The 2020 Major League Baseball season is almost upon us and while most fans are focusing on big league rosters, a number of top prospects are impressing in spring training. The minors are currently loaded with top-level talent and the young players on their way up are as good as we've seen in a long time.
With that in mind, here's our look at the top 10 MLB prospects to open the 2020 season. Bear in mind, we'll be using the 20-80 scouting scale.
Top 2020 MLB Prospects
1. Wander Franco, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
Franco has been ticketed to top this list for more than a year as a long-rising prospect, and he projects as baseball's next great shortstop. He was a big signing for the Rays in the 2017-18 international market, inking a $3.825 million deal. He won the Appalachian League MVP at 17 while battling much older Rookie League competition.
At 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, he's a solidly-built switch-hitter, with a strong body, ridiculous bat speed and an innate ability to barrel up pitches.
Franco played the entire 2019 season as an 18-year-old and put together a phenomenal campaign. He hit .327 with nine home runs and 53 RBI with an OPS of .885 while striking out just 35 times in 425 at-bats over 114 games. He did that over two levels of A-ball and is likely ready for a big jump this season.
After turning 19 on March 1, Franco is poised for a big season. He's likely to stay at shortstop long-term, with a good arm and adequate fielding skill paired with soft hands and good feet around the bag. His hit tool is elite and grades out as an 80, with a quiet swing, great pitch recognition skills and high contact rates. He already possesses good power (60) but it could increase as he gets older.
All-in-all, Franco is a remarkable prospect for his age. His advanced approach both at the plate and in the field make him a potential star.
2. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, San Diego Padres
The Padres selected Gore with the third pick in the 2017 MLB Draft and it appears they got the best player in the entire class. An athletic 6-foot-3, 200-pound lefty with a cartoonish high leg-kick, the 21-year-old Gore is on the verge of the majors after an eye-popping 2019 campaign in the minors.
Between Class A Advanced and Double-A ball last season, Gore posted some crazy numbers. He went 9-2 with a 1.69 ERA, a 0.83 WHIP and 135 strikeouts in 101.0 innings. That ERA is also skewed by one bad outing in Double-A where he gave up seven runs in four innings. Among all pitchers who topped 100 innings, Gore was first in ERA and WHIP and was second in batting average against (.164). In Class A Advanced ball in the hitter-friendly California League, Gore had a 1.02 ERA in 15 starts.
Gore works in the mid-90s with his fastball but can get it up to 97, while his mid-80s slider and big mid-70s curveball are both out-pitches. He has the makings of a plus changeup that sits in the low-80s, though he doesn't throw it as much as his other pitches.
Gore broke through in a big way in 2019 and there's no reason to expect his ascension to stop. He has the makings of an ace and is on that track. Expect him in the big leagues this year.
3. Jo Adell, OF, Los Angeles Angels
Adell is on the cusp of reaching the big leagues and has a (very) outside shot of breaking camp with the Angels. It's not hard to see why. The 10th pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, he's developed into baseball's best outfield prospect. He'll turn 21 on April 8 and is poised to make noise at the major league level this season.
Adell covered three levels in 2019, from Class A Advanced all the way to Triple-A. Along the way he hit .289 with 10 home runs and 36 RBIs in 76 games, but had his most success in Double-A. There he hit .308 with eight home runs and an OPS of .944. Unfortunately, he sat out two months of the season due to hamstring and ankle injuries suffered early in the year.
At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Adell is a fantastic athlete with good speed and enough arm to play any spot in the outfield. He possesses outstanding raw power in his right-handed swing that he will continue to grow into. He's a true five-tool guy, with good bat-to-ball skills and a developing eye at the plate. He has strong hands and wrists, and when he gets ahold of a pitch it's going a long way.
While he's likely to spend a chunk of this season continuing to hone his craft in the minor leagues, Angels fans can dream of Adell joining Mike Trout in the outfield at some point this season.
4. Cristian Pache, OF, Atlanta Braves
Pache might be the best defensive outfield prospect in baseball and that alone will get him to the big leagues. The rest of his game is pretty nice too. Signed for $1.4 million during the 2015-16 international window, Pache has developed into Atlanta's best prospect and is already on the team's 40-man roster as a 21-year-old.
Pache is an 80-grade fielder, with a 70-grade arm and is a 70-grade runner. He's elite in the outfield, with the ability to get to balls few can, and a big throwing arm to boot. He's also strong, with solid power from the right side in his 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame. Pache split time between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019, slashing .277/.340/.462 with 12 home runs and 61 RBI in 130 games.
While defense will get Pache to the big leagues soon, his bat will lag behind a bit. He has some swing-and-miss in his game and he may never walk consistently. But if his approach matures as he ages, he could be a perennial All-Star in center field. At worst he'll be an elite defender who has home run power and great speed.
Pache will likely get a call-up sometime this season, but probably needs a bit more seasoning at the plate in Triple-A.
5. Gavin Lux, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
The 20th pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, Lux has developed as well as anyone in that class and has given the Dodgers yet another elite middle infield prospect. More of a hitter than a fielder, Lux could wind up at second base, but you can bet LA will give him every opportunity to stick at short.
Lux jumped up prospect lists in 2019 as he slashed .347/.421/.607 with 26 home runs and 76 RBIs in 113 games across Double-A and Triple-A. His bat is for real, with a sweet lefty swing. He has consistently generated power from his 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame. He's a smart player with excellent pitch-recognition and bat-to-ball skills, and is a good base runner with some speed.
The 22-year-old got his first taste of big league action with the Dodgers in September of 2019 and he showed he could hang. He'll be up this year, though it will likely come at second base as Corey Seager is a better defensive shortstop.
If he reaches his potential, Lux will be a .300 hitter with power who can also steal bases. Pretty sure the Dodgers would be thrilled with that.
6. Adley Rutschman, C, Baltimore Orioles
The first pick in the 2019 MLB Draft was clearly the top college player available when the Orioles selected him last June. He's done nothing to dispel the notion that he was the top player in that class or baseball's best catching prospect.
As a sophomore at Oregon State in 2018, Rutschman slashed .408/.505/.628 with nine home runs and 83 RBIs and followed that up in 2019 by slashing .411/.575/.751 with 17 bombs and 58 RBIs. He continued that momentum in short-season A-ball, hitting .325/.413/.481 in 20 games.
A solidly-built (6-foot-2, 215), switch-hitting backstop, he shines on both sides of the ball. He threw out nearly 50 percent of would-be base-stealers in college, then nailed seven of the 11 who ran on him in his first taste of pro ball. He's an outstanding receiver who frames the ball well and has a good arm. He can also hit, making consistently solid contact.
Given his power, if Rutschman makes enough contact, he's a future perennial All-Star. The 22-year-old is on track to hit the big leagues next season.
7. Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox
The White Sox handed Robert $26 million to sign him out of Cuba in 2017. While he struggled during his first professional season thanks to a wrist injury, Robert exploded in 2019 and looks like he'll deliver on the immense promise he showed before being signed.
A 6-foot-3, 190-pound outfielder, Robert has big power and big speed. In 2019 he opened the campaign at Class A Advanced, continued to Double-A and worked his way up to Triple-A. He hit well at all three levels, combining to slash .328/.376/.624 while blasting 32 home runs, driving in 92 runs, and stealing 36 bases.
The 22-year-old Robert is a plus-defender in center field, has a good arm and can cover plenty of ground. The only question will be his contact rates. He has holes in his swing that might show up more when he hits the majors, and he needs to continue to hone his approach at the plate. But there's a ton to like here.
The White Sox signed Robert to a six-year, $50 million deal in January, so they've clearly seen enough to invest long-term. He'll be in the bigs this year, and you expect him to make an impact.
8. Royce Lewis, SS/OF, Minnesota Twins
The first pick of the 2017 MLB Draft, Lewis was fantastic during his first two pro stints. He slashed .279/.381/.407 in his debut season, and followed it up by hitting .292/.352/.451 with 14 home runs, 74 RBI and 28 stolen bases, all while sticking at shortstop during his first full-season in 2018. Then we had a hiccup.
In 2019, Lewis struggled his way between Class A Advanced ball and Double-A. He slashed .236/.290/.371 with a lot of strikeouts and struggled defensively. During the Arizona Fall League the Twins put him in center field and that looks like a much more natural fit for his talent. He looked more comfortable at the plate in the AFL as well, and wound up taking home MVP honors.
Lewis has quick hands in his right-handed swing and has always shown a good eye, which made his struggles at the plate in 2019 so puzzling. It could simply be that the 20-year-old was pushed too high, too fast. He's an elite runner and his bat-to-ball skills are still too good to write off yet. I'm putting here because I'm banking on him bouncing back in 2020.
9. Casey Mize, RHP, Detroit Tigers
The No. 1 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft out of Auburn, Mize looked to be on a smooth path to the big leagues throughout the first half of 2019. Then he struggled with a shoulder injury that put him out a month. He never looked right after returning, with his stuff and location both out of whack. He was finally shut down in mid-August.
Mize finished the season 8-3 with a 2.55 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP, with 106 strikeouts in 109.1 innings over 21 starts. Even with his struggles he posted some great numbers.
The 22-year-old righty is a big 6-foot-3, 220-pound workhorse. His go-to pitch is a devastating mid-80s splitter that is borderline unhittable. He sets it up with a mid-90s fastball he can locate well, and also has a plus slider that sits in the mid-80s. He has outstanding control when he's right, but as we saw with his 6.61 ERA after the shoulder injury, he needs to be healthy to deliver on his promise. He had a 0.92 ERA in his first 13 starts.
If Mize bounces back to form and full-health this year, he'll jump up this list. He's the Tigers' best prospect by far and could hit the big leagues in a few months if he's back to his old self to start the season.
10. Jarred Kelenic, OF, Seattle Mariners
The Mariners got Kelenic in return for Edwin Diaz and the wildly-overpriced Robinson Cano. It's looking like an absolute steal for Seattle.
Kelenic was outstanding in 2019 making the jump from low-A ball all the way to Double-A throughout the year. He finished the season slashing .291/.364/.540 with 23 home runs, 68 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. He did all of that while turning 20 during the season. He made huge strides in just his second full season after being selected with the sixth pick in the 2018 MLB Draft.
A legit five-tool threat, Kelenic has a sweet lefty swing and a really nice approach at the plate. He's not big at 6-foot and 195 pounds, but his swing is compact and strong, giving him good power that he can spray to all fields. He has good speed, a good arm and is an above-average fielder. He might be able to stick in center field long-term, but his bat is good enough to make him a really valuable in right.
If Kelenic continues to rise the way he did in 2019, he could open 2021 in the big leagues. He's racing through the minors and showing few flaws along the way.