American League Central Prospects to Watch
The next part of the “MLB Prospects to Watch 2020” series will be focused on the American League Central. The American League Central has been one of the weaker divisions in baseball the past few seasons. However, the division is in a time of transition and it will be interesting to see how things shake out this coming year.
For example, the Chicago White Sox added a lot of veterans to their team this offseason. When you combine those veterans with the young prospects the team possesses, it could equal a playoff caliber season. Meanwhile, both the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians will likely contend for the American League Central crown. On the other end of the spectrum, both the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers will still be in a rebuild.
Regardless, the American League Central is like every other division, in that prospects are vital. Without a solid prospect base, teams would not be able to sustain competitiveness and the scales would certainly tip in the other direction. Without further a due, here is one prospect to watch for all five American League Central teams this season.
Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox will be heading into the 2020 regular season with high expectations. Depending on how the major league team performs, those expectations could turn into a postseason appearance. If that were to happen, it would be the first time since 2008 that Chicago clinched a playoff berth.
The 2020 season should be the start of a new competitive period for the Chicago White Sox. If the organization’s prospect base meets expectations, it could be a window that very well lasts 4-6 years. In that time, the Chicago White Sox will attempt to bring another World Series Championship back to the Southside, for the first time since 2005.
OF Luis Robert
The prospect to watch for the Chicago White Sox is their number one overall prospect, outfielder Luis Robert. Robert has a very high ceiling and the White Sox expect him to be a very impactful player at the big league level potentially as soon as this season. Due to service time issues, it is unlikely that Robert will break camp with the big league team, but his callup could very well happen come May.
The two most distinguishable qualities about Luis Robert include his ability to hit for power and the amount of speed that he displays. On the scouting scale, Robert received a score of 60 in the power category. Meanwhile, when it came to running and speed, Robert got a score of 65. Those are very good numbers for a budding star that is just waiting to take off at the ripe young age of 22.
Scouts note that while Robert has struggled somewhat with learning centerfield, he should continue to take steps forward with more experience. Ultimately, if Chicago needs to move him to a corner outfield spot, it shouldn’t be a problem. If that does indeed happen, scouts believe right field would suit Robert perfectly.
Looking ahead to the coming season, the Cleveland Indians will have their eyes set on capturing the American League Central crown again. Although the window has closed somewhat, Cleveland still has a very competitive team. The main quality to like about the Indians is their starting pitching and the depth it has.
However, the Indians don’t have as strong of a farm system as they did a few years ago. Since Cleveland is near the end of it’s current window, some of that prospect capital was used over the past few seasons in trades. Additionally, some of those prospects are part of the big league roster now as well.
3B Nolan Jones
Of the Cleveland Indians Top 30 Prospects, third baseman Nolan Jones ranks number one. Jones is expected to be a very impactful player for Cleveland moving forward and has a very high ceiling. If the Indians were to call Jones up this coming season, they would have to shift their current infield arrangement.
As it stands right now, Jose Ramirez is Cleveland’s primary third baseman. However, his best position is at second base so Cleveland could utilize Ramirez at second and have Jones over at the hot corner. That would give them quite a talented infield overall. Although, it’s highly unlikely that Jones would be called up prior to the halfway point of the coming season.
Just a few years ago, Jones was a natural shortstop but has since made the transition over to third. Scouts note that Jones does a fabulous job of working counts against every pitcher and striving to hit the ball to every part of the field. Jones has a very patient approach overall and great bat speed. That is why Jones received a score of 55 in the hit category on the scouting scale. If Jones is able to put everything together and live up to expectations, he could hit at least 25 home runs every year.
The Detroit Tigers are likely in for another long season this year. After all, it will be about the third year in the current rebuild and the organization could very well lose between 90 and 100 games again. However, that doesn’t mean that brighter days aren’t ahead of that Detroit will be a competitive team again in 2 or 3 years.
When you look up and down the Detroit Tigers organization, one thing that stands out is the number of intriguing pitching prospects. Detroit has a lot of intriguing names coming up the pipeline and those names will likely make up the core of the next championship Detroit Tigers team.
RHP Casey Mize
Given that the Detroit Tigers possess plenty of intriguing pitching prospects, it is only natural that number one prospect, right-hander Casey Mize is a guy to watch this season. Mize was drafted by Detroit during the first round of the 2018 Amateur Draft and was a highly touted college pitcher. Mize went directly to the draft from Auburn University and signed for $7.5 million dollars.
One of the most intriguing qualities about Mize is his ability to throw all three of his pitches for strikeouts. Mize’s most notable pitch is his splitter which hits the mid-80s and comes along with a lot of deception. On the scouting scale, Mize received a grade of 70 on his splitter. Furthermore, the slider is an important part of Mize pitch repertoire. However, Mize has been able to take his slider and turn it into a devastating cutter in different occasions over the last few years as well.
Looking ahead to the future, Mize has a very good chance of being the next ace for the Detroit Tigers. Mize will likely open this season up at Triple-A, but it probably won’t take long for him to receive his big league callup.
Kansas City Royals
Like the Detroit Tigers, the Kansas City Royals will likely have a rough season this year as well. Kansas City is a little further ahead in its overall rebuild process compared to Detroit, but both teams will be vying for fourth and fifth place this season. For the Royals, a return to the postseason looks possible in two years.
Over the past few years, Kansas City has built up a nice stable of intriguing pitching prospects. Those prospects should eventually make it to the big league team and make their presence felt in a big way.
RHP Brady Singer
Brady Singer currently ranks as the second-best prospect on the Kansas City Royals Top 30 Prospects list. Singer was part of the Florida Gators pitching staff before being drafted and was able to reach the Double-A level during his first full season.
Singer thrives on both his fastball and slider against opposing hitters. In addition, Singer features a four-seamer that usually hits the low-90s but has the ability to reach 95-97 miles per hour as well. Scouts note that Singer does a very good job of incorporating all of his pitches together and giving opposing hitters multiple looks at the plate. That deception could help Singer to anchor the Kansas City Royals starting rotation potentially as early as this coming season.
Another positive quality about Singer that scouts note is his ability to compete at a high level. With the Florida Gators, Singer demonstrated that every time he took the mound. The same should hold true for him during his tenure with the Kanas City Royals big league team.
After winning the American League Central in 2019, the Minnesota Twins have their eyes set on another division crown this year. Minnesota made some upgrades to their pitching staff in free agency this offseason, but the big upgrade came in the signing of third baseman, Josh Donaldson. Donaldson came to terms on a four-year, $92 million dollar contract with the team. The deal also includes a potential fifth-year option at $16 million.
Looking ahead to this season, the offense will likely be the overwhelming quality of the Minnesota Twins. After all, Minnesota led all of baseball last year with 307 home runs which coined them the nickname, “The Bomba Squad.”
RHP Brusdar Graterol
From the outside, the Minnesota Twins might have a weakness in their starting rotation. However, number three prospect, right-hand Brusdar Graterol could very well help the Twins overcome that shortness as soon as this season.
Graterol had Tommy John surgery in 2016, but continues to get better and better with his craft. Graterol has a fastball that reaches triple digits and has a score of 70 on the scouting scale. Scouts note that with the deception of his fastball and his ability to cause alot of swing-and-misses, it often times results in a lot of ground balls. The other three pitches that Graterol possesses in his repertoire include a: mid-80s slider, an average curveball, and a changeup which is a work in progress.
Given that Graterol is still only 21 years old, there is some more work to do with his overall mechanics and stuff. However, he has a very high-ceiling and one that could land him at the top of the Minnesota Twins starting rotation this coming season. If Graterol is able to collectively work on all of his pitches and continues to produce high strikeout rates, then that should happen sooner than later.
In the end, the American League Central might not be the most competitive division in baseball this year. The Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, and Chicago White Sox will likely be the only potential contenders in the division. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of excitement building in every organization’s farm system. Some of those prospects will get a chance to show the baseball world their craft this coming season. Others will have to wait for their big league call up to happen later on.