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2020 Prospect Projections: NL West rookies

Lux prepared to make Dodgers impact; Padres' Gore closing in
Gavin Lux set a career high with 26 homers in 2019, beating out his previous best of 15 set the season before. (Tim Campbell/MiLB.com)
February 14, 2020

This is the sixth in a six-part Toolshed series that uses FanGraphs' Steamer600 projections to look at how prospects would fare over a full Major League season in 2020. The system bases its forecast on 600 plate appearances for position players, 450 plate appearances for catchers, 200 innings for starting pitchers and

This is the sixth in a six-part Toolshed series that uses FanGraphs' Steamer600 projections to look at how prospects would fare over a full Major League season in 2020. The system bases its forecast on 600 plate appearances for position players, 450 plate appearances for catchers, 200 innings for starting pitchers and 65 innings for relievers -- taking into account age, past performance and previous Minor League levels, among other factors. All players included in the team tables below are ranked prospects who either played at Double-A or above in 2019, sit on their organization's 40-man roster or are placed among MLB.com's Top 100. Projections for American League EastNational League EastAmerican League CentralNational League Central and American League West rookies can be found at those links.
So it's been a fun couple of weeks for the Dodgers, huh?
Los Angeles, which has captured seven straight National League West division titles and won at least 104 games in two of the last three seasons, made arguably the trade of the offseason in picking up Mookie Betts and David Price from the Red Sox. When it comes to the club's everyday lineup, a lot of attention will be paid to what Betts will bring, and deservedly so. The 27-year-old right fielder was the 2018 AL MVP and is a four-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger.
But lest anyone forget, this is a Major League club that is also primed to add MLB.com's No. 2 overall prospect to its lineup on Opening Day.

That prospect, of course, is Gavin Lux.
The 2016 first-rounder torched his way to the Majors in 2019, hitting .347/.421/.607 with 26 homers, eight triples and 25 doubles in 113 games between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City. He was good with Tulsa but even better at the Minors' highest level, posting a .392/.478/.719 line over 232 plate appearances. His 188 wRC+ in the Pacific Coast League was second highest among the 346 batters with at least 200 plate appearances last season. His hot bat from the left side was too good for the Dodgers to ignore down the stretch, and he made his Major League debut on Sept. 2, more than two months ahead of his 22nd birthday.
Lux's offensive dominance didn't quite carry to the Majors. He hit .240/.305/.400 with two homers and 24 strikeouts over 23 games, resulting in a below-average 87 wRC+. That didn't lower expectations of the middle infielder. MLB.com ranked only Rays wunderkind Wander Franco ahead of Lux in this offseason's update to its Top 100 Prospects list, noting that Lux has the chance to show a plus hit tool, plus power and plus speed. The Dodgers, meanwhile, haven't made any moves that would push the young slugger off second base, where he made all 22 of his defensive appearances in the Majors after playing the bulk of his pro career at shortstop. As things stand, Lux still slots into the Dodgers' Opening Day spot at the keystone, and based on his Steamer600 projections, he should fit there comfortably. 
This is what the Dodgers lineup could look like on March 26, along with the players' Steamer600 projections:

Potential Dodgers opening day lineup

Per Steamer600 rules, these are full-season projections for every player, and while it's highly unlikely all eight will hit their plate-appearance projections, it's notable that Steamer projects all eight of those starters would be at least two-win players over said full season. In fact, seven --including Lux -- would be above-average hitters. This also doesn't leave room for Enrique Hernández (102) or Matt Beaty (102) in the starting lineup, despite their wRC+ projections ranking in the triple digits. Those are nine Dodgers with wRC+ projections at 100 or above, per Steamer600. Only the Twins and Astros -- both with 11 -- had more under Steamer's system. The A's and Yankees also had nine. 
In other words, we're looking at an elite offense in Chavez Ravine. It's normally tough for rookies to hold their own on teams with elite offenses. But with his skill set and his performance in 2019, Lux has proven that he's not a normal rookie.

 Los Angeles Dodgers


HITTERS

PITCHERS

Most ready: Lux. But Graterol, MLB.com's No. 83 overall prospect who came over from the Twins this month, also deserves a quick mention. As discussed in the AL Central projections piece before the trade, Graterol is ready as a Major League reliever and would need a little more Minor League work if he was going to become a Major League starter. The Dodgers, like the Twins before them, seem to be taking the former path with the right-hander, who can hit triple-digits with his heater and throw a plus slider. Graterol's 0.6 WAR projection puts him in the bullpen mix with fellow righties Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, Joe Kelly and Ross Stripling. It's possible he could head to OKC for a brief time to open 2020, but the projections say he's more than capable of being in the bigs right away.
Give it time: May is MLB.com's No. 23 overall prospect, has already appeared in the Majors and has already pitched well there, with a 3.63 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 34 2/3 innings. So why the potential delay? Steamer gives him a reliever projection because 10 of his 14 Major League appearances were out of the bullpen, yet he's expected to be a Major League starter with a four-pitch mix and plus control. Anticipate May heading back to Triple-A (where he made only five starts in 2019) to allow more experienced arms to fill out the rotation to begin 2020. If he does as well as expected back with OKC, he'll muscle his way into the starting five within the first few months of the season.
Wild cards: It's also a disappointment to see Gonsolin with a relief projection, considering he, like May, enters the spring with legitimate potential as a starting option. Right now, the 25-year-old righty might actually be ahead of May on the organizational depth chart because of his age and experience (40 innings in the Majors with six of 11 appearances coming as starts). He's also a good bet to beat his projections. After bumping up and down between OKC and LA for the first four months, Gonsolin posted a 2.77 ERA and 1.12 WHIP with 24 strikeouts over 26 innings in the Majors from Aug. 18 onward. His plus fastball, plus-plus splitter and above-average breaking balls are good enough to keep up that momentum as well. Gonsolin may not possess May's ceiling, but don't be surprised if both right-handers nudge the oft-injured Julio Urías and Alex Wood out of rotation spots at some points this summer.
Top-100 talent: No. 67 Gray could add to the starting depth at some point in 2020 after ending 2019 at Double-A Tulsa, but, as his projections show, that's much more likely to come in the second half, if at all. No. 73 Ruiz is on the 40-man and should open at Oklahoma City. He'll need to show offensive improvement before he can break past Smith and Austin Barnes on the catching chart. Both are projected to be two-win players in 2020.

 Arizona Diamondbacks


HITTERS

PITCHERS

Most ready: Get this out of the way now. Martin's projection would make him the easy pick here if he hadn't undergone Tommy John surgery last July, knocking him for most (maybe all) of the upcoming campaign. That offers us a chance to go deeper into why Green could be a sleeper to help the Arizona rotation in 2020. If you can believe it, his 2.6 WAR projection is actually above those for both Madison Bumgarner (2.5) and Mike Leake (2.3) -- each of whom should feel secure in their place as D-backs starters. Why? Steamer is a big fan of Green's ability to pitch in the zone and keep the ball in the park. The 24-year-old right-hander walked 21 and gave up three homers over 126 1/3 innings in 126 1/3 innings last season between Class A Advanced Visalia and Double-A Jackson. Giving up just one homer in 78 innings in the California League is even more impressive. Green's projection of allowing 24 homers in 200 innings is 10 fewer than Bumgarner's, and his 4.43 FIP projection is fourth best among potential Arizona starters. Of course, he's yet to pitch in Triple-A with the Major League ball, so it'll be interesting to see what happens to his home-run rate in a more offense-oriented environment. But for now, this is an encouraging sign for a player who's a mere two years removed from being a 14th-round pick.
Give it time: The D-backs already have a solid young Major League catcher in Carson Kelly, and that will allow them to give more developmental time to No. 76 overall prospect Varsho. That said, Steamer doesn't see much of a difference between Kelly and Varsho. Their WAR (2.3 vs. 2.2) and wRC+ (97 vs. 96) projections are incredibly similar. Kelly holds the advantage on defensive value (as backed up by scouting reports), but Varsho actually makes up some ground with his baserunning ability. He is one of only six catchers projected to steal double-digit bases and the only one of that group with a wRC+ above 90. Because he'll need playing time, expect Varsho to open at Triple-A Reno, where it's possible he could get looks at other positions beyond catcher. Varsho did get four starts in center field with Double-A Jackson last season.
Wild cards: Ginkel shined in the Arizona bullpen after coming up in August and sits about halfway to prospect graduation after posting a 1.48 ERA with 28 K's in 24 1/3 frames. His Major League spot is secured this spring. What makes him a wild card is the question of whether he can keep up that pace for a full season. Steamer projects his ERA to drop a bit, while his 0.5 WAR projection for 2020 matches his actual total over two months of 2019. That's understandable for a pitcher still getting his Major League career going. But if the 25-year-old right-hander can come closer to keeping up last season's pace, he could help make Arizona's bullpen a strength after it ranked 14th with a collective 2.9 WAR in 2019. That could be the difference between a Wild Card spot and missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
Top-100 talent: The D-backs system is considerably more loaded than it was a season ago, with four other Top-100 prospects besides Varsho -- No. 43 Robinson, No. 49 Thomas, No. 82 Perdomo and No. 89 Carroll. None of those four has played above Class A Advanced, and the low projections show that. That's still no reason to limit the excitement beyond 2020 for this group.

 Colorado Rockies


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PITCHERS

Most ready: An offseason to forget for Rockies fans won't get any better with these projections, but if there's a player who seems prepped to beat the above numbers, it's Rodgers. Colorado's only Top-100 prospect (No. 29) made his Major League debut last season and got in 25 games with the Rockies before a torn labrum ended his campaign in July. The numbers at the top level certainly didn't stand out, starting with his .224/.272/.250 line, but the 23-year-old infielder has historically started slow at new levels before making adjustments and taking off. Case in point: his .554 OPS at Triple-A Albuquerque in 2018 jumped to 1.035 in his second go at the PCL. Rodgers should be in the thick of the second-base discussion this spring, and even if he ends up behind Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson and opens the season with the Isotopes, he should get a callup as soon as there's any opening on the infield.
Give it time: Putting Hilliard here might feel like a stretch, considering he's already somewhat arrived. The left-handed slugger went deep seven times and produced a 1.006 OPS in 27 games with the Rockies during his debut season in 2020. Maybe we'll call the category "Preach patience" instead. Given his success, it'd be easy to place Hilliard right back in the big league lineup, but Steamer suggests it wouldn't be the smart move, projecting him as below replacement-level in the Majors over a full season. Some of that stems from the fact that a low average and OBP pegged him as just a slightly above-average Triple-A hitter (107 wRC+) before he jumped to the Majors. Don't get it wrong. Hilliard's power will definitely play, and there's something exciting about him calling Coors Field home. But Charlie Blackmon, David Dahl and Ian Desmond all have better WAR projections among Rockies outfielders, so don't be surprised if Hilliard still opens as a fourth outfielder or part of a platoon.
Wild cards: The Rockies bullpen is in need of a lot of help, and Bowden could provide it at some point in 2020. The 25-year-old left-hander finished 2019 as Colorado's No. 8 prospect after seeing varying results at Double-A Hartford (1.05 ERA, 0.58 WHIP, 42 K's in 25 2/3 innings) and Triple-A Albuquerque (5.88 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, 37 K's in 26 innings). He was added to the 40-man roster in November to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, a sign that Colorado didn't want to risk losing him. Bowden's projections don't demand that he be on the Opening Day roster, but his 0.2 WAR projection is fifth best among potential Rockies relievers. It'll be up to Bowden to show that his Albuquerque numbers were PCL-inflated last season when he enters camp this spring, but considering the state of the rest of that relief corps, he should get a Major League look at some point this summer.
Top-100 talent: Rodgers is the Rockies' only Top-100 prospect.

 San Diego Padres


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PITCHERS

Most ready: Let's just say the fun thing: Steamer believes Gore should be in the rotation to start the season. The Major League rotation. MLB.com's No. 5 overall prospect is obviously coming off a stellar season in which he posted a 1.69 ERA with 135 strikeouts and 28 walks in 101 innings between Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore and Double-A Amarillo. He has the MiLBY Top Starting Pitcher Award to prove it. He also has four plus pitches that could work in the Majors right away, as well as the necessary control to give himself a shot against top-level bats. The problem: only five of his 20 starts came as high as the Texas League. It would be a big ask for him to advance this quickly. There's cause for optimism in the Padres' recent track record. A season ago, they allowed Chris Paddack to open on the Major League roster after he made only seven Double-A starts. Gore has a higher ceiling than Paddack did and projects to be San Diego's fifth best starter to open 2020, behind Dinelson Lamet, Paddack, Garrett Richards and Joey Lucchesi. If San Diego is serious about making this a competitive year, it could call on Gore early as it did with Paddack and Fernando Tatis Jr. on the position-player side. The projections certainly support such a move.
Give it time: San Diego fans likely have dreams of Patiño joining Gore and Paddack in the Major League rotation for the long term. Those are good dreams indeed, but dreams they should stay for now, says Steamer. The projection system gave the 20-year-old righty a reliever projection, and a below-replacement one at that. Patiño's numbers were impressive in 2019 (2.57 ERA, 123 K's in 94 2/3 innings between Class A Advanced and Double-A), and his stuff backs them up, including his mid-to-high-90s fastball and plus slider. Unfortunately for the purposes of this column, his 2019 stats and peripherals don't stand out quite enough to land him into the same territory as Gore. Following a return to the Texas League, it's possible Patiño forces his way into the Major League rotation discussion in the second half.
Wild cards: Cronenworth wasn't close to being the headliner in the Tommy Pham-Hunter Renfroe-Xavier Edwards trade between the Padres and Rays in December, but Steamer reminds us that his inclusion was notable all the same. The 26-year-old shortstop won the International League batting title with a .334 average over 88 games for Triple-A Durham last season, and he posted a career-best 10 homers, .511 slugging percentage and .934 OPS in that span. He is also an above-average runner who is capable of reaching double-digits in steals yearly. What makes him a wild card is his ability to play two ways. Cronenworth made seven appearances last season for Durham, with six of those coming as an opener. He didn't allow an earned run in that time, though he did strike out nine and walk eight. The new roster rules coming into place for 2020 could give him added value as a two-way player. But he would have to achieve 20 Major League outings on the mound for that to happen, and that would require a big buy-in from San Diego on an unproven pitcher. It's worth keeping an eye on, considering it's Cronenworth's best route to the Majors with Tatis blocking his path at short.
Top-100 talent: No. 50 Campusano and No. 57 Trammell have some work to do before they can enter the San Diego picture. Trammell, in particular, will look to turn things around after hitting .234/.340/.349 at Double-A in the Reds and Padres systems last season, leading to a below-replacement-level projection. No. 25 CJ Abrams did not receive a Steamer projection after getting taken sixth overall in the 2019 Draft.

 San Francisco Giants


HITTERS

PITCHERS

Most ready: Webb is the pick over Hjelle even though they're pretty comparable when it comes to projections. Webb debuted with the Giants on Aug. 17 and finished the rest of the way with the big club, putting up a 5.22 ERA with 37 strikeouts and 14 walks in 39 2/3 innings. Those aren't numbers that would automatically put him back in the San Francisco rotation, but it's worth pointing out that he finished much stronger than the stats would suggest. In each of his final three outings, he allowed three earned runs or fewer. Webb's 2.1 WAR projection places him fifth among potential Giants starters and keeps him on the inside track to beating out the likes of Tyler Beede and Dereck Rodríguez in a chase for a rotation spot.
Give it time: Bart would be the top catching prospect in baseball, if not for that Adley Rutschman guy. The 2018 second overall pick can hit for power and is gifted behind the plate with both his glove and arm. There's no doubt he'll take over for Buster Posey at some point. Steamer just doesn't think that point should be early in 2020. The projections don't see Bart becoming a one-win player over a full season, in part because he played only 22 games at Double-A during his first full season in 2019. He would likely have gotten more playing time there had a broken left hand not sidelined him at Class A Advanced San Jose. MLB.com's No. 14 overall prospect should open 2020 back at Double-A, and barring any other accidental injuries, his skill set will put him on the fast track.
Wild cards: The Giants snagged Jimenez from the Blue Jays in the Rule 5 Draft with the hopes of stashing him in the bullpen. It's not hard to see why. Jimenez struck out 93 over 59 innings between Class A Advanced and Double-A last season, thanks to a mid-90s fastball and plus slider coming out of a high slot. That combo of stuff is tough to pick up, but Steamer isn't sold on it translating straight to the Majors. Jimenez's projected 9.6 K/9 would certainly play, but a 4.0 BB/9 and ERA around 4.00 would make it tougher for him to stick. The Giants have a few relief options in the 0.2 WAR projection range, but it's possible that Jimenez's Rule 5 status keeps him around longer than he otherwise would. He'll have to show improved control, however, to make that Major League designation stick.
Top-100 talent: Like Bart, No. 65 Ramos made Double-A for a brief spell in 2019 and is ticketed to head back. He's at least one more year away from providing San Francisco with much-needed help in the outfield. No. 35 Luciano could be a top-five overall prospect by this time next year, but he just made it off the complex at the end of 2019, his age-17 season. He should lead the farm system for at least two more years.