Image credit: Mariners' outfielders Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez
Teams are using their 60-man player pools to balance their present and the future.
Clubs want to win in 2020, but there’s enough space on those rosters to add prospects—many of whom are not going to contribute in the major leagues in 2020—and ensure the priority players in their pipeline are in town to get developmental reps.
Given that we’re probably not going to have any official minor league games this season and that the status of an expanded Arizona Fall League or a mega instructional league is still up in the air, several clubs made it clear that they want their best prospects in camp regardless of what level they would have typically been assigned to during a normal season.
Now that we have the initial rosters for all 30 teams, we ranked the 12 most stacked prospect pools we’re watching in summer camp. The focus is on the teams with players who will be there for the duration of the season, rather than players who would have made an Opening Day roster regardless or figure to lose their prospect eligibility soon. So extra credit goes to clubs who were aggressive in putting prospects in camp strictly for development purposes.
These are the 12 most stacked prospect pools we’re excited to keep tabs on this season.
1. San Diego Padres
The Padres have six Top 100 prospects on their 60-man player pool, the most of any organization. Lefthander MacKenzie Gore, righthander Luis Patino and outfielder Taylor Trammell would have all started in the minor leagues in a normal season, but they could all play a role in the 2020 picture potentially. Catcher Luis Campusano is there as well, as are 19-year-old shortstop CJ Abrams (their 2019 first-round pick) and 18-year-old outfielder Robert Hassell (their first-rounder this year).
Of the Padres’ top 15 prospects entering the season, 13 are in their player pool, with righthanders Andres Muñoz and Reggie Lawson the only two missing after having Tommy John surgery. Lefthander Ryan Weathers, shortstop Gabriel Arias, outfielder Hudson Head and infielder Tucupita Marcano have all only played at the Class A levels or below so far and are on the roster for development purposes.
2. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays entered the season with the No. 1 farm system in baseball. They bring five Top 100 prospects into summer camp, led by the top prospect in the game, SS Wander Franco. Given that it’s the Rays, it’s unlikely Franco will play a role in the major leagues this season, but LHP/DH Brendan McKay should after making his debut last year. 2B/SS Vidal Brujan got to Double-A last year, while RHP Shane Baz and LHP Shane McClanahan are in the player pool just for a priority development case. The Rays have a sixth Top 100 prospect—2B/SS Xavier Edwards—who was a notable omission from the club’s 60-man roster. But C Ronaldo Hernandez and RHP Joe Ryan—fellow Rays preseason Top 10 prospects—are both here, as are OF Randy Arozarena, SS Taylor Walls and SS Lucius Fox.
3. Seattle Mariners
No team was more aggressive with its 2020 draft picks than the Mariners. While clubs like the Pirates and Mets didn’t include their signed first-round picks in their player pools, the Mariners added not only their first-round pick in RHP Emerson Hancock, they also have their second-rounder (OF Zach DeLoach), third-rounder (INF Kaden Polcovich) and fourth-rounder (3B Tyler Keenan). They also added shortstop Noelvi Marte, who ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Dominican Summer League last year.
Of course, OFs Julio Rodriguez (the No. 8 prospect in baseball) and Jarred Kelenic (No. 12 in the Top 100) are both here as well. So are 1B Evan White and RHP Logan Gilbert, who along with Hancock give the Mariners five Top 100 prospects in camp. RHP George Kirby, LHP Justus Sheffield, RHP Justin Dunn, LHP Brandon Williamson, OFs Kyle Lewis and Jake Fraley, C Cal Raleigh and RHP Isaiah Campbell are there as well, which means all 12 of Seattle’s preseason top prospects are in its player pool.
4. Detroit Tigers
No team has a better collection of pitching prospects on its 60-man roster than the Tigers. RHP Casey Mize (the No. 14 prospect in baseball), RHP Matt Manning (No. 19) and LHP Tarik Skubal (No. 36) are all in Detroit’s player pool. No surprises there, given that all could have reached the majors during a normal 2020 season. But the Tigers got more aggressive pushing their prospects who are farther away from the majors on to the roster. That includes OF Riley Greene, their first-round pick out of high school last year, giving them four Top 100 prospects in camp. C Dillon Dingler, their second-round pick out of Ohio State this year, is also on the roster. That probably means that Spencer Torkelson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft, will join them once he officially signs. All of Detroit’s preseason Top 10 prospects are in camp, including 3B Isaac Paredes, RHP Alex Faedo, OF Daz Cameron, OF Franklin Perez, SS Willi Castro and C Jake Rogers.
5. Miami Marlins
The Marlins have five Top 100 prospects in camp, with 2020 first-round pick RHP Max Meyer the only Top 100 prospect missing. That group includes RHPs Sixto Sanchez and Edward Cabrera, OF Jesus Sanchez and SS Jazz Chisholm, as well as OF JJ Bleday, their 2019 first-rounder who is primarily there for development reasons. Nearly all of the Marlins’ priority prospects are here, including their preseason top nine prospects and 14 of their top 16 prospects entering the year.
6. Atlanta Braves
Not only do the Braves have four Top 100 prospects in camp—OFs Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, plus RHPs Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright—they also made a point to include pretty much every priority prospect in their farm system. Their top 12 prospects entering the season are all in their player pool. So is lefthander Jared Shuster, the No. 25 overall pick in the 2020 draft out of Wake Forest. Their two first-round picks from the 2019 draft—C Shea Langeliers and SS Braden Shewmake—are both in camp for developmental reps. C William Contreras, LHP Kyle Muller and RHP Bryse Wilson are all here a well.
7. Los Angeles Dodgers
With one of the best farm systems in baseball, the Dodgers have six Top 100 prospects on their 60-man roster. They could arguably be higher on this list, but most of the Dodgers’ prospects in camp are upper-level players who likely would have made their Opening Day roster in 2020 during a normal season anyway, starting with middle INF Gavin Lux. RHPs Brusdar Graterol and Dustin May both have major league time and, like Lux, could graduate from prospect status soon. C Keibert Ruiz and RHP Josiah Gray would have started a normal 2020 in Double-A or Triple-A, but both could be factors in the 2020 season. It’s a roster focused on winning for 2020, leaving off younger hitters like last year’s first-round picks, Kody Hoese and Michael Busch. The one player the Dodgers were aggressive with is C Diego Cartaya, an 18-year-old catcher and preseason Top 100 prospect who is in camp strictly for developmental reasons.
8. Arizona Diamondbacks
The D-backs’ 60-man roster is a blend of the present and the future. They have four Top 100 prospects in camp, led by C Daulton Varsho, who could be a factor in their 2020 picture. But the other three—SS Geraldo Perdomo and OFs Alek Thomas and Corbin Carroll—are long-term development prospects who have yet to play above Class A, with Carroll a 2019 high school draft pick. The D-backs have a fifth Top 100 prospect, OF Kristian Robinson, who remained in Arizona when baseball shut down, which gives him limited clearance to work out at Salt River Fields (the D-backs’ alternate training site) without needing to be on the 60-man roster. Aside from Robinson, everyone else in the team’s preseason top 13 prospects is here, including LHP Blake Walston, RHPs Corbin Martin, Luis Frias, Levi Kelly, J.B. Bukauskas, Jon Duplantier and Josh Green, and 1B Seth Beer. The D-backs are also one of the clubs that added their 2020 first-rounder to the roster, putting former Duke RHP Bryce Jarvis in their player pool.
9. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays have three Top 100 prospects on the 60-man roster. RHP Nate Pearson is an obvious one. RHP Simeon Woods Richardson has an outside chance to help the major league team in 2020, but he’s mostly here as a priority prospect. So is SS Jordan Groshans, who missed nearly all of 2020 with a foot injury, so getting him more development reps is big. RHP Alek Manoah, a first-round pick last year, is another big prospect in camp, as is C Alejandro Kirk.
10. Cleveland Indians
Other teams here have stronger farm systems—the Indians entered the season with the No. 19 system in baseball—but Cleveland gets extra credit for pushing nearly every priority prospect in their pipeline on to the 60-man roster, including several lower-level teenagers. Their two Top 100 prospects—3B Nolan Jones and SS Tyler Freeman—are both there, though it’s unlikely either one contributes in 2020. OF George Valera, 19, has just six games at low Class A Lake County. RHP Ethan Hankins is 20 with five starts for Lake County. RHP Daniel Espino (last year’s first-round pick) and 2B Aaron Bracho are both 19 with no full-season experience. All of them are on the roster, as is 20-year-old C Bo Naylor, who spent last season in Lake County.
In all, 11 of their top 13 prospects entering the season are on the roster, with the only exceptions being SS Gabriel Rodriguez (who spent most of last year in the Dominican Summer League) and SS Brayan Rocchio, who is still in Venezuela but seems like he will be added later.
11. Kansas City Royals
Nearly all the priority prospects are in camp for the Royals. That includes their No. 1 prospect, SS Bobby Witt Jr., their 20-year-old first-round pick last year. Their preseason No. 2 through 5 prospects—LHP Daniel Lynch, RHPs Jackson Kowar and Brady Singer and OF Kyle Isbel—are also on their 60-man roster, with Lynch and Kowar both joining Witt as Top 100 prospects. Other preseason top 10 prospects in the system include OF Khalil Lee, LHPs Kris Bubic and Austin Cox and 1B Nick Pratto. The only big names missing are LHP Asa Lacy, their first-round pick this year, and OF Erick Peña, a 17-year-old international signing who has yet to make his pro debut.
12. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have four Top 100 prospects in camp, though most of them should graduate from prospect eligibility soon, starting with OF Luis Robert and RHP Michael Kopech. 2B Nick Madrigal is another player who figures to be a factor in their 2020 lineup soon as well. The fourth Top 100 prospect, 1B Andrew Vaughn, was a first-round pick last year who is primarily on their 60-man roster for development reasons. Most of their other top 10 prospects entering the season, however, are not in their player pool, with the exception of RHP Dane Dunning.