Recently, young players have become increasingly important in baseball. Getting PEDs out of the game has likely played a role in that as veteran players are no longer able to get an artificial edge, causing their performance to decline a little quicker.
Plenty of young players have proven that they’re more than ready to take an opportunity to play and run with it. Despite the 2020 season being shortened to 60 games, that’s not likely to change this year.
Teams that have a potential star waiting in the wings are likely to get an unexpected boost that could help them rise above the competition. Let’s check out some of the rookies who could be poised to make a major impact during the 2020 season.
Luis Robert, White Sox
If you choose just one rookie to follow closely in 2020, do yourself a favor and make sure it’s Robert. The hype around the Cuban outfielder is insane, but based on everything we’ve seen during summer camp, it’s warranted.
The 23 year old hit a home run during an intra-squad game despite falling over. Between his time in double-A and triple-A last year, Robert hit 32 home runs and posted an OPS of 1.001. He also stole 36 bases.
The White Sox look poised to make him their primary center fielder in 2020. Over a full season, he’d be a serious candidate to join the 30-30 club as a rookie. However, he’ll still have a chance to make a serious impact as a rookie, especially since he’s one of several young stars in Chicago’s lineup.
Dylan Carlson, St. Louis Cardinals
Playing time in the St. Louis outfield is up for grabs which creates a great opportunity for Carlson to carve out a prominent role. If the season hadn’t been suspended in March, Carlson was looking like a player who was going to force his way onto the opening day roster. In just 72 at-bats in triple-A last season, Carlson hit .361 with an OPS of 1.098.
Defensively, Carlson has the range to handle center field. Also, as a switch-hitter, he’ll be valuable offensively. Unless the Cardinals get surprising production from their other outfielders early in the season, Carlson will get a chance to play at some point and show why he might be the club’s center fielder of the future.
Mitch Keller, Pittsburgh Pirates
Keller got a taste of the majors last season, pitching just enough innings to get his feet wet without losing rookie eligibility for 2020. Unfortunately for Keller, his cup of coffee in 2019 was quite bitter. He made 11 starts for the Pirates, going 1-5 with a 7.13 ERA and a 1.83 WHIP. On the bright side, he struck out 65 hitters in 48 innings, so there’s no question that he has swing-and-miss stuff.
Keller still has a high ceiling and nothing left to prove in the minors. Plus, the Pirates have such low expectations for the current campaign that they have nothing to lose by sending Keller out there and seeing if last year’s experience pays dividends in 2020.
Jesus Luzardo, Oakland Athletics
Luzardo pitched 12 innings in the majors last season, making history by becoming the first big leaguer born in Peru. If not for a shoulder strain, he likely would have pitched a lot more for Oakland down the stretch. Nevertheless, Luzardo still has rookie eligibility and has a chance to be a difference-maker in 2020.
The lefty has high-end stuff and owns a career 2.53 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in the minors. Unfortunately for Luzardo, he missed time during camp after contracting COVID-19. The missed time will likely force him into a bullpen role in 2020. However, he’s talented enough to mimic the impact that Josh Hader has made in Milwaukee the past few seasons. Luzardo’s stuff is on that same level.
Jo Adell, Los Angeles Angels
The Angels haven’t gotten much out of their farm system in recent years, but Adell is the one bright spot in the minors. Despite missing time due to injury in 2019, Adell proved last year that he’s ready for the big leagues.
The good news is that with Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon anchoring the lineup, the Angels don’t need the 21 year old to be a difference-maker. However, the Angels do have an open spot in right field. Adell has the tools to be something special and should get the opportunity to show off in the not-so-distant future as the Angels called up their star prospect Monday.
Carter Kieboom, Washington Nationals
Kieboom looked a little overmatched after making his major-league debut last April. But he responded by hitting .303 with an OPS of .902 in triple-A. Despite being a natural shortstop, he’s now in line to potentially replace Anthony Rendon as Washington’s primary third baseman. Obviously, those are big shoes to fill for any player, let alone a rookie. However, Kieboom has grown up a lot since his struggles in the majors last April. He looks ready and will have an opportunity to show that he belongs on a team that’s defending its championship.
Gavin Lux, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers made a surprising decision by sending Lux to their alternative training site a couple of days before the start of the season. However, that decision was mostly because he missed time early in camp. There’s every chance that he’ll be back with the Dodgers at some point.
Lux is surely Los Angeles' second baseman of the future, showing flashes of what he’s capable of doing last September. He even hit a home run during the playoffs last season. The Dodgers have viewed him as virtually untouchable in trade negotiations, and at some point in 2020, fans will start to learn why.
Joey Bart, San Francisco Giants
With Buster Posey opting out of the 2020 season for family reasons, Bart has a great opportunity to become San Francisco’s primary catcher for 2020 and beyond. The 23-year-old backstop is yet to play in the majors and didn’t even make it above double-A last year. But he’s been one of the team’s standout players during summer camp.
The Giants are likely to play around with his service time, but there are strong indications that he’ll ultimately be the team’s primary catcher. The Giants assumed that eventually, Posey would pass the torch to Bart, but that could be happening sooner rather than later.
Sam Hilliard, Colorado Rockies
Hilliard came out of nowhere last September, hitting seven home runs in his first 77 at-bats at the big league level, helping him produce an OPS of 1.006. That was after hitting 35 home runs and driving in 101 runs in the minors. Those numbers should be more than enough to earn him regular playing time with the Rockies this year, especially with Ian Desmond sitting out and Colorado able to use the DH.
Hilliard was never considered an elite prospect, but you can’t argue with his productivity last season, even if the thin air at Coors Field helped a little.
Casey Mize, Detroit Tigers
Mize has made a quick journey from being the top overall pick in the 2018 draft to being ready to pitch in the majors. He shot through the minors, ultimately making 15 starts in double-A last season, posting a 3.20 ERA. Even without any reps at the triple-A level, Mize has looked ready for the majors during summer camp. He’s not going to make the Tigers a contender, but as an elite pitching prospect, he’s worth watching closely.
The Tigers have optioned him at the start of the season to delay his free agency by a year down the line. But there’s little doubt that he’ll be in the majors by the middle of August to help the Tigers begin the process of turning things around.
Photo: Getty Images