St. Louis Cardinals. 

OF Dylan Carlson will be up by week 2 and playing every day, prorating to something like a 25/15 rookie season. 

C Andrew Knizner needs Yadier Molina to get hurt or drop out to get extended playing time, and I’d bet heavily against both. 

SS Edmundo Sosa and 1B Rangel Ravelo have been kicking around the mythical 4A tier for a minute now. Either could get an opening that helps deep leaguers, especially Sosa who’s a plus defender. 

Outfielders Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas, Justin Williams, and Austin Dean will be scrambling for plate appearances once Carlson graduates and locks in a spot alongside Harrison Bader and Dexter Fowler. I can see a scenario where their best outfield set has Thomas in center and O’Neill in right, but St. Louis has historically been slow to make such sweeping changes. 

RHP Alex Reyes is still around and remains a wild card, though it’s probably unwise to assume he retains the front-line topside he once flashed. 

I discussed the bullpen, especially Jordan Hicks and Ryan Helsley on Wednesday in Prospect Bargains by Summer Camp Average Draft Position in the NFBC.

 

Thanks for reading!

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter and Reddit.

 
  1. Tedy says:
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    Last pick in minor league draft. Bigger upside and who would you rather have. Hudson head or Alexfrei Planez

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Man, that’s a tough one. I’d give the edge to Hudson Head for the speed potential.

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