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Toolshed: 60-man player pools worth following

Padres, Tigers, Rays boast talented prospects on new-look rosters
Spring Training might not be the last time that MacKenzie Gore dons the Padres' brown and yellow this year. (San Diego Padres)
June 30, 2020

Swimming pools. Draft bonus pools. Billiards even. Normally we talk about a number of different of pools as the calendar flips from June to July, but 60-man player pools are wholly new things. Major League Baseball Summer Camps are set to open for pitchers and catchers this Wednesday with full

Swimming pools. Draft bonus pools. Billiards even.

Normally we talk about a number of different of pools as the calendar flips from June to July, but 60-man player pools are wholly new things.

Major League Baseball Summer Camps are set to open for pitchers and catchers this Wednesday with full workouts coming two days later. Ahead of those dates, all 30 clubs had to draw up 60-man player pools that will form the eventual Major League rosters, and those pools were officially revealed Sunday and Monday. Those announcements made clear that there are a number of different ways to approach these new designations of rosters. Since non-40-man-roster players can't be taken off the 60-man without being released or traded, some teams were especially light on prospects in their initial pools, though they left several open spots that could be filled later. Others were prospect-heavy in order to get even their youngest but brightest talents more work while the sport goes on without Minor League Baseball.

For the sake of this column, it's that latter category that will draw our focus. Some Major League Summer Camps will feature lots of prospects trying to win Major League jobs on the initially expanded 30-man rosters. Some will feature lots of prospects just getting work in at alternate training sites. The following are the 10 most interesting 60-man player pools from a prospect perspective. (The list of top prospects among each of the 30 player pools can be found can be found here, with more to come on about each organization's player pool picks in the days ahead.)

10. Cleveland Indians: Cleveland has been one of the most aggressive clubs in terms of prospect additions to the player pool, despite the fact that few of them actually will contend for a Major League spot at some point this summer. Eight of the club's top 10 prospects appeared on the initial announcement, and that includes No. 4 George Valera, No. 5 Daniel Espino and No. 7 Aaron Bracho -- each of whom is only 19 with the combination totaling six games of experience at a full-season level. Both of the club's Top-100 representatives are here as well -- No. 42 Nolan Jones and No. 96 Tyler Freeman. Jones, coming off a 2019 campaign in which he led the Minors in walks, has the best chance to see the Majors at some point as a 22-year-old third baseman who at least has seen Double-A already. Meanwhile, Bobby Bradley and James Karinchak seem like locks to help the big club at some juncture, with the latter expected to play a big role in the Tribe bullpen. Still from a Minor League perspective, the most attention should be placed at the alternate facility at the home of Class A Lake County, where Cleveland will do its best to make sure its young core stays on track.

9. Arizona Diamondbacks: The up-and-coming D-backs system claims five Top-100 prospects. Four of them will be in the player pool: Alek Thomas, Daulton Varsho, Geraldo Perdomo and Corbin Carroll. The fifth --Kristian Robinson -- wasn't added, but as general manager Mike Hazen later clarified, that's because he has been in Arizona for the summer and remains eligible to work out of D-backs facilities without needing to be in the player pool. Of those five, Varsho is the only one likely to be a Major League candidate at any time, and if he does get his chance at The Show, it'll be interesting to see whether the club gives him some positional flexibility after the normal catcher got some looks in the outfield late last season. Elsewhere, J.B. Bukauskas or even Corbin Martin coming off Tommy John surgery could give the pitching corps a boost, and Seth Beer and reigning Minor League home run king Kevin Cron should be considered at some point, especially with the adoption of the designated hitter in the National League this season.

8. Miami Marlins: President of baseball operations Michael Hill can say "Why not us?" all he wants, as he did Monday. The fact is if the Marlins had much of a hope for contending, they would rank much higher. The club is bringing all 11 of its top prospects and 19 of its Top 30 to the player pool. That doesn't include No. 3 overall pick Max Meyer yet, but Hill said the former Minnesota right-hander would join in once he signs. There are a few ways this could go. The Fish could treat their top prospects Sixto Sanchez, Jesús Sánchez, Edward Cabrera and perhaps even Jazz Chisholm and JJ Bleday like they did Isan Díaz last season and give them late-season looks in order to get their collective feet wet in preparation for more prosperous Major League times. However of that bunch, Sánchez is the only one with Triple-A experience, and it'd be asking a bit more for others to make the jump, even if it's just to get some playing time in a competitive setting in 2020. The good news is having these prospects together is better than spreading them out between places like Wichita and Jacksonville, and the long-term effects of being quasi-teammates at the alternate site in Jupiter could have long-term benefits for the group. If anything, the simulated games could be as good a prospect showcase as anything in the Arizona Fall League.

7. Chicago White Sox: The White Sox always were going to be a team to watch at any level because of the moves they made before the season in order to contend. One could argue a limited 60-game season only heightens their chances of tracking down the Twins and Indians in the AL Central. Luckily, all four of their top prospects are involved in the player pool in some way. Luis Robert signed a Major League deal in the offseason and remains on track to be Chicago's starting center fielder. Michael Kopech is coming off Tommy John surgery that knocked him out for all of 2019, but with Triple-A Charlotte unavailable for rehab, his best chance to regain meaningful innings is with the big club. It gets a little more complicated with the other two. Nick Madrigal was competing for the starting second-base spot when everything was put on pause in the spring. He'll get a chance to win that again, but he still has to go up against Leury García and Danny Mendick in the truncated camp ahead of Opening Day. As good as Madrigal's hit tool is, the Sox still could choose to go with a more veteran option to start, knowing Madrigal is just a short call away. Andrew Vaughn is farthest away from a callup, having just been drafted a year ago, but the former Cal standout has the bat to make the quick transition. Unluckily for him, he stands behind Jose Abreu and Edwin Encarnación as first-base/DH options, but if either were to go down, don't be surprise to see him attempt the jump.

6. Atlanta Braves: All you really need to know here is that the Braves are sending all 12 of their top dozen prospects to the player pool and the top six have real shots to help the NL East contenders. Cristian Pache and Drew Waters ended 2019 at Triple-A Gwinnett, and even with an outfield that finds it difficult to get playing time for everyone, the DH could get Nick Markakis or Marcell Ozuna out of the way and allow Atlanta to take advantage of either's glove on the grass. (Pache, in particular, would become one of the Majors' best outfield defenders on Day 1.) Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson have already seen the Majors, and even if they lose out to Felix Hernandez or Sean Newcomb for the fifth rotation spot, both would be good piggybackers out of the gate. Shea Langeliers -- last year's first-rounder out of Baylor -- could possibly handle the defensive rigors of catching in the Majors right away, but requires a little more time with the bat. Still, don't be surprised if he is used as the emergency catcher on the road-trip taxi squad on occasion or if he jumps right over fellow prospect Alex Jackson on the depth chart with a strong showing at the alternate site in Gwinnett.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers' conveyor belt of talent has long been on display, and there should be a little less tread to work with on that belt in the coming weeks. Gavin Lux has all but won the second-base job, and the new DH rule in the NL could give the game's No. 2 overall prospect even more chances if other Dodgers sluggers rotate into that spot. The initially expanded roster up to 30 should certainly help Dustin May's chances of cracking the pitching staff. What role he'll serve is yet to be determined. He'll likely open in the bullpen, where he mostly pitched in the Majors last season, and he could work well there as a piggybacker initially before transitioning into the rotation as he gains top-level experience. Much of the same could be said for Tony Gonsolin. Newly acquired Brusdar Graterol looks more locked into relief. Like other teams here, Los Angeles also has a solid number of prime talents who need playing time to continue their development. Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz would have opened in the upper Minors under normal circumstances and could have been in line for second-half debuts. Instead, they'll likely be player-pool depth on a roster already loaded in the Majors. A good problem to have as an organization, but still a problem in the pair's long-term development.

4. Seattle Mariners: All eyes in Seattle are on the Mariners' future. How much of it will they show in the present? The M's seemed willing to give several prospects looks at The Show in an otherwise meaningless September last year, bringing up Kyle Lewis, Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield among others. Even more talent awaits. Evan White is already penciled in as the starting first baseman after signing a Major League deal. The bigger question is what to do with the other Top-100 prospects -- Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez, Logan Gilbert and George Kirby. Kelenic and Rodriguez were on meteoric rises in 2019, and even under these circumstances, Seattle might decide their best chances at continuing those trajectories are against live arms in game situations. As competitive as play might be at the alternate site in Tacoma, the only real place both potential future stars can get that competition is in the Majors. No one's expecting either to open in The Show, but come the second 30 of those 60 games, Jerry Dipoto might be itching to give Mariners fans a true glimpse of the future. What's more, Seattle has been aggressive out of the gate in sending 2020 picks Emerson Hancock, Zach DeLoach, Kaden Polcovich and Tyler Keenan to the player pool, and while none of those four is likely to see the Emerald City in their Draft years, the fact they're even that close is enticing.

3. Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays are known for dipping as much into their depth as they can in a normal year. In that way, a 60-man player pool almost feels limiting. To wit, Tampa Bay used 57 different players en route to a 96-win campaign last year. So it's even more exciting that top overall prospect Wander Franco is even in the 60-man mix at this stage. To be clear, the Rays are bringing in the 19-year-old switch-hitting shortstop so they can keep a close eye on his development in Charlotte. He did, after all, only make Class A Advanced last season, and even with his 80-grade hit tool and burgeoning power, it might have been a stretch to see him in the Majors in 2020. It still might be a stretch, but with Franco not getting any game time at Double-A Montgomery or Triple-A Durham right now, the incentives are even higher for Kevin Cash and company to see what his truly elite bat can do in the Majors. Even with the Yankees making big moves last offseason, the Rays should be within striking distance because of the shortened season. If their infield depth takes a hit in the midst of that chase, it'd be more than disappointing to let one of the game's best young talents only get at-bats at an alternate site in Port Charlotte. Elsewhere, the delayed season and expanded roster makes Brendan McKay's ambitions to return to the Tampa Bay starting staff that much easier after he dealt with shoulder issues in the spring. Vidal Brujan has yet to see the Majors but is now on the 40-man and would give the Rays' speed a big boost if and when he got the call. Finally, Shane Baz, Shane McClanahan and Joe Ryan are unlikely to see the Majors, but it's intriguing that the Rays want to develop all three close by in what could have been a lost year.

2. Detroit Tigers: OK, OK, OK. The Tigers, like the Marlins, won't compete in 2020. They might seem to be in very similar situations, but hear us out. Detroit's biggest assets right now are its young pitchers, and of those, Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal all ended 2019 at Double-A Erie. They were expected to give the Tigers a good problem in regards to having too much upper-level pitching this season, and it's possible all three would have been banging down the door to the Motor City by the All-Star break anyway. It's unlikely any of the trio -- and we could add Alex Faedo to that group as well -- will make the club out of the gate, but at some point, they'll need meaningful innings. A shortened season could help Detroit monitor their workloads and get them experience for a (hopefully) much more competitive campaign in 2021. Future or not, it's likely that this group possesses the best arms in the organization, and it'll be tougher to keep them down if they're not getting much actual work in besides bullpens, live batting practices and sim games. Other than those names, keep an eye on the development of Riley Greene as the 19-year-old outfielder enters the player pool in what would have been his first full Minor League season. Oh, and speaking of first-rounders, the still-unsigned Spencer Torkelson lurks as another upcoming 60-man addition, and the former Arizona State bopper will become one of the system's best bats at any level automatically. Even with an MLB debut unlikely this quickly, keep an eye on what the Tigers say about his defensive work in Toledo, considering they announced the natural first baseman as a third baseman on Draft Night.

1. San Diego Padres: As has been alluded to many times in this column, a 60-game season opens up the possibilities in the Major League standings. Right now, FanGraphs projects the Padres to go 32-28, which would be only four games behind the Dodgers in the NL West and tied with the Mets for the second NL Wild Card spot. It's very conceivable that San Diego could head back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. If there's even close to a chance by about the halfway point, it's possible the Padres open up the prospect floodgates. They have the best left-handed pitching prospect in MacKenzie Gore , who reached Double-A last season and has the four-pitch mix to get Major League batters out now at just 21 years old. They have Luis Patiño, who regularly throws in the mid- to upper-90s and has a slider that could give Major League right-handers some trouble. They have former Top-100 prospects Michel Baez and Adrian Morejon, who already have Major League experience and could show some of their previous potential in a shorter span. They could even turn to Luis Campusano if the catching tandem of Francisco Mejía and Austin Hedges doesn't cut it. There's more intrigue further below the 60-man hood with 2019 first-rounder CJ Abrams and 2020 first-rounder Robert Hassell III included in the player pool. The Padres system already seemed destined to take the foundation of Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack and push it over the edge to contention. In part because of the state of the sport and the world in 2020, that date with destiny could very well come in 2020.

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.