The rebuild in Rock City is coming along well enough, thanks in large part to an excellent 2020 draft class stocked with high probability bats to back up the might-be aces in waiting near the top of this list.
Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2021 | Highest level played | ETA
1. 3B Spencer Torkelson | 21 | NCAA | 2022
Tork is unique as a first overall pick in that it’s really just the bat Detroit drafted. They announced him as a third baseman on draft night, and Torkelson might be a good enough athlete to make that work, but it doesn’t matter all that much to his prospect stock if he has to slide back over to first base. The carrying tools are hit and power, and both could be plus plus depending how he reacts to premium spin. The clear #1 pick in dynasty First-Year-Player Drafts and an easy top five prospect for fantasy.
2. LHP Tarik Skubal | 24 | MLB | 2020
An under-reported side effect of Covid is how many times I’ve wound up writing about the same prospects. Feel like I’ve been talking about Skooby since the mystery machine first gassed up. He’s still a smooth, long-striding lefty with a true-spin four-seamer that plays well atop the zone, a change up he can bury for whiffs, and a curveball he can drop in for strikes, and a slider he can back foot to righties and erase lefties. He’s a buy for me if his team is dissuaded by his fairly bland stats across 32 innings.
3. RHP Casey Mize | 24 | MLB | 2020
A 6.99 ERA does not look nice on a baseball card. I was a little worried about Mize’s base level athleticism past year as well as his straightforward delivery. In other words, he’s not an exceptional athlete among big league peers, and his delivery is easy to time and track from the batter’s box. His stuff was so sharp during college that hitters still didn’t stand a chance, and the low minor league bats reacted the same way.
4. OF Riley Greene | 20 | A | 2023
I almost moved Greene ahead of Mize. Drafted 5th overall out of high school in 2019, Greene is a 6’3” 200 lb lefty who the Tigers jumped straight to the Gulf Coast League, where he dominated for nine games and got promoted again. He held his own for 24 games in the New York Penn League .295/.380/.386 and got promoted to a third level in his draft season—an uncommon path to say the least. Water met its level for Greene in his 24 Midwest League games (.219/.278/.344), but he spent all of 2020 at the training site and remains an incredibly promising, plus hit plus power bat with a chance to stay in centerfield. He’s become increasingly rare for his age-to-level head start given the lost year around the minors.
5. RHP Matt Manning | 23 | AA | 2021
Manning’s elbow might be fine, in which case this is going to look low because I’d put him above Mize if I knew he was beyond the forearm scare that ended his 2020 at the training site. I’ve always had some trepidation about Manning because he steps toward third with his lead leg then has to kind of launch his body over his front side. A fantastic athlete whose father was a professional basketball player, Manning actually repeats this delivery quite well, which has made Detroit reluctant to change it in part because it creates incredible deception. At six foot six with a unique release point and excellent extension, he might be the most deceptive right handed SP in the majors if he sticks as a starter.
6. SS Isaac Paredes | 22 | MLB | 2020
E Sock brings pretty much exactly that: he’s got some sock in the batter’s box and some errors in the field. He’s on the list more because he’s close to his big league opportunity than because he projects to be particularly useful for fantasy. He makes consistent contact, but he doesn’t have much speed or power. A launch angle tweak could make him interesting, as he hits the ball just hard enough to be dangerous if his approach were less linear. That said, I’d be more likely to sell than buy at this point.
7. OF Daz Cameron | 24 | MLB | 2020
Cameron shares a few traits with his dad, Mike, especially his propensity to swing and miss. His father found a way to make it work and access his considerable power and speed in games. Daz has a bit less of each but could still be useful for stolen bases if he can hit enough to keep a job. Thanks to sturdy defense in centerfield, he’s a better prospect in real baseball than fantasy.
8. OF Bryant Packard | 23 | A+ | 2022
A popular name in some deep dynasty circles, Packard will have to keep hitting to earn his chance. An early fifth round pick in 2019, he played just 11 games in Low A before being promoted then just 23 games in A ball before making another jump for a five game cameo in High A. He tallied wRC+ scores of 155 and 162 at the first two stops and demonstrated solid plate skills. I think he’s a nice buy as a forgotten dynasty free agent early in 2021. If he’s hitting right away, hold him. If not, move along.
9. OF Daniel Cabrera | 22 | NCAA | 2022
You could copy and paste a bit of Packard’s write up here, specifically the plus hit, plus power core of the profile. Drafted 62nd overall in 2020, Cabrera’s a little better athlete. He’s yet to face professional pitching, but he’s hit well everywhere he’s been, including his Freshman year in the pitching rich SEC when he slashed .315/.405/.525 across 257 plate appearances, striking out just 36 times while waking 34 times. Yes please.
10. OF Parker Meadows | 21 | A | 2024
The younger brother of Rays OF and former first-round pick Austin Meadows, Parker brings plenty of athleticism to the game. The only thing he doesn’t get plus grades for is his hit tool, which is far and away the most important piece for our game; otherwise, Meadows would be higher on this list thanks to plus plus speed, plus power and above average defensive grades. Not to mention (again) the good bloodlines.
Thanks for reading!
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