Fifteen Players Turning Scouts’ Heads At 2020 Spring Training

Image credit: Shogo Akiyama (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Prior to last season, we asked scouts across Arizona and Florida which players they thought were in for big years based on what they were seeing in spring training.

The responses included David FletcherDomingo GermanChris PaddackSandy Alcantara and Brandon Lowe, all of who went on to have breakout campaigns. The responses also included Anthony AlfordNick Pivetta and a negative outlook on Pete Alonso (whoops).

With spring training a little more than halfway over, we once again reached out to more than a dozen scouts representing organizations across baseball to see who is opening eyes in the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues this year.

Here are 15 players—prospects and big leaguers—those scouts identified as primed to take a step forward in 2020 based on what they’ve seen in spring training.

All scouts contacted are employed by MLB clubs and were granted anonymity in order to speak freely.

Players are listed in alphabetical order. Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

Shogo Akiyama, OF, Reds

Scout’s Take: “He’s going to be a good player. Very technically sound player. Very good, handsy-type approach. He can run. He can really play center field. Just a technically sound player that’s going to make good baseball plays. Good teams need those guys and I think he fits that role really well. The impact is a question. He’s a light bat, but he’s a good player. He’s going to help them a lot of different ways. He makes contact, it’s a professional approach, sees a lot of pitches. Kind of a throwback, prototype leadoff guy.”

Anthony Banda, LHP, Rays

Scout’s Take: “He threw strikes and had good stuff across the board. I was sitting with another scout who told me ‘Watch this guy’ and he came in and threw well. It was just for one or two innings, but it’s real good stuff that jumps right off the top of your head. Him and Wander Franco were the two Rays guys that really jumped out to me.”

Zac Gallen, RHP, D-backs

Scout’s Take: “I think he’s going to have a really good year. What we saw last year wasn’t a fluke. I feel like both teams are going to be happy with that trade at the end of the day, and that tells you I see Gallen as a solid, cost-controlled, mid-rotation guy. He’s been throwing well all spring.”

Jose Garcia, SS, Reds

Scout’s Take: “For a kid that hasn’t played above A-ball, you wouldn’t have known it by the way he’s played. He’s squared up some balls and had some pretty good at-bats and played defensively all beyond what you would expect out of a kid who hasn’t played above A-ball. He fits right in with the size of today’s shortstops. He has a chance to hit for average as well as power. In the few games I’ve seen him play, I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be an everyday shortstop. He can move fast. He looks pretty comfortable in big league camp, for sure.”

Logan Gilbert, RHP, Mariners

Scout’s Take: “He’s a real interesting guy. He’s got pitch characteristics that explain what he does. It’s all his extension. His 93-94 (mph) plays right at the top of the scale. Guys see the velocity at 93-94 and think they got it, but he’s only throwing the ball 52 feet, so it’s a little quicker than that. He doesn’t have a lot of reps and you don’t want to take the risk of putting him in a tough learning environment in the majors too soon, but I like his future.”

Tony Gonsolin, RHP, Dodgers

Scout’s Take: “I really like him, even if it’s in a (Ross) Stripling type of role. I do think he’s going to be an impact guy for them. He’s going to bridge the gap that they’ll need because they’re going to go basically fourth and fifth starter by committee during the year. It’s really good stuff. He showed four pitches that he can throw for strikes that are all at least average to above average. The velo is there, he’s on the attack, the changeup looked really good. It’s all there.”

MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres

Scout’s Take: “He could go in a big hurry. He’s so good and so athletic. If I was Seattle and MacKenzie Gore was mine, I wouldn’t think twice about bringing him to the big leagues. He had to get off the mound for a PFP play and he beat the runner to first base by 50 feet. The first baseman is hardly getting the ball and he’s at first base. He’s a real good athlete, he’s a real good fielder, his stuff’s real good, his delivery is great and his command and control are there. That’s the guy that could come in a hurry.”

Peter Lambert, RHP, Rockies

Scout’s Take: “I’ve always been a little lower on him, I’ve tended to trend him to the bullpen long-term, but he had a couple of impressive outings out here. The stuff is a bit more of a power mix, but he’s also a bit more consistent with his touch and play out front on the changeup. He’s throwing strikes with the fastball, the fastball command to the glove side has improved (and) he’s working down on the mound. Curveball certainly played, showed some feel and ability to throw it for strikes. Looks like it could be a serviceable mix. He’s more of a No. 4 starter for me now. It looks better this year and I’ve upped him as far as his future is concerned.”

James Karinchak, RHP, Indians

Scout’s Take: “Absolutely filthy. He’s got an 80-grade curveball. You just don’t see that old school 12-to-6 straight downer like this one anymore. He can punch a ticket. He’s really impressive on a short, one-inning deal.”

Jackson Kowar, RHP, Royals

Scout’s Take: “I’m all in on that. He is pretty much a (Chris) Paddack-type of profile. 70 fastball, 70 changeup and if he gets a better breaking ball decent enough, you’re looking at a mid-to-top-of-the-rotation arm. Two different body types, but the profile itself is similar.”

Tyler Matzek, LHP, Braves

Scout’s Take: “He threw well. Velocity was there, the breaking stuff was there, curveball over the slide piece, but he threw strikes. I don’t know what they’re going to end up doing with him. He’s a non-roster guy and they’re pretty much set with what they have. He had the yips I guess, so it all depends on the makeup on him in that sense. But the stuff looked good and I think he can help somebody.”

Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets

Scout’s Take: “He’s my pick to click right now. He’s going to bounce back huge. Last year he was kind of launch-angling everything. This year he’s making a lot more of an effort to use the whole field and that’s really his game. He’s not a center fielder and they’re going to have him play there everyday, so maybe his advanced metrics like WAR and all that might not cast him in such a favorable light. But I think with the bat, as long as he’s healthy, he’s worth keeping an eye on. I’d bet on him having a pretty good year offensively.”

Joe Ross, RHP, Nationals

Scout’s Take: “I don’t know why he wouldn’t start in their rotation. He’s kind of one of those guys where expectations have always been high and it’s like when you look at it, he’s only 26 still. It feels like he’s been around forever. He’s got good stuff. He’s throwing pretty hard. The stuff all looks good. It’s just a matter of executing consistently. Stringing quality strikes together, that’s where he’s going to have to continue to prove himself.”

Matt Thaiss, 3B/1B, Angels

Scout’s Take: “He’s starting to show a lot more power. A lot of guys are taking notice. The power’s been coming the last couple of years. You always knew he had good feel for the zone (and) there’s obviously things you like in the box. It’s just always been so pull-heavy. But now he’s pull-heavy with pop, which isn’t bad… There’s just been a little more whip in his bat. He’s finding the barrel more (and) he’s putting together good at-bats. With the new balls and guys throwing harder and all that, I don’t see why he’s not a guy that you’re talking about 15-20 home runs, maybe even more.”

Zack Thompson, LHP, Cardinals

Scout’s Take: “Probably not as good as (Matt) Liberatore from a raw grade standpoint, but man it is a really good fastball with life and finish. Really good, 92-95, but it was really a quick fastball. (Batters) are going to have a tough time timing it up regardless of how hard he’s throwing. Showed a slider. The delivery is straight starter. No doubt in my mind starting pitcher.”

Others mentioned

Jerar Encarnacion, OF, Marlins

Johneshwy Fargas, OF, Mets

Junior Fernandez, RHP, Cardinals

Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Dodgers

Sam Hentges, LHP, Indians

Joel Kuhnel, RHP, Reds

Matt Liberatore, LHP, Cardinals

Yoan Lopez, RHP, D-backs

Shane McClanahan, LHP, Rays

Zach McKinstry, UTIL, Dodgers

Tarik Skubal, LHP, Tigers

Antonio Senzatela, RHP, Rockies

Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves

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