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Reynaldo Lopez Jersey White Sox

Entering Year 4 of their rebuild, the White Sox have assembled enough young, good and long-term pieces for something to build on.

For three years, most fans have patiently bought into the rebuild while being subjected to an average of 95 losses while the club stashed money away operating with one of baseball’s lowest payrolls.

Now, it’s time to spend and deal, beginning with this offseason, which shifts to a higher gear next week when general managers assemble for their annual meetings, in Scottsdale, Arizona, to discuss trade possibilities and the free-agent market.

The Sox will spend. GM Rick Hahn made it known a right fielder, designated hitter and a starting pitcher or two are needs he’ll address this winter, and while he has assured the “money will be there,” just how much chairman Jerry Reinsdorf approves for his 2020 payroll bears watching. That is the question of the hour.

The Sox looked the part of big-city big spenders while pursuing Manny Machado, and to a lesser degree Bryce Harper, last offseason but in the end took a public-relations hit after they were outbid for those stars’ services. You’ll hear them linked to all sorts of names as the winter rumor mill gets churning, but we’ll all be stunned if they seriously go after the biggest fish (right-hander Gerrit Cole and third baseman Anthony Rendon) in this offseason pond. There are, however, enough next-level free agents out there, especially pitchers such as right-handers Zack Wheeler and Jake Odorizzi and lefty Madison Bumgarner (to name only three) whose signings would temper skepticism among fans and add needed quality and depth to a rotation of likely 2020 Opening Day starter Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez and top prospects Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease.

Free-agent outfielders include Nick Castellanos, Marcell Ozuna, Yasiel Puig, Kole Calhoun and Corey Dickerson, but none of them size up as a perfect fit for an already defensively challenged outfield.

Switch-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal, a skilled pitch framer who would provide balance in a right-handed-heavy lineup, would more than nicely complement All-Star James McCann while expanding manager Rick Renteria’s options at designated hitter. Renteria’s DH choices produced a .208/.285/.362 hitting line in 2019.

Four years into the rebuild should mean it’s time to dip into an ample stock of minor-league prospects for trades to bolster the major-league roster, but the Sox’ farm system, while touting premium prospects such as center fielder Luis Robert, second baseman Nick Madrigal (who figure to spend most of the season in the majors) and Kopech, hasn’t assembled or developed the necessary depth for packages suitable to land J.D. Martinez or Mookie Betts from the Red Sox.

The Red Sox are looking to shed payroll to get under the luxury tax, and the Cubs seem open — for the right deal — to listening to offers for talent such as Kyle Schwarber, who won’t be a free agent till 2022. How good would Schwarber’s left-handed bat look at DH? The Cubs need young, controllable pitching, but the Sox aren’t likely to part with Kopech or Cease and the Sox still need more, not less, young pitching funneling into their own staff.

Hahn is expected to upgrade the roster with trades nonetheless, and he does have movable pieces, closer Alex Colome included. But with Kelvin Herrera’s $8.5 million salary the biggest on the 2020 books as of now, there is plenty in reserve to land enough free agents to push the Sox to an above-.500 team.

The Sox could do nothing at all and dust off their “The Kids Can Play” theme for 2020 with Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez and Giolito on the cover of the -media guide. But as Renteria, echoing sentiments from Sox fans everywhere, said at the conclusion of a 72-89 season, “It’s time for us to now take the next step.”

“I don’t want to be on the [negative] side of wins and losses anymore.”

Speaking for everyone in, around and behind an organization that has been there every year since 2012, who does?

Carson Fulmer Jersey White Sox

The American League Central Division is an oft-confusing place, and will likely find a way to be such again in 2020. The Central was historically bad in 2018, then boasted the best team in baseball for a large stretch the following year, yet it was not its three-time defending champion.

As things stand currently, it makes sense to believe that both the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians will regress towards the mean, and we should be primed for an even more interesting battle next season.

Not much about the Chicago White Sox indicates that they are on the cusp of making a run for the division. They finished 20.5 games back of even the Indians in 2019, with a -124 run differential, even outperforming their expected record of 69-92 by three games.

Yet Chicago is at an interesting point in their rebuild. They saw significant steps forward from their young core of Yoan Moncada (24 years old), Tim Anderson (26) and Lucas Giolito (25). Top hitting prospect Eloy Jimenez got a year under his belt while posting 33 homers, as well as exceptional xSLG (86th percentile), exit velocity (87th) and hard-hit% (92th) marks.

There are more bats on the way, too. Luis Robert bolted through the minor leagues in 2019, posting a 1.432 OPS over 19 games in High-A to start the season, making a 56 game stop in Double-A, and finishing the year with a .974 OPS in 47 contests at Triple-A. The 22-year-old will likely languish in the minors long enough to avoid a year of service time before joining Jimenez in the outfield.

The call may not be so quick for 22-year-old Nick Madrigal, who only posted a .822 OPS in 29 games in Triple-A, but that was with a .398 OBP. The fourth overall pick from the 2018 draft was pegged as the most complete player in that class, and has overcome power-sapping injuries to still post gaudy hitting marks.

Combined with Robert, the pair came into 2019 as the 32nd- and 43rd-ranked prospects in the game, respectively. Between graduations and big seasons, each will be high in 2020. MLB Pipeline already lists Robert as the third-best prospect.

This is all without mentioning the 17th prospect on Pipeline’s list, starter, Michael Kopech, acquired alongside Moncada in the deal for Chris Sale in 2016. There has been a reason that no pitcher has been mentioned since Giolito so long ago. The Sox severely lack pitching, an issue which was exacerbated by Kopech’s need for Tommy John in 2019. Kopech should be ready for 2020, and says the surgery was “the best thing to ever happen” to him.

The 23-year-old and his 80-grade fastball will not solve the Sox’s rotation alone, and no team wants to rely on only a handful of 22-to-25-year-olds to propel them to the playoffs. Luckily for him, Jerry Reinsdorf has his team perhaps most under their salary budget relative to all other clubs. While Reinsdorf and the word ‘cheap’ are often paired together by Chicagoans, general manager Rick Hahn says he will spend the $250 million offered to Manny Machado last winter.

If Hahn believes the window is now, he has the money to splurge on Stephen Strasburg, should he decide that a 31-year-old pitcher would accelerate things. Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler and Jake Odorizzi are also reasonable 30-and-under arms that would make sense. They could also wait and make a run at Trevor Bauer or Marcus Stroman next winter as well.

There are not currently many promising arms in the team’s system outside of Kopech, unless Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease and/or Carson Fulmer make considerable jumps here soon. When it seems like time to go for it, it makes sense for Hahn to spend on pitching.

It is also reasonable to think that they could make a splash for Anthony Rendon. Though it would force Moncada back to second base, the Sox would reasonably have one of the top-two offenses in the division.

We all know that money and prospects mean nothing, but the White Sox have a considerable magnitude of each. The current iteration of the team leaves much to be desired, but the potential of their young players are as high as any in the game.

It may not be in 2020, but the White Sox have the opportunity to insert themselves into the AL Central race sometime soon. With the Royals and Tigers still tearing down more than building up, the Sox taking a step forward could insert some randomness into their record, and further randomize the Central.

They’re poised to do so. Hahn, once positioned as one of the top GM candidates in the game, must finally prove the hype, much like his stable of young players.

Dylan Covey Jersey White Sox

The White Sox have already made notable moves this winter. All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal arrived on a four-year, $73 million deal, the biggest in franchise history. Franchise first baseman Jose Abreu accepted a qualifying offer than extended his deal with a three-year, $50 million pact.

#WhiteSox’s offer to Wheeler was for MORE than the $118M he will receive from the #Phillies, sources tell The Athletic. As @MarcCarig said, Wheeler’s wife is from New Jersey, and that proximity was an important consideration in his decision.

— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 4, 2019

Chicago have been players in the starting pitcher market, too. Zack Wheeler ultimately signed with the Philadelphia Phillies on a five-year, $118 million deal, but – as reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal – the White Sox actually outbid the Phils. Wheeler preferred to stay on the east coast, meaning Chicago are still looking for a big-name starter.

Andy Martino reported that the White Sox – along with the rivals the Minnesota Twins – are among heaviest suitors’ for Madison Bumgarner.

Work to Be Done
With Wheeler, Michael Pineda and Cole Hamels gone, Chicago are facing plenty of competition to add to their rotation. The Twins, Yankees and Angels are just three of the teams in the market for a free agent arm.

A willingness to spend has contributed to their odds moving, but it remains to be seen if they can land a difference making starter after their rotation ranked 25th in Baseball Reference’s Wins Above Average in 2019.

If they are to construct a contender for 2020, the White Sox are not just reliant on making sensible additions this winter. They also need Lucas Giolito to pick up where he left off in 2019 and getting a fully healthy Michael Kopech back would be a huge bonus after he missed last season with Tommy John surgery.

The bullpen was solid in 2019, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Rick Hahn make a move for an experienced reliever, too. Daniel Hudson or Will Harris are two of the best free agents available with Will Smith, Chris Martin, Jake Diekman and Drew Pomeranz already having signed elsewhere.

Super Bowl 54 Odds Tracker
No Value Just Yet
Being in the American League Central – with the Royals and Tigers not expected to be competitive in 2020 – gives the White Sox an advantage. The Indians could be about to embark on a retool with rumors of trades for Francisco Lindor and Corey Kluber appearing as well.

Minnesota, despite winning 101 games last season, should be strong again.

There’s no value backing Chicago at +2500 to win the World Series. The average odds of +4700 are slightly more tempting, though that still relies on multiple major moves over the next few weeks.

In the wake of Wheeler signing with Phillies and Hamels signing with Braves, Bumgarner market is clarifying. Per sources, White Sox and Twins among heaviest suitors there. Yankees involved to some degree.

— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) December 4, 2019

Even with Nick Madrigal and Robert on the way, they could use another bat. There’s uncertainty in the rotation. Fangraphs currently projects Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer, Dylan Cease and Dylan Covey to follow Giolito. Kopech impressed in Arizona, but he’s far from a guarantee coming off surgery and having appeared in four Major League games.

Adding a couple of veteran starters before opening day should be a priority for Hahn. Tying up Abreu and landing arguably the best catcher in the game has been a great start to their off-season, but it’s not enough to make them World Series contenders in 2020 just yet.

Jimmy Cordero Jersey White Sox

The White Sox added a flamethrower to their bullpen.

Tayron Guerrero is the newest member of the White Sox relief corps, the team claiming the 28-year-old right-hander off waivers from the Miami Marlins on Friday.

Guerrero’s most eye-catching attribute is his triple-digit fastball. He averaged 98.9 mph on his four-seam fastball in 2019 and threw the second most 100-mph pitches (178) of any pitcher in baseball. He posted a 10.6 K/9 in 2018.

But throwing hard and giving up runs are two different things. In 2019, Guerrero had a 6.26 ERA, a number that jumped up from the already less-than-ideal 5.43 ERA he turned in a year prior. He also had some trouble locating said fireball, walking 36 batters in 46 relief innings in 2019 for a ridiculously high 7.0 BB/9.

Still, this type of addition was signaled as perhaps the primary way the White Sox would add to their bullpen this offseason. With so many other items on Rick Hahn’s offseason to-do list and the back end of the bullpen being a pretty stable part of the roster, the general manager said that small signings and waiver claims would continue to be part of the strategy when it comes to making additions to the relief corps.

Hahn referenced the team’s acquisitions of Evan Marshall, who was signed to a minor league contract last winter, and Jimmy Cordero, who was claimed off waivers in the middle of the 2019 season, as moves to emulate going forward.

“All 30 teams will tell you … that adding more bullpen pieces is an offseason priority, and we’re no exception,” Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference in September. “Cordero’s been a nice find, as has been Marshall, but that’s not going to stop us from continuing to potentially take guys off waivers like Cordero or (sign) minor league free agents like Marshall.

“It’s going to go into this offseason continuing to be a place we want to add because relievers are tricky. You see it every year, guys go from the top of the list to the bottom and back.”

As Hahn frequently says, you can never have too much pitching, and while this might be a low-risk move, it could end up proving fruitful, as those Cordero and Marshall moves did.

Spending on money on more proven guys has also been a part of the White Sox strategy in this department in the recent past. Hahn’s front office gave Kelvin Herrera a two-year deal just last winter. But as Herrera showed during a rough first year of that contract, even guys with good track records can lead to easy second-guessing on those kinds of deals. So building up depth through less splashy means figures to be a good idea, regardless of the results.

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Alex Colome Jersey White Sox

The Seattle Mariners made a splash on Thursday, December 5 by sending catcher Omar Narvaez to the Milwaukee Brewers for minor league pitching prospect Adam Hill and a competitive balance pick for 2020.
Last year, the Mariners acquired Omar Narvaez from the Chicago White Sox for reliever Alex Colome. It sounded like a good deal to me at the time; however, trading Narvaez to the Milwaukee Brewers for a #24 top prospect and a competitive balance pick doesn’t seem enough to me. I was hoping to see a big splash instead of just a splash.

I know there are those who will or have said it is a good deal for the Mariners because Narvaez isn’t a good defensive catcher, which is true indeed; however, the Mariners haven’t had an offensive catcher in some time. I understand Tom Murphy had a good year offensively plus a better defensive catcher as well. It is true but he hasn’t proven to be a starting catcher in the major leagues yet. So why not trade Murphy to the Brewers instead for the same deal?

I know in a trade you have to look at the plus and minuses but I think the Mariners lose more than they gain unless prospect Cal Raleigh turns out to be as good offensively as Narvaez and a better defensive catcher. At this point, Raleigh has shortcomings defensively as well, though he is working at improving his skills.

There must be something about Narvaez besides his lack of defensive skills that allowed Dipoto to trade him to the Brewers. At least the Mariners won’t have to face him often unless they make the World Series or the Brewers trade him eventually to another American League team.

Keeping Narvaez, the Mariners could have had a good hitting catcher who could be a backup at the position along with playing on occasion at first base and be the regular DH when he isn’t in the field. I am sure Dipoto got what he could for Narvaez, but does that mean you have to trade him, especially right now?

This means the Mariners will depend on Daniel Vogelbach as the designated hitter against righties while Murphy and Nola could share DH against lefties. Murphy could be the starting catcher against righties than get a day off letting Nola catcher against lefties. I wonder though if Vogelbach is a one year wonder while Narvaez has shown his value hitting already. Another area of value though is in the clubhouse; Vogelbach has shown good value there while Narvaez might not be. The measure of this trade we will see by 2021 or later.

Aaron Bummer Jersey White Sox

After reading through Dustin’s post about the rumors surfacing around the Dodgers potential offseason moves, I decided to take a quick look at one in particular.

“The seemingly annual Pederson trade rumor is already upon us. It seems the White Sox are interested in his services. They had a deal lined up for him last winter, but it was contingent on the Dodgers signing Bryce Harper, which obviously did not happen. If the Dodgers are “willing to listen to trade offers on several of their high-priced players,” Pederson would fit that description. He’s projected to make $8.5 million via arbitration and if the Dodgers have their sights set on adding more than one big free agent (or trade acquisition), offloading Pederson’s salary could be a key to making that happen.”

Now, I personally am not sure what the deal would have been to send Pederson to Chicago, but three names that seemed to come up last year (though it may have been all sourced from one person speculating) were Carson Fulmer, Bryce Bush and Aaron Bummer.

Fulmer, who turns 26 this month, has struggled mightily in parts of four seasons in the majors and ended up spending significant time in AAA last year. Bush, who turns 20 on Dec. 14, did not exactly replicate his strong first professional season in Single-A.

Bummer, on the other hand, has significantly raised his stock since those trade rumors a year ago, so much so that a quick search of his name has White Sox fans saying he wouldn’t be worth trading for Pederson. Meanwhile, I see some Dodgers fans saying a reliever isn’t enough for Joc.

I don’t really care to dive into what a fair trade would be. Instead, I thought pointing out Bummer’s excellent 2019 performance was worth the time on the slim chance Joc is traded (and it is to the White Sox and Bummer was involved).

To start, the left-handed Bummer turned 26 in September and has pitched in 125 games across three major league seasons. A 2014 19th round pick out of Nebraska, Bummer threw 22 innings in Rookie ball that year. A surgery to clean up his elbow caused him to miss the start of 2015 before an eventual Tommy John surgery caused him to miss all of that year. Returning to the field in July 2016, Bummer jumped through all levels of the minors and reached the White Sox in July 2017.

As a result, Bummer is under team control through 2024, his age 30 season. Bummer struggled with his control in 2017 before pitching much better than his ERA showed in 2018 (a .402 BABIP partly to blame).

This past season Bummer took another huge step forward, finishing the year with a 2.13 ERA and a 3.14 FIP in 67 2/3 innings and 58 appearances. Those numbers included a .178/.213/.233/.446 and 2.54 FIP/3.13 xFIP in 25 1/3 innings against left-handed batters (for his career, Bummer is now .196/.253/.277/.530 3.05 FIP/3.54 xFIP in 51 2/3 innings against lefties).

To compare it to someone the Dodgers already have on their roster, Adam Kolarek finished 2019 with a .178/.221/.262/.483 line and 2.94 FIP/2.40 xFIP in 29 2/3 innings against lefties (and .156/.182/.188/.370 against 33 batters with the Dodgers). Other possible bullpen lefties on the 40-man roster — Scott Alexander, Caleb Ferguson — don’t offer much in the way of a split between batters.

While Bummer wasn’t quite up to Kolarek’s standard against lefties, he finished .188/.299/.264/.563 and 3.92 FIP/3.71 xFIP in 42 1/3 innings against right-handed batters. Kolarek unfortunately compiled a .282/.362/.495/.857 5.82 FIP/5.30 xFIP in 25 1/3 innings against righties (of his 11 1/3 innings with the Dodgers, only 2 1/3 came against righties and they still led to 4 hits and a walk against 12 batters).

What really stood out about Bummer’s 2019 season was his 72.1% ground ball rate, second in all of baseball among pitchers with at least 50 innings trailing only Zack Britton’s 77.2% (Kolarek was third at 66.3% and Joe Kelly sixth at 61.2%). Again using 50 innings as the cutoff, Bummer’s 25.1% hard contact rate was the lowest in the majors.

He achieved those rates by throwing his sinker on 67.7% of his 1039 pitches, with his cutter following at 20%. According to Baseball Savant, both of Bummer’s pitches produce a drop well above the league average.

Robin Ventura Jersey White Sox

1956 — With the first of many awards he would win in his Hall of Fame career, Luis Aparicio became the first Venezuelan to ever win the Rookie of the Year Award. Aparicio led the AL in steals with 21 and played a stellar defensive game, leading the league in putouts and assists as well as in games and innings played. Aparicio picked up 22 of the 24 possible votes. He beat out Cleveland’s Rocky Colavito (who would join the Sox in 1967) and Baltimore’s Tito Francona (who also would be a member of the White Sox, for part of the 1958 campaign).

1964 — The Sox traded pitcher Frank Baumann to the Cubs for catcher Jimmie Schaffer. It was the first time the two Chicago clubs made a direct trade with each other.

1970 — For the second and final time, the White Sox traded Luis Aparicio. The future Hall of Fame shortstop was sent to the Red Sox for infielders Luis Alvarado and Mike Andrews. Those players helped the Sox in the early 1970s, but this is one Roland Hemond trade that some have second-guessed. In 1972, if Aparicio was around to provide some stability to the infield, the White Sox may have taken the Western Division title. Lee “Bee-Bee” Richards, Alvarado and Rich Morales simply weren’t the answer at shortstop that season.

1998 — Popular and proficient third baseman Robin Ventura signed a free agent contract with the Mets. Ventura, who was an outspoken critic of the “White Flag” trade, won five Gold Gloves in his time on the South Side in addition to hitting 171 home runs. He had six seasons with at least 90 RBIs and hit .280 or better for five seasons. He’d return in 2012 to begin a five-year tenure as manager.

Jeff Keppinger Jersey White Sox

We’ve spent the past month-plus ranking the top-five prospects for every MLB team. Now that that process is finished, we’ve opted to rank the top 50 prospects in all of baseball. You’ll find the players listed below in order of their perceived impact with other factors — like their perceived riskiness — baked in. You’ll also find our report on each player below their name.

Do note that 50 is, itself, an arbitrary figure — and that his is more art than science. Any number of players could have cracked the bottom of the list without it being a big deal, and if you prefer the prospect ranked No. 32 to the prospect ranked No. 35, that’s fine with us.

Let’s get to the rankings:

1. Wander Franco, SS, Rays
The best prospect in baseball, Wander Franco has all the makings of a franchise talent. Franco, who won’t turn 19 until March, is a switch-hitting shortstop who split the season between Single- and High-A. He hit .327/.398/.487 with nine home runs and 21 more walks than strikeouts. The only statistical negative to point out is that he required 32 attempts to swipe 18 bases. Otherwise, there’s not much to nitpick here. In addition to the production, Franco checks all the boxes for projection. He has all the innate characteristics required to be an impact-level player, ranging from his strength to his speed to his throwing ability and so on. One rival talent evaluator joked during the summer that Franco probably could’ve held his own against big-league pitching. It wasn’t meant as a serious evaluation, per se, but it speaks to Franco’s polish and talent level all the same. Even if he has to move off shortstop, he might end up as one of the best players in baseball.

2. Jo Adell, OF, Angels
There’s a case to be made that Jo Adell is the best non-teenage prospect in baseball. That case begins with the fact that Adell is a fantastic athlete. Here, watch him do some plyometrics then check back. Done? Good. Adell can hit the ectoplasm out of the baseball just as well as he can ghost around the basepaths or in the outfield. He might finish his development with four tools that project as plus or better — that isn’t a common profile. Talking about only the pluses with top prospects can get boring, but there are few minuses to nitpick with Adell. The main one is that he’s prone to swinging and missing. He struck out in roughly a third of his plate appearances in Triple-A over a 27-game stretch. But it’s worth noting that he fanned a lot during his initial exposure to Double-A, only to return this year and hit .308/.390/.553 in 182 plate appearances — with, it should be known, a greatly reduced K rate. If you want a second negative about Adell it’s that he’s yet to appear in 100 games in a season. (He finished with 99 in 2018.) A third? Uh … he might never be on your favorite team. Otherwise, Adell is a very good prospect. You’re going to like watching him play baseball. You should get the chance to do sometime in 2020.

3. Luis Robert, OF, White Sox
If you enjoyed the Eloy Jimenez service-time debates then go ahead and purchase a mass quantity of popcorn because the same arguments will resurface in spring about Luis Robert. Robert spent 47 games in Triple-A, hitting .297/.341/.634 with 16 home runs and seven stolen bases. Across three levels, he combined to homer 32 times and steal 36 bags. Keep in mind: he only turned 22 in August. The White Sox elected against promoting him in September, meaning his debut might be delayed into next summer if Chicago intends to game his arbitration clock. Robert has the potential to be a middle-of-the-order hitter who can hang in center field during the early stages of his career. The one concern here is his approach, as he walked in about five percent of his plate appearances this season — that versus a strikeout rate closer to 24 percent. Obviously it’s possible more time in the minors could help Robert improve upon his strikeout-to-walk ratio. But there’s a case to be made that — given his success against minor-league pitchers — further development will require a step up in competition. Come spring the White Sox will vote on what they believe — or what they prioritize, anyway.

4. Mackenzie Gore, LHP, Padres
The top left-handed pitching prospect in the game, MacKenzie Gore checked off a few items from his to-do list in 2019: he crossed the 100-inning threshold for the first time; reached Double-A; and, thus, was able to refer to himself as a “Sod Poodle.” It’s the little things. Gore has elicited Clayton Kershaw comparisons due to his delivery and his trademark curveball. It’s probably unwise to expect anyone to match Kershaw’s career, but Gore does have the chance to become a front-of-the-rotation starter thanks to his athleticism and a deep arsenal that could end up featuring four above-average pitches. Presumably Gore will begin the season in Double-A. It’s reasonable to expect him to debut at some point in 2020. It’s also reasonable to expect him to team with Chris Paddack as one of the most fun tandems in baseball.

5. Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles
The shiny new toy syndrome often manifests in these lists in the form of recent draftees ranking higher than they should. It makes some baseball sense — after all, most of them haven’t had enough time to fail as professionals, leaving us with nothing to weigh but their potential and upside. Adley Rutschman, the top pick in June’s draft, is the only choice for the top spot here. Rutschman, who gets to repurpose his orange-and-black gear from his days at Oregon State, doubles as the best catching prospect in the minors. Scouts believe he’ll wind up with four plus or better tools — or, everything but the run tool. (Hey, he’s a catcher.) Additionally, he has a mature approach at the dish and other teams’ internal metrics grade him as a good framer. Factor in Rutschman’s perceived intangibles, and there’s a decent chance he’s both a middle-of-the-order hitter and a field general-style defender. That would make him a perennial All-Star candidate and one of the better players in baseball in any given season. The biggest knock on Rutschman may be none of his own doing, but rather Matt Wieters’ failure to live up to his once-lofty promise. It’s worth remembering that Wieters (though seldom the transformative player some forecasted him as) has authored an 11-season career in which he’s made four All-Star teams and has accumulated enough Wins Above Replacement to rank as the ninth-most productive No. 5 pick in history. If that Rutschman’s floor, then it’s a nice floor.

6. Gavin Lux, INF, Dodgers
By now, everyone is probably familiar with Gavin Lux, who appeared in 23 games with the Dodgers down the stretch. For the exceptions in the crowd, Lux spent most of the season terrorizing minor-league pitching. He hit .347/.421/.607 with 26 home runs across Double- and Triple-A. He did that while playing the entire season as a 21-year-old who primarily played shortstop. In other words, Lux is a well-rounded player — one who can hit for average and power, walk, and so on. The main question with him at this point is where he’ll play on the big-league team. The Dodgers used him exclusively at second base during his big-league cameo, and it’s probably fair to slot him in there for as long as Corey Seager is hearty and hale.

7. Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers
When Casey Mize was picked first overall in the 2018 draft, he dethroned former big-league closer Gregg Olson (No. 4 in 1988) as the highest player ever selected from Auburn. Mize shares a few commonalities with Olson — an alma mater, of course, and the possession of a high-grade out pitch. Olson had one of the best curveballs in recent memory, while Mize has a trapdoor split-change that has more GIF potential than a waterskiing squirrel. Mize’s arsenal runs deeper than his splitter. He has three other offerings — a fastball, a slider, and a cutter — that grade as at least above-average. Those pitches often play up due to his polish. He has above-average command and has walked fewer than five percent of the batters he’s faced so far as a professional. The main concern with Mize is the universal one for pitchers: health. Unfortunately, this isn’t theory (“he’s a pitcher and pitchers get hurt”) so much as a reality: Mize missed time this season due to shoulder inflammation, and has had other arm woes in the past, including a forearm strain that interfered with his sophomore season at Auburn. Bodies are fickle vessels prone to upheaval when tasked with crossing the waters of a big-league season, but past research suggests past injuries are the best predictor of future injuries — meaning, in so many words, Mize might be more prone to injury than the standard pitcher. A hearty and hale Mize is likely to debut in the majors next spring. He ought to develop into a No. 2 starter in short order, and his health will dictate if he’s ever known as an ace.

8. Jarred Kelenic, OF, Mariners
The gem of the Robinson Cano trade, Jarred Kelenic asserted himself as the top prospect in Seattle’s system with an impressive age-19 season that saw him hit .291/.364/.540 with 23 homers and 20 steals across three levels — including 21 Double-A contests. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kelenic is expected to be an above-average hitter at the big-league level. Kelenic is more than just a stick though. He can run, and for the time being he’s likely to remain in center thanks to his footspeed and his big-time arm. There’s a chance he has to move to a corner (likely right) down the road, but there’s star potential if he can stick up the middle. Kelenic won’t be able to legally drink until July. By then, he could be knocking on the big-league door. Whether Seattle chooses to answer it before the 2021 season rolls around is to be seen.

9. Cristian Pache, OF, Braves
At his best, Cristian Pache looks like a future star: a demon center fielder with more power potential than his 21 career home runs suggest. At his less-than-best, he still looks like a valuable player — just one who may not add as much as hoped offensively. Pache was having a breakout season before a late promotion to Triple-A, where some of his gains — at least so far as lifting the ball and hitting for more power — disappeared. He continued to walk more than usual, which is a welcomed sign for someone known as a free-swinger, but he remained as pull-heavy as ever. Indeed, Pache pulled around 57 percent of his batted balls in 2019, according to FanGraphs. Only three qualified big-league hitters finished over 50 percent, and none higher than Max Kepler at 53.4 percent. Whatever works works, but that kind of dependency on pulling the baseball could speak to a deficiency within his game. Despite Pache’s well-above-average speed, he hasn’t yet morphed into a stolen-base threat — not a good one, anyway. An 8-for-19 season (you read that correctly) leaves him with a 60 percent career success rate. That just isn’t going to fly in the majors. This isn’t meant to be dismissive of Pache’s ability to grow, either. He won’t turn 21 until November, and it’s possible he taps into some of that power and learns the nuances of basestealing. It’s just a reminder that even very good prospects like Pache — who should develop into an above-average regular — sometimes have flaws that need to be noted.

10. Dustin May, RHP, Dodgers
Dustin May also debuted this season for the Dodgers. In 14 appearances he threw 34 innings, fanned 32 batters and walked five and accumulated a 115 ERA+. May has a quirky aesthetic thanks to a high leg kick, but it’s been fair to project him as a mid-rotation starter thanks to his athleticism and a high-grade fastball-curveball combination. May has added a cutter in recent seasons, and that pitch has become his main secondary offering as he’s seemingly lost the feel for the curve (he used it only 10 percent of the time during his big-league stay). It’s at least possible that the cutter is directly responsible for it — you’ll often hear pitchers warn about throwing too many, since it leads to them getting around the ball rather than behind it — but we can’t say for sure. If May can get the curve back, he’d have three above average or better pitches at his disposal. That, combined with his control, could position him as a No. 2 starter.

11. Matt Manning, RHP, Tigers
Matt Manning’s father, Rich, played two seasons in the NBA during the ’90s. Predictably, the younger Manning is tall (listed at 6-foot-6) and athletic. He even had enough game on the court to receive a scholarship offer to play college ball. Manning instead chose baseball, but he still concerns himself with the arc he puts on the ball — at least as it pertains to his signature pitch, a curveball often described as a “hammer.” In addition to the curve, he has an above-average fastball and a developing changeup. Manning has done well to fill out his frame and improve upon his delivery, with this season seeing him post new single-season bests in innings pitched (133) and walk rate (2.6 per nine innings). As with Mize, Manning is likely to debut for Detroit sometime next spring. Mize’s injury history suggests Manning might be the safer of the two on a year-to-year basis.

12. Jesus Luzardo, LHP, A’s
Each of the top three prospects in the Oakland system made their big-league debut in 2019. Obviously that includes lefty Jesus Luzardo, who the Athletics originally acquired as part of the Sean Doolittle trade. ( Blake Treinen and Ryan Madson were also involved.) Luzardo, 22 since September, remains an availability question mark. Injuries limited him to 17 appearances in 2019, the second-most of his career. That Luzardo is the shorter side — he’s listed at 6-foot, 209 pounds — isn’t likely to convince anyone he can hold up to the rigors of a normal starter’s workload. Yet Luzardo has three above-average average pitches — a mid-90s fastball, curveball, and changeup — as well as feel for the craft and for throwing quality strikes. Those are the kinds of innate characteristics that tend to be present in above-average starters. As such, a healthy Luzardo should break camp in the A’s rotation. He’s likely to remain there until his body or his paycheck demand otherwise.

13. Brendan McKay, LHP, Rays
Brendan McKay, the No. 4 pick in the 2018 draft, just did qualify for this list. He was an inning short of the limit — and, frankly, there was some consideration given to ruling him ineligible since he did make a few appearances as a DH. Indeed, McKay is two-way player who should probably be restricted to the mound. That’s where scouts prefer him, and his bat is far enough behind that it’s going to be hard to develop him as a hitter without missing out on the value he can provide as a pitcher. McKay has a three-pitch arsenal: a low-to-mid-90s fastball that generated an absurd amount of in-zone swinging strikes in the minors, a cutter, and a curveball. Each pitch generated at least 20 percent whiffs during his big-league stint, though the opposition (mostly right-handers) slugged .515 against his heater and batted .292 on the curve. The Rays had McKay consistently work on five days’ rest rather than four, and it’s to be seen if they change that heading into 2020. He receives high marks for his low heartbeat — read: calm demeanor — and the expectation is he’ll become a No. 2 or 3 starter with time.

14. Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves
The Braves picked Kyle Wright fifth overall in 2017 out of Vanderbilt based in part because he seemed like a quick riser. He had the delivery, the athleticism, the body, the arsenal, the track record against tough competition, and so on. Two full seasons later, Wright is still trying to gain traction in the majors. In 11 appearances, he’s yielded six home runs and nearly as many walks (19) as strikeouts (23). As the children might say, major yikes. To Wright’s credit, he pitched well in Triple-A and seemed unbothered by the altered ball. Besides, his big-league exposure is a small sample — albeit an unkind small sample. Given all the perceived pros in Wright’s game, he still has a chance to develop into a mid-rotation starter or a tick better. If he continues to struggle for much longer, however, don’t be surprised if he starts slipping down these lists and the depth chart.

15. Michael Kopech, RHP, White Sox
The most well known name on the list due to his inclusion in the Chris Sale trade, Michael Kopech made four big-league appearances in 2018. He struck out 15 batters in those 14 innings before succumbing to Tommy John surgery that ended his season and wiped out his 2019, too. Kopech ranks here based on the expectation that he’ll make a full recovery from the elbow operation. That means he returns with an elite fastball, two high-quality secondaries and the improved command he showed during the second half of 2018. Perhaps Kopech doesn’t have all that, at least not right away — command is said to be the aspect that comes back last — but for now his upside remains ace-like.

16. Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays
Few pitchers, let alone prospects, have as much arm strength as Nate Pearson, who hit 103 mph during last year’s Arizona Fall League All-Star Game. Pearson was in the Fall League because he had missed most of the regular season due to a fractured forearm. He rebounded just fine in 2019, tossing 101 ⅔ innings across three levels. His final three starts occurred in Triple-A, where he struck out 15 batters in 18 frames. It’s fair to think, then, that Pearson will make his big-league debut in 2020 — potentially early on, too. Pearson obviously possesses a power arsenal, complete with a high-grade fastball and an above-average slider that he can deliver harder than some pitchers’ heaters. The rest of his arsenal is closer to average, but the bigger concern here has to do with his workload. Even including his collegiate days, he’s yet to throw as many as 105 innings in a season. Pearson becoming a front-of-the-rotation monster is within the realm of possibilities. But tempering expectations, at least in the short term, could prove to be a prudent decision.

17. Brendan Rodgers, 2B, Rockies
There are soft apocalypses, and then there’s whatever happened to the Rockies in 2019, including top prospect Brendan Rodgers . Rodgers, who looked like a safe bet to contribute to the Rockies this season, received his chance over the summer. He appeared in 25 games after a May debut and hit just .224/.272/.250. He struck out nearly seven times as often as he walked, and notched all of two extra-base hits in 76 at-bats. He then underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in July. Woof. For as bad as things went for Rodgers, it’s still a small sample. Mike Trout hit .220/.281/.390 with more than three times as many punchouts as free passes in his first 135 trips to the plate. Rodgers isn’t going to become Trout, and to be certain he needs to make adjustments to his game — particularly with his approach, as he was far too vulnerable against bendy stuff. But, if you were mostly on board with what he appeared to be entering the year — that is, in so many words, a free-swinging second baseman with pop — then you should give him a longer look. After all, underperforming expectations seemed to be the theme of the year in Colorado.

18. Carter Kieboom, SS, Nationals
The only player in the Nationals’ top five to reach the majors in 2019, Carter Kieboom had a forgettable 11-game stint early in the spring during which he nearly recorded twice more strikeouts (16) than times on base (nine). Woof. The good news for Kieboom is multifaceted. It was just 11 games, after all, and he fared well in Triple-A, where he hit .303/.409/.493 with 16 home runs and a healthier strikeout rate. Tools-wise, Kieboom still profiles as a potential regular thanks to his bat and strong throwing arm, both of which grade as at least above-average, if not better. Even with the strong arm, Kieboom is not likely to remain at shortstop for much longer — Washington had him play a lot of second base in the minors this season, and that seems like his likeliest landing spot. Presuming Kieboom fares better heading forward, he could check in as a two-way contributor at the keystone as soon as next season.

19. Mitch Keller, RHP, Pirates
Mitch Keller just qualified for this list, as he nearly topped the 50-inning threshold. What he did during his big-league stay was … well, confounding. He posted strong underlying peripherals — his strikeout-to-walk ratio was outstanding — but he also permitted a lot of hits. Keller’s fastball is supposed to be his best pitch due to its combination of mid-90s velocity and rise (the only qualified right-handed starters with greater relative vertical movement on their heaters are Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole ). Yet his command, along with some potentially suboptimal sequencing, led to a .461 batting average against the pitch, as well as a lower fastball swing-and-miss rate than those posted by Jakob Junis and Adam Plutko, among others. A less surprising, if no more promising development saw Keller record minimal whiffs on his changeup — the laggard in his arsenal. If there is a bright side, it’s that he did establish a third pitch to go with his fastball and curve: an upper-80s slider that missed bats at a higher rate than either of his other pitches. If and how he can leverage those three offerings against left-handed batters will go a long way in determining if he’s able to become more than a No. 3 starter. Some of you may have read those preceding paragraphs and made a mental note that Keller is clearly going to be an Astro someday based on his strengths and weaknesses. For the sake of Pirates fans, here’s hoping he finds success before then — and/or brings back a bounty.

20. Alex Kirilloff, OF, Twins
Alex Kirilloff will play all of the 2020 season as a 22-year-old. It’s possible that by the end of the year, he’ll also identify as a big-league outfielder. Kirilloff was the 15th pick in 2016 draft. He had his development delayed after undergoing Tommy John surgery that wiped out his 2017. A big 2018 landed him in Double-A to begin the 2019 season, and that’s where he spent the entire year, hitting .283/.343/.413 in 94 games while doubling as one of the younger hitters in the Southern League. Kirilloff has an unorthodox swing, as he’s prone to stepping in the bucket — or striding away from the plate. This is often frowned upon, since it theoretically makes it tougher to hit outside pitches, but some batters — e.g. Khris Davis — have made it work. Kirilloff might be the next thanks to his feel for hitting and the natural loft in his swing. Provided Kirilloff keeps hitting, the development worth watching here is where the Twins stick him defensively. They’ve had him crosstrain between first base and the corner outfield, and it’s possible that he could ping pong back and forth as needed, giving him a little additional value.

21. Royce Lewis, SS, Twins
The No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft, Royce Lewis just couldn’t seem to get going, no matter what. Lewis hit .238/.289/.376 with more than three times as many strikeouts as walks during a repeat assignment in High-A. (To be fair, it was the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.) He was pushed to Double-A in late July, and he responded by … hitting even worse: .231/.291/.358 with a slightly better strikeout-to-walk ratio of three on the nose. Lewis did play better in the Arizona Fall League, which, hey, take the victories you can. The hope here is that Lewis can figure out what ailed his swing and get back to his old offensive standing over the course of the 2020 season — a standing that made it OK that he might not remain at shortstop for the long haul, but might instead land in center field. If not… well, he’ll turn 21 in June. Given his pedigree, he’s worth permitting the mulligan.

22. Dylan Carlson, OF, Cardinals
Dylan Carlson, the 33rd pick in the 2016 draft, positioned himself for a 2020 callup thanks to a strong season that saw him hit .281/.364/.518 with 21 homers and 18 steals in Double-A. Carlson is a well-rounded switch hitter who was better as a lefty in 2019. (He was better as a righty in 2018, so it doesn’t appear to be part of a bigger trend.) He cut into his ground ball rate this season, presumably in pursuit of better leveraging his raw strength. It worked, as he posted the highest ISO of his professional career despite playing in the upper-minors. As it stands, Carlson projects to hit for average and power while also drawing a lot of walks. There’s perhaps a chance he sacrifices more of his hit tool for additional power (or vice versa), but that’s to be seen. Add up the entire package, and it’s easy to envision him being a productive everyday member of a good lineup. Defensively, Carlson has an above-average arm and should be fine in right. He’s already listed at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds so there’s a chance he someday outgrows the position. For now, he’s the Cardinals prospect likeliest to start important games for them in 2020.

23. A.J. Puk, LHP, A’s
The sixth pick in the 2016 draft, southpaw A.J. Puk took a touch longer than expected to crack the major-league roster. Puk was viewed as the rotation’s potential savior entering the 2018 season, yet missed the year due to Tommy John surgery. The A’s took it slow and low with him in his return this season, limiting him to 28 games and 36 innings between the minors and majors, including 10 such appearances as part of the club’s late-season bullpen. During that big-league cameo, Puk relied heavily on his two best pitches: an upper-90s fastball and a swing-and-miss slider. Both of those offerings are plus or better. The rest of his arsenal — he throws a 90-mph changeup and a curveball — didn’t receive as much praise, and he struggles with command the way more tall pitchers do (he’s 6-foot-7). There’s a chance Puk becomes a No. 2 starter behind his fastball-slider. There’s also a chance he’s more of an inconsistent mid-rotation type, or even a shutdown reliever. The A’s figure to give him every opportunity to become one of the first two, beginning early in 2020.

24. Nolan Gorman, 3B, Cardinals
Teenage third baseman Nolan Gorman reached High-A in his first full professional season, and his performance there highlighted some of the concerns about his game. Gorman has well-above-average power and the chance to stick at third base for at least the start of his big-league career. The catch is that he’s likely to strike out — a lot. To wit, he fanned in nearly a third of his plate appearances following his promotion to High-A. He also saw his walk rate and ISO dip (though he remained an above-average hitter overall). You probably don’t need to be told why Gorman’s profile is risky, so let’s just be clear about something: He’s still a high-quality prospect due to his age, his loud tool, and his makeup. There’s absolutely downside here, too — either that Gorman doesn’t make enough contact to maximize his pop, or that his defense at the hot corner forces him elsewhere — but there’s middle-of-the-order upside that shouldn’t be discarded just because of his variability.

25. Andrew Vaughn, 1B, White Sox
Andrew Vaughn the player is straightforward. He’s a relentless worker who turned himself into arguably the best hitter in college baseball — seriously, he hit .374/.539/.704 with nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts. There’s a fair chance he’ll be batting in the top four of a big-league lineup in 12 to 16 months’ time, after which he should be a well-rounded, above-average hitter. Vaughn the idea is less straightforward. He’s an ex-collegiate first baseman who bats righty, stands under six feet, and was drafted No. 3 overall. The track record of similar players isn’t very good, to the extent that there was some thought about trying him at third base. The White Sox don’t seem too interested in that idea, having played him exclusively at the cold corner. It’s probably for the best, since Vaughn’s best position is (and always will be) in the batter’s box. Vaughn hit .278/.348/.449 in his first 245 professional plate appearances. He might begin the year at Double-A with an outside shot at debuting as Jose Abreu’s heir late in the season.

26. Nick Madrigal, SS, White Sox
The No. 4 pick in the 2018 draft, Nick Madrigal is unlike most any other player in baseball. He’s small and unlikely to offer much power, yet he’s a good defensive second baseman with absurd bat-to-ball skills who “runs like a [mother’s intimate friend],” in the words of one source. Madrigal has walked 30 more times than he’s struck out in his career, which is impressive considering he’s fanned all of 21 times — or in less than three percent of his trips to the plate. For reference, no qualified hitter in the majors has struck out less than nine percent of the time this year. In fact, just 13 batters have checked in since the last round of expansion with more than 300 plate appearances and a K rate below five percent. The last person to do it was Jeff Keppinger, back in 2008. (The lowest since 2010 is 5.8 percent, by Juan Pierre in 2011.) Madrigal has, perhaps predictably, moved quickly through the system. He reached Triple-A for a 29-game stretch this season, hitting .331/.398/.424 and positioning himself to debut in the majors early next year. Interestingly, he pulled the ball far more often than he had previously as a professional, when he’d been primarily an opposite-field hitter. He’ll need to do both heading forward — and his ability to do so could help him win a batting title some day. A profile this unusual is either going to sink or swim. Here’s hoping Madrigal swims — Lord knows baseball can always benefit from something (or someone) a little different.

27. Spencer Howard, RHP, Phillies
The Phillies’ second-round pick in 2018, Spencer Howard may have reached the majors this season were it not for shoulder trouble that cost him two months of the summer. Howard ended up getting to Double-A for his final six starts. In those outings, he averaged five innings per pop while permitting 20 hits, eight earned runs, and nine walks. He struck out 38 batters and limited the opposition to a .180/.254/.288 line against. In other words, he’s going to reach the majors sometime in 2020 — potentially sometime early on, if his health allows. Howard has the chance to be an above-average big-league starter thanks to a well-rounded arsenal that includes a high-quality fastball and slider, as well as a changeup and curve. He’s yet to top 130 innings, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Phillies manage his workload.

28. JJ Bleday, OF, Marlins
When Vanderbilt outfielder JJ Bleday was picked fourth overall by the Marlins in June’s draft, he became the third Commodore hitter to ever go in the top five, joining Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson (No. 1, 2015) and former Pirates slugger Pedro Alvarez (No. 2, 2008). Based on Bleday’s pedigree and collegiate performance — he hit .350/.464/.717 with 26 home runs and one more walk than strikeout — it would’ve been justifiable to expect him to walk all over Florida State League pitchers. He didn’t, instead posting a .690 OPS in 38 games. Scouts aren’t ready to forget about Bleday — rather, they maintain hope that he develops into a middle-of-the-order hitter who marries a smart approach with above-average left-handed thump — but there is some reason for concern here as it pertains to his unorthodox swing. Typically scouts like quietness at the dish; Bleday’s swing features a lot of movement, a lot of reverb. He also tends to collapse his back side, leading at least one talent evaluator to question how he’ll fare against better pitchers who can spam him away with soft stuff. It’s to be seen if that anxiety is merited. For now, Bleday remains the safest quantity here.

29. Ian Anderson, RHP, Braves
The third pick in the 2016 draft, Ian Anderson should make his big-league debut in 2020. Anderson has the makings of a mid-rotation starter or better. He has the size, the delivery, the arsenal — all three pitches have above-average potential. What he doesn’t have is the command. Anderson has walked four batters per nine throughout his minor-league career, including 4.3 per nine in 2019. Put another way, his 11.3 percent walk rate would have tied Dakota Hudson for the highest among in the majors among qualified starters. Obviously Anderson has more bat-missing ability than Hudson, perhaps making his situation more comparable to the Robbie Rays and Luis Castillos of the league. But it’s asking a lot from any pitcher to require a top-15 strikeout rate to overcome their wildness. Anderson won’t turn 22 until May, so he has time to improve his command. Perhaps he’ll be the next to pull a Michael Kopech?

30. Shane Baz, RHP, Rays
Sorry Pirates fans, but it must be noted that Shane Baz was yet another piece of the Chris Archer return, alongside outfielder Austin Meadows and fellow starter Tyler Glasnow. Baz, who turned 20 in June, spent the season in A-ball and showed why he’s the most intriguing right-handed prospect in the system. He struck out 87 batters in 81 innings thanks to a broad arsenal that includes multiple above-average offerings, beginning with his fastball and extending to various breaking balls. His changeup still lags, which explains why left-handers were able to succeed against him to the tune of, um … a .665 OPS. Baz’s delivery does inspire concern about his command, and he set a new career-best by walking just over four batters per nine. There’s a chance he ends up in the bullpen or in a hybrid role as a result of the aforementioned platoon and command concerns. But there’s a lot to like here and a high ceiling if he’s able to smooth out those wrinkles.

31. Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Orioles
Dan Duquette’s final first-round selection in Baltimore, Grayson Rodriguez, is shaping up to be a quality parting gift. Rodriguez, who won’t turn 20 until mid-November, spent the season in the South Atlantic League, striking out 129 batters and yielding just four home runs in 94 frames. He already looks like a big-league starter (he’s listed at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds), and his arsenal could offer both impact and depth upon maturation. His fastball can touch into the upper-90s and he has a knockout slider that serves as his main out pitch. Rodriguez will continue to work on shaping the rest of his repertoire, including a slow changeup that clocks in 13 to 14 mph below than his heater, per Trackman data. (The largest gap in the majors this season is 12.8 mph and belongs to Matt Boyd, per data from FanGraphs — and Boyd seldom uses his changeup.) Every young starter could “wind up in the bullpen,” much in the way that every protagonist in a Haruki Murakami novel could end up in an alternate dimension — it happens often enough that the caveat should be implicit. All the same, Rodriguez checks enough boxes to think he has a better chance than not of spending his years in a rotation — or, uh, another realm.

32. Drew Waters, OF, Braves
The Braves’ other top outfield prospect, Drew Waters split the year between Double- and Triple-A, hitting .309/.360/.459 with 56 extra-base hits and 16 steals. He did most of his damage before his promotion, as he hit just .271/.336/.374 in 26 games in Gwinnett. Waters is a quality athlete who would be viewed as Atlanta’s center fielder of the future were it not for Pache. He has the arm to play right if need be. At the plate, he’s a nominal switch-hitter who struggles against left-handed pitching. That’s okay, given most pitchers throw right-handed. Waters doesn’t walk quite as much as one would like, and ideally he would tap into his raw power more often. Provided he can keep his strikeouts in check, then he has a chance to become an intriguing two-way contributor — perhaps as soon as during the 2020 season.

33. Heliot Ramos, OF, Giants
For years, Heliot Ramos has flirted with the top spot on prospect lists. Now, he’s earned it here following a season in which he hit .306/.385/.500 with 13 homers in High-A at 19. Ramos, who turned 20 in September, didn’t fare quite as well in 25 Double-A games, striking out in 31 percent of his plate appearances. He gets a pass because he was roughly five years younger than the average batter in the league, per Baseball-Reference’s calculations. (Plus it was 25 games during his first look at the level.) There are some downsides to Ramos’s game — the previously referenced swing-and-miss and the likelihood he ends up in a corner rather than sticking up-the-middle — but generally, this kind of offensive potency at such a young age against older competition bodes well for the future.

34. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Astros
Forrest Whitley had one of the most disappointing seasons in the minors. He entered the year in the running as the best pitching prospect in baseball — and one who seemed destined to make his big-league debut before summer faded to fall — and ended it with a 7.99 ERA in 59 innings over various levels. When Whitley is right, he looks like a front-of-the-rotation starter thanks to his size and arsenal. He didn’t look right throughout the year, however, and he battled his mechanics to the tune of walking nearly seven per nine innings. That is, as the kids say, not great. Progress isn’t always linear, and indeed sometimes it’s beneficial for the player to experience some adversity — the on-the-field, struggling type, that is — before they reach the Show. Whitley pitched better in the Arizona Fall League, so keep an eye on whether he can get back on track in 2020. If not, he’s going to slide down the list quickly.

35. Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Marlins
The headliner in the J.T. Realmuto trade, Sixto Sanchez is one of the most exciting pitching prospects in baseball. He can hit 100 mph; he flashes above-average secondaries; and he possesses above-average command and control. So, why’s he second? Foremost, Sanchez is on the smaller side. He’s officially listed at 6-foot, yet is believed to be even shorter. Historically, teams have not afforded pitchers of that stature a long look in the rotation. The Marlins could prove to be the exception — they’ve permitted 6-foot, 180-pound Jordan Yamamoto the opportunity to start — but there’s always something to be said about hedging bets. (Sanchez, for his part, did throw a career-high 114 innings this season.) There’s also the fact that Sanchez, for all his stuff and polish, doesn’t miss as many bats as expected — not even with his fastball. More goes into being a successful pitcher than whiff rates, and it’s possible he’ll become one of the masters of the freezeball — the way David Price, who as a youngster missed bats at a lower rate than Jamie Moyer, was in his heyday. Until he proves as much against big-league hitters, it’s fair to have some reservations. Sanchez will open the year in Triple-A. He ought to debut come summertime at the latest.

36. Brandon Marsh, OF, Angels
Although Brandon Marsh may lack Adell’s upside, he’s a high-quality prospect himself — one who could well reach the majors in the 2020 season, perhaps alongside Adell. Marsh missed most of June due to injury, but still appeared in 96 Double-A games this season. He hit .300/.383/.428 and delivered seven home runs and 18 steals (on 23 tries). You probably get the gist from those numbers that he can contribute across the board. He can also run, field, and throw, and he might learn to better leverage his raw power in the coming years, too. At minimum, Marsh should develop into a most-days starter in either corner.

37. Nolan Jones, 3B, Cleveland
If any player on this list is going to help Cleveland in 2020, it’s going to be Nolan Jones, the 21-year-old third baseman who split the season between High- and Double-A — and fared well at both levels. Jones is a large fella (he’s listed at 6-foot-2, and north of 180 pounds) who may end up having to move off the position in due time as he continues to grow into his frame. Even so, his bat ought to allow him to be an asset for years to come. Jones has posted prolific walk rates throughout the minors, including over 20 percent during his time in High-A. Even in Double-A, he was still taking a free pass in around 15 percent of his plate appearances. Oftentimes, there’s concern that players who walk that much are allowing hittable pitches to pass. But Jones has consistently hit for average and posted a .213 ISO in 49 Double-A games, suggesting he just has a disciplined approach at the dish. Because of Jones’s size and his willingness to work counts, he’s probably always going to strike out a fair amount. There’s some risk of those contact woes getting out of hand. But until that happens it’s okay to envision him being part of Cleveland’s lineup late in 2020.

38. Bobby Witt, SS, Royals
Most people reading this are probably familiar with Bobby Witt Jr.’s essential background details — e.g. him being selected No. 2 in June’s draft; his father being a longtime big-league pitcher; and so on. We’ll forego the redundancy in favor of saving precious seconds and bandwidth. Witt’s biggest fans point to his broad base of tools. He can throw, he can run, and he’s expected to stick at shortstop. What’s supposed to separate Witt from the typical six-holer is the well-above-average raw power he generates from his 6-foot-1 frame and simple swing. Dating back to the last round of expansion, there have been only eight shortstops with multiple 20-20 seasons — Witt may eventually add his name to the list. Witt’s biggest detractors have a few key talking points of their own. Foremost, they point to the swing-and-miss present in his game. As a result, Witt’s hit tool may play below-average at the big-league level, potentially hampering his ability to maximize his strength. There’s also the matter of his age — Witt will turn 20 on Flag Day, which is on the older side for a prep draftee. Disagreements about Witt’s ceiling aside, it should be acknowledged that his secondary skills alleviate some pressure from his bat. He may or may not develop into a star-level performer, but he should reach the majors in some capacity — with a fair chance of being at least a regular.

39. Taylor Trammell, OF, Padres
One of the biggest surprises at the trade deadline saw the Padres acquire Taylor Trammell as part of a three-team trade with Cleveland and the Reds . The Padres shipped out outfielder Franmil Reyes, left-handed starter Logan Allen, and infielder Victor Nova in exchange for Trammell, who has a chance to become the most valuable part of a deal that included big-league stars Trevor Bauer and Yasiel Puig . Alas, Trammell’s iffy season at Double-A didn’t get better after changing teams. His average, walk rate, and strikeout rate all went in the wrong direction, and while he hit for more power, it seems a fair amount of that had to do a friendlier hitting environment. If there was one positive after the trade, it’s that the Padres seem intent on letting him play center — he has jets, but he’s been projected to land in left due to a substandard throwing arm. One source compared Trammell’s likely upside to longtime Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner . For that comparison to come to fruition, Trammell may need to abandon hope of tapping into his raw power and instead focus on maximizing his contact and on-base skills. Should he make progress with whatever route he picks, he could debut early in 2020.

40. Kristian Robinson, OF, Diamondbacks
Signed out of the Bahamas on July 2, 2017 for more than $2.5 million, Kristian Robinson has the makings of a high-quality player. Robinson is listed at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds with a frame that suggests he should be able to add more muscle over the coming years. In turn, he’s likely to wield well-above-average power potential — a scary thought for the A-ball pitchers who permitted him to hit .282/.368/.514 with 14 home runs and 17 stolen bases this season (to be fair, most of that damage came before a late-season promotion to Single-A). As the steals indicate, speed is at present a part of Robinson’s game, and he’s primarily played center field thus far as a professional. It’s probable, if not likely, that he’ll end up in a corner as he packs on additional weight — presumably at the cost of his speed. Robinson won’t turn 20 until after the election, meaning there’s ample time for something to go awry — for example, maybe he proves too prone to swinging and missing to maximize his offensive output. There’s also ample time for him to develop into a star.

41. Julio Rodriguez, OF, Mariners
Julio Rodriguez won’t turn 19 until the end of the year, but he’s already established himself as one of the better outfield prospects in the minors. Rodriguez is listed at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds and looks the part. Although he was more than three years younger than the average bear in both leagues he played in during the 2019 season, he still hit .326/.390/.540 with 12 home runs. Should Rodriguez develop as expected, he’s likely to bat in the middle of an order someday while providing both average and big-time pop. Defensively, Rodriguez isn’t quite as impressive. He has a strong arm and should end up in right field, but let’s be real: few are going to care about that so long as he hits like he can.

42. Alec Bohm, 3B, Phillies
When Alec Bohm was drafted third overall in 2018, he tied Braden Looper for the distinction of being the third-highest selected player from Wichita State University. (Joe Carter and Darren Dreifort each went second in their draft years.) Believe it or not, the most successful Shocker has been Casey Blake, who accumulated 25 Wins Above Replacement for his career. Blake played in parts of 13 big-league seasons, seeing most of his action at third base with some corner outfield and first base mixed in. It’s unclear if Bohm will follow in Blake’s cleatprints, but it’s at minimum it’s possible he ends up moving off third base over the next couple years. The Phillies tasked him with playing 24 games at first base during the minor-league season, and they’ve continued to crosstrain him there as part of his stint in the Arizona Fall League. Wherever Bohm ends up, this season seemed like a step in the right direction at the plate. In the past he prioritized contact to the point where he didn’t seem to make the most of his large frame (he’s listed at 6-foot-5 and more than 220 pounds). For reference, he went without a homer in his first 158 professional plate appearances. He showed far more power in 2019, homering 21 times and posting a .213 ISO. That’s a promising sign — and one accompanied by a favorable shift in batted-ball tendencies. If Bohm keeps it up, he could be batting in the middle of the Phillies’ order — and playing some position — as soon as late next season.

43. Alek Thomas, OF, Diamondbacks
Arizona’s third pick in 2018, Alek Thomas made quick work of A-ball, hitting .312/.393/.479 with eight home runs in 91 games. He didn’t perform quite as well in 23 games at High-A, but it’s also 23 games and he was more than three-plus years younger than the average bear. Thomas, who won’t turn 20 until late April, is an above-average runner who may well stick in center field. (If he has to move to a corner, it’d likely be left due to his substandard arm.) It’s unclear if he’ll provide more than gap power on a consistent basis, but he could develop into a leadoff-hitter type who contributes both a high average and walk rate. The risk here is that Thomas’s hit tool plays down if pitchers don’t fear his pop. He isn’t bereft of strength, so it isn’t a major concern at this point, but punishing mistakes is part of what separates the Brett Gardners of this player family from the Sam Fulds.

44. Logan Gilbert, RHP, Mariners
Originally the 14th pick in the 2018 draft, Logan Gilbert had himself a busy first full professional season by throwing 135 innings across three levels, including Double-A. He accumulated a 2.13 ERA and five strikeouts per walk, all the while yielding just seven home runs. Impressive. Gilbert is more than a stat-sheet stuffer, too. He’s tall and looks the part of a workhorse. His fastball is his best offering, but he has three other offerings that fluctuate around average. Factor in his control, and he profiles as a potential mid-rotation starter — if not more. Should Gilbert live up to that promise, expect to hear a lot about how he hails from Stetson University — the same Florida college that produced Corey Kluber, Jacob deGrom and Lenny DiNardo. (OK, OK — sorry Lenny, we tried.)

45. Nick Lodolo, LHP, Reds
Nick Lodolo rewarded the Reds for making him the first pitcher selected in June’s draft (No. 7 overall) by throwing 18 innings of walk-free baseball in his introduction to the pro ranks. OK, so the Reds hope Lodolo’s actual gift to them turns out to be more substantive than that — and there’s a solid chance it will be, and soon. Lodolo is built like David Price and has the chance to move quickly through the system thanks to his control and a solid three-pitch mix that includes a swing-and-miss slider. Should Lodolo live up to his mid-rotation upside, he would become just the third pitcher from Texas Christian University to compile more than five career Wins Above Replacement, joining Jake Arrieta and Andrew Cashner . (Lodolo might have to settle for fourth if Diamondbacks lefty Alex Young continues to deliver on his own promise.)

46. Luis Patino, RHP, Padres
Aaahh!!! A short right-handed pitching prospect. Luis Patino is listed at 6-foot, 192 pounds, which makes it tempting to bet that his future is in the bullpen. Yet he’ll pitch next season as a 20-year-old, and his combination of stuff (he has a lively above-average fastball and a suitable out pitch in his slider) and polish suggests he deserves the chance to continue starting until his body and/or his results say otherwise. There are a few areas where Patino shows his age, beginning with his lagging changeup and extending to his workload. He’s yet to throw as many as 100 innings in a season — understandable given his youth, but also a fairly arbitrary standard that he would’ve topped had the Padres not shut him down in August after he developed a blister. The other aspect he needs to continue to work on is his command, and it’s at least possible that he’ll need to ditch the crossfire element in his delivery in favor of being on a more true line to the plate. Yes, many pitching prospects need to work on their changeup, command, and their workloads. But most of them haven’t experienced success in High-A as a 19-year-old. Patino still has a wide of range of potential outcomes — with further development, he’s a front-of-the-rotation starter; without, maybe he’s just a high-leverage reliever — and that’s okay. For the time being, it’s enough to label him one of the game’s most interesting and exciting pitching prospects.

47. Nick Solak, INF, Rangers
The Rangers acquired Nick Solak in July from the Rays, who had shopped him around due to his perceived defensive limitations. One source familiar with the Rays’ internal evaluation said the club felt he was a “double-negative” defender at the keystone — meaning well-below average. A scout from another team agreed with that assessment, but Solak is regarded as a hard worker and it’s possible he improves enough to be playable there for a time. Regardless of Solak’s defense, he can hit and he can run. He has a simple swing and a discerning approach at the dish, a combination that should allow him to pitch in across the board. (He is going to strike out a fair amount just by virtue of working deep counts so often.) Solak didn’t run much in the majors, but he stole 21 bases as recently as 2018 and posted a sprint speed in the 85th percentile. Heading forward, he’s a candidate for at least 10-plus thefts. Solak’s landing spot on the diamond will dictate his overall value, but there’s ample reason to believe he could be the Rangers’ everyday second baseman in 2020 — and that he’s at the onset of what’s likely to be a lengthy big-league career.

48. Sean Murphy, C, A’s
The Athletics haven’t drafted and developed a catcher of note (who remained behind the plate, anyway) since Kurt Suzuki . Sean Murphy stands to change that. Murphy’s calling card is his defense. He combines a strong arm with solid receiving abilities and quality staff-handling, giving him a high floor. He isn’t a zero at the plate, either. Rather, Murphy has always drawn walks — and he has above-average power potential. It’s to be determined if Murphy leans into his power — perhaps at the expense of his contact skills. But he has a chance to be a two-way contributor at a position without many.

49. Nico Hoerner, SS, Cubs
Much of the top of the Cubs system is filled with players who are risk-reward types — or who have boom-bust profiles. Nico Hoerner, who has already experienced life in the majors, is an exception in a sense, and what he lacks in ceiling he makes up for in immediate availability. There is perhaps more potential downside than realized, however. Hoerner, Chicago’s first-round pick in 2018 by way of Stanford, more than held his own in Double-A this season despite dealing with injury and relative inexperience. Even when he was called up to the majors late in the year — the rare “break glass in case of emergency” promotion after Javier Baez, Addison Russell, and Dixon Machado all went on the shelf — he hit .282/.305/.436 in 20 games. Those marks may not be far off from his norm. Hoerner’s hit tool is his best offensive attribute and there’s a chance it plays as plus. There’s also a chance — due to an aggressive approach and gap power — that it underperforms, or that he posts an empty average, in which case his bat might be too light to start everyday. For now, that’s to be seen. To Hoerner’s credit, he receives high marks for his intelligent and instincts, and that bodes well for him making the necessary adjustments as required. Provided Baez remains in town as the shortstop, Hoerner ought to be just fine defensively at second base, giving the Cubs one of the savviest double-play combinations in the game.

50. Deivi Garcia, RHP, Yankees
Deivi Garcia is one of the most controversial prospects in the minors despite having an arsenal full of average or better offerings and having already debuted in Triple-A before turning 21. The main knocks on Garcia are his size and his command. He’s listed at 5-foot-9, 163 pounds which would put him in a small group if he can stick in the rotation. Since the last round of expansion, only three pitchers shorter than 70 inches and lighter than 180 pounds have made at least 30 starts: Marcus Stroman, Mike Leake, and Jesus Sanchez . Garcia may in time join that group, though he did issue too many free passes for comfort throughout the season, walking 4.4 per nine across three levels. He’s known for being a good athlete, which should bode well for him throwing more strikes. But, at the same time, his delivery does feature some tics — throwing across his body; recoil on the follow through — that can rob pitchers of command. Whichever way Garcia’s command goes, he remains extremely young. There’s no real reason to rush him to the majors, but the Yankees might find it hard to ignore his potential impact over the course of the 2020 season. As such, the Yankees may make a call on whether he’s best suited as a starter, reliever, or some kind of hybrid before the year is out.

Tim Raines Jersey White Sox

It had been five years since I’d last been to Cooperstown, N.Y., and 13 years since the last and only time I had gone for a Hall of Fame induction ceremony. I was just six months old then, so I don’t remember anything about that time. This weekend was different than the last couple times we had gone. This time, we were going to see my mom’s all-time favorite player get inducted, Mariano Rivera. I distinctly remember her saying on our last trip to Cooperstown, “We’ll be back here in five years to see Mariano getting inducted.”

It was a long, 12-hour drive and over 800 miles of road to get there from Illinois. We were tired but excited.

We didn’t make it to Cooperstown in time for the Hall of Fame parade, but we still had the White Sox’s party for Harold Baines to go to that night. I met the White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, as well as Frank Thomas, Tim Raines, Ozzie Guillen Sr., and even Baines himself!

Here I am with Frank Thomas, Julia’s new favorite player.

Julia and I with Tim Raines. It’s crazy that I got to meet so many baseball legends at one party.

Just before we left, we met Ozzie Guillen Sr.
Raines was a very nice guy and made my dad take multiple pictures to make sure that the photo was just right. Guillen was very outgoing. He talked to us in English and Spanish. Baines was very down to earth. I’m glad that we got to talk to him. We had a lot of fun at the party, and the food was great too.

The next morning it was time for the induction. It was a sunny morning, and the drive to Cooperstown was a pleasant one. The little town was packed. The line for the shuttle to the induction was down the block, so the only alternate option was to walk. We passed many grand, colorful houses, some with kids selling refreshments in their front yards.

On the drive to the induction ceremony. Rural New York is absolutely stunning

In town, the local theater had this message celebrating Mariano Rivera
At the induction, it was sunny and the heat was sweltering, but it was definitely worth it. We settled into our seats alongside an estimated 55,000 other fans that had traveled from all across the country to see their favorite players being inducted. That’s the biggest Induction crowd in years.

Julia and I chilling before the Induction ceremony.
Even before the ceremony started, many of those in the crowd were chanting the names of their favorite players. They kept the energy upbeat even in the heat.

Mom was so happy to be there for Mariano
At last, the ceremony began. They started by introducing the 52 returning Hall of Famers, followed by the six who were about to be inducted: Baines, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith, and Rivera.

I was very proud to show my Puerto Rican pride for Martinez by waving my flag. It’s great to see another Puerto Rican being inducted into the Hall of Fame—he’s the most recent of the five Puerto Ricans.

Puerto Rican power!
Last, but not least, it was Mariano’s turn. The crowd roared as he stepped up to the podium to give his speech. As I looked around, many of those surrounding me were wearing pinstripes for Mariano. I wondered how it felt to look out upon a crowd of thousands of people who traveled hundreds of miles just to see you. I wondered how it felt to have your legacy immortalized in the Hall of Fame. In the simplest of terms, I think it would feel pretty great.

On our way out, we saw this really creative fan-made banner for Rivera. It was the best sign I’d seen all day- and probably the biggest too.
After the ceremony, we walked back to town and visited the museum. We got to see the alcove for this year’s inductees. The plaques hadn’t been put up yet, so you could still see the inductee’s signatures on the plaque holder on the wall. We also went up to the third floor to see the cases for the new inductees.

This case is Martinez’s. I really liked that one of his jerseys said Puerto Rico on it.

This is Rivera’s case. Look at all those flashy rings! Several were from winning the World Series, and another was for becoming the all time save leader.
We went crazy in the museum gift shop, buying minifigures of some of our favorite Latino players such as Rivera, Martinez, and Roberto Clemente. I was also very surprised to see a Yadier Molina Funko Pop. I quickly bought it to add to my collection, which until then only consisted of superheroes and Doctor Who characters.

After we left the museum we had dinner, and by the time we were done it was sunset. The quaint village of Cooperstown looked even more charming in the sun’s setting light. The colors that decorated the sky just above it were unlike anything I’d ever seen.

I insisted we also walk down by Otsego Lake. The sun was sinking behind the Catskill mountains and casting a glimmer across the glassy waters. It was a beautiful sight. The perfect ending to a great day. As we drove off into the night I couldn’t wait to return to Cooperstown.

In addition to being the home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown happens to be a very quaint little town with lots of charm.

The town borders Otsego Lake
Miranda Burgos is an aspiring writer who is entering 8th grade at University High School. Her favorite team is the NY Yankees, although she sometimes roots for the White Sox.

Steve Carlton Jersey White Sox

The 1970s was a decade filled with very high highs and very low lows for the still fledgling New York Mets. The nine year-old franchise could not have begun 1970 with more pride as they were defending World Series champions. Memories of a parade down the Canyon of Heroes and shouts of ‘Amazin’ still reverberated around New York when the new decade began. It ended in 1979 with a last place team going nowhere and an empty Shea Stadium.

The Mets of the 1970s won one pennant, saw it’s greatest pitcher win two of his three Cy Young Awards and then later traded, one Rookie of the Year and one All-Star Game MVP. For the first three years following their championship, the Mets had identical 83 win seasons. After the 1971 season, the Mets made a trade that still some call as the worst trade made in franchise history as the Mets traded Nolan Ryan and others for Jim Fregosi.

In 1972, tragedy hit the team as Gil Hodges died of a heart attack after a round of golf. Yogi Berra was named his replacement. That year a young pitcher named Jon Matlack was named Rookie of the Year.

Berra led the team to the NL Pennant in 1973. The Mets were in last place as late as August 14th, until the Ya Gotta Believe Mets stormed to an NL East crown. They beat the favored Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS three games to two before losing the World Series to the Oakland A’s in seven games. Tom Seaver won his second Cy Young Award in 1973.

The NL Champs floundered in 1974 spending only one day of the season above .500. Even Seaver was 11-11 with a 3.20 ERA. The 1975 season was another example of the roller coaster the Mets found themselves in the decade. Yogi Berra was fired on August 6. He was replaced by Roy McMillan. In the span of a week in the autumn, the Mets lost Casey Stengel and owner Joan Payson. On the plus side, Seaver won his third Cy Young Award and Matlack was named MVP of the All-Star game in Milwaukee. Dave Kingman joined the Mets and blasted 36 home runs.

Joe Frazier took over as manager in 1976. Three Mets pitchers had ERAs under 3.00 and Kingman hit 37 homers.

1977 is a year most fans would like to forget. With Joe Torre now at the helm, uneasiness was the order of the day. Due to contracts disputes with the front office and vitriol from the press on a near daily basis, tensions grew between Tom Seaver and the Mets. And on June 15, the impossible happened as Seaver ( and Kingman et al.) were traded away on what became known as The Midnight Massacre. The team never seemed to recover from the loss of its Franchise and finished in last place in 1977, 1978 and 1979. In ’79, the Mets reached the nadir when only 788,905 fans attended 81 home games at Shea, an average of just over 9700. The reeling Mets did not enjoy another season over .500 until 1984.

Here, then, is the Mets All-Decade squad for the 1970s:

John Stearns, C

In a close one, John Stearns gets the nod over Jerry Grote. Stearns played in two All-Star games in the decade (four in his career) to Grote’s one. Stearns also was the better hitter and base runner. Stearns had a good season in 1977 with 25 doubles, 12 home runs and 55 RBI. He followed this up with an even better season in 1978. That year, he had 24 doubles, 15 home runs, 73 RBI and 25 stolen bases, which was the most in a single season by a catcher at the time. Although Grote is more noted as a defensive specialist behind the plate, his lack of production of the plate places him second here (he never had more than five home runs and 39 RBIs in any season in the 1970s), but the 1969 championship team member certainly deserves honorable mention.

John Milner, 1B

Sentimentalists might give this one to Ed Kranepool (much as Grote for catcher), but John Milner was one of the best hitters on the Mets in the 1970s. Milner shuttled between first base and the left field during his years in New York, but is most remembered for his solid hitting and better than average fielding. He finished third in Rookie of the Year balloting in 1972 (his team mate, Jon Matlack, was the winner). Milner had a great season in 1973. He had 23 home runs and 72 RBI that year as the cleanup hitter. He followed this up with a 20-home run and 63-RBI season in 1974. After limited play in 1975, Milner had two more good years for the Mets before being traded to the Texas Rangers after the 1977 season.

Overall, Milner had 94 home runs and 338 RBI, both of which were the most of any Mets batter in the 1970s. Certainly, Ed Kranepool, who also saw time in both the outfield and first base, deserves honorable mention.

Felix Millan, 2B

Of all the defensive positions on the diamond, second base has been the spot that the Mets have had the most trouble filling. Through the 70s, Ken Boswell, Felix Millan, and Doug Flynn spent the majority of the time at second with Millan logging the most. He was acquired from the Atlanta Braves after winning two Gold Gloves and appearing twice in the All-Star Game for Atlanta. He spent five years with the Mets and was known for putting the ball in play and being an overall spark plug for the team. He was the first Met to appear in all 162 games in a season in 1975. Also in ’75, he had a then team record 191 hits, a record that stood for 21 years. Millan, unfortunately, is also known for a critical error he made in the 1973 World Series, but overall his body of work merits this distinction. Boswell and particularly Flynn, who was a light-hitter but a fine defensive player, get honorable mention.

Wayne Garrett, 3B

What do Jim Fregosi, Joe Foy and Bob Aspromonte have in common? They were all try-outs and failures for the full-time third base job for the Mets in the early 1970s. It wasn’t until Wayne Garrett came along that the position achieved some stability. After joining the Mets in 1969, Garrett had to wait until 1973 to become the starting third baseman. Never a prolific hitter, he nevertheless help stabilize the left side of the infield for the first part of the seventies and particularly during the pennant winning year of 1973. In ’73, Garrett had career highs in HRs with 16 and RBIs with 58. He hit lead-off that year and remained the starting third basemen for three years. Roy Staiger got most of the playing time in 1976. The honorable mention goes to Lenny Randle who had a productive 1977 before falling off in 1978. Randle’s 1977 saw him finish with a .304 average, five home runs, 27 RBI, 33 stolen bases and a .383 OBP.

Bud Harrelson, SS

Derrel McKinley Harrelson, or simply Bud as he is better known, was the standard bearer for the shortstop position for most of the early history of the Mets. His playing career for New York spanned 13 years, from 1965-1977, and is by far the longest-tenured shortstop in team history. He got the starting shortstop job in 1967. He was recognized as an outstanding defensive short stop and made the All-Star team in 1970 and 1971. He won a Gold Glove in 1971. Mets fans may also remember the infamous fight that he and Pete Rose had during the 1973 NLCS, which may have given the Mets even more motivation to get back to the World Series—which they ended up doing. His career high in hits was 138 accomplished in 1971 and his best year in RBIs was 1970 when he had 48.

Honorable mention goes to Frank Taveras who had a solid 1979 unlike the majority of his team mates. In ’79, he batted .263 with 26 doubles, one home run and 33 RBI.

Cleon Jones, LF

An iconic part of their history, Cleon Jones played for the Mets until 1975. After his career year in 1969 when he hit .340, Jones had productive years in the 1970s.

In 1970, Jones batted .277 with 10 home runs and 63 RBI. He then batted .319 in 1971, good enough for seventh in the National League, tied his career high with 14 home runs and drove in 69 RBI.

Jones struggled in 1972 as he saw his average drop to just .245. His five home runs and 52 RBI that year were also poor by his standards He platooned with John Milner that year in left field.

In 1973, Jones bounced back by batting .260 with 11 home runs and 48 RBI. He then batted .300 in the NLCS and .286 in the World Series that year. However, this time, the Mets did not finish the season with a championship.

Jones’ last great year with the Mets was in 1974. He batted .282 with 13 home runs and 60 RBI. He had an injury prone 1975 and did not get along with manager Yogi Berra and was traded to the Chicage White Sox where he finished his career in 1976.

Honorable mention goes to Dave Kingman who was only a Met briefly, but is known for his moon-shot home runs. A pure slugger, Kingman immediately broke Frank Thomas‘ single-season club record with 36 home runs in 1975 and followed up with 37 in 1976. He had nine in 1977 before all of a sudden getting traded during the infamous “Midnight Massacre.”

Lee Mazzilli, CF

A popular Met of the late seventies, Mazzilli was one of the few bright spots on the Mets who finished in last place for a good portion of his first stint with the Mets. He came up in 1976, but his first productive year was in 1978 as he hit for a .273 average, 16 home runs and 61 RBI. However, his best season was a year later in 1979 when he batted a career high .303 with 15 home runs and a career high 79 RBI. He also had 181 hits, 34 doubles, 34 stolen bases and a .395 OBP. He made his only All-Star team that year. Mazzilli also played a solid center field for New York.

Mazzilli played into the early 1980s for the Mets but was traded to the Texas Rangers before the 1982 season for Ron Darling and Walt Terrell. He would return to the Mets for bench strength in August, 1986.

Honorable mention goes to Tommie Agee. In 1970, Agee batted .286 with 24 home runs and 75 RBI. He also had a 20-game hitting streak in April and May. He followed this up with a .285 average, 14 home runs and 50 RBI in 1971. However, he missed some time due to knee injuries. Those same injuries affected Agee in 1972 as well. For that year, his average dropped to .227 and he finished with 13 home runs and 47 RBI. He then got traded to the Astros after the 1972 season for Rich Chiles and Buddy Harris. Certainly, Agee was the standard bearer center fielder in early Mets’ history.

Rusty Staub, RF

Another popular player with the fans who had an all too short time with the Mets was Rusty Staub. Acquired from the Montreal Expos on April 6, 1972, Staub made an immediate impact both offensively and defensively. In 1973, Staub batted .279 with 15 home runs, 76 RBI, and 36 doubles. However, he was clutch in the 1973 NLCS against the Reds. He hit three home runs and drove in five RBI in the series as the Mets won the pennant. In the World Series, Staub batted .423 with one home run and six RBI in 23 at-bats.

In 1974, Staub’s average fell to .258, but he hit 19 home runs and drove in 78 RBI. He followed this up with a .282 average, 19 home runs and a new Mets record 105 RBI, which broke Frank Thomas’ single season record of 94. Staub also had a .371 OBP that year. The thanks he received from the Mets was a poor trade to the Detroit Tigers for Mickey Lolich. Lolich was a disappointment in 1976 in his only season as a Met, while Staub kept hitting with the Tigers, Expos and Rangers.

Honorable mention is tough because the Mets had a plethora of right fielders before and after Staub such as Ken Singleton, Ron Swoboda, Dave Kingman, Mike Vail and Joel Youngblood to name a few. Kingman already has an honorable mention for his left field exploits so the choice here is Ron Swoboda, because he is, well, Ron Swoboda and even though he only played one year in the decade of the 1970s (1970) for the Mets, his overall contribution to the franchise is unforgettable.

Tom Seaver, RHP

What else can be said about perhaps the greatest right-hand pitcher in history? Summing up Tom Seaver can be done in one stat: he is only one of two pitchers in MLB history with over 300 wins, 3000 strikeouts and an ERA below 3.00, with Walter Johnson the other. In the 70’s, Seaver was in his prime, winning two of his three CYA and going to the All-Star game eight times. Some highlights from the 1970s:

On April 22, 1970, Seaver set a major league record by striking out the final 10 batters of the game in a 2–1 victory over the San Diego Padres. In addition to his 10 consecutive strikeouts, Seaver tied Steve Carlton‘s major league record, at the time, with 19 strikeouts in a nine-inning game. By mid-August, Seaver’s record stood at 17–6 and he seemed well on his way to a second consecutive 20-victory season. But he only won one of his last ten starts, including four on short rest, to finish 18–12. Nonetheless, Seaver led the National League in both earned run average and strikeouts.

In 1971, Seaver led the league in earned run average (1.76) and strikeouts (289 in 286 innings) while going 20–10. However, he finished second in the Cy Young balloting to Ferguson Jenkinsof the Chicago Cubs, due to Jenkins’ league-leading 24 wins, and 325 innings pitched.

Seaver had four more twenty-win seasons (20 in 1971, 21 in 1972, 22 in 1975, and 21 in 1977). He won two more Cy Young Awards (1973 and 1975, both with the Mets). During his tenure with the Mets, Seaver made 108 starts in which he pitched nine or more innings and allowed one run or less. His record in those starts was 93–3 with 12 no-decisions. In seven of the 12 no-decisions, he pitched 10 or more innings. In the 12 no-decisions, he pitched a total of 117 innings, allowing 56 hits and five earned runs, compiling a 0.38 ERA.

In the 1973 NLCS against the Reds, Seaver started Game 1 and pitched seven shutout innings, and even drove in the only Mets run. However, he gave up a home run to Pete Rose in the eighth inning before giving up a walk off home run to Johnny Bench as the Reds won 2-1. In Game 5, Seaver pitched well once again and finally got more run support as the Mets won the game 7-2 and clinched the series to move onto the World Series.

In the 1973 World Series, Seaver started Game 3 and pitched well, but the Mets bullpen did not support him as the A’s offense rallied to win 3-2 in 11 innings. Seaver pitched well in Game 6, but Catfish Hunter simply outpitched him as the Mets lost 3-1.

The less said about “The Midnight Massacre” the better as Seaver was traded to the Cincinnati Reds on June 15, 1977, a dark day in Mets’ history that many fans will never, ever forgive and forget. No honorable mention here as a tribute to his greatness.

Jerry Koosman, LHP

One of the greatest lefthanders in Mets’ history, Jerry Koosman was a stand-out for the Mets.

In 1970, Koosman went 12-7 with a 3.14 ERA. He then had two unexpected losing seasons in 1971 (6-11, 3.04 ERA) and 1972 (11-12, 4.14 ERA). He also had another losing season when he went 14-15 with a 2.84 ERA in 1973. However, a lack of run support had a lot to do with that. Nonetheless, Koosman pitched well in most clutch situations and became widely known as the go to pitcher when the Mets needed a win.

In the 1973 NLCS, Koosman threw a complete game in Game 2 as the Mets beat the Reds 9-2. In the World Series, Koosman started Game 2, but got hit hard and was removed in the third inning, but the Mets rallied for a 10-7 win. He then won Game 5 as he pitched six and one third scoreless innings as the Mets won 2-0.

In 1974, Koosman went 15-11 with a 3.36 ERA and 188 strikeouts. He followed this up by going 14-13 with a 3.42 ERA in 1975.

1976 turned out to be Koosman’s career season. He went 21-10, with the 21 wins being a career high, and had a 2.69 ERA, as well as a career high 200 strikeouts. He finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting, losing to Randy Jones.

However, that was Koosman’s last good year as a Met. After going 8-20 with a 3.49 ERA in 1977 and a very underachieving 3-15 with a 3.75 ERA in 1978, Koosman was traded to the Minnesota Twins for Jesse Orosco and Greg Field. Koosman was the last pitcher of the 1969 and 1973 teams to leave the Mets, with Ed Kranepool departing via retirement a year later.

Honorable mention goes to the 1972 Rookie of the Year, Jon Matlack. Although the record books show him to be a .500 pitcher with the Mets (82-81), he pitched many meaningful games in New York and and pitched well in the 1973 post-season.

Tug McGraw, Bullpen

M. Donald Grant first uttered it after a team meeting, but Tug McGraw made it a household phrase in 1973: “Ya Gotta Believe”.

Tug McGraw was already an established closer for the Mets by 1969, but improved during the 1970s. In 1971, he won 11 games in relief, racked up eight saves and had a 1.70 ERA. He followed this up with 27 saves and a 1.70 ERA in 1972.

His 1973 season did not start well, but once he began the “Ya Gotta Believe” rally cry, he completely turned his season around. He ended up recording 25 saves while pitching very well in September as the Mets came out of nowhere to win the NL East division with just a 82-79 record.

He continued to pitch well during the 1973 postseason before battling injuries in 1974. The Mets decided to trade him away after the 1974 season due to health concerns, but the Mets would regret this trade as McGraw continued to pitch well for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Honorable mention goes to Skip Lockwood. Lockwood was the Mets’ primary closer during the late 1970s. Despite being stuck on some bad teams during those years, Lockwood saved 19 games in 1976, 20 games in 1977, 15 games in 1978 and nine games in 1979 before missing the last three months of that season with a shoulder injury.