20 MLB Prospects We Hope Have A Healthy New Year In 2021
Even without a minor league season, there were still plenty of prospects who struggled to stay healthy in 2020. Whether it hit Top 100 stalwarts or players a little more under the radar, the injury bug did not take the year off.
We hope every player stays healthy in 2021, of course, but these 20 players (listed in no particular order) might need it more than most.
Yasel Antuna, SS/2B, Nationals
Antuna’s career has been slowed by injury, including Tommy John surgery, and he’s played just 138 games since signing in 2016. Even so, Antuna performed well at the Nationals’ alternate training site and earned a spot on the Nationals’ 40-man roster. If the switch-hitting Antuna can carry his health and performance over from 2020, he could jump back on the map in a big way in 2021.
Jake Burger, 3B, White Sox
For the first time in a long while, Burger was healthy in 2021. The 2017 first-rounder hasn’t played an official game since his draft year because of a pair of torn Achilles and the lost 2020 season, but he did get on the field in an independent league and at instructional league. He impressed evaluators in the fall and even earned a spot on the White Sox’s 40-man roster. If he can continue to stay healthy, he could move quickly through the system.
Alexander Canario, OF, Giants
In 2019, Canario was excellent against advanced competition at short-season Salem-Keizer. That he was dealing with a nagging shoulder injury at the time made the year all the more impressive. Canario had surgery this offseason to repair the shoulder and will miss part of the 2021 season, but we hope the procedure will help him unlock even more production.
Garrett Crochet, LHP, White Sox
For the most part, Crochet was healthy in 2020. The White Sox’s first-round pick also became the first player since Mike Leake to go directly from the draft to the big leagues without a single game in the minor leagues. Crochet suffered a forearm strain in his final appearance, however, and had an injury history as an amateur. Crochet avoided any surgery, and we hope it stays that way.
Hans Crouse, RHP, Rangers
Crouse is one of the Rangers’ top pitching prospects, but he was slowed by bone spurs in his elbow in 2019 and was kept out of the alternate training site for personal reasons in 2020. Between the injuries and the lost season, Crouse has logged just 162 innings since being drafted in 2017 and hasn’t pitched above Low-A. He was placed on the 40-man roster this offseason, but certainly would benefit from a fully healthy 2021 season to resume his path to the big leagues.
Jose Devers, SS, Marlins
One of the pieces in the trade that sent Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees, Devers has impressed in limited action since the deal. Injuries to his forearm, shoulder and groin have kept him mostly on the sidelines, but when healthy he’s shown an exciting blend of speed and contact skills that vaulted him into the upper third of an impressive Marlins’ system. He needs upper-level experience first, but Devers’ continued health in 2021 would help him compete for a spot of the future in Miami.
Anderson Espinoza, RHP, Padres
Perhaps the ultimate enigma, Espinoza has not thrown a pitch that counted since Aug. 31, 2016. Since then, he’s had two Tommy John surgeries. Espinoza did get on the mound at the alternate training site and again in instructional league, but he badly needs to get into an official game to begin a path toward achieving his high ceiling.
Estevan Florial, OF, Yankees
Florial was healthy enough at the alternate training site this year, and even showed enough to make his big league debut. Still, the majority of his minor league career has been stunted by a pair of broken bones in his hand and wrist areas. Aside from the big league cameo and time in the Double-A Eastern League playoffs in 2017, Florial has no experience above High-A. He’ll need a fully healthy 2021 season to regain his prospect stock.
Jordan Groshans, SS, Blue Jays
Groshans started the 2019 season like a house afire and looked to all the world like one of the best infield prospects in the sport. A left foot injury limited him to just 23 games, however, and stalled his progress a little bit. He rebounded at the alternate training site in 2020, when he led the Blue Jays’ group in home runs. Fully healthy, Groshans should pick right up where he left off in 2019.
David Hamilton, 2B/SS, Brewers
When the Brewers chose Hamilton in 2019, they did so knowing he’d need to continue rehabbing a torn Achilles tendon suffered in his junior year at Texas. He missed all of 2019, then spent the 2020 season in the independent Constellation Energy League, where he showed excellent on-base skills (he posted a .430 OBP) and speed (20 stolen bases in as many tries). If he can carry his health into 2021, he has a chance to shoot up the Brewers’ rankings
Brent Honeywell, RHP, Rays
Honeywell’s last two seasons have been tough. The promising righthander has had four surgeries—the first a Tommy John procedure in 2018—since last pitching in an official game. Honeywell was healthy enough at times in 2020 to be a part of the Rays’ taxi squad during the season, and with Blake Snell and Charlie Morton gone, could be a part of the picture.
Kyle Isbel, OF, Royals
Isbel’s 2019 season was interrupted by a pair of injuries. When he returned, Kansas City’s 2018 third-round selection wasn’t particularly productive. Once he moved to the Arizona Fall League, however, things changed. In the desert, Isbel showed a blend of speed and on-base skills with a little bit of power as well. If he can stay healthy in 2021, he’ll have a chance to prove his AFL production was real.
Nick Madrigal, 2B, White Sox
Madrigal made his big league debut in 2020 and showed the same blend of contact and speed skills that made him a high-value prospect. Although he returned after the injury, a dislocated shoulder suffered mid-year required offseason surgery and will cost him part of 2021. Once he returns, we hope he can put the injury behind him and remain a table-setting force in Chicago.
Matt Manning, RHP, Tigers
In 2020, Tigers’ fans got their first looks at two of their top pitching prospects, Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal. Manning could have been among that group as well, but he was shut down in the middle of the season with a forearm strain. Once he puts that behind him, Manning could give fans another hint of the future starting in 2021.
Brendan McKay, LHP, Rays
McKay was hit with a double-whammy in 2020. First, he contracted the coronavirus and needed to quarantine while recovering. Then, he tore the labrum in his left shoulder and had season-ending surgery. So instead of further cementing himself as a part of the Rays’ future rotation, McKay endured a lost season.
Eric Pardinho, RHP, Blue Jays
Pardinho had Tommy John surgery in February 2020, meaning he spent all the year recovering. He’d been limited by elbow soreness in the year prior as well, meaning he’s pitched just 87.2 innings since signing in 2017. Given that the minor league season will be delayed by the continued effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Pardinho might not miss as much game action as he would during a normal season.
A.J. Puk, LHP, Athletics
For certain, Puk is among the most talented arms in Oakland’s system. Staying healthy, however, has not been one of his gifts. He had Tommy John surgery in 2018, made his big league debut in 2019 and then missed all of 2020 with a pair of shoulder strains. He’ll turn 26 early in the season, so the time for Puk to show up and prove himself is coming quickly.
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Chris Rodriguez, RHP, Angels
Without question, Rodriguez has some of the best stuff in the Angels’ system. Each of his four pitches projects as above-average or better, including a potentially double-plus fastball. His career has been marred by injury, however, and he’s pitched just 77.2 innings since being drafted in 2016. He’s dealt mostly with back injuries throughout his career, including an operation to repair a stress fracture. If Rodriguez can stay healthy, he could make an impact in short order.
Julio Rodriguez, OF, Mariners
Although he returned for the instructional league and the Dominican Winter League, Rodriguez missed time during the regular year with a hairline fracture in his wrist suffered during summer camp. This came after missing two months in 2019 with a broken left hand, which means that despite his quick rise and prodigious talent, he’s missed out on significant development opportunities. Once the minor league season gets going, we’d love to see him get in a full season’s worth of development.
Forrest Whitley, RHP, Astros
After a dynamite 2017 season, Whitley fell flat in 2018 and 2019 thanks to a combination of injuries, vanishing command and control, and a suspension for performance-enhancing substances. Whitley’s troubles continued in 2020, when he was shut down with elbow pain toward the end of his time at Houston’s alternate training site. He’s three years removed from a season that jumped him into the conversation as one of the game’s best pitching prospects. A return to health could help him regain some of his lost stock.