A couple of weeks ago, we started our look into the top prospects for fantasy in 2020. In case you missed it, click this link to read it. Today we’ll go over which prospects you should keep an eye in fantasy from the NL Central.
NL Central Top Fantasy Prospects
Brewers: Trey Supak
The Brewers made the postseason for the second consecutive season in 2019, but the Brew Crew will have a bit of turnover on their roster come 2020. Particularly when it comes to their rotation, as Chase Anderson, Jhoulys Chacin, Zach Davies and Gio Gonzalez (who started a combined 94 games in 2019) are all gone. The Brewers added Brett Anderson, Eric Lauer and Josh Lindblom to their staff this offseason, but what if one of their starters of struggles? Milwaukee could then look to one of their minor league starters, RHP Trey Supak.
The 11th best prospect in the Brewers farm system according to MLB Pipeline, Supak has three pitches that have received at least above-average future grades (fastball, slider, changeup), and he seemed to start to put it together last season in the Minors In 2019, Supak posted a 2.20 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP across 122.2 innings with Biloxi, while inducing more ground balls and weak contract than he did in the past. Supak was promoted to AAA in July, but got hit hard with San Antonio (9.30 ERA, .325 opponent batting average, 1.67 WHIP in 30 innings). Despite those numbers, there’s a good chance that Supak gets a crack with the Brewers in 2020, especially if he continues to improve in AAA.
However, he may only be worth a look in NL-only formats in 2020. Supak will probably need a bit more time to develop, so he most likely won’t start the season in the Majors. In addition, the righty’s fly-ball tendencies and low strikeout numbers (118 K’s in 152.2 innings across two levels in 2019) are a bit concerning.
Recommendation: Supak will get his first shot in the Majors come 2020, but there’s still a lot of questions surrounding the righty. Players in NL-only formats should probably be the only ones looking at Supak, and even that’s a bit of a stretch.
Cardinals: Dylan Carlson
We talked about Carlson in detail last month, so if you missed that article, click on this link. A former first round pick by the Cardinals in 2016, Dylan Carlson is knocking on the door, and there’s a good chance he makes his MLB debut this season. Across two levels (AA and AAA), Carlson hit 26 home runs and 68 RBI’s, while putting up a .292/.372/.542 slash line. The 21-year old also stole 21 bases last season in the Minors, making him quite the tantalizing fantasy prospect.
Despite those strong numbers, it’s still unclear as to when Carlson will receive his first chance in the Majors. The path to St. Louis was cleared up a little this offseason, as Marcell Ozuna hit free agency, and the Redbirds moved Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena to Tampa Bay. However, he’s only played 18 games above AA in his professional career. That doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot, but the Cardinals may want Carlson to get more time in the Minors before giving him his first shot.
Having said that, you need to keep an eye on Carlson in 2020. The California native’s bat, along with his keen eye and stolen base potential makes him a fine grab in all formats.
Recommendation: Carlson may not start the season with the Cardinals, but he should get time in 2020. He’s worth a stash in all formats.
Cubs: Nico Hoerner
Cubs prospect Nico Hoerner ended his first full season as a pro ballplayer in a big way, becoming the first individual from the 2018 MLB Draft to make to the Majors. But before Hoerner’s electric MLB debut, which included 3 hits, 4 RBI’s and a spectacular play in the field, the top Cubs prospect spent most of 2019 in Tennessee (AA). Hoerner played only 70 games with the Smokies, as he missed two months due to a hairline fracture in his wrist. In AAA, the former first round pick put up a .284/.344/.399 slash line, while hitting 3 home runs and driving in 22 runs. And across 20 games in the Majors, Hoerner put up decent numbers, driving in 17 runs while batting .282.
Heading into 2020, Hoerner is an intriguing fantasy prospect for sure, especially if he gets the starting second base job out of Spring Training. Hoerner played well in his brief stay in 2019, giving him a solid chance that he can crack the Opening Day lineup and become the replacement at second for Addison Russell. However, there is cause for concern regarding Hoerner, at least from a fantasy perspective. The former Stanford infielder has never been known as a power hitter throughout his collegiate and pro career. Hoerner hit just three home runs in his NCAA career, and hit six in 90 games between AA and the Majors last season. Despite Hoerner’s good speed and hitting ability, his limited power potential is a bit concerning for his fantasy prospects.
Recommendation: Hoerner should get a longer look with the Cubs in 2020, but if you’re looking for an infielder with a bit more pop, he may not be a fit for your fantasy team.
Pirates: Mitch Keller
Mitch Keller, like Hoerner, made his MLB debut in 2019, but his time in the Majors didn’t go as planned. Keller made his first start with the Pirates in May, but it didn’t go well. The 23-year old righty gave up seven hits and six runs across four innings against the Reds on May 27. Keller went up and down between Indianapolis (AAA) and Pittsburgh between June and September, and finished 2019 with a 7.13 ERA and a 1.83 WHIP in 48 innings with the Pirates.
Although the 2019 season didn’t go well for the 23-year old, there’s reason to believe this was only a bump in the road. For one, Keller’s last two starts in 2019 were his best starts as a Pirate, as he allowed three runs and struck out 14 in his final 10 innings of last season. Second, Keller’s breaking balls were quite effective in the big leagues, as batters hit .133 off of Keller’s curveball, and .200 off of his slider. Keller’s slider, in particularly, was outstanding, as the pitch had a 47.8% Whiff rate (according to Baseball Savant), and the Iowa native’s breaking ball was even more devastating when he put it out of the zone. Out of all of Keller’s sliders that we had tracking data for, 34.1% of his sliders that he threw out of the zone resulted in a swing and miss.
The Pirates will give Keller every chance to crack their roster to start 2020, and given his explosive four-pitch arsenal, there’s a real chance the 23-year old could break out next season. Keep an eye on him late in drafts, especially if he performs well in Spring Training.
Recommendation: Keller has some value in NL-only and mixed formats. If you need a starter late in the draft, considering grabbing the top Pirates prospect.
Reds: Tyler Stephenson
If you look at the Reds’ farm system, you’ll find bigger names in the Minors that are property of the Big Red Machine. However, players like Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo most likely won’t make a big impact in the Majors in 2020. Because of that, as well as some opportunity at the catcher position for the Reds, we’ll go with catching prospect Tyler Stephenson as our Reds prospect to watch in fantasy this season.
Since being drafted in the first round out of high school by the Reds in 2015, Stephenson has struggled to stay healthy, but he began to put it together last season in Chattanooga (AA). Across 89 games in AA, the 23-year old batted .285, while hitting 6 home runs and drove in 44 runs. Those numbers aren’t particularly sexy, but they aren’t too bad either for an everyday catcher. In addition, his GO/AO ratio, which has been over one for most of his Minor League career, last season was considerably under one, pointing to Stephenson beginning to hit for more power.
Heading into Spring Training, Stephenson’s fantasy prospects entering 2020 are still a bit unknown. The Georgia native will most likely start the season in AAA, and may spend most, if not all of 2020 with Louisville (AAA). However, if Stephenson can hit the ground running, there is opportunity for him to crack the starting lineup in Cincinnati at some point this season. The Reds currently have Tucker Barnhart and Curt Casali as their two catchers, and neither are major roadblocks for Stephenson.
Recommendation: You certainly shouldn’t draft Stephenson, but if the former first round pick can come out of the gate running in AAA, he’s worth a look in mixed formats if you need a catcher.
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