The delayed start to the 2020 season will obviously have a wide range of massive effects on Major League Baseball. Among them: a totally different promotional timeline for some of the game’s most exciting young players. We will never know how things would’ve unfolded. And we don’t yet even know what the parameters are for an altered season. But there’s no doubting the impact.
Typically, opportunities open as rosters evolve over the course of a grueling, 162-game season. Some top prospects force their way up to the majors, others are called upon because a need arises. In a shorter campaign, there’ll be less attrition…though we may also see relaxed roster rules and changes to the allocation of service time that could create opportunities.
Still, with more time to examine rosters and think about the state of the game, there’s an opportunity to stop and appreciate the young talent on the cusp of the majors. We’ll run through the most interesting prospects pressing for near-term MLB action, starting with the American League West:
There’s plenty of excitement at the top of the farm. The Halos have one of the game’s very best overall prospects in Jo Adell. Perhaps their best chance of catching the Astros lies in Adell taking the league by storm and combining with Mike Trout and (a hopefully resurgent) Justin Upton to form one of the game’s best outfields. Another highly-regarded young outfielder, Brandon Marsh, is also close. An elbow injury limited him this spring, but he’ll hopefully rehab through that while the game is on pause.
Otherwise, the Angels will certainly hope they get a significant contribution out of lefty Patrick Sandoval. The 23-year-old took some lumps last year but did put up a 13.5% swinging-strike rate in his first ten MLB outings.
The division’s dominant force enters the season facing a few questions with the pitching staff. Fortunately, there are a bunch of arms coming.
Forrest Whitley still has immense upside despite a brutal 2019 season. He’ll be tasked with getting back on track in the upper minors. Having snuck past Whitley, Jose Urquidy will slot right back into the big league rotation. He’s not known for his high-powered arsenal, but he was highly effective late last year — even including a remarkable performance when pressed into postseason duties (one earned run, 12:2 K/BB in ten innings).
High-octane righty Bryan Abreu also got some playoff action after a strong relief showing late in the season. He could be a force in the pen. Fellow right-handers Christian Javier, Enoli Paredes, and Brandon Bielak are also on the rise.
Another well-regarded player who debuted in 2019 is third baseman Abraham Toro. He smashed minor-league pitching but didn’t thrive in a 25-game run in the majors. Toro had also struggled in Grapefruit League action this spring, but it’d be a surprise if he isn’t called upon at some point in 2020.
There’s lots of talent ready to see action in Oakland. Lefties Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk recovered from injuries and hit the majors last year. They’ll draw loads of attention, and rightly so, but that’s just the start. Righties Daulton Jefferies and James Kaprielian could also push for their debuts.
There are names to watch on the position player side as well. The A’s have a bevy of youthful backstops who’ll be entrusted with holding down the catching duties. Sean Murphy put himself on everyone’s radar last year. He could be joined by Austin Allen, but fellow young receiver Jonah Heim is also a factor. Infielders Sheldon Neuse will factor, though he hasn’t hit much this spring and didn’t impress in his 2019 debut.
Outfielder Luis Barrera hasn’t yet debuted but earned a 40-man spot after a solid partial season at Double-A.
On the pitching side, lefty Justus Sheffield has been on the map for some time and is in need of extended testing at the game’s highest level. Righty Justin Dunn had some struggles in his brief debut last year but is competing for an MLB job in camp. Recent first-rounder Logan Gilbert ran up to Double-A in his first professional season and now stands as a consensus top-100 prospect.
Several position players are sure to factor in the bigs as well. Recently extended first baseman Evan White is obviously slated for a big role. And the M’s may well go ahead and provide long looks to 24-year-old outfielders Jake Fraley and Kyle Lewis, each of whom cracked the bigs last year. The Seattle org will want to get a sense of their outlook. After all, there’s more talent coming up behind.
Most of the best-regarded Texas farmhands are still queuing up further down the system. But there are a few players vying for immediate playing time.
First and foremost, infielder/outfielder Nick Solak is almost sure to fit…well, somewhere. He has featured in the team’s planning all winter, even if the vision for where and how much he’d play has shifted as the Rangers pursued offseason additions. It’s plausible to imagine Solak appearing at first, second, third, and anywhere in the outfield as needs dictate.
Unless and until there’s an injury, the rotation doesn’t have any space. But lefty Joe Palumbo could be among the first names on call if a need arises, or he could slot into the pen. Righty DeMarcus Evans joined the 40-man after a lights-out 2019 season and seems likely to get a crack at the majors at some point.