Breakout: OF Luis Robert
After a slow start to his major league career at the lower levels of the minors in 2017 and 2018 (.281 with three HRs, 31 RBI, and 27 SBs over 270 at-bats), Robert turned into a beast last season in his push through three levels of baseball. He hit .328 over 503 at-bats with 108 runs, 32 home runs, 92 RBI, and 36 stolen bases with his best power coming at AAA (.297 with 16 HRs, 39 RBI, ad seven SBs over 202 at-bats).
All signs point to upside, but his approach is trailing. His strikeout rate came in at 23.4 percent in 2019 while barely taking any walks (5.0 percent). Both his average hit rate (1.903) and his contact batting average (.441) graded high in 2019. Robert missed most of 2018 with a left thumb injury.
With plus power and speed, Robert should hit the ground running in 2020. His swing path in 2019 delivered a high fly-ball rate (A – 55.6, AA – 49.1, and AAA – 49.3), which may hurt batting average early in the majors if he doesn’t have an improvement in his approach.
Pencil him for a 30/30 skill set out of the gate with his runs being an edge. I expect him to hit lower in the lineup early in the year. Fantasy owners pushed his ADP to 75 in March in the high-stakes market. Future top ten fantasy player who will make an impact in his rookie season.
Breakout: SP Michael Kopech
Over five seasons in the minors, Kopech has a 3.05 ERA with 514 strikeouts in 395.2 innings. His walk rate (4.4) is well below being major league ready with strength in his strikeout rate (11.7).
In 2017, he dominated at AA (2.87 ERA with 155 Ks over 119.1 innings) while making strides in 2018 at AAA (3.70 ERA and 170 Ks over 126.1 innings). He pitched well in his first three appearances in the majors (0.82 and nine Ks over 11 innings). Still, his season ended on September 5th in 2018 after a disaster starts (seven runs, ten baserunners, and four home runs over 3.1 innings) with a right elbow injury.
With a full 18 months to recover from TJ surgery, Kopech should be ready to go in 2020. His fastball can reach triple digits while his curveball still needs better command and his changeup is a work in progress.
His spring buzz was positive, and a shortened season puts him on track to be a starting option for Chicago when the season starts. Kopech has ace upside with his best edge coming in strikeouts.
His March ADP came in at 272, even with questions about starting the year in the majors. For any new drafts, I expect his price point to rise once he’s named as a starting option for the White Sox.
Value: 3B Yoan Moncada
After striking out 217 times in 2018 with a strikeout rate of 33.4 percent, Moncada was taboo in drafts in 2019 due to his batting average risk even with high upside in power and plenty of underlying speed.
Last year he was a little more aggressive earlier in the count, which led to a lower strikeout rate (27.6) and regression in his walk rate (7.2 – 10.3 in 2018). Moncada had the highest contact batting average (.451) in the majors while ranking 25th in hard-hit rate (47.4) compared to 61st in 2018 (44.2).
He hit well vs. both right-handed (.322) and left-handed (.299) pitching. His season started with a hot April (.314 with six HRs and 20 RBI over 105 at-bats) and ended with a massive push in batting average in September (.412 with three HRs and 15 RBI over 102 at-bats).
Moncada was at his best when hitting second in the batting order (.344 with 17 HRs and 42 RBI over 300 at-bats). His HR/FB rate (20.2) was a career-high, along with his groundball rate (42.3).
Fantasy owners are still waiting for his speed to emerge (111 SBs over 1,042 at-bats in the minors). An improving player with downside in batting average if his strikeout rate reverts to his previous resume.
Moncada has an ADP of 62 as the eighth third baseman off the board in 2020. His intrigue comes from his ability to add steals from the third base positions—a rising player with a chance to add value in four categories.
Sleeper: SP Dylan Cease
The lack of reliable starting options for Chicago in 2019, led to Cease receiving 14 starts despite not being ready. He posted a disaster ERA (5.79) and a massive walk rate (4.3) while allowing 1.8 home runs per nine.
His AFB (96.7) looks good on paper, but batters hit .349 against it with nine HRs over 149 at-bats. Both his changeup (.121 BAA) and slider (1.83 BAA) flashed upside while his curveball (.257 BAA) was only league average.
After struggling to win games (1-10) in 2017 in the minors despite a 3.28 ERA, Cease showed growth between High A and AA in 2018 (12-2 with a 2.40 ERA and 160 Ks over 124 innings). His strikeout rate (11.5) has been elite in his minor league career while still trying to find his command (walk rate – 4.2).
Last year Cease failed to make an impact at AAA (4.48 ERA) with a step back in his strikeout rate (9.6). Overall, he has a 3.02 ERA over five seasons in the minors with 450 Ks over 354.1 innings. There’s more here than meets the eye in his major league stats, but Cease still needs time to develop. Track his command as it will be the “tell” to his progression forward.
His ADP in March came in at 273 while projecting to make Chicago’s starting rotation this year.
Sleeper: 2B Nick Madrigal
When I read Madrigal’s scouting report, my first thought was that he might be the next Jose Altuve. Unfortunately, his swing looks miles away from 20 home runs based on his average hit rate (1.289) in the minors and at college (1.389).
In 2019 between High A and AAA, he hit .311 with four home runs, 71 RBI, and 35 stolen bases over 473 at-bats. Considering the length of his hits, Madrigal played well with runners on base.
Over 628 at-bats in the minors, he struck out only 21 times (2.9 percent – 5.2 percent in college). His walk rate (7.2) in the minors ranks below the league average. Madrigal has the bat control to be the majors while being a frustrating player to get out with runners on base.
His steals’ value may look better than his actual speed based on his success rate (70.8 in the minors and 61.0 percent in college).
In today’s power game, Madrigal projects as a significant liability in two categories, and I don’t see him running as much in the majors.
Over a short season, his game has a better chance to add value to a fantasy team. His ADP (282) paints him a middle infield option for a team looking for an out in the stolen base category.
READ MORE: 2020 Chicago White Sox Team Preview