Will Good Teams Play Top Prospects?
Image courtesy of Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY SportsAngels top prospect Jo Adell made his MLB debut Tuesday and *ripped* an infield single in his first plate appearance. Adell, 21, was the 10th pick in the 2017 first-year player draft (alternately referred to as The Royce Lewis Draft), and one day soon Adell could push Baseball’s Best Player to a corner outfield role.
His first step onto the stage brings to light a question that has been on the mind of a lot of baseball fans this year. Just how, exactly, will competitive teams handle their top prospects?
In a more typical year, we’d have the customary shouting match about service time manipulation and the like. We’re pretty used to it by now. This isn’t a typical year, we’ll agree, and if we all can check our cynicism for just one moment, I’m willing to admit a genuine curiosity over how clubs will handle development without the benefit of a minor league season. (Side note: How would Kris Bryant have “polished his third base defense” in 2015 with only 12 days at an Alternate Site?)
The Angels are the lens into this broader question, since many consider Adell to be a top-10 prospect, and with the exception of first base, the Angels' third outfield spot is projected to be the area most ripe for immediate improvement. Also, they’re supposed to be competitive. Preseason PECOTA projections considered the Angels to be just outside a top-two spot in the AL West, and the front runner for an A.L. Wild Card spot.
Since we don’t know how the Twins will react, we can merely ask the questions: What do you think is the relative likelihood that they’ll call up and use studs like Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach and Royce Lewis? How about Brent Rooker? Jhoan Duran is on the 40-man roster and just a call away and Jordan Balazovic is waiting in the wings if needed. How would those guys handle a call-up? Which prospect is most likely to help the Twins achieve their goal this year?
Here are a few other top prospects around the league that had my attention:
From the 2017 Adell/Royce Lewis Draft:
The Guys Who Already Made It
Kyle Wright, Braves – The advanced college pitcher (Vanderbilt) that some Twins fans wanted at the top of the ‘17 Draft, Wright went 5th and is wearing a Braves uniform. Wright, 24, debuted in 2018 with Atlanta and in two starts this season he’s yet to finish the 4th inning. Track his career for a single data point in the debate between advanced college pitcher and athletic high school baseball player.
Keston Hiura, Brewers – Burst onto the scene last year in Milwaukee and hit .303/.368/.570 with 19 home runs in just more than half a season.
Evan White, Mariners – The man who signed the $24 million deal this winter to spend the next 6 years with the Mariners. The first baseman is off to a slow start at the plate (.204/.205/.409) in his first taste of the big leagues with 5th-place Seattle.
Hunter Greene, Reds – Strongly linked with Lewis in the minds of many Twins fans. He missed last year because of Tommy John surgery and has been added to Cincinnati’s player pool, even though he’s yet to pitch in Double-A.
MacKenzie Gore, Padres – I know the Padres might not be great but Gore checks the box of top prospect and 2017 draftee. In 20 starts covering 101 minor league innings last year (High-A and Double-A), the lefty ran a 1.69 ERA, with a 135:28 strikeout-to-walk ratio (35.7% strikeout rate).
Note: San Diego just called up Luis Patiño, and plan to use him in the bullpen, according to reports.
From MLB.com's Top-25 List:
Gavin Lux & Dustin May, Dodgers – Last year May was a popular prospect in part because of his looks, and this year he just looks unfair. Lux is a consensus top prospect and is "getting closer," Dave Roberts said. Lux was taken off the big-league roster two weeks ago.
Casey Mize, Tigers – I don’t know that all 15 pitchers on Detroit’s Major League roster are better than Mize right now. But again, we’re more concerned with more competitive teams here.
Luis Robert & Nick Madrigal, White Sox – Robert is a full go with the White Sox. You saw him during the series in Chicago. In scouting terms, he looks like he’s “got a chance” to be a very good ballplayer. And Madrigal made it to the big leagues -- with his all-contact, low-power profile -- only to separate his shoulder while running the bases 5 games into his stint.
Jesus Luzardo, A’s – Broke into Oakland’s bullpen last September and drew strong reviews this week after his first start of 2020.
Forrest Whitley, Astros – When we all got the bad news about Justin Verlander’s forearm, some wondered how Houston might handle Whitley, the team's top pitching prospect. Now, he’s been shut down for the time being with arm soreness at the team’s alternate training site.
Which top prospects will make the greatest impact in 2020?
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