Major League teams reconvened this week, with the start of the 2020 season scheduled for "July 23 or July 24." Each team was directed to put together a 60-player pool to draw, with those players and their coaches sequestered together as if they were on a jury, the better to
Major League teams reconvened this week, with the start of the 2020 season scheduled for "July 23 or July 24." Each team was directed to put together a 60-player pool to draw, with those players and their coaches sequestered together as if they were on a jury, the better to protect them all from contracting Covid-19.
Each of these 60-player rosters has been publicly released, allowing us to tell you that there are 45 former Lugnuts on 20 different MLB teams included.
Of those, ten have yet to make their MLB debut -- and that's who we're focusing on. 149 former Lugnuts have debuted in the Majors. Who will be our 150th Major Leaguer?
Let's start with three players who are near certainties to see action:
- Big Nate Pearson, Blue Jays - This comes with the caveat that Nate never appeared in a regular season game with the Lugnuts. He did start the 2018 Crosstown Showdown for the Lugnuts vs. Michigan State University, and that's good enough to include him here. Nate has four pitches with a fastball at 103-104 mph. No surprise that MLB Pipeline rates him the No. 2 right-handed pitching prospect in baseball.
- Dany Jiménez, Giants - Pictured above, Dany was selected by San Francisco in the Rule 5 draft this past December and included in the Giants' Player Pool. The day before Spring Training was shut down, there was a promising report about Dany's chances to make the Giants' roster in April. If you remember two years ago, Dany was the 2018 Lugnuts' worst reliever in April (11.25 ERA) and our best reliever in August (0.69). His turnaround has been spectacular, and it's brought him to the threshold of his Major League debut.
- Ty Tice, Blue Jays - The 2018 Lugnuts opened our season with 5-foot-9 Ty as the closer. He made ten appearances, allowed just one unearned run, and was pushed right up the ladder to Dunedin. In 2019, he was exceptional between Double-A New Hampshire (1.09 ERA, .141 batting average allowed) and Triple-A Buffalo (41 strikeouts in 33 innings). When the Blue Jays need relief depth, he's getting the call.
From here, the scenario changes. The final seven players on our list are in camp to receive greater developmental attention. But if they impress, and if the moment calls for them, they are in the perfect spot to be called upon.
- Patrick Murphy, Blue Jays - A member of the 2016-17 Lugnuts, Patrick was on his way to his MLB debut maybe even as soon as last year before umpires declared his wind-up illegal and he was forced to start from square one. Now he's back, with his high-90s fastball and hammer curve. His longterm future might be in the starting rotation, but it's more likely he'd be used this year out of the bullpen.
- Joey Murray, Blue Jays - Murray is likely to be the first member of the 2019 Lugnuts to make the Majors. The man with the invisi-ball 87-90 mph fastball honed his curve and change-up in Lansing and Dunedin, finishing the year with 169 strikeouts in 137 1/3 innings across three levels.
- Edward Olivares, Padres - Part of the loaded 2017 Lugnuts lineup with Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Edward was traded to San Diego on January 6, 2018, for Yangervis Solarte and now he's part of a loaded Padres organization. If San Diego does choose to activate him, it'll be for outfield depth. His true MLB future is still a year or two away, but with his power and speed, he'll be worth watching.
- Joshua Palacios, Blue Jays - From outfield depth in San Diego to outfield depth in Toronto, Joshua was a late addition to the Toronto 60-man player pool after Jonathan Davis was placed on the Injured List. There was a great deal of speculation about the 2016-2017 Lugnut this offseason: the Blue Jays opted against including him on their 40-man roster, exposing him to the Rule 5 Draft, and numerous MLB teams were tempted but didn't pull the trigger. After a rough start last year in New Hampshire, he batted .348 in July, showing off his best tool - a whipping line drive stroke.
- Kevin Smith, Blue Jays - Last year wasn't fun for Kevin, who went from setting the Midwest League on fire in 2018 to struggling with his stroke in the Eastern League in 2019. This was the first offseason he spent with a personal hitting coach, launching himself into 2020 with greater confidence. He can fill in defensively all across the infield for the Blue Jays.
- Alejandro Kirk, Blue Jays - Catcher Kirk, a 2019 Lugnut, becomes a hero, a sensation, and a fan favorite wherever he goes. He stands 5'9 or shorter, he weighs 250 lbs or more, he receives easily, throws well, identifies pitches with precision, and swings from his heels. He's a baseball delight. If the Blue Jays need a catcher -- and why wouldn't they need a catcher? Catching is a position where depth is constantly needed and tapped -- Alejandro would be a tantalizing option. The Jays are set with Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire at the top and Caleb Joseph waiting on deck as a veteran reserve. If the need surpasses Joseph, Alejandro's arrival would bring a huge boost of interest.
- Jordan Groshans, Blue Jays - Jordan comes in the final spot because of how true of a longshot he is. He played only 23 games with the Lugnuts in 2019 before a foot injury ended his season. There was a slim chance that he would have returned to the Nuts if there had been a 2020 season; at the very least, he was heading to A-Advanced Dunedin, three rungs away from the Major Leagues. He needs developmental attention and reps to grow and hone his great ability. He's in Toronto to receive that attention -- but wouldn't it be something to see the Blue Jays pull the trigger and get him into the lineup?