MLB Prospects are heavily valued in the game of baseball today and many fans know more about their teams prospects than some big league players. Today, many teams would rather build their roster with internal options instead of make a trade. That is what has caused there to be such a lull in the trade market this offseason.
As a result, there will be a lot of front office executives and fans alike paying attention to how a prospect is progressing throughout the coming season. Some of those prospects might open up the season on their big league team’s roster. Meanwhile, others might get called up at various points throughout the season.
With the emphasis being placed on prospects, it’s important to identify which ones to keep an eye on. As such, today is the first installment of a series known as “MLB Prospects to Watch 2020.” The goal of the series is to identify one prospect for each team to keep an eye on this year. Today’s focus is on the American League East.
The Baltimore Orioles are going to be in a clear state of rebuild once again this season. Therefore, the focus is going to be on continuing to build up the minor league system. Orioles fans might experience plenty of frustration watching the big league team, but should see some promise down on the farm.
In the bigger picture, the Baltimore Orioles are still probably four or five years away from being a serious contender in the American League East. If Baltimore plays it right, they could very well be on their way to building a perennial contender.
1B Ryan Mountcastle
With that being said, one prospect to watch for the Orioles is first baseman Ryan Mountcastle. Mountcastle currently ranks fourth on the Orioles Top-30 Prospects list and has a very bright future. There is going to be a challenge to get Mountcastle on the Orioles big league roster considering Chris Davis occupying first base.
However, once he does get a permanent 26-man roster spot, Mountcastle should be an excellent player. He rates extremely well from a power standpoint and has serviceable defensive skills at first as well. That being said, he ranks as a better offensive prospect than defensive with a 55/80 grade for his hit tool.
One thing to watch with Mountcastle is his ability to generate backspin on the baseball and hit to every part of the field. Scouts note that Mountcastle has shown some serious power potential with his bat thus far. If he is able to refine his swing mechanics even more, he could become an even bigger threat.
Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox are looking to rebound from a mediocre 2019 regular season, where their win total dropped to 84 from 108 in 2018. Now, the team is under the watchful eye of new Chief Baseball Officer, Chaim Bloom. Bloom was hired away from the division rival, Tampa Bay Rays, during October of last year.
With Bloom in the fold now, the Red Sox have said they are committed to building a competitive and sustainable organization for the foreseeable future. Bloom always exercised that during his tenure in Tampa Bay and there’s no reason to think that changes now.
1B/3B Bobby Dalbec
Now that Mitch Moreland has hit free agency, the Boston Red Sox have a clear need for an everyday first baseman. To this point, Chaim Bloom & Company haven’t been connected to a first baseman in free agency or the trade market. Therefore, the team could very well be counting on their second overall prospect, Bobby Dalbec.
Coming up through the farm system, Dalbec primarily was used at third base, but with Rafael Devers there, the organization transitioned him to first. Scouts note that Dalbec has a very strong arm and good range to make important plays. For the Red Sox, that is going to be important as they look to develop a defense-first infield.
A potential concern regarding Dalbec is his ability to make contact at the plate. Last season, Dalbec had a 32% strikeout percentage. Therefore, he will need to work on his swing path through the strike zone. However, Dalbec is very knowledge about launch angle metrics and that is going to be the fun part to watch about his game.
New York Yankees
Among the teams in the American League East, the New York Yankees made the biggest splash of them all. The Yankees made that splash when they signed free agent starting pitcher, Gerrit Cole. Cole and the Yankees agreed to a record-breaking nine-year, $324 million dollar during the Winter Meetings.
Looking at their overall roster, there isn’t one glaring hole or position of need for the Yankees. General Manager Brian Cashman has done an excellent job of assembling his 26-man roster and giving the Yankees the chance to win over 100 games again in 2020.
RHP Deivi Garcia
The Yankees prospect to watch this coming season is their first overall prospect, right-handed pitcher Deivi Garcia. With Garcia, there are still some question marks about what his future ultimately holds. Some scouts believe he is better suited as a starting pitcher, while others view him as a late-inning reliever.
Either way, scouts agree that Garcia has a very high-ceiling and the mechanics to be successful in the big leagues. Garcia is known most for his curveball which rates at a 65 on the scouting scale and one that leads to many strikeouts. The most notable feature of his curveball is the spin that it takes on as it travels towards home plate.
Given his size and overall stature, Garcia might need to work on his overall delivery, but to this point it has been effective. However, given the advanced level of the big leagues, some pitchers sometimes need to address their delivery. Garcia very well could fall into that category, but has the stuff to be a tremendous pitcher in the majors.
Tampa Bay Rays
Every season, the Tampa Bay Rays go into the year with virtually no one viewing them as a serious postseason contender. A lot of that is due to the division that the Rays play in. However, every season, Tampa Bay finds a way to prove everyone wrong and greatly exceed expectations.
One big reason why the Rays have been so successful is because of their farm system. Tampa Bay is continually looking for ways to add depth to the farm system with high-ceiling, impact prospects. As with any team, the organization doesn’t hit on every prospect, but it is all part of the strategy to help the franchise be as competitive as possible.
2B/SS Vidal Brujan
Among the Rays most impactful prospects is second baseman and shortstop, Vidal Brujan. Brujan has a very high ceiling and many scouts believe that in the future he will be an impactful leadoff hitter in the Rays lineup. Among the 30 prospects in the Rays system, Brujan ranks as the third best.
When it comes to overall defense at second base, Brujan rates primarily above the league average. Scouts note that his throwing mechanics could use some work, but the other parts of his game make up for that. Overall, his offensive instincts are very good considering that he is only 21. Scouts note that he does a great job of seeing pitches and making a high amount of hard contact from both sides.
Given that Brujan profiles as a future leadoff guy, he exhibits a lot of speed too. On the scouting scale, Brujan rates as a 70 in the speed category. Last season alone between High-A Ball and Double A, Brujan recorded 48 stolen bases in 61 attempts. That speed could be very enticing for the Rays as soon as this coming season.
Toronto Blue Jays
When you look at the Toronto Blue Jays, the team has done a terrific job of establishing a core group of impact position players. As an organization, the downfall comes in the pitching department. That’s why the team brought in free agent starting pitcher, Hyun-Jin Ryu this offseason. Toronto and Ryu agreed to a four-year, $80 million dollar deal in December.
Given the downfall in the pitching department and lack of impact depth, a lot of focus will be on trying to address that area this season. However, there are a few notable pitching prospects coming up the pipeline for the Blue Jays, as soon as this season. With that being said, every team can always afford to add pitching depth and that is the case with the Toronto Blue Jays.
RHP Nate Pearson
Among the list of the Top 30 Prospects for the Blue Jays, right-hander Nate Pearson has the highest chance of making an impact in the majors sooner than later. In fact, some within the Blue Jays system, believe that Pearson has the stuff to be a front-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.
In the past, Pearson has dealt with some health concerns that have limited his development. However, when he is fully healthy, Pearson throws all four of his pitches well, but the fastball is the one that rates the highest. Previously, Pearson has been able to throw his fastball above 100 miles per hour.
If there was one thing that Pearson should address, it would be his overall control. Scouts believe that Pearson has enough athleticism to address those concerns with more time in the big leagues. Although, towards the start of last season, Pearson rated 45 overall on the scouting scale in the command category.
In the end, the American League East is likely going to be a top-heavy division once again this coming season. The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays should all be in position to contend. On the other side, the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles will still be focused on building for the future.
Regardless, there are some impact prospects in each of the five teams’ farm systems who could make an impact as soon as Opening Day. Spring Training will be the time for some of those prospects to make the case for that to happen. For others, they might have to wait until later into the season for their big league opportunity.
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