Filled with tons of talent across all levels of the minor leagues, the American League should produce a ton of talented candidates for the 2020 AL Rookie of the Year award for this upcoming season. With a bunch of struggling teams looking to graduate top-flight prospects as they look to speed up the rebuild or reset process, 2020 may be the year of the pitcher.
On this list are five pitching options that all look to be solid options to win the award, as their potential to break out in the first year in the majors is quite high. While all struggling teams do not necessarily have the prospects that are best fits for this group, there is a high amount of them in this article, as they tried their best to build up their farm systems to help get their major-league team back into the realm of contention.
With that in mind, here are five like prospects who have the chance to break out during this upcoming season, helping prove their teams right on why they were drafted or acquired, possibly winning the 2020 American League Rookie of the Year award in the process.
Brendan McKay, LHP Tampa Bay
The former University of Louisville Cardinal two-way prospect has flown through the minor leagues so far for the Tampa Bay Rays, and the fact that he throws from the left side only increases his value.
Having been called up for a brief 13 games and 11 starts, McKay showed the Rays fan base (there is one, I promise) why he was taken fourth overall in the 2017 MLB draft. A two-win, four-loss record with a 5.14 record is nothing all that good to write home about, but it is the sheer fact that McKay already made it up to the major leagues this young into his career that should make fans everywhere most excited.
Allowing eight home runs in 49 innings is obviously not a good mark, but McKay obviously has elements of his game to work on, hopefully across a full season in the majors. While he also suits up and is the designated hitter in certain situations in the minor league as well, his hitting prowess has obviously taken a back seat to his pitching so far since being drafted.
Looking like he is on his way to following the career path of two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels, Mckay can become a great two-way weapon for the Rays, helping them continue with their money-saving tactics that have plagued and aided this franchise ever since their recent inception.
One of the favorites moving forward for this award race, McKay’s impact on the Rays in 2020 may be the key factor in helping this team make it two consecutive postseason appearances out of the AL East.
Deivi Garcia, RHP New York
The 62nd-best prospect in all of baseball, right hander Deivi Garcia is the crown jewel of the New York Yankees farm system, which was devoid of talent for a while. With Garcia having been signed as an international free agent in the summer of 2015, he has progressed his way through the minor leagues and made his Triple-A debut this past season.
While only pitching in 11 games and six starts at the highest level of the minors, Garcia displayed a great curveball, which will need to develop more control to it, but his walk and home runs allowed numbers are quite high for the 20-year-old.
Projected to make the final climb to the big leagues at some point in 2020, Garcia would become a great swing option for the Yankees, as he is pitching out of the starting rotation and out of the bullpen while on the Scranton / Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
With the team throwing around different ways to address their already-impressive bullpen, Garcia could be brought up after a solid showing in Spring Training, which could lead to Garcia throwing his young hat into the running for the ROY award.
Brady Singer, RHP Kansas City
Surprising most people to still be available at 18th overall, the 2018 MLB draft provided the Kansas City Royals with a steal of a prospect in starting pitcher Brady Singer. Coming out of Florida, the big righty was projected to go much higher and was thought of as one of the five best players in the draft, but ended up falling due to signability issues.
With the Royals shelling out a huge sum of money for him to join the team, Singer managed to make it all the way up to the Double-A level in his first year of playing professional ball, which just was in 2019 due to hamstring issues putting him on the shelf for all of the previous season.
For a team that is looking for any sort of contributions at the big-league level, Singer’s array of plus-pitches are well supportive of a starting role, something that he has absolutely come into during his trip through the minor league. By developing his slider and changeup a bit more, combined with working on his slightly-altered arm angle and his fastballs that move a ton, Singer has a great chance to become the ace of this team’s starting rotation as soon as post-All-Star Break of 2020.
Not necessarily known as a team that rushes their prospects through the minor league, the Royals ended up stumbling upon a great find in the draft a few years back, and now Singer looks primed and ready to pay dividends for the franchise investing in him.
Casey Mize, SP Detroit
The former University of Auburn pitcher who was looked at as the prized possession of the 2018 MLB draft, the Detroit Tigers have arguably one of the best starting pitchers in all of the minor leagues in Casey Mize. Having absolutely flown through the organization’s minor league system, Mize is ready to make an impact at the big-league level, after only going through less than two seasons at the minor-league level.
Having been shut down early to end his 2019 season amid workload concerns, Mize has dealt with some shoulder inflammation over the season, which limited his efficiency in starts. Having started his minor-league career at the Class A Advanced level, he made it all the way up to Double-A before being shut down for the remainder of the year.
2019 marked the first full season for Mize in professional baseball, so his innings load of 109 ⅓ was a lot for him to undertake right away. Having produced an eight victory, four loss record with 106 strikeouts and a 2.55 ERA across 21 starts, the future is very high for Mize as he progresses towards making his big-league debut.
While the Tigers have been pretty lax on a dedicated plan and outlook for getting Mize to the big-league level, they would be smart to expedite his impact on the organization and bring him up for the vast majority of 2020. Working through issues may be the best kind of help that Mize can get, and while he would be pitching for a pretty horrid team that is in the midst of a rebuild, he would be on the age curve for the vast majority of the team’s minor league system.
Looked at as one of the best arms in all of baseball, do not be surprised if Mize becomes the leading candidate for this award as the season progresses.
Forrest Whitley, RHP Houston
One of the most well-known minor leagues across all of baseball, based on name and performance, Forrest Whitley looks to be yet another superb prospect in the Houston Astros system. While Houston is undergoing a ton of scrutiny for how they have handled their ‘competitive advantages’ for the past few seasons, Whitley could be a great way for people to pay attention more to their on-field performances that do not include needing to bang garbage cans or record pitch signs.
The 16th-best prospect in all of baseball and the 3rd-best right hander, Whitley is a fireballer who dealt with his fair share of troubles with performance in 2019. His minor league season, on paper at least, was atrocious, albeit he did traverse through all four levels of the minor leagues.
Projected to eventually become this team’s steadfast rotational ace as soon as 2021, Whitley has almost earned himself a callup to the big-league squad, where he could help fill the gap left by left-hander Wade Miley, who only signed a one-year deal last offseason with the team.
Whitley relies on his fastball and changeup to mix speeds and mess with the timing of a hitter, and that should not change, provided he gets back on his feet. He will most likely start the season in the minor leagues to develop his stuff again, but once he finds his footing, his callup to the majors will not be all that far behind.