Over the course of the 2020 season we saw a lot of top prospects make their MLB debuts, some we saw coming and others not so much. Sixto Sanchez, Ian Anderson, Luis Robert and Kyle Lewis were just some of the top guys to come up through the system and help their clubs in 2020. With plenty of guys that, despite being on the training camp roster, did not make their debuts. In this article I am going to discuss the top three prospects to make the biggest impact for their club in 2021! Let’s take a look!
- Mackenzie Gore: SP San Diego Padres (#3 prospect according to MLB.com)
This pick might not be very surprising and, honestly, it really isn’t. A lot of people, myself included, expected the left-hander to make his debut at some point in the 2020 season with the Padres. Especially after a season in which fellow top Padres pitching prospect Luis Patino broke through. But that did not happen. My guess is because they did not want to use a year of service time on his contract in a shortened season. In 2019, he rose through the ranks of the minor leagues and prospect rankings. He pitched to a 1.69 ERA in 20 minor leagues starts between High A and Double A. He has a 4-pitch mix, which you don’t see very often in 21-year-old starting pitchers. In addition to that, he can use all four pitches at a high level and can throw strikes. My best prediction is that if he has a really strong spring in 2021, he will start the year in Triple A and get called up to the big leagues only a few weeks into the regular season. He is projected to be a frontline starter and, at only 22 years old, the sky is the limit for the third overall pick in 2017.
While there are plenty of good arms in the San Diego Padres pitching rotation, he is projected to be one of the best. It will be very interesting to see what San Diego chooses to do with him in 2021, but I think he will have a huge impact on this club heading forward.
2. Jarred Kelenic: OF Seattle Mariners (#9 prospect according to MLB.com)
Jarred Kelenic will be a name that Mets fans will remember for a long time. He was famously the key piece in the Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz trade. Safe to say it is looking each and every day that the Mariners are going to win this trade. Kelenic was the 6th overall pick back in 2018 and, wow, can he hit. He is a career .290 hitter and is profiled as one of the best OF fielding prospects in the game. In 2019, his first full year in professional baseball, he went through 3 levels at the minor leagues and finished the season in Double A at only age 20. He represented the Mariners in the Futures game in 2019 and had finished off the campaign with a 20-20 season.
His bat and speed combo make him a type of guy that scouts go crazy for. Joining Kyle Lewis in Seattle will happen very soon, barring a setback. I am very excited to see what this guy becomes because he has all the ability in the world to become Seattle’s Mariners next franchise player. I expect him to make his debut midway into the 2021 campaign and, if all goes right, he’ll be hitting at the top of that Seattle Mariners order by the end of it. Mariners fans need to be excited about this kid, he can really help change things around for a struggling franchise.
3. JJ Bleday: OF Miami Marlins (#24 according to MLB.com)
Another OF gets the nod for the third prospect that I think will make a large impact for their team in 2021. Bleday was the 4th overall pick back in 2019 out of Vanderbilt and he signed for a Marlins record $6.67 million and already promoted him to advanced A-ball to start his shortened 2019 campaign. In 38 games, he hit .257 with 3 HR and 19 RBI, but with him most likely starting out the season in Double A, a real jump could be made for him coming into the 2021 campaign. He is a polished hitter at the plate and has real power potential after hitting 27 homers in his last year in college. Miami needs a bat in that lineup that is going produce in all facets of the game and I believe he is that franchise hitter that they need behind Sixto Sanchez and that exciting and young Miami rotation.
If Bleday can quickly prove he can hit, and stay hot for the first 60-80 games, I could see Miami giving him a real shot to produce for them in 2021. He projects as a top of the lineup hitter and given that 2020 was missed, I think he deserves a quick callup to the bigs in 2021 if he can prove it.
While 2020 was the year for prospects to make that jump to the big leagues earlier than expected, I think that these three guys will be key producers on their MLB rosters heading into 2021. Another notable mention is top prospect Wander Franco, while he is likely another year away, he is a super talented kid that could make the push for a call-up.