Who could be this year’s Chris Sale or Brandon Finnegan? Those two made their Major League debuts in the same year in which they were drafted: 2010 for Sale, 2014 for Finnegan. Sure, both of those players got their feet wet via abbreviated action in the Minors, but “feet wet” might be an overstatement. If anything, their spikes got a little damp, then dried off by the time they arrived in the realm of the AL Central. Sale made just 11 Minor League appearances for a grand total of 10 1/3 innings pitched, while Finnegan bested him with 13 appearances and 27 frames. 2020 draftees won’t have the same opportunity to prove themselves against MiLB talent, but they’ve also been gifted with the uniqueness of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, which opens the door for all sorts of insanity and unprecedented strategies from MLB brass.
Therefore, we have to call it a wash. If all goes according to plan and we do indeed get a 60-game season, 2020 is going to be super weird. As a result of that, I’m not the first person to openly predict we will see a 2020 draftee appear in the Bigs this year and I certainly won’t be the last. My expectation is that we will see one-to-two recently drafted players appear in the MLB this season. Although I can’t say with certainty who exactly that will be, I can attempt to do so using the information that’s out there. That’s precisely what I’ll be breaking down in this post by providing you with a list of pitchers who have an outside chance to contribute actual fantasy value in your league this year, ranked from the most likely to the least likely.
Remember, if a player is not on a team’s original 60-player pool, that doesn’t mean they won’t be added later. Does it make them a lower percentage candidate to see the field in 2020? In all likelihood, yes — but it doesn’t rule them out. Certain organizations may elect to put fringy veterans in their pool instead of top prospects, because a team is required to subject any player they remove from their pool to waivers. Therefore, leaving a prospect off an initial pool could actually be a strategic move to see what a low-cost veteran has in the tank before shifting to a recent draftee. Also, having a prospect on a taxi squad could also simply be for developmental purposes — so don’t forget that either.
The Itch and I already began this conversation on last week’s Razzball Goin’ Deep Podcast, which you’ll want to give a listen if you haven’t already. Not only did we talk prospects, but I discussed my recent attempt at evolving into a self-serving grand theft auto vigilante while Donkey Teeth and Itch both revealed their subconscious desires to chop off their own appendages as children. It’s all incredibly fascinating and not at all disheartening — even in these unique times — something that can also be said for my fantasy piece this week. So let’s get to it: nine 2020 draftees, ranked in order based on their likelihood to contribute fantasy value this season.
High Probability: “Probably worth a pick-up or watch-list add” Tier
Last week on the Razzball Goin’ Deep Podcast, Itch and I discussed each of the first two players on this list as potential players that could get their cup of coffee in 2020. For Max Meyer, hopefully it’s a White Russian for his own sake. As for Carraway, Itch went so far as to say this was a bad pick on the Cubs’ part if they didn’t select him with the intention of using him in 2020. Carraway has a 60-grade fastball which touches 100 MPH paired with a 65-curveball that he used to achieve quality results during his career at Dallas Baptist: 51 1/3 IP, 3.16 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, .202 BAA, 15.6 K/9, 5.4 BB/9. There’s some work to be done with the control, but for a guy who is a true two-pitch reliever prototype despite being only 6′ 0″ and 173 pounds, the risk of stunting his long-term development by utilizing him in 2020 is reduced.
— Jim Callis (@jimcallisMLB) June 29, 2020
— Chicago Tribune Sports (@ChicagoSports) June 29, 2020
Even though he’s not on the initial 60-man play pool, poor bullpen performance could force Chicago’s hand later down the line once Carraway has had some time to utilize his new professional throwing program. It’s also worth noting that the Cubs have only used 50 spots on their 60-player pool, so he could be added by the time you’re reading this. Plus, Jim Callis isn’t nearly as dumb as Jonathon Mayo, so that first tweet actually means something to me. Am I saying I prefer calluses to mayo? Am I?
I know what you’re thinking. Of all the names on this list, this one makes the least logical sense. Angels, White Sox, Dodgers, Cubs and Nationals — they can all validate spending a year of service time and potentially stunting a pitcher’s development for the purpose to win now. Miami doesn’t have that luxury. But if the Marlins somehow parlay the statistical variability of a 60 game season into a magical run, he will 100% be in the Major Leagues. Make that 1,000%. Now, that’s obviously a BIG if considering the Marlins will be playing 52 of their 60 games against the Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Braves, Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. But hear me out.
Marlins are strongly considering and even likely to include No. 3 overall pick Max Meyer, flame-throwing U. of Minnesota RHP, in their 60-player pool at camp. assuming he signs. He is very close to a deal. They believe he could be quick to the majors.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) June 26, 2020
Oh, Why thank you little Jon Heyman caricature that lives in a tiny little circle on social media. I appreciate the segue. Meyer is arguably the most MLB ready pitcher in the 2020 crop, equipped with a 70-grade slider, the best in the 2020 class and perhaps the best in the world (hot take), and a 70-grade heater that sits in the high 90s and even touched 101 MPH in starts this past season. And sure enough, he’s agreed to terms, expected to officially sign soon and will be added to Miami’s 60-man pool.
There are 57 players listed on the Marlins 60 man. One spot is being held for 2020 1st Round Pick Max Meyer. He will sign Wednesday officially, and then will be added. Another spot is being held for IF Sean Rodriguez, just a procedural move.
— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) June 28, 2020
If he were on any other team, I would say him being 2020 fantasy relevant was a slam dunk. But he’s on one of the worst teams in baseball, and a team that would probably be far better off doing what’s best for the player long-term, because the organization obviously views him as a front-of-the-rotation starter after drafting him No. 3 overall. Then again, they’re the Marlins, so would any of us be all that surprised if they brought him up in September with a 10-40 record? While simultaneously naming Jack McKeon the manager for the third time in franchise history at the age of 89 years young? I’ll be more surprised if any of the Marlins’ five top 100 prospects are still with the organization in five years. But seriously, don’t sleep on Meyer contributing as a fantasy asset in 2020 just because he’s with the Fish.
Hmm. Let’s see. A six-foot-six college southpaw drafted by the White Sox in the middle-third of the MLB Draft’s first round. Sound familiar? 10 years ago, Chicago drafted Chris Sale 13th overall out of Florida Gulf Coast, then promoted him to the Big Leagues just seven weeks later to help with their playoff push. Will history repeat itself exactly one decade later? If you ask Crochet the Garrett himself, it should:
— NBC Chicago (@nbcchicago) June 30, 2020
Pretty ballsy words for a 21-year-old appearing on a podcast, but consider this: like Sale, Crochet has a wicked heater that already grades out at 65 and consistently sits 96-100 MPH. His go-to secondary pitch is a 55-grade slider. This is just uncanny, like the resemblance between Steve Harvey and Mr. Potato Head. Not feeling that one? Jim Thome and Buzz Lightyear might be more for you. But with Crochet’s freakishly Sale-like arsenal (not saying he’ll become him, simply looking at a short-term 2020 relief role), he’s honestly as good of a bet as anyone to have legitimate fantasy value this season. And I didn’t even get to the plus-changeup! Or the Property Brothers and those two guys from Road to El Dorado! The White Sox have only announced 44 players for their 60-man, so while Crochet isn’t on there yet, he very well could be soon.
Medium Probability: “Hobbs has brevity issues so he created this” Tier
After Carraway, Meyer and Crochet, just about everyone is a long shot to crack the Majors in 2020. I know what you’re thinking. Yes, it would be nice if they made an Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter 2. But I think we’ve lost hope of that. But yes again, there is indeed likely a fourth or fifth round draft pick out there that a particular team might have selected with the outside chance of utilizing them in the bullpen this year, but I’m not going to speculate on any players without reason. That brings me to a trio of Dodgers: the three right-handers they selected with their first three draft picks. We’ll begin with second rounder Landon Knack, a fifth-year college senior who recently inked his pro contract.
2nd-rder Landon Knack signs w/@Dodgers for $715k (slot 60 = $1,157,400). That must be a record for a 5th-yr senior. East Tennessee State RHP, led NCAA D-I in K (51 in 25 IP) & K/BB (51/1) after stuff jumped this spring, fastball was 93-98, always has pounded zone. @MLBDraft
— Jim Callis (@jimcallisMLB) June 30, 2020
In addition to officially being signed, Knack is expected to be included in LA’s 60-man pool. This is likely for development purposes, but seeing as Knack is an advanced arm, nearly 23 years old and possesses elite control (career 1.3 BB/9), he is a good candidate to make the move to Chavez Ravine incredibly quickly. His arsenal of a 60-fastball, 55-slider, 50-curveball and 55-changeup is pretty impressive for a college senior and after increasing his velocity to 93-95 MPH (topped at 98) this past spring, he could be an emergency bullpen candidate.
— Emily Waldon (@EmilyCWaldon) June 27, 2020
Similarly to Knack, I believe Miller’s eventual inclusion on LA’s player pool to be more for development than actual game usage, as will be the case for the vast majority of 2020 draftees. However, he has the ability to sit 97-99 MPH with his 65-grade fastball in shorter outings and owns an above average slider/cutter hybrid offering. Being a first round draft pick, the Dodgers obviously view Miller as a starter, but he does sometimes over-exert himself during his delivery which has led to control issues in the past (4.3 BB/9 across 80 IP in 2019). Could they potentially experiment with him in that role this year and then revert to developing him as a starter in 2021? It’s highly unlikely, but not impossible.
That same strategy could also be applied to Beeter, although I think there’s legitimate middle-to-front-of-the-rotation starter upside in him. If you’ve read anything I’ve written the past month (hi, mom!), you already know I’m particularly high on Beeter, having included him in both my pre-draft and post-draft FYPD sleeper pieces. Beeter already has a track record of success as a reliever (21 such appearances at Texas Tech in 2019), so it’s a worthwhile thought. He also struck out 15.8 batters-per-nine in college with closer-like stuff: a 60-grade fastball that peaks at 98 MPH and a pair of wipe-out, plus breaking pitches in a 60-curveball and 60-slider. Since Beeter hasn’t signed yet, he can’t hitch a ride on the Dodgers’ taxi, but he’s worth a mention here. Plus, it’s probably best to miss the first few Dodger taxis to eliminate the possibility of getting stuck in Tommy Lasorda’s vehicle — I can only imagine how badly that would smell by the time they got done navigating through LA traffic.
This was more of a blanket selection, as I’m not super confident in any of these three, but think the probability of one of them getting the call is higher than that of the names to follow.
7. Holden Powell | RHP | Washington Nationals | 60-player pool: no
Washington nabbed Powell in the third round with the 94th overall pick, a player Baseball America referred to as a “fast-mover candidate” that was “one of the best college relievers in the draft.” Powell is basically a fastball-slider guy who projects well in high-leverage situations, although he also has a below-average changeup that could maybe develop into a serviceable offering down the road. All 77 of his college appearances came out of the bullpen, during which he totaled 91 2/3 innings and limited both runs and baserunners more effectively each season as he went along: 3.51 ERA/1.08 WHIP in 2018, 1.84/0.94 in 2019 and 0.00/0.54 in 2020. Virtually unhittable in 9 1/3 innings in 2020, Powell worked to a 19.3 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in his final college season, somehow taking a step forward from his Stopper of the Year campaign in 2019. The Nationals brought Drew Storen to the Majors after just 53 2/3 Minor League frames back in 2010 and while this would represent a much bigger jump than that, at least there’s some level of comparable precedent of the organization rushing a bullpen arm to The Show. However, the Nats have used all 60 spots in their pool and Powell is not one of them, so they’ll have to subject a player to waivers at some point in order to add him. I don’t see that happening, which is why he’s No. 7 on this list.
Low Probability: “So you’re saying there’s a chance” Tier
Shuster seemed like a reach at No. 25, but could there be some hidden value in 2020? Either way, it seems silly to use a first round pick on the No. 77 player on the board, even if you think he could help right away. Shuster is one of those selections that illustrates just how much variance there is between each MLB team’s big board and that of the analysts. For a variety of reasons, I think Shuster being on the Braves’ 60-player pool is more about development than it is about getting instant value out of him. For starters, a drastic move like pushing someone quickly to the MLB doesn’t seem to be in Atlanta’s MO. Then you have to consider the reality that Shuster was pretty terrible his first two seasons at Wake Forest (6.79 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, 5.12 BB/9), coupled with the fact that his stuff (sits 92-94 MPH and tops out at 97 MPH with 55-FB, 50-SL, 60-CH) isn’t really built for high-leverage relief innings. That makes it unlikely he contributes any fantasy value in 2020, but his odd draft position and status on the 60-player pool means there’s an outside chance. Like me getting an invite to Grey’s next Christmas party. *realizes that probably won’t be socially acceptable until 2022* Yep. No chance.
This is about as long of a shot as I can go, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility if the Angels contend down the stretch but run into some bullpen struggles. If their pen ends up not sucking Butt-rey, there’s zero chance Detmers pitches this season. His stuff isn’t exactly built for the pen, as he tops out around 94-95 MPH with an above average curveball and changeup. But on the plus side, he’s already officially in the team’s 60-man pool.
— Rhett Bollinger (@RhettBollinger) June 30, 2020
If life was normal, Detmers would be one of the faster moving Minor League arms, perhaps debuting as a starter by the summer of 2021. But the current situation and his raw stuff makes him being fantasy relevant in 2020 hard to fathom, outside of the Angels reaching a desperation point. In my opinion, they’ve been at that point for years, but since Billy Eppler thought giving Zack Cozart $38 million was a good way to help fix that problem a few years back, all bets are off. Cozart had a career 92 OPS+ in Cincinnati! Reverend Eppler, who married my parents and is known as “The Rev,” could have done better than that.
That’s all I’ve got. Hit me up in the comments section and holler at me on Twitter @WorldOfHobbs!