Major League Baseball opened up camps for summer camp just a few days ago and teams submitted their initial 60-man player pools just over a week ago. 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 Royals’ top prospect Bobby Witt Jr., 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, continuing with the AL Central. The rank of each player in the team’s prospect rankings is in parentheses.
RHP Casey Mize (No. 1) was the number one overall pick by the Tigers in 2018 after he went undrafted out of high school. He made six impressive starts at Class A Advanced Lakeland in his first full pro season before getting the call to Double-A Erie. He made his presence known immediately as he pitched a no-hitter in his debut on April 29. Unfortunately, health is a big concern with Mize, as he was shutdown in August last year after feeling right shoulder discomfort since mid-June. He did get back healthy to pitch in Spring Training, where he pitched four innings over three appearances while surrendering two runs, three hits, two walks, and striking out six. He should get a chance to get some innings for Detroit this year.
RHP Matt Manning (No. 3) was a two-sport star in high school, playing basketball in addition to baseball and the Tigers took him with the ninth overall pick in the 2016 Draft. He impressed over his last two pro seasons while developing quickly and moving fast through the minor league system. He led all Tigers farmhands in strikeouts with 154 and climbed from Class A West Michigan to Double-A Erie as a 20-year-old in 2018, Manning returned to Erie last season where he earned the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year award after finishing second in the league in WHIP (0.98) and strikeouts (148), and third in ERA (2.56). He was selected to his second straight SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.
OF Riley Greene (No. 4) is unlikely to make his debut this season after being the Tigers first-round pick at fifth overall last year, but is still an interesting player to watch in camp. He won the Gatorade Player of the Year Award in Florida as a Hagerty HS (FL) senior, batting .422 with eight homers and climbed three levels to finish the season at Class A West Michigan in his pro debut with the Tigers. He slashed .271/.347/.403 with five homers and 28 RBIs overall and he received an invite to Spring Training where he hit .417 and two homers.
LHP Tarik Skubal (No. 5) was selected by the Tigers in the ninth round of the 2018 Draft out of Seattle University when his untapped potential intrigued Detroit. He emerged as one of the Minor League’s most dominant pitchers in his first full pro season and finished up at Double-A Erie. He recorded 82 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings after being promoted to Erie — recording double-digit strikeouts in seven of his final nine regular-season starts — and finished third in the Minors in strikeouts (179) and strikeouts-per-nine (13.13).
3B/SS Isaac Paredes (No. 6) was signed out of Mexico by the Cubs for $500,000 in 2015 and in the middle of his first pro season in 2017, the Cubs traded him to Detroit for Justin Wilson and Alex Avila. He has had a pretty solid development since then and pitched a full season at Double-A Erie last season. In 127 games in 2019, the infielder slashed .282/.368/.416 with 13 homers, 66 RBI, and 61/57 K/B ratio.
Kansas City Royals
SS Bobby Witt Jr. (No. 1) was the number two overall pick by the Royals in the 2019 Draft and made his pro debut in the rookie-level Arizona League. In 37 games, he slashed .262/.317/.354 with 27 RBI and nine stolen bases. He probably won’t make his debut this season, but will be an interesting guy to watch.
RHP Brady Singer (No. 3) fell to the Royals at the 18th overall pick in the 2018 Draft after being the second ranked pitcher going in out of the University of Florida. He made his pro debut last year and made his way up to Double-A Northwest Arkansas and pitched to a 12-5 record, 2.85 ERA, 1.187 WHIP, and 138/39 K/BB rate over 148.1 innings in 26 starts between there and Class A Advanced Wilmington.
RHP Jackson Kower (No. 4) became the second right-hander out of Florida to be taken by the Royals in 2018, as they drafted him with the 33rd overall pick. He also made his way up to Double-A like Singer, in the middle of his first full pro season. Between three levels from 2018 and 2019, Kower held a 7-11 record, 3.50 ERA, 1.231 WHIP, 166/55 K/BB over 174.2 innings in 35 starts.
LHP Daniel Lynch (No. 5) was taken a pick after Kower and the third of a total of eight college pitchers the Royals selected within the first six rounds of the 2018 Draft. He was garnered by many as a potential fast riser through the minors and was pitching well for Class A Advanced Wilmington before suffering minor arm issues in June which sidelined him seven weeks. He returned in late July and overall for Wilmington he pitched to a 5-2 record, 3.10 ERA, 1.264 WHIP, and a 77/23 K/BB rate over 96.1 innings in 20 starts. He continued his success in the Arizona Fall League and was also solid in three appearances this Spring.
Chicago White Sox
OF Luis Robert (No. 1) was signed as an international free agent for a $26 million bonus by the White Sox in 2017. Prior to a monster 2019 season where he moved up three levels in the minors, the White Sox signed Robert to a six-year $50 million contract before he even made his major league debut. He became the Minor Leagues’ youngest 30-30 player since 1999, led them with 314 total bases, and posted the first 30-30-300 season since Jose Cardenal in 1961. He will make his debut this season and is the favorite to be awarded the Rookie of the Year for the AL.
1B Andrew Vaughn (No. 2) was taken by the White Sox with the third overall selection in the 2019 Draft after being one of the best college hitters over his three years at California. He signed a franchise Draft record $7,221,200 and advanced to Class A Advanced Winston-Salem during his pro debut. In 55 games over three levels, the corner bat hit .278/.384/.449 with six homers, 36 RBI, and a 38/30 K/BB rate in 245 plate appearances.
RHP Michael Kopech (No. 3) was the 33rd overall pick in the 2014 Draft by the Red Sox and was a centerpiece along with Yoan Moncada in the trade that sent Chris Sale to the Red Sox. He was in the top tier of the Minor League strikeout leaderboard in each of his first two seasons with the Red Sox. He allowed just one run in his first three big league starts, but got rocked and a saw a decrease in velocity in the fourth one, after which he had Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2019.
2B Nick Madrigal (No. 4) was taken fourth overall by the White Sox in the 2018 Draft after he was one of the top overall hitters in college at Oregon State while leading them to a 56-6 record as a sophomore in 2017 and to a College World Series championship. In his first full season, the middle infielder hit .311 and led the Minors strikeout rate at three percent (less than top overall prospect Wander Franco‘s seven percent) while ending up at Triple-A Charlotte.
3B Nolan Jones (No. 1) was drafted in the second round of the 2016 Draft by the Indians and he has produced at every level in the minors. He reached Double-A Akron last season at age 21 after starting out at Class A Advanced Lynchburg. He led the Minors with 96 walks and was selected to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. Overall in 2019, Jones slashed .272/.409/.442 with 15 homers, 63 RBI, 81 runs, and seven stolen bases, after which he was selected to play in the Arizona Fall League.
SS Tyler Freeman (No. 2) looked all but certain to be headed to TCU in 2017, but the Indians drafted him in the supplemental second round in the Draft and he was signed for $816,500. In his first full pro season in 2018, he led the short-season New York-Penn League in hitting (.352), slugging (.511), OPS (.916), runs (49), hits (95), doubles (29), extra-base hits (35) and total bases (138) and continued to produce in full-season ball last season between two Class-A levels, hitting .306/.368/.410.
C Bo Naylor (No. 3) was the 29th overall pick to the Indians in the 2018 Draft and his bat is superior to his defense behind the plate, although his defense has been better than expected. He is one of the quicker catches and he led the low Class A Midwest League with 10 triples in 2019. Naylor threw out 37 percent of baserunners but his mechanics need work if he is going to stick at catcher full time.
LHP Logan Allen (No. 11) has been moved around twice already since being drafted in the eighth-round of the 2015 Draft by the Red Sox. Five months after Boston selected him, they sent him to the Padres as part of the Craig Kimbrel trade, then San Diego sent him to Cleveland in a three-team trade with the Reds as part of the Trevor Bauer trade at last year’s trade deadline. Allen struggled when he went over to Cleveland’s Triple-A Columbus, as he gave up 19 earned runs in just 22.1 innings.
SS Royce Lewis (No. 1) has so far lived up to large expectations after being drafted by the Twins number one overall in the 2017 Draft. He reached Double-A at age 20 and represented Minnesota at the All-Star Futures Game. In the Arizona Fall League last year, Lewis slashed .353/.411/.565 in 22 games.
OF/3B Alex Kirilloff (No. 2) was taken by the Twins with the 15th overall pick in the 2016 Draft and since he has struggled through injuries. He had Tommy John surgery which cost him all of the 2017 season and wrist issues left him out for most of 2019 after after a healthy campaign in 2018. Even with this, he is still regarded as on of the Minor League’s best hitters while he hit .348/.392/.578 with 20 homers and 101 RBI over two levels in 2018.
LHP Lewis Thorpe (No. 10) was signed way back in 2012 out of Australia and reached full-season ball in 2014. But because of elbow issues, he was shutdown that season and needed Tommy John surgery which made him miss all of 2015. Then a case of mono during rehab kept him out of 2016 too, and since he has been working his way back, collecting over 100 innings each of the last two seasons. He pitched in the 2018 Futures Game and has struck out almost 30 percent of batters.