Fernando Tatis Jr. and Rising MLB Players on the Cusp of Superstardom in 2020

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    If there is a 2020 MLB season, it will feature a shortened schedule, possibly an expanded playoff format and the odd sight of mostly empty stadiums.

    It will also be a showcase for some exciting young players on the cusp of superstardom.

    Here’s a look at 10 guys who fit that description and have the tools and opportunity to break outassuming they get a chance to take the field this year.

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    When the Los Angeles Angels drafted outfielder Jo Adell with the No. 10 overall pick in 2017, they knew they were getting a gifted athlete loaded with potential. But they might not have anticipated just how fast he would rise.

    In his age-20 season last year, Adell went from High-A to Triple-A and hit a combined .289 with 10 home runs, 27 doubles and an .834 OPS in 76 games. 

    Now, he has a chance to win a spot in the Halos outfield and could quickly blossom into a 20-homer, 20-steal player with an even higher ceiling.

    If everything goes right, Adell will become the Mike Trout wingman the Angels sorely need.

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    Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

    After posting a 1.92 ERA in 61 innings between the rookie leagues, Double-A and Triple-A in 2019, Brusdar Graterol got the call from the Minnesota Twins.

    He made 10 regular-season appearances and notched 10 strikeouts in 9.2 innings, then he recorded two strikeouts in an inning of work during the Twins’ division series matchup against the potent New York Yankees.

    Now that he’s been dealt from Minnesota to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Kenta Maeda trade, Graterol could have a measurable impact for L.A. in the rotation or out of the bullpen with his triple-digit fastball.

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    One of two second-generation MLB players on this list, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. showed flashes of his immense promise in 2019, swatting 15 home runs and 26 doubles in 123 games for the Toronto Blue Jays.

    He battled a knee injury in September, hitting just .232 with no home runs, but the 21-year-old has the skills and pedigree to be an elite slugger.

    Whether the son of Vlad sticks as a third baseman or transitions to another role, possibly designated hitter, his bat is poised to slay MLB pitching.

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    After hitting .313 with an .896 OPS at Double-A and .392 with a 1.197 OPS at Triple-A in 2019, Gavin Lux was promoted to The Show by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    He hit .240 in 23 games with L.A. but earned a spot on the division series roster and hit one home run in nine postseason at-bats.

    The 22-year-old should be the Dodgers’ regular second baseman in 2020 and will be given every opportunity to shine in a loaded lineup.

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Jesus Luzardo threw 12 innings in six appearances with the Oakland Athletics last season and posted a 1.50 ERA with 16 strikeouts.

    With a sinking mid-90s fastball, an array of plus offspeed pitches and breaking balls, superlative command and an advanced feel for pitching, the 22-year-old southpaw could be the ace of Oakland’s staff in 2020 and for years to come.

    “The stuff’s off the charts,” A’s manager Bob Melvin told reporters this spring. “The thing that impresses me the most is his presence and his confidence. For a young guy at his age, you don’t see it very often.”

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    John McCoy/Getty Images

    Whether Brendan McKay evolves into a long-term two-way player for the Tampa Bay Rays or eventually focuses solely on pitching, there’s little doubt the 24-year-old is positioned for a breakout.

    In 13 appearances (11 starts) and 49 overall innings with Tampa Bay last season, McKay posted a 4.03 FIP and averaged 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

    At the plate, he went 2-for-10 with a home run and could see action as the Rays designated hitter when he’s not on the mound.

    He dealt with shoulder issues in February, but after the long layoff, he ought to be healthy and play a key role (or roles) with Tampa Bay.

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    Ron Vesely/Getty Images

    In 503 at-bats between High-A, Double-A and Triple-A in 2019, Chicago White Sox outfielder Luis Robert hit 32 home runs, stole 36 bases and posted a 1.001 OPS. 

    If he approaches those numbers on the South Side, he’d be a front-runner for American League Rookie of the Year honors.

    With nothing left to prove in the minor leagues, expect the 22-year-old to make his ChiSox debut in 2020 and join a burgeoning young core that could soon make Chicago a legitimate postseason contender.

    Obviously, the White Sox are committed to Robert after inking him to a six-year, $50 million extension in January.

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    After swatting 15 home runs with a .907 OPS over 54 games for the Dodgers in 2019, Will Smith should be L.A.’s primary backstop in 2020 and give his teammate, Lux, a run for his money in the NL Rookie of the Year race.

    The sample size is obviously small, but the defensive metrics also like Smith’s play behind the plate. He accumulated four defensive runs saved in that limited action.

    The 25-year-old should continue to develop with more big league reps, but he’s already on his way to becoming one of the best offensive catchers in baseball.

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Before a back injury put him on the shelf for the season, Fernando Tatis Jr. was on a steamrolling NL ROY trajectory in 2019.

    In 84 games with the San Diego Padres, the son of former big leaguer Fernando Tatis slashed .317/.379/.590 with 22 home runs and 16 stolen bases. At that pace, he could have been on the edge of the MVP conversation.

    “He’s just so far advanced mentally for his age,” veteran teammate Eric Hosmer told reporters. “It’s usually the opposite. You see guys with so much talent, you have to try to help them with the mental side. But he’s had that from day one that I met him.”

    Tatis is still just 21 years old, which means his ceiling might be much higher—a tantalizing thought for Friars fans and a frightening one for opposing pitchers.

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    The Houston Astros’ outfield depth chart is currently topped by Michael Brantley, George Springer and Josh Reddick from left to right. All three are set to hit free agency after the 2020 season.

    That might mean Kyle Tucker will have to wait one more year before the ‘Stros hand him an everyday role, but he can force the issue. 

    The 23-year-old has done all he can in the minor leagues. He hit 34 home runs with a .909 OPS at Triple-A in 2019 and then hit .269 with an .857 OPS in 22 games with Houston.

    As soon as an injury or underperformance opens a spot, Tucker will get an opportunity. And he’s more than capable of running with it.

    All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference

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