Updated: Feb 12, 2020
Every year we witness the emergence of a star. In 2019, Yordan Alvarez and Pete Alonso came out belting massive homers, while Mike Soroka pitched to one of the best ERAs in baseball. All in all, it made for one of the more exciting MLB seasons for rookies in recent years. Well, let’s pump the brakes folks, because in 2020, rookies are going to set the bar even higher. In addition to listing my top ten true rookies to target this year, I will provide each one with a similar MLB comparison, to provide you all with a better understanding of each player’s upside. Let’s get to it!
(1) Luis Robert CF: ADP 107.96 per NFBC
Arguably the most electrifying rookie in the MLB, Luis Robert is ready to show out from day one in 2020. To kick off the New Year, Robert and the White Sox agreed to a $50 million, six-year contract, with club options in 2026 and 2027, meaning Robert could make closer to $90 million, per USA Today. This contract cements his standing as a starter for Opening Day and his draft day presence has never loomed larger; the hype is warranted.
In November 2016, Robert defected from Cuba for a chance to play in the MLB. Then, on May 27th, 2017, Robert signed a contract with the White Sox; fast forward to today, and he is on his way to finally making his MLB debut on Opening Day 2020. As a whole, Robert is a special player who has demonstrated the rare upside of hitting 30 homer runs and stealing 30 bases in a single season at the Major League level
Specifically, in 2019, between the impressive in-season promotions from High A, to AA, then finally to AAA, Robert had a cumulative line of .355/108/32/92/36 in 503 at bats and 551 plate appearances. Folks, that's a MVP-esque stat line. Of course factors such as hitting against High A pitching inflate his counting stats, but in nine fewer games in AAA than the 56 he played in AA, he hit eight more homers, highlighting his remarkable in-season power growth. In all, Luis Robert has the skill set and the power to be great. Subpar career rates of 23.5% K and 5.1% BB may result in a growth period, but once he clicks at the plate, the sky is the limit.
MLB Comparison: Ronald Acuña Jr.
(2) Brendan McKay SP,RP : ADP 255.91 per NFBC
Surprisingly, Brendan McKay did not lose rookie eligibility last season, missing the cut of sophomore status by just one inning pitched. Nonetheless, the former two-way prospect has honed in specifically on his pitching skills as of late after initially getting recognition for his ability to pitch and impress at the plate. To be specific, in his senior year at Blackhawk High School in Chippewa, Pennsylvania, McKay had a 721/3 innings pitched scoreless streak. High school-pitching excuses aside, it is an impressive feat no matter where one does it at. During those innings, he had an immaculate 0.56 ERA with 130 strikeouts. It was then at the University of Louisville where he gained praise for his two-way ability. In his sophomore season, he pitched to a 1.77 ERA and struck out 177 guys in 20 games, while also chipping in four saves. At the plate, he hit .308/.418/.431 with four home runs and 34 runs batted in in 61 games as a first baseman. Fast-forward to 2017 and McKay was selected fourth overall by the Rays in the 2017 MLB Draft.
Prior to his promotion to the Show on June 29th 2019, McKay was virtually lights out in AA and AAA. Between both stops, he pitched to a 1.07 ERA in 73.2 innings pitched. Moreover, he earned a 102:18 K:BB with a 44.6% ground ball rate, a 36.3% K and a minuscule 6.6% BB. He was flat out dominant. However, as expected, the success and good fortune did not continue at the same levels in his first taste of Major League experience. In 49 innings pitched, he mustered a 5.14 ERA, but a 4.38 xFIP and a 4.17 SIERA, so aside from the natural adjustment period, McKay also had to deal with a tad bit of bad luck.
This is further indicated by his 64% left on base rate and his batting average on balls put into play against him was a whopping .331. As a whole, McKay is a pitcher who understands how to command all his pitches on both sides of the plate, with his curveball and cutter being plus-pitches and his changeup developing into a true weapon. Expect McKay to be in the rotation from day one and ride with the opportunity, he possess the skills to have a truly special career. He's a bargain at his current ADP.
MLB Comparison: Zack Greinke (More so the Royals/Dodgers version)
(3) Jesús Luzardo SP: ADP 124.92 per NFBC
Jesús Luzardo was on his way to being a high draft pick in 2016 before he tore his ucl and promptly underwent Tommy John surgery. Regardless, Luzardo was still drafted in the third round of the 2016 MLB draft by the Nationals. In 2017, he was traded to the Athletics in a package deal, and they knew they had a talented arm now in their control.
Luzardo offers three plus pitches, a fastball, changeup and curveball. In his senior year of high school, Luzardo saw his fastball hit the upper 90s, only to succumb to surgery months later. Thankfully several years later, his velocity is better than ever, with his fastball being able to touch 98 mph. Beyond that, his changeup is a sinking, fading pitch that can fool the best of hitters and his curveball is a great strikeout pitch. As a whole, Luzardo understands how to take control on the mound and over the plate, with his command skills being MLB-ready. He should be on the Opening Day roster for the Athletics and should also be one of, if not the first rookie name you're targeting in drafts.
MLB Comparison: Mike Clevinger
(4) Jo Adell RF: ADP 201.34 per NFBC
The two-way phenom in college, Jo Adell has been on everyone's radars ever since his immaculate junior season at the University of Louisville. He hit .449 with 11 home runs and 44 RBI that season, and also pitched to a 1.55 ERA with 56 strikeouts. Then in 2017, the Angels selected him 10th overall in the draft, kicking off the final steps of his MLB journey.
Adell possesses elite five-tool potential with his hit, power, run, arm and field grades all being above 50, with an overall grade of 65. In 222 plate appearances in 2017, Adell had a cumulative line of .332/43/5/30/8, showcasing the talent everyone wanted to see. Moreover, throughout his career, it is easy to look at his high K percentages and question his upside. However, the fact that he has yet to play more than 60 games in any one stage of his professional career helps solidify the conclusion that Adell simply has yet to have a time period where he can get comfortable and work on his skills without interruption from unforeseen circumstances, such as injuries.
To be specific, in 2018, Adell suffered from multiple trips to the now injured list. Then last season, he suffered a sprained ankle and strained hamstring that costed him the beginning of the season, before making his 2019 debut in High A on May 24th. Yet his still finished the season with a cumulative .284/54/10/36/7 line, with a .489 SLG and .372 wOBA. Going into 2020, Adell will need to learn how to limit strikeouts, and once he does, we'll begin to see true glimpses of his upside at the highest level. With the Angels' acquisitions of Anthony Rendon, Julio Teheran, and Dylan Bundy this offseason, the Angels are saying that want to win now, and Adell should be a big part of that this year and beyond.
MLB Comparison: Tommy Pham
(5) Gavin Lux 2B,SS: ADP 162.02 per NFBC
Drafted 20th overall in the 2016 MLB Draft, Gavin Lux's potential has been recognized since day one. He hit .560 in his senior year at Indian Trail High School and Academy in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In his first professional season in rookie ball, Lux struggled to find his power stroke, failing to homer in his first 253 plate appearances. That changed in 2017 where in High A, he hit seven home runs in 501 plate appearances, adding in a whopping 27 stolen bases. It was then the baseball community began to see the upside of Lux come to reality at a higher level. Then in 2019, between AA and AAA, he hit .353/99/26/76/10 in just 523 plate appearances. This impressive run essentially forced the Dodgers' hand to call Lux up in September of 2019 and in a modest 82 plate appearances he hit .240 with two home runs, 4 doubles and he chipped in two stolen bases.
Lux has legitimate 25-25 upside, as his power has greatly developed and his speed has always been apart of his game. Additionally, he is an advanced hitter who understands how to control his strike zone, using his good bat speed and his understanding of how to elevate the ball with power. The Dodgers have a plethora of position player options, therefore Lux may lose a handful of at-bats to begin the season. However, in time, Lux will be gifted the starting 2nd base job and he won't look back.
MLB Comparison: Ozzie Albies
(6) Mauricio Dubón 2B,SS ADP: 350.02 per NFBC
The prized acquisition in the mid-season trade between the Brewers and Giants, which saw Drew Pomeranz and Ray Black head to Milwaukee, Mauricio Dubón is ready to roll from the jump. Originally, Dubón grew up in Honduras but moved to Sacramento, California and attended Capital Christian High School. There, between his junior and senior years, he hit .509 with 23 doubles, 14 triples, eight home runs and 81 runs batted-in. Between his offensive accomplishments and his stellar defense, Dubón had caught the attention of the baseball community. As a result, he was drafted in the 26th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. After that, Dubón has had trouble finding a suitable home for himself. From 2013 to now, Dubón has found himself in the Red Sox, Brewers and now Giants system, with him making his MLB debut for the Brewers. It is not often you see a 25 year old rookie infielder, but with all the experience he has under his belt, 2,724 career plate appearances, he couldn't be more prepared for a starting job.
As a player, Dubón's most recognized skills are primarily his contact ability, his speed and his ability to limit strikeouts, enter more hits. Unfortunately, not many of these hits go for extra bases, with Dubón having just 50 career homers, or in other words, he has homered in just 1.8% of his career at-bats, yikes. Furthermore, his career BB% of 5.8% leaves much to be desired, specifically being patient enough to find the pitch to hit on the barrel, and lacing it to Triples Alley at Oracle Park. Now, despite all my "smack talk" on Dubón's power, in 650 total plate appearances last year, Dubón hit 24 of his 50 career home runs. Meaning in his other 2074 at-bats, he only hit 26 home runs, speaking volumes to his power growth and growth as a player over the past year. His total line of .298/94/24/65/13 from last year was rock solid, and at his current ADP, he needs to be targeted everywhere. This is no ordinary rookie, this is a smart player who has an abundance of experience, has great contact skills, good speed, developing power, solid durability, and of course, a good amount of anticipated playing time in San Fransisco.
MLB Comparison: Marcus Semien
(7) Dustin May SP ADP: 248.15 per NFBC
The man with arguably the best hair in baseball, Dustin May is ready to go with the flow in 2020. May was drafted in the third round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. That same year, May put up a 3.86 ERA and a 2.92 xFIP with a 34:4 K:BB in only 30.1 innings pitched in rookie ball. Now at that point, the Dodgers knew they had a promising arm in their control. Then in 2019, between AA and AAA, May earned a 3.02 ERA, a 55.3% ground ball rate, and a 110:29 K:BB in 106.2 innings pitched. This excellent play prompted his promotion to the Show on August 2nd, 2019.
Pitching in relief for the majority of the final two months, May earned a 3.63 ERA and a 3.79 SIERA with a 32:5 K:BB in 34.2 innings pitched. An eerily similar overall line to his first season in rookie ball. Furthermore, between every stop since 2016, May has never finished a season with an ERA over 3.88, highlighting May's keen ability to limit damage, primarily through his ability to create grounds balls. Moreover, ever since his promotion to High A in 2017, May has never allowed a FB% higher than 27.3% in a season, an impressive stat. As a whole, Dustin May understands how to pitch effectively no matter when he is put on the mound emphasizing his raw pitching ability.
May's pitching arsenal contains a fastball, changeup, curveball and cutter. Beyond this, just recently May has implemented the use of a two-seam fastball instead of a four-seam, and this has resulted in a tick in velocity, with his two-seamer touching 97 mph. In addition, this two-seamer has great sink and run to it, which is a huge reason why May has become proficient at inducing ground balls. Furthermore, his fastball, along with his curveball, have some of the highest spin rates in baseball, another reason he so effectively puts away hitters. Going into 2020, the Dodgers do have an abundance of rotation options. However, expect to see May earn the job in time and finish the season in the National League rookie of the year conversation.
MLB Comparison: Sonny Gray
(8) MacKenzie Gore SP: ADP 320.17 per NFBC
One of the most coveted prospects in baseball, MacKenzie Gore is looking to make an impact in 2020, if the Padres give him a chance. Fortunately, the chances are higher in this Padres system due to their tendency of promoting prospects earlier than most teams do. In short, they're emphasizing the importance of having Major League experience early in their player's careers and Gore is exactly the type of arm you want to get stretched out early. Previously, Gore attended Whiteville High School in Whiteville, North Carolina. In his junior year, he pitched to a stunning 0.08 ERA with 174 strikeouts in just 88.1 innings pitched, throwing in a 18-strikeout no hitter. The very next year, he pitched to a 0.19 ERA with an unreal 158:5 K:BB in 74.1 dominant innings. Then in 2017, he was the third overall selection in the MLB Draft.
Gore has phenomenal, award-winning upside. For his professional career, between rookie ball and AA, Gore has a 2.72 ERA, 3.06 xFIP and a 243:53 K:BB in 183 total innings pitched. In regards to his arsenal, he possesses a fastball that sits 93-95 with late movement and can touch 96 mph, his curveball is a true plus pitch, while his slider and changeup are effective with plus upside, but are still developing. Heading into the season, there is no real guarantee we will see MacKenzie Gore right away but we should anticipate an early season call-up; the baseball world will be waiting.
MLB Comparison: Jack Flaherty
(9) Nate Pearson SP: ADP 363.60 per NFBC
The flamethrower himself, Nate Pearson is primed to put a face on Blue Jays pitching. At 6-foot-6, Pearson has an imposing figure, one that makes him the center of attention whenever he is on the mound. At Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School in Spring Hill, Florida, Pearson had a 1.75 ERA and 117 strikeouts in his senior year, tacking on a .318 batting average with nine home runs and 30 runs batted in. As a result of his success and upside, the Blue Jays chose him with the 28th overall selection in the 2017 MLB Draft. Then, in his first professional season, Pearson flourished, pitching to a 0.90 ERA and a 26:5 K:BB in 20 innings between one inning in rookie ball and Low A. The stars were aligned for Pearson going forward until he was struck with multiple injuries in his 2018 season, including an oblique injury and then a broken ulna that ultimately ended his season, pitching in just 1.2 innings that year. However, last season, between High A, AA, and AAA, Pearson bounced back in a big way. In 101.2 total innings pitched, he earned a 2.15 ERA, a 2.88 xFIP, and a 119:27 K:BB, showcasing his front-of-the-rotation
In his arsenal, Pearson possesses a devastating fastball; one that can touch 104 mph with filthy rising action. Beyond that, his slider sits in the upper 80s with powerful late bite to it, with a developing curveball and changeup. Additionally, what allows Pearson to be so dangerous on the mound is his tall figure working with his overpowering fastball. Batters then sit on the fastball only to be fooled be a hard slider or a quick hook from the curve. Pearson's skill set and overall mound presence will allow him to be dominant on the mound for years to come, if his health permits. In all, due to his quick ascent through the minor leagues and his tantalizing upside, expect Pearson to be up and throwing fireballs early and often in 2020 for the Blue Jays.
MLB Comparison: Jacob Degrom
(10) Nick Madrigal 2B,SS: ADP 276.09 per NFBC
The long-awaited infield hero in Chicago, Nick Madrigal is poised to make his mark in 2020. Earlier in his career, Madrigal attended Elk Grove High School in Elk Grove, California. In his senior season, he hit .449 with 28 stolen bases. Then, in his junior year at Oregon State University, he had a line of .367/.428/.511 with three home runs and 34 runs batted in, in just 42 games. Deservedly so, he was then selected fourth overall by the White Sox in the 2018 MLB Draft.
In just two calendar years, Madrigal has advanced from rookie ball all the way to AAA, missing just Low A. That alone speaks volume toward his talent, and for good reason. Madrigal has a career K% of 2.3%. Yes, 2.3%. No I didn't accidentally write his barrel%, he is just that skilled at recognizing pitches and understanding his strike zone. More than that, he did not strikeout in his first 66 career plate appearances. Seemingly, patience is a virtue Madrigal was emphasized early in his career.
To add on to his lovely collection of stats, Madrigal has a career BB% of 6.3%, 4% higher than his career K%. He also has plenty of speed with 43 career stolen bases. Now, Madrigal is still learning to hit for power as he has just four career home runs in 705 career plate appearances, but that is quite literally the only hole in his offensive profile. As he continues to gain experience, more and more doubles will turn into home runs as Madrigal grows over the years. For 2020, Madrigal should be in the lineup for the White Sox to start the season and will begin what should be an illustrious career.
MLB Comparison: José Altuve
In this Fantasy Baseball article, I discussed the top ten true rookies heading into the 2020 season. How accurate would you say my comparisons were? What would you guys like to read about next? Let us know!
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Thank you for reading everyone! Rookies are going to be a blast to follow this year and I am honored to help you all gain more knowledge about them. Have a blessed day everyone!
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Written By: Micah S. Henry
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