One byproduct of the shortened 2020 season is that the rookie class remains largely intact. Those who were there from the beginning of course met the minimum thresholds to graduate, but a 60-game season doesn't leave much service time for those who arrived a few weeks in.

What I'm trying to say is that this year's prospect rankings are more bloated than usual, and it's most apparent at starting pitcher, where a strong draft class added more notable names than the passage of time was able to remove. It's always a struggle narrowing this list down to 30 given that pitchers comprise nearly half the prospect pool (they have to given the amount of attrition at the position), but it's even more so when relative provens like Ian Anderson, Sixto Sanchez and Triston McKenzie still qualify.

So in particular, I'd like to extend my apologies to Garrett Crochet, Shane McClanahan and Brendan McKay, who each deserved to make the cut. Dean Kremer, Trevor Rogers and Tanner Houck were also painful omissions given the roles they're expected to fill in 2021. In all, I might have 40 starting pitchers in my top 100 prospects overall, so don't hyperventilate if you don't see your favorite here.

Top prospects: OF | SS | 3B | 2B | 1B | C 

Note: This list is intended for a variety of Fantasy formats and thus weighs short-term role against long-term value. Not all of these players will contribute in 2021 — most, in fact, will not — but among prospects, they're the names Fantasy Baseballers most need to know. 

1. MacKenzie Gore, Padres

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A
2019 minors: 9-2, 1.69 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 101 IP, 28 BB, 135 K

In a year that normalized the skipping of minor-league levels, the consensus top pitching prospect remained tucked away at the alternate training site even as the Padres were calling up the younger Luis Patino to help with their playoff push. But you shouldn't take it as a referendum of Gore's skills, which are bolstered by a high leg kick, big extension and deep arsenal of four plus pitches.

2. Ian Anderson, Braves

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: Double-A, Triple-A
2019 minors: 8-7, 3.38 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 135 2/3 IP, 65 BB, 172 K
2020 majors: 3-2, 1.95 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 32 1/3 IP, 14 BB, 42 K

Though Anderson became an increasingly divisive prospect as he climbed the minor-league ladder, his big-league debut, which included a deep playoff run, left little reason for skepticism. His changeup has evolved into a true put-away pitch on the level of Luis Castillo's, and he implements his loopy curveball well as a setup pitch. He generally puts the ball where he wants it, too, despite the high walk rate.

3. Sixto Sanchez, Marlins

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A
2019 minors: 8-6, 2.76 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 114 IP, 21 BB, 103 K
2020 majors: 3-2, 3.46 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 39 IP, 11 BB, 33 K  

Anderson and Sanchez ran neck-and-neck as rookies, with Sanchez only slipping behind here because his strikeout potential isn't as assured. He actually had a higher swinging-strike rate than Anderson, though, and is equipped to dominate the other two legs of the FIP triangle with his elite strike-throwing ability and a sinking 98 mph fastball that keeps the ball on the ground.

4. Michael Kopech, White Sox

Age (on opening day): 24
Where he played in 2019: did not play -- injured
2019 minors: 7-7, 3.70 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 126 1/3 IP, 60 BB, 170 K

Kopech's decision to opt out in 2020 may have had more to do with a personal matter than COVID-19 concerns, but he created enough buzz in spring training before then to confirm he's fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. HIs fastball is breathtaking, a true 80-grade pitch that regularly clocks over 100 mph, and while he has struggled to control it in the past, he licked that problem prior to his 2018 call-up.

5. Nate Pearson, Blue Jays

Age (on opening day): 24
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A, Triple-A
2019 minors: 5-4, 2.30 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 101 2/3 IP, 27 BB, 119 K
2020 majors: 1-0, 6.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 18 IP, 13 BB, 16 K  

It's a close call between Kopech and Pearson, who rate similarly stuff-wise (big fastball, wipeout slider), but the latter underwhelmed in his debut partly because that arsenal didn't translate to whiffs as expected. All the usual caveats apply — small sample, work in progress — and it's worth noting he wowed in his lone postseason appearance after a stint on the IL, striking out five in two perfect innings.

6. Tarik Skubal, Tigers

Age (on opening day): 24
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A
2019 minors: 6-8, 2.42 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 122 2/3 IP, 37 BB, 179 K
2020 majors: 1-4, 5.63 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 32 IP, 11 BB, 37 K  

You might have been hoping for something more decisive from Skubal's debut season after he devastated Double-A with 17.4 K/9 in nine starts, but his fastball is so good that he didn't have to develop much else down there. His secondaries show potential, though, particularly a changeup that he began featuring more as the year went on, upping his whiff rate in the process.

7. Casey Mize, Tigers

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A
2019 minors: 8-3, 2.55 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 109 1/3 IP, 23 BB, 106 K
2020 majors: 0-3, 6.99 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 28 1/3 IP, 13 BB, 26 K  

The top pick in the 2018 draft has been picking up detractors lately, particularly after a debut season in which basically nothing went right, but he made such quick work of the minors that some growing pains are forgivable. His stuff sizzles, but because his best pitches are all variations of a fastball (splitter, cutter, etc.), he may need to settle on a true offspeed pitch to max out his potential.

8. Matt Manning, Tigers

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: Double-A
2019 minors: 11-5, 2.56 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 133 2/3 IP, 38 BB, 148 K

The Tigers' trio is so difficult to parse that it's fitting to rank them consecutively here, and no doubt, some would have Manning at the top, preferring the more conventional path he has taken and the obvious projectability of his high-90s fastball and downer curve. But he doesn't fire the imagination quite like Skubal and Mize, and of course, he's the one of the three who hasn't tasted the bigs yet.

9. Spencer Howard, Phillies

Age (on opening day): 24
Where he played in 2019: Rookie, high Class A, Double-A
2019 minors: 3-1, 2.03 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 71 IP, 16 BB, 94 K
2020 majors: 1-2, 5.92 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 24 1/3 IP, 10 BB, 23 K  

Another 2020 call-up who it turns out could have probably used more time in the minors, Howard nonetheless didn't hurt his stock with an underwhelming big-league effort, his slider in particular showing the potential to play up. He has thrown harder in the past and did get shut down early with a stiff shoulder, but there's enough there for him to succeed if the rest of his arsenal develops as expected.

10. Logan Gilbert, Mariners

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: low Class A, high Class A, Double-A
2019 minors: 10-5, 2.13 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 135 IP, 33 BB, 165 K

The rebuilding Mariners had no incentive to call up Gilbert in 2020, but given how he was flying up the minor-league ladder in 2019, dominating at three different levels, there was definite momentum for it. His velocity has picked up since signing and plays up because of the extension on his 6-foot-6 frame, but more than anything, it's his ability to throw strikes with all four of his pitches that sets him apart.

11. Asa Lacy, Royals

Age (on opening day): 21
Where he played in 2019: not under contract

Though he was the second one taken, Lacy was regarded as the most talented pitcher in the 2020 draft class and gives the pitching-rich Royals system its ace of the (perhaps not-too-distant) future. A big lefty with a downhill delivery and well-developed arsenal that features four plus pitches, he should move quickly, perhaps even reaching the majors this year.

12. Emerson Hancock, Mariners

Age (on opening day): 21
Where he played in 2019: not under contract

The sixth overall pick in 2020 had some inconsistencies in college that might have prevented him from being the first or second player taken, but he still offers an impressive package of skill and polish with a mid-to-high-90s fastball, the makings of a plus slider, changeup and curve, and the ability to command all four. Between Hancock, Gilbert and George Kirby, the Mariners rotation will soon be the envy of many.

13. Triston McKenzie, Cleveland

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: did not play — injured
2018 minors: 7-4, 2.68 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 90 2/3 IP, 28 BB, 87 K
2020 majors: 2-1, 3.24 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 33 1/3 IP, 9 BB, 42 K 

An upper back issue cost McKenzie all of 2019 and caused him to plummet down the prospect rankings, his durability concerns having seemingly being validated. But he got the last laugh in 2020, debuting with 10 strikeouts over six two-hit innings. A wiry 6-feet-5, he gets good extension and spin on his pitches, but he still needs to prove he can hold up for a full season.

14. A.J. Puk, Athletics

Age (on opening day): 25
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A, Triple-A, majors
2019 minors: 4-1, 4.97 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 25 1/3 IP, 10 BB, 38 K
2019 majors: 2-0, 3.18 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 11 1/3 IP, 5 BB, 13 K 

Having already made it back from Tommy John surgery, Puk looked like a shoo-in for the Athletics rotation before his shoulder began acting up, ultimately requiring a debridement procedure. It's not a long-term issue, but it's another setback for a pitcher who has had trouble getting off the ground. I've long thought of him as a Randy Johnson lite because of his imposing height and considerable strikeout potential.

15. Luis Patino, Padres

Age (on opening day): 21
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A
2019 minors: 6-8, 2.57 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 94 2/3 IP, 38 BB, 123 K
2020 majors: 1-0, 5.19 ERA, 1.85 WHIP, 17 1/3 IP, 14 BB, 21 K  

It wasn't Gore that the Padres called on to assist with their contention bid but the younger Patino, who looked electric at times but ultimately didn't make much of an impact out of the bullpen because of some location issues. His eventual home is in the rotation, though, and the fact he has already climbed so far at such a young age is a testament to how special the talent is.

16. Grayson Rodriguez, Orioles

Age (on opening day): 21
Where he played in 2019: low Class A
2019 minors: 10-4, 2.68 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 94 IP, 36 BB, 129 K

According to reports out of the alternate training site, Rodriguez's already rapid rise kicked into overdrive when he was forced to work against more advanced hitters. His fastball stands out not just for its velocity but its movement, making it a swing-and-miss pitch in its own right, and his slider and changeup continue to stand out. As well as he controls them all, he might already be knocking on the door for a contender.

17. Max Meyer, Marlins

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: not under contract

The first pitcher drafted in 2020 (third overall) could thrive in the bullpen already with a fastball that can clock nearly 100 and a slider that can clock nearly 95, but his changeup shows enough potential that the Marlins are taking the time to develop him as a starter. His small stature also lends itself more to relief, and he could always fall back as a closer, a role he handled before joining the rotation in college.

18. Deivi Garcia, Yankees

Age (on opening day): 21
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A, Triple-A
2019 minors: 5-9, 4.28 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 111 1/3 IP, 54 BB, 165 K  
2020 majors: 3-2, 4.98 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 34 1/3 IP, 6 BB, 33 K  

Though Garcia stood out for his strikeouts in 2019, it wasn't until the Yankees moved him to the other side of the rubber this year that he genuinely broke through, his control going from his biggest weakness to maybe his biggest strength. It's not clear at this point that he has a true put-away pitch, but his progression has made him so efficient that he has the look of a big winner for the Yankees regardless.

19. Dane Dunning, Rangers

Age (on opening day): 26
Where he played in 2019: did not play — injured
2020 majors: 2-0, 3.97 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 34 IP, 13 BB, 35 K 

Perhaps because he was on the mend from Tommy John surgery, Dunning didn't get much love heading into 2020, which made his debut for the White Sox all the more eye-opening. He showed elite bat-missing ability with his four-seamer and slider but went away from them the longer he was up, which is hopefully something the Rangers will remedy. They liked what they saw enough to deal Lance Lynn, after all.

20. Forrest Whitley, Astros

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: Rookie, high Class A, Double-A, Triple-A
2019 minors: 3-7, 7.99 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 59 2/3 IP, 44 BB, 86 K

Whitley continues to slide after looking like the game's top pitching prospect two short years ago, getting sidetracked by health issues and mechanical tweaks to remedy them. It proved to be a disastrous combination in 2019, causing him to lose all grasp of the strike zone, and though he rebounded in the AFL that offseason, he couldn't fully redeem himself at the alternate training site this year because of a sore arm.

21. Daniel Lynch, Royals

Age (on opening day): 24
Where he played in 2019: Rookie ball, high Class A
2019 minors: 6-2, 2.99 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 96 1/3 IP, 29 BB, 96 K   

Lynch didn't end up joining fellow 2018 first-rounders Brady Singer and Kris Bubic in the majors, but the work he put in ironing out his delivery at the alternate training site may have established him as the most talented of a foursome that also includes Jackson Kowar. Though the strikeouts haven't presented themselves in the minors yet, Lynch has the arsenal for more with a high-90s fastball and biting slider.

22. Matthew Liberatore, Cardinals

Age (on opening day): 21
Where he played in 2019: low Class A
2019 minors: 6-2, 3.10 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 78 1/3 IP, 31 BB, 76 K

Because of some meh strikeout numbers, the Fantasy-playing world seems have cooled on Liberatore, and it didn't help when the Rays dealt him away for some guy named Randy Aroza — oh, wait. Maybe it was less about what the Rays were giving up than what they were getting and we should still feel confident that Liberatore's remarkable polish at such a young age will carry him to a successful career.

23. Edward Cabrera, Marlins

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A
2019 minors: 9-4, 2.23 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 96 2/3 IP, 31 BB, 116 K

Cabrera broke through in 2019 with a triple-digit fastball that both generates whiffs and limits hard contact, which gives him something in common with future teammate Sixto Sanchez. His control and secondary arsenal are still works in progress, but now that he's made it as far as Double-A with them, he's just a blink away from joining an increasingly crowded Marlins rotation.

24. George Kirby, Mariners

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: short-season Class A
2019 minors: 0-0, 2.35 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 23 IP, 0 BB, 25 K

Frankly, it's a wonder Kirby doesn't show up higher on rank lists given the floor that his double-plus control presents him. (See that goose egg in the walks column?) He certainly isn't lacking in stuff, boasting a high 90s fastball and two distinct breaking balls, so maybe it's just that he's under-leveled for a 23-year-old, still needing to try his hand at full-season ball.

25. Simeon Woods-Richardson, Blue Jays

Age (on opening day): 20
Where he played in 2019: low Class A, high Class A
2019 minors: 6-10, 3.80 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 106 2/3 IP, 24 BB, 126 K

Yet another prospect who has blown up since being traded away by former Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen (see Kelenic, Jarred), Woods-Richardson is unusually advanced for his age, having learned to play his changeup off his rising fastball to maximum effect. He commands all of his pitches well enough that it's possible we could see him in the majors this year, before his 21st birthday.

26. Brailyn Marquez, Cubs

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: low Class A, high Class A
2019 minors: 9-5, 3.13 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 103 2/3 IP, 50 BB, 128 K
2020 majors: 2/3 IP, 2 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 K 

While there are a few pitchers within today's minor-league crop that have been clocked at 102 mph, Marquez may be the only left-hander, and that sort of fastball naturally presents him with a high ceiling. The rest of his arsenal still needs work, though his slurvy breaking ball has proven to be effective enough. Mostly, it'll come down to how well he repeats his delivery given his lanky build and reworked mechanics.

27. DL Hall, Orioles

Age (on opening day): 22
Where he played in 2019: high Class A
2019 minors: 4-5, 3.46 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 80 2/3 IP, 54 BB, 116 K

Hall has maintained his place near the top of the Orioles prospect rankings over the past couple years in spite of some massive walk totals, but it's because so many evaluators expect the walks to come down, pointing to his repeatable and athletic delivery. His fastball/changeup combo can lead to some similarly massive strikeout totals, and he spent time at the alternate training site refining his breaking balls.

28. Nick Lodolo, Reds

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: Rookie, low Class A
2019 minors: 0-1, 2.45 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 18 1/3 IP, 0 BB, 30 K

The first pitcher selected in the 2019 draft is regarded more for his floor than his ceiling, but given the way he eviscerated the lower minors upon signing, Lodolo should have a quick ascent to the majors. His three pitches are more or less fully developed, and his command is his calling card. It's a profile reminiscent of Aaron Nola when he was first drafted, so we can at least dream of such an outcome.

29. Josiah Gray, Dodgers

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: low Class A, high Class A, Double-A
2019 minors: 11-2, 2.28 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 130 IP, 31 BB, 147 K

The Dodgers' penchant for maxing out every pitching prospect's potential has me fearful of lowballing Gray here, especially given how completely he succeeded in 2019.But he doesn't have bowl-you-over-type stuff, excelling mostly by way of the movement on his fastball. His varied arsenal and natural athleticism give him a safe starting pitcher projection for an organization that likes to bend roles.

30. Kris Bubic, Royals

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: low Class A, high Class A
2019 minors: 11-5, 2.23 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 149 1/3 IP, 42 BB, 185 K
2020 majors: 1-6, 4.32 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 50 IP, 22 BB, 49 K  

Bubic tore up the lower minors in 2019 in part because he was too advanced for his competition, but manager Mike Matheny took notice in spring training and helped facilitate his early arrival. There's nothing special about Bubic's stuff, but he plays his fastball off his changeup well and has some deception in his delivery. He showed enough improvement during his stint to suggest he has a future.