With baseball at a halt, we could be waiting longer than expected for opening day. But despite the delays to the 2020 Major League Baseball season, there are still many things to look forward to as another big-league campaign approaches. The youth movement is in full swing at the major-league level, with numerous youngsters making their mark across the bigs. From Ronald Acuna Jr. to Pete Alonso, baseball is in very good hands with a bevy of talented players in their early-to-mid-20s.
With that in mind, here are five youngsters who could make some noise in 2020. Some of these names have already had a cup of coffee at the MLB level, while others will make their debuts this season.
Royce Lewis, Minnesota Twins (Ninth on Top 100)
The first overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, Lewis has enjoyed a solid minor-league career to date. At just 20 years old, he reached Double-A last season while also representing the Twins in the 2019 Futures Game. He hit just .236 between High-A and Double-A last season, but his tools are very loud in every category. He runs very well, and although he swiped just 22 bags last year, Lewis has the potential to be a serious base-stealer in the future. The most home runs he has hit in a year is 14, but given his age, he will most certainly hit more in the future as he matures and grows into his body.
Through three minor-league seasons, Lewis has hit .266. Despite his struggles last year, he lit up the Arizona Fall League in October, winning the league Most Valuable Player Award while helping the Salt River Rafters win the AFL. Thanks to his impressive showing against the best of the best in minor-league baseball, Lewis should make his debut with Minnesota in 2020. Even though he was drafted as a shortstop, Lewis has spent time all over the infield along with center field, so the Twins shouldn’t have any issue getting his bat in the lineup.
Nate Pearson, Toronto Blue Jays (Eighth on Top 100)
We’re looking at one of the most electric arms in baseball in Nate Pearson. Regularly touching triple digits, Pearson has all the potential to be a star at the major-league level. He’s currently Toronto’s top prospect and for good reason. The 6-foot-6 righty enjoyed a breakout year in 2019, soaring from Single-A to Triple-A Buffalo by the end of the year. Through 101.2 innings, the hard-throwing righty struck out 119 hitters, while holding oppositions to a .176 batting average. He showed well in a number of spring training appearances as well, striking out the side in his spring debut in late February.
At 23, the time is now for Pearson and the Blue Jays. There’s no doubt that Toronto needs pitching, and Pearson is showing that he has what it takes to crack the opening day roster and solidify a spot in the rotation. He has an electric heater and a quality wipe-out slider, along with a decent curveball and changeup. He also gave up just 27 free passes last season, showing incredible command of his outstanding offerings.
Expect to see Toronto’s future ace at the big-league level this season.
Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox (20th on Top 100)
Kopech has already appeared in the majors, making his debut in 2018. He pitched 14.1 innings while compiling a 5.02 ERA. He struggled in that short stint and then underwent Tommy John surgery, missing all of 2019. Kopech finally returned to the mound this spring, making his first appearance in two years. He looked outstanding, throwing 11 pitches, in which more than half of them clocking in at 100 mph or higher.
He has electric stuff, but, at times, has struggled with his command. Kopech walked 194 hitters in 395.2 minor-league innings, but also struck out 514 during that span. However, after returning from elbow surgery, Kopech seems more determined to be more of a pitcher, rather than just a power arm. He may begin the season in Triple-A once baseball proceeds but expect to see the 23-year-old in Chicago sooner rather than later. Kopech will probably initially feature out of the bullpen, but he most certainly has the stuff to be a starter on the South Side, if need be.
Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies (29th on Top 100)
Rodgers has absolutely raked at every level until he made his MLB debut last season, where he hit just .224 in 25 games. But that’s a very small sample size, and given his track record throughout his minor-league career, it’s only a matter of time until the 23-year-old begins to figure out major-league pitching. The third overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, Rodgers has tremendous bat speed and has shown the ability to hit the ball out of the yard at a high rate while also hitting for average. He hit a ridiculous .296 through five minor-league seasons while going deep 66 times in 387 games from 2015-19.
Rodgers failed to even hit a home run last year in his short stint in Colorado, but there’s no doubt that he has the ability to shine in the bigs. He’s also a tremendous fielder with great hands and a rocket of an arm. With Trevor Story at shortstop, Rodgers will spend most of his time playing second base, forming one of the most exciting up-the-middle duos in the majors.
With a shoulder injury cutting his season short last year, Rodgers will be hungry to make an impact for the Rockies in 2020. He has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues, so Rodgers should be on the major-league roster when opening day rolls around.
Luis Robert, Chicago White Sox (Third on Top 100)
Robert was handed a six-year, $50 million deal by the White Sox in January, despite not even making his MLB debut. It’s the first time that has ever happened, but it shows the belief that Chicago has in the 22-year-old outfielder. He possesses loud tools across the board and has hit extremely well at every minor-league level. In 2019 he became the youngest player to hit 30 home runs, steal 30 bases, and hit over .300 in a season since 1961. Robert slugged 32 home runs, stole 36 bases, and hit .328 between Double-A and Triple A.
He covers a ton of ground in center field and absolutely flies around the basepaths. Robert hits the ball with power to all fields, and thanks to a natural uppercut to his swing, he gets a ton of lift on his home runs. The White Sox could very well have their next franchise star in Robert. It could take him a bit of time to adapt to big-league pitching, but given how talented he is at the plate, it won’t be too long until he’s terrorizing American League arms.