Written by: Matt Pepin
Follow him on Twitter: @MatthewPepin_
Follow Prospects Worldwide on Twitter: @ProspectsWorldW
Throughout the last few weeks, we’ve seen lots of scrimmages and practices leading up to the 2020 season. With a short season and expanded rosters, every team has prospects facing their big league players and many have earned roles on their team’s 30-man roster with a chance to make an impact. A handful of these prospects have showcased their talents above all others.
With such a short season, players on a hot streak will be as important as ever while a standard slump could be detrimental to a player’s season. These youngsters have the chance to ride a hot streak into the season or could prove their development and offseason changes to become Major League regulars for years to come.
Yu Chang 3B/SS – Cleveland Indians
Chang started camp with a blazing hot streak of 5 home runs in 6 days off live pitching, including star pitchers Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger, and Carlos Carrasco. He also had a clutch pinch-hit RBI double against the Pirates in the Indians’ first exhibition game.
The 24-year-old had brutal results at the plate during his Major League debut in 2019. He had just 84 plate appearances slashing .178/.286/.274 good for a 50 wRC+. Defensively, Chang was solid at the hot corner with 1 DRS. He also has the ability to play SS if needed.
While Chang struggled to get results at the plate in 2019, there were great signs suggesting a potential breakout. He had a walk rate and strikeout rate of 13% and 26%, with the walk rate being very good. Chang’s wOBA was just .256 but his True wOBA was a great .344, projecting his power potential.
Physically, Chang looks stronger and more confident in the box now more than ever. He’s also changed his mechanics a bit to help him tap into his power. He has a slightly wider base, shorter leg kick, and a much more efficient bat path. His hands move in a much more direct route, eliminating unnecessary movement. He’s also driving through with his lower half better than before. Nearly every aspect of his swing has been revamped helping further suggest his inevitable breakout.
Chang has a chance to play a utility role for the Indians in 2020, if his bat stays hot the Indians will have no choice but to play him at 2B in a potentially lethal infield. Expect big numbers from Chang in the future.
Dustin May RHP – Los Angeles Dodgers
May has been incredible in camp making nearly every Dodger look silly at the plate. May’s always had plus control but looks to be striking out more batters than ever. He carried his success into opening day after Clayton Kershaw was scratched with a back injury, pitching just 4.1 innings allowing 1 run and 4 K’s without walking a batter. The Dodgers have the potential to have 5 very good starters in their rotation if May continues his success.
Last season, May debuted in the bigs with a 2.90 FIP in 24 innings primarily out of the bullpen. His control was on another level walking just 3.5%, while his 22.7% K rate was certainly good enough but could be better.
May features an impressive 5-pitch repertoire with all good pitches but one (curveball). He has an impressive sinker that has shown out well in camp as well as a very high spin fastball, a very rare combo. His cutter is a great strikeout pitch, as it had a .190 xwOBA and 28.8% put away rate in 2019.
We probably didn’t need to see May dominating summer camp to think he’ll have a big role within the Dodgers pitching staff in 2020. His combination of track record and current domination will get him some starts in the crowded Dodger’s rotation and make him a frontrunner for Rookie of the Year.
Kyle Lewis OF – Seattle Mariners
Lewis had 4 towering summer camp homers, showing an ability to drive balls to all fields with ease. He continued that success into opening day where he hit a 111 mph HR off of Justin Verlander.
He debuted in late 2019 where he was unexpectedly very good, in 75 plate appearances he slashed .268/.293/.592 good for a 127 wRC+. His .355 True wOBA is a very good sign, as Lewis excelled at driving the ball at very high launch angles with elite exit velocities. Obviously, Lewis got on base at a very poor clip, mainly stemming from a brutal 4.0% BB rate. To make matters worse, he struck out 38.7%. He’ll need to make more contact and draw more walks to have sustained success at the MLB level.
Lewis has earned a starting spot in the M’s OF for the 2020 season and beyond. His great power to all fields should help lead him to success but an improved hit tool like he’s hinted at this summer camp could make him a franchise cornerstone.
Clarke Schmidt RHP – New York Yankees
Schmidt was awarded as the best Yankee MiLB pitcher in spring training with the James P. Dawson Award. He finished out summer camp very strong, fooling the Yankees top bats like Gleyber Torres, and Giancarlo Stanton among them.
Schmidt reached AA in 2019 where he was outstanding with a 2.01 FIP in 19 innings after a 2.87 FIP in 63.1 innings in A+. At 24 years old, he was slightly older than the competition. Butt regardless, he looks MLB-ready now, even without pitching in AAA.
He features 4 good pitches, lead by a great slider that turned heads in summer camp, he does a great job tunneling between pitches. His 2-seam fastball also surprised at the game showing great movement, complementing the slider very well.
Schmidt will certainly get a shot with the Yankees at some point this season even though we won’t begin the season on the 30 man roster.
Edwin Rios 1B/3B – Los Angeles Dodgers
Rios has at least 3 towering home runs in summer camp, including bombs off of Dustin May and Clayton Kershaw.
Rios was called up in late 2019 and got just 56 plate appearances where he dominated. He slashed .277/.393/.617 with a 161 wRC+. Rios walked an outstanding 16.1% but struggled to make consistent contact with a 37.5% K rate. His batted ball data was outstanding suggesting that his bat is legit regardless of contact rates. His 26.9% barrel rate, 95 average exit velocity and 112.5 max exit velocity are all outstanding marks. Most importantly, Rios had a .382 True wOBA, showing his crazy success may be somewhat sustainable.
With the added DH, Rios should be able to get fairly regular at-bats in a stacked Dodger lineup. While he’s a poor defender, he has the ability to play 4 positions as well as DH. Expect Rios to a premier power hitter in the coming years.
Peter Fairbanks RHP – Tampa Bay Rays
There’s been a lot of talk about Fairbanks coming out of Rays camp. The 26-year-old reliever has some of the best stuff in the game and has begun to locate his pitches as well as adding a changeup to his repertoire. He pitched 5 scoreless innings in spring training before the shutdown and has continued every bit of that success this summer, dominating the Rays lineup with his filthy stuff and newfound command.
In 2019 Fairbanks began the season on the Rangers before being traded to Tampa for Nick Solak. He pitched 21 total innings with a 6.86 ERA, 5.07 FIP and 3.68 xFIP. It was very likely that his 2.14 HR/9 was a bit unlucky considering his HR/FB ratio. Regardless, his control was poor walking 10%.
He threw 56% sliders which performed very well with a .239 wOBA despite a fairly high exit velocity, due to the number of ground-balls and ideal launch angles the pitch creates. His fastball struggled likely due to his lack of control over it. The new changeup should be a huge asset to already one of the filthiest pitchers in the game. According to Driveline Baseball’s ‘Stuff” metric, Fairbanks ranks 9th among all MLB pitchers.
Fairbanks was already a lock to make the big league roster before Colin Poche tore his UCL. He now expects to have a big role within one of the best bullpens in baseball. Within no time, Fairbanks will be one of the best relievers in the game.
Monte Harrison OF – Miami Marlins
Part of the return for Christian Yelich is finally looking good. Harrison did not make the Marlins 30 man roster likely to manipulate service time to gain another year. Harrison had a scorching hot camp beginning in intra-squad, where he hit a handful of home runs and leading into exhibition games where he hit a 112 mph double off of borderline elite Luke Jackson who struck out 34% in 2019.
Harrison reached AAA last season, slashing .274/.357/.451 which was just elbow average at 97 wRC+ (due to the heavily hitter-friendly AAA environment). He walked 10% while striking out nearly 30%, strikeouts have been a problem for him for almost his whole career.
He’s known for his elite power-speed combo, his average exit velocity was an excellent 93 and he topped out at 113, he also stole 20 bases while being caught just twice. Defensively, Harrison has a plus glove with a plus-plus arm potential to put up huge defensive numbers in anywhere in the OF, most likely CF.
If Harrison can make contact just enough for his power to show he’ll be a very valuable asset to the Marlins for years to come. Expect to see Harrison in the everyday lineup beginning August 4th, after the Marlins gain another year of his services.
Enoli Paredes RHP – Houston Astros
The 24-year-old is one of the most underrated prospects in the Astros organization. He pitched vs. the Royals in an exhibition game where he went 2 innings, striking out 5 and walking 1. To cap off an impressive summer camp and earning him a spot on the 30-man roster.
Paredes reached AA last season where he showed his incredibly advanced 5-pitch repertoire including an elite fastball/curveball combo. He had a 2.51 FIP with a 34% K rate and 10.4% BB rate. All similar numbers to his whole career. However, he’s always spent a lot of time in the bullpen as well as starting. In 2019, he pitched in 22 games and started in 12.
He’ll help out the Astros bullpen and with an occasional spot start in 2020. He’s a very exciting prospect that you should begin to familiarize yourself with.
Edward Olivares OF – San Diego Padres
Olivares had a very hot start to the season in spring where he slashed .389/.421/.722 in 19 PA, he carried his success into the summer where he tore up Padres pitching including a bomb off of Drew Pomeranz. His extended success led to the Padres moving on from OF Franchy Cordero and acquiring a solid bullpen arm in Tim Hill, expecting Olivares to fill that extra OF spot between AAA and the Major League squad.
Olivares spent the entire 2019 season in AA, where he slashed .283/.349/.453 with a 123 wRC+, we walked 7.8% and struck out 17.8%. While the numbers are quite good, they don’t suggest immediate MLB success. His 87 average exit velocity and 104 mph max were unimpressive as well.
However, 2020 Olivares looks like a whole new player. When comparing swings there are almost no similarities. Before this season, he featured a lower base with a lot of unnecessary movement and an inefficient bat path. But in 2020, his swing is tall with a very short and compact swing while also gearing more towards flyballs. He’s essentially mirrored Ronald Acuna’s swing.
Olivares also plays good defense in the OF with the ability to play CF, his arm is particularly good which could push him to a corner OF spot.
Kodi Whitley RHP – St. Louis Cardinals
Whitley has impressed everyone in camp so far to the point where he’s made the Cards roster. He’ll begin in a middle relief role with a chance to be in the backend if he continues his success.
It’s barely a breakout for Whitley, having dominated every step of the way in the minors. Most recently in very hitter-friendly AAA he posted a 1.52 IP with a 2.02 FIP. His great stuff and above-average command make him one of the top relief pitchers in the minors.
The 25 year old has 3 pitches, primarily throwing his lights out fastball and above-average slider, with the slider has a lot of depth and complements his fastball very well. He also has an above-average changeup.
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