Fantasy Baseball Position Preview - SP Prospects Due In 2020
Ivar G. Anderson gives you some pitching prospects to consider in drafts and in the upcoming season that might not be on your radar but should be
If you are an owner in a dynasty league, the starting pitchers that are being profiled over the next couple of weeks will be familiar to you. Those playing in keeper or redraft leagues, however, are generally concerned with those players that are expected to be full-time players, not those who are waiting their turn in the minors before promotion to the big-league club. Of course, once those prospects find their path to the majors, then you need to take notice and make your move to snag them off the waiver wire. The key in that particular scenario is to be forewarned and forearmed, with some advance intelligence to pave the way for you to make a smart move and acquire valuable assets that perhaps your fellow owners do not have on their radar screens. Enough jargon, let’s take a gander at some up-and-comers in the pitching prospect world.
Brendan McKay LHP(DH) TB
McKay hit the majors last season and acquitted himself pretty well, racking up 56 strikeouts over 49 innings pitched (IP). He also showed good, not great control, posting a 2.9 BB/9 ratio. His big issues were the long balls he allowed while with the Rays, as he allowed eight dingers in 13 appearances, and a significant downtick in his groundball rate, which fell to 35% after settling in around 50% in the minors. He has a fastball that sits in the mid-90 mph range, together with a cutter and curve as his primary offerings, although he does toss an occasional changeup (extremely occasionally, about 4% of his pitches). He has a great chance to make the opening day roster, especially with the manner that the Rays use their pitchers. As an added wrinkle, he is still viewed as an Ohtani-like two-way option, although he has developed quicker as an arm than a bat in his professional career.
Shane McClanahan LHP TB
Another southpaw in the Tampa Bay pipeline, McClanahan is not nearly as near to finding a spot on a major league pitching staff as the pitcher profiled directly above, but he should be in the bullpen come September of this coming season and competing for a rotation spot the next year. He jumped three levels in his first pro season, winding up in Double-A at the end of 2019, where he continued to show off his fastball that can hit triple figures. In addition, he possesses three off-speed pitches, including a plus-curve. He is exhibiting both command and control. He had his initial Tommy John procedure (TJS) as an amateur, so there is also that on the plus side of the ledger going forward (although there are no guarantees that a player is only going under the knife for that surgery once). This is a real deep level watch list entry, one where you are looking to the future.
Nate Pearson RHP TOR
Pearson was invited to the major-league camp by the Jays, after powering his way through three levels of minor league baseball last season. If he does not make the roster coming out of spring, look for him to be in Toronto by May. Over 101.2 IP in 2019, he struck out 119 opposing hitters while only yielding 27 free passes. As indicated, he was able to surpass the 110 IP level in his third year in pro ball, and with the Blue Jays not a likely playoff contender, the 23-year old righty seems well-situated to see significant time with the big-league club. As a late round selection in deeper leagues, he could prove to be a savvy move by a forward-thinking fantasy owner.
Casey Mize RHP DET
The knock on Mize, the prize pitching prospect in the Tiger system, is his propensity to struggle as the season winds to a close. He faded in his final year while pitching for Auburn, and last year saw a similar decline in production over is final month at Double-A Erie (31.1 IP, 6.61 ERA, 1.56 WHIP). His stuff is not as overpowering as the others profiled above, but he has demonstrated good control and an ability to keep the ball in the yard. With the Tigers coming off a MLB-worst win total in 2019, the team will be looking to see what it has in young talent, which should include the 22-year old right-hander (he turns 23 in May).
Matt Manning RHP DET
Mize’s teammate at Double-A Erie, another righty, certainly suffered no fade over the final weeks of his fourth pro season. He put up a stellar 2.11 ERA and 0.84 WHIP over his last eight starts, comprising 42.2 IP. An additional divergence from Mize is the blazing fastball in his arsenal. He also has a couple of other pitches that grade out at plus level in his curve and changeup. The icing on the cake is, he limits the long ball, allowing just seven in each of the past two seasons where he has racked up 100+ IP. The Tiger braintrust may talk up Mize more, but make no mistake, Manning has the potential to be a top-notch starter once he finds his way to the big leagues.
Tarik Skubal LHP DET
Skubal is the third of the Erie Double-A minor league arms that Detroit is relying upon to move on up to the show in the near future. He has a devastating fastball that generally sits in the mid-90s but can approach triple digits. The pitch has late movement, and coming from a left hander, has frustrated many opposing batters, evidenced by his 179 Ks over 122.2 IP split between High-A and Double-A last year. He has problems locating his pitches, however, and his secondary offerings are only mediocre at this point in his development. The plan is make him a starter, but his skill set profiles out better as a high-end reliever. As with the other two Detroit prospects profiled above, anticipate an arrival this season on the hill in Comerica Park.
Michael Kopech RHP CHW
Kopech is coming back from TJS that was performed in September of 2018, making an April return a distinct possibility (18 months after going under the knife is the usual timetable). He offers a plus-plus mid-90s fastball together with a plus-level slider and change. He can collect swings and misses, but pitch location results in challenges to his command and control. Coming off TJS, do not expect his command to be top-notch anytime soon. While he is a good bet to return to the White Sox pitching staff come 2020, this is not the season to expect breakout results from the righty. Working on the assumption that he will come back from his surgery, look for him to be a force to contend with in 2021 and forward. Another pitcher to stash on your watch list for future usage.
Next week, this space will profile additional arms that may not be on the ticket currently in drafts, but pitchers that are worthy of remembering when the inevitable injuries pop up during the season, or when your cherished late round draft choice does not provide the results you were banking on in March. After that, suggestions for subject matter are welcomed and encouraged. How can we help you in analyzing starting pitching heading into the upcoming season?
As ever, good luck and godspeed in your fantasy endeavors. If you have additional questions, send them via e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org