Major League Baseball is scheduled to open up camps for “spring training 2.0” or “summer camp” in a few days and teams submitted their initial 60-man player pools on Sunday. Players can still be added with many teams having less than 60 names off the bat, but we at least get an idea of who we will see when players hit the diamond to begin training back up again.
There are several top prospects, such as top overall prospect Wander Franco, on rosters, but there is no guarantee they will get any playing time with the big league clubs this season. They will still be provided their best opportunity to develop at the camps. Players must be in the 60-man pool to eligible to play this season, while the pool can change throughout the season through waiver claims, free agent signings, and trades.
Teams will set initial 30-man rosters for Opening Day and the remaining players will continue to train at an alternate site. The rosters will reduce to 28 after two weeks, then to 26 two weeks later.
Now let’s take a look at the best prospects to watch for in these player pools, starting with the AL East. The rank of each player in the team’s prospect rankings is in parentheses.
OF Austin Hays (No. 6) hit .309 with four homers over 21 games during September call-up stint last season and could be a factor.
RHP Hunter Harvey (No. 13) pitched in seven games while giving up just one run, three hits, and four walks as he struck out 11 in 6.1 innings last season.
RHP Dillon Tate (No. 30) pitched 21 innings over 16 appearances and struck out 20 batters, but struggled as he also gave up 15 runs on 18 hits and nine walks.
Toronto Blue Jays
RHP Nate Pearson (No. 1) reached Triple-A Buffalo last season after moving through two other levels in High A and Double-A. Overall he pitched to a 2.30 ERA and 0.885 WHIP while holding a 119/27 K/BB rate in 25 starts over 101.2 innings pitched. He is one of the most-watched for prospects for any team this season.
SS Jordan Groshans (No. 3) was drafted 12th overall in the 2018 MLB Draft and is yet to play a full season in the minors. Last year was his first season in full-season ball at High-A Lansing and was batting .337 with a .909 OPS in 23 games before suffering a season-ending injury. He could be an exciting guy to watch in camp now that he is back healthy.
RHP Simeon Woods Richardson (No. 4) was one piece to the deal that sent Marcus Stroman to the New York Mets at last year’s trade deadline and the Blue Jays promoted him to Class A Advanced Dunedin. He made six impressive starts there, holding a 29/7 K/BB rate and surrendering eight runs in 28.1 innings.
RHP Alek Manoah (No. 5) was drafted by the Jays with the 11th overall pick to become the second pitcher off the board and had an impressive but limited pro debut. He pitched 17 innings for the Vancouver Canadiens in the Northwest League while holding a 2.65 ERA and a 27/5 K/BB rate.
C Alejandro Kirk (No. 6) was signed out of Mexico in 2016 and now has two fully healthy professional seasons under his belt after playing in just one game his first pro season. He made serious strides in 2019 as he made the jump from Class A Lansing to Class A Advanced Dunedin and hit .288/.395/.446 with four homers and 25 doubles in 71 games. He also showed great plate discipline with 56 walks to 39 strikeouts.
LHP Anthony Kay (No. 11) was another piece to the Stroman trade and performed well enough for Triple-A Buffalo to earn a September callup, making seven starts in which he posted a 2.50 ERA over 36 innings with 39 strikeouts. He made three appearances in the Majors where he held a 1.43 WHIP and 13/5 K/BB rate over 14 innings.
Boston Red Sox
3B/1B Bobby Dalbec (No. 3) was drafted to the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2016 Draft and they signed him to an over-slot $650,000. Injuries derailed his first full pro season but he turned it on in the next two, whacking 59 long balls over those two seasons and earning a call-up to Triple-A Pawtucket. He averaged 33 homers, 80 walks, and 203 strikeouts per 162 games during his first four years in pro ball, making him a three-true-outcomes hitter.
SS/2B C.J. Chatham (No. 13) was drafted by the Red Sox in the second round of the 2016 Draft and became the highest draft pick in Florida Atlantic history. He was limited to just seven games in his first full pro season with hamstring injuries that also cost him three weeks in 2019. He had a career-high .741 OPS last year while he reached Triple-A.
Tampa Bay Rays
SS Wander Franco (No. 1) was the top international free agent in the 2017-18 pool and signed with the Rays for $3,825,000. In his first season in full-season ball in 2019, Franco slashed .327/.398/.487 and stole 18 bases in 114 games between Class A and Class A Advanced. He earned a selection to the All-Star Futures Game where he was the starting shortstop and leadoff hitter for the American League squad and the Rays named him their Minor League Player of the Year. He might not make his debut this season, but he will still be a fun guy to watch in camp.
LHP/DH Brendan McKay (No. 2) won the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award in each of his three seasons at Louisville and he was the fourth overall pick in the 2017 Draft and signed for $7,005,000. The Rays continued to develop him as a true two-way player early in his pro career. A series of lat injuries, however, limited his progress on both sides of the ball during his first full season and the Rays chose to focus more on the left-hander’s development on the mound in 2019 while limiting him to DH duties. McKay thrived in the upper Minors on his way to his big league debut in late June, pitching to a 0.84 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, .156 batting average, and 40/9 K/BB rate over 32 innings in seven appearances.
2B/SS Vidal Brujan (No. 3) was an under-the-radar international free agent signing in the 2014 pool as the Rays signed him for a mere $15,000 dollars. He quickly developed into a top prospect and broke out in his first full pro season in 2018, leading the Minors with 112 runs scored and second in steals with 55. The Rays added Brujan to their 40-man roster in November after he reached Double-A after an All-Star campaign with Class A Advanced Charlotte and continued to play well in the Arizona Fall League. He finished tied for fourth in the minors with 48 in 2019.
RHP Shane Baz (No. 5) was drafted 12th overall in the 2017 Draft by the Pirates out of Concordia Lutheran High for $4.1 million. After pitching well in the Rookie-level Pioneer League in 2018, he became the third and almost forgotten piece to the infamous and extremely lopsided Chris Archer trade. He made a swift transition to full-season ball in his first full season with the Rays, pitching to a 3-2 record, 2.99 ERA, and 1.23 WHIP with a .213 batting average against and 87/37 K/BB rate over 81.1 innings in 17 starts.
LHP Shane McClanahan (No. 6) was drafted with the 31st pick in the 2018 Draft after making a healthy return from Tommy John surgery and emerging as one of the top pitching prospects. In his pro debut that season, he was limited to four starts but didn’t give up any runs and just three hits and one walk while striking out 13. In 2019 he moved up three levels in his first full season, finishing up at Double-A Montgomery. He appeared in 24 games, 22 of them starts, and posted an 11-6 record, 3.36 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, .223 batting average against, and 154/45 K/BB rate over 120.2 innings.
New York Yankees
RHP Clarke Schmidt (No. 2) took a hit to his draft stock when he had Tommy John surgery just a month before the 2017 Draft, but the Yankees still took him with the 17th overall pick, banking on his potential. He made a full recovery and helped the Trenton Thunder to a win in the Double-A Eastern League championship game last season, starting three games and holding a 2-0 record and 2.37 ERA. He struck out 19 and walked one following his call-up to Double-A Trenton in mid-August. He could certainly give the Yankees a backend of the rotation or long relief option this season, especially with Luis Severino out for the season and Domingo German not able to pitch in the regular season given his suspension is 63 games.
RHP Deivi Garcia (No. 3) was signed by the Yankees for $200,000 in 2015 as one of the premiere Dominican prospects. He reached Double-A at age 19 at the end of 2018 and was pretty dominant between Class A Advanced Tampa and Trenton last season, which got him a callup to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. He struggled, however, when he got up to Scranton as he held a 5.40 ERA in 11 appearances (6 GS). He did strikeout 13.3 batters per nine which would have been second in the minors had he not fallen short of qualifying. His command was off though as his walk rate jumped from 2.4 per nine innings to 4.4 per nine innings. Garcia could be a solid high-leverage relief option for the Yankees this season as he may not be ready to push a starting spot.
OF Estevan Florial (No. 9) was once hyped up as one of the Yankees’ top 3 prospects after they signed him in March 2015 for $200,000 but injuries and bad discipline at the plate have caused the hype to be quickly diminished. He should still be an interesting guy to watch in camp as we see what he can do against big-league caliber pitching and if he can work on lessening his aggressive approach that garnered an eight percent walk and 33 percent strikeout rate in an injury-shortened 2019.
RHP Albert Abreu (No. 11) was signed by the Astros for $185,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, and was then traded, along with Jorge Guzman, to the Yankees in 2016 for Brian McCann. Guzman later became part of the Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton deal, while Abreu has showcased perhaps the best all-around stuff in New York’s system. But he has worked just 222 2/3 innings in his first three seasons with the Yankees while dealing with shoulder, elbow, and biceps issues. He had good command last year for Trenton (91/53 K/BB rate) in 23 games (20 GS) over 96.2 innings. Abreu could potentially get a shot at stepping in this year in a bullpen role, where his ceiling is higher anyway.
RHP Michael King (No. 20) was drafted in the 12th round of the 2016 Draft and he ranked second in the Minors in ERA (1.79) and third in WHIP (0.91) in his first year in the Yankees’ system. He suffered a stress reaction in his elbow which derailed his season until July last season, but he recovered and pitched two scoreless innings with the big club as a September Call-up.
The next breakdown of the best prospects in teams’ player pools is the AL Central.