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Cream of the crop opening 2020 in the Majors

Best Minors has to offer ready to take their shots in the bigs
Luis Robert will join Eloy Jimenez to give the White Sox one of the youngest and potentially most dangerous outfield duos. (Gregory Bull/AP)
July 23, 2020

The kids are all grown up. Some of the best and brightest prospects baseball has to offer have found their way onto Major League rosters for the opening of the 2020 season. In a sport in which players are conditioned to pace themselves for a six-month marathon, the 60-game schedule

The kids are all grown up.

Some of the best and brightest prospects baseball has to offer have found their way onto Major League rosters for the opening of the 2020 season. In a sport in which players are conditioned to pace themselves for a six-month marathon, the 60-game schedule has the makings of an Olympic-style dash.

While Minor League Baseball aficionados wistfully look forward to the return of baseball in 2021, the big league campaign offers a tasty morsel for prospect-starved fans who can catch glimpses of the sport's bright future of the sport.

With the curtain sets to pull back on 2020, 12 of's Top 100 Prospects begin the season at the pinnacle.

No. 3, Luis Robert, OF, White Sox: Fans on the South Side were hoping to see Robert late in 2019. The wait has been a little longer than expected, but they're getting their chance. One of the best all-around hitters to come out of the Minors in recent memory will take his place in the outfield at Guaranteed Rate Field alongside former top prospect Eloy Jiménez. The duo -- ages 22 and 23, respectively -- has the potential to be one of most fearsome in baseball. The top White Sox prospect entered 2019 with 78 games as a pro under his belt, but his talent was undeniable. It all came together last year for the Cuba native, who set career highs across the board ... and then some. Robert batted .328/.376/.624 with 32 long balls, 74 extra-base hits, 92 RBIs and 36 stolen bases in 122 games across three Minor League levels. Chicago was confident enough in the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder that they signed him to a six-year contract in January. He'll get his chance to prove his worth immediately.

No. 12, Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Athletics: When Luzardo is actually on the mound, he's been beyond impressive. Staying healthy, however, is a different story. The A's top prospect has topped 20 appearances once since his professional debut in 2017, that coming during a breakout 2018 in which he went 10-5 with a 2.88 ERA and 129 strikeouts over 109 1/3 innings in 23 starts. A strained rotator cuff cost him much of last season, but it didn't deter Oakland from promoting him last September. Set to take his place in the big league rotation this season, the 22-year-old hit another roadblock when he tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month. Luzardo was cleared to return to Summer Camp, but his absence could force the southpaw into a relief role to begin 2020. Coupled with No. 60 overall prospect A.J. Puk, who went on the Injured List with a strained left shoulder, two potential rotation stalwarts could be absent on Opening Day.

No. 21, Carter Kieboom, 3B, Nationals: With Trea Turner firmly entrenched at shortstop for the defending World Series champions, Kieboom is expected to see action at third base and second base in the bigs. His opportunities to start, at least initially, might be limited due to the presence of veterans Starlin Castro, Asdrúbal Cabrera and Howie Kendrick, but there's nothing left for the Nats' top prospect to prove in the Minors. The 22-year-old was an offensive force for Triple-A Fresno last year. Kieboom eclipsed .300 for the first time and finished with a .303/.409/.493 slash line in 109 games. The Georgia native equaled a personal best with 16 homers among 43 extra-base hits and set a career high with 79 RBIs. Kieboom made his Major League debut in 2019 and hit .128 in 11 games.

No. 23, Dustin May, RHP, Dodgers: A late addition to the Opening Day roster for Los Angeles, the club's second-ranked prospect not only took the place of injured ace Clayton Kershaw on the roster, but also on the hill for Los Angeles' first game of the season. May picked up end-of-season All-Star honors in his previous two Minor League campaigns -- in 2018 with Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga and in 2019 with Double-A Tulsa as well as being a Futures Game selection last season. After appearing in Dodger blue for 14 games in 2019, posting a 3.36 ERA with a 1.10 WHIP and 32 whiffs over 34 2/3 big league frames, the 22-year-old will take the ball against the Giants on Thursday night and look to get the team's quest back to the World Series started on the right foot.

No. 33, Sean Murphy, C, Athletics: Murphy's role as the A's catcher of the future began in earnest last year when he enjoyed a strong 20-game cameo in September. It came at the tail end of an injury-riddled season that still produced a .293/.384./.580 slash line with 11 homers and 31 RBIs between Triple-A Las Vegas and the Rookie-level Arizona League. Expectations are high for Oakland's No. 3 prospect, who should develop into a solid hitter while maintaining a strong presence behind the plate. Murphy's game-calling skills are a plus and he features a terrific arm that has helped him throw out 32.7 percent of runners attempting to steal in his Minor League career. He'll take his shot at the best MLB has to offer while helping nurture a pitching staff that cranked out 97 wins in 2019.

No. 39, Mitch Keller, RHP, Pirates: The initial results as a big leaguer were anything but pretty for Keller. A 1-5 record, 7.13 ERA and a .348 opponents' batting average in 11 starts is what the top Bucs prospect will carry with him into 2020. Yet a deeper look shows reason for optimism, not least of which is an arsenal that includes a mid-90s fastball with heavy sink, a power curveball and the ability to miss bats. Embedded in Keller's rough Major League debut was an impressive 65-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 48 innings, in line with his career numbers in the Minors. Since his selection as a 2014 second-round Draft pick, the 24-year-old right-hander is 36-22 with a 3.12 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 566 punchouts in 539 1/3 Minor League innings.

No. 51, Nico Hoerner, SS/2B, Cubs: Hoerner acquitted himself well during his first taste of Major League action late last season. Chicago's top prospect and its 2018 first-round pick made the jump from Double-A Tennessee look seamless. Blessed with good contact skills and a patient approach, Hoerner batted .292/.343/.403 in 75 Minor League contests last year. The Cubs promoted the Stanford product in September and he responded with a three-hit, four-RBI debut against the Padres. Hoerner finished his cup of coffee in the bigs with a .282/.305/.406 slash line in 20 games, putting himself in position to make his mark in the middle infield on the North Side in 2020.

No. 52, Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves: Wright's introduction to the Majors ended with a nondescript 0-3 record and 8.69 ERA in seven appearances, including four starts. But make no mistake, the fourth-ranked Braves prospect is a quality arm who appears to have won the fifth spot in the rotation. The Vanderbilt product got off to a slow start with Triple-A Gwinnett last season when he carried a 4.92 ERA into the All-Star break. He responded in the second half with a 3.17 mark in eight starts. Wright has averaged a strikeout per inning in the Minors, fanning 267 over 267 1/3 frames, thanks to a mid-90s heater, slider and curve. Add in a changeup and the 24-year-old is well armed with a four-pitch arsenal to go up against the best the Majors has to offer.

No. 56, Evan White, 1B, Mariners: Secure financially after signing a six-year deal last November, White will step onto a Major League field for the first time as the Mariners' starting first baseman without having played in Triple-A. Owner of one of the best gloves in the game (many scouts feel his defense already is Gold Glove-caliber now, Seattle's No. 4 prospect continued to swing a potent bat for Double-A Arkansas in 2019 while adding expected power. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder batted .293/.350/.488 with a career-high 18 homers and 55 RBIs, despite playing only 92 games after a pair of stints on the Injured List. An organization whose system was once ranked in the lower half is beginning to bloom and White figures to be a big part of that resurgence.

No. 59, Brady Singer, RHP, Royals: Kansas City selected 47 college pitchers in the past three Drafts, and Singer -- the 18th overall pick in 2018 -- will be the first to reach the Majors. The club announced Wednesday that the 23-year-old will start on Saturday in Cleveland in the second game of the season. Singer gets a lot of ground ball contact, 49.2 percent last year with Double-A Northwest Arkansas, out of his excellent sinker/slider combo. The Royals’ No. 2 prospect sported a 2.85 ERA with 138 strikeouts over 148 1/3 innings between the Naturals and Class A Advanced Wilmington in 2019. He also displays advanced control, boasting a 6.4 percent walk rate. His MLB debut might be right on time in a regular season. Singer likely would have opened with Triple-A Omaha if the campaign started on time, rather than bypassing the level entirely. The Royals have openings in the rotation after Brad Keller and Jakob Junis were limited in summer camp with COVID-19 issues. (Note: Singer isn't technically included on the Opening Day roster but will be activated Saturday.)

No. 83, Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Dodgers: Acquired last February in the deal that sent Kenta Maeda to Minnesota, Graterol will open the year as a high-octane option in the Los Angeles bullpen. The fifth-ranked Dodgers prospect went 7-0 with a 1.92 ERA and .178 opponents' batting average in 18 appearances, including 11 starts, across three levels for the Twins in 2019. He earned a promotion to the Majors late in the year and averaged 99 mph with his fastball while topping out at 102 in 10 relief appearances. The Red Sox, the original benefactor of Graterol's services in the Mookie Betts trade before the Twins changed their minds, believed the 6-foot-1, 265-pound right-hander could step into their rotation. That won't be the case in Hollywood, at least initially, with Graterol playing a supporting role out of the bullpen.

No. 84, Andrés Giménez, INF, Mets: New York swooped in at the last minute with one of the happy surprises of roster deadline day by adding the club's No. 3 prospect. Giménez might be benefiting from the initial expanded 30-man roster, but that won't matter much to the 21-year-old ahead of his Major League debut. A gifted defender on the dirt with plus speed, he will serve as infield depth off the bench capable of spelling Amed Rosario at shortstop. His bat remains relatively light coming off a 2019 season in which he hit .250/.309/.387 with nine homers in 117 games at Double-A Binghamton, but this time with the Major League club -- however long it will last -- should allow him to pick up the competitive at-bats he would otherwise lack without a trip to Triple-A Syracuse.

Michael Avallone is a writer for Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB.