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Prospect Roundup

Future Category Winners: Batting Average

by Christopher Crawford
Updated On: March 2, 2020, 12:18 pm ET

If you play fantasy baseball -- and you know you do -- you know that there are players who are going to help you in certain categories more than others. We like to call these players "category winners."

As a prospect person, I thought it'd be prudent to give you some players who can help you win those various categories in the short and long-term.

First up, the average category. Here's a look at some prospects who have a chance to hit for high average upon their promotion to the majors.

2020 Helpers

Gavin Lux, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers -- Lux didn't necessarily show off how advanced his hit tool was in his brief time with the Dodgers, hitting .240 in his 75 at-bats. he certainly showed the tools to do it in the minors, however, hitting a combined .347 at the Double-A and Triple-A levels before the promotion. Lux has a smooth, left-handed stroke, and while you shouldn't expect him to high for that high of average in 2020, he certainly looks the part of someone who can help in the average category in 2020 and beyond.

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Nick Madrigal, 2B, Chicago White Sox -- If you wanted to have a "lock" to hit for a high average in 2020, it's probably Madrigal. The former collegiate star has a swing that is built for hitting line drives all over the park, and because of his speed, he is going to beat out more than his fair share of grounders on the rare occasion that he does make soft contact. He's likely headed for the minors to begin the 2020 season, but once up, Madrigal is worth an add because of his likelihood to hit in the .290-plus range. 

Carter Kieboom, INF, Washington Nationals -- It's sometimes easier said than done, but ignore the stats that Kieboom put up with the Nationals. Yes, the 22-year-old struggled to a .128 average in his 39 at-bats, but that sample size is entirely too small to take seriously. His .303 average with Triple-A Fresno is a much better indicator of the talent in the right-hander's bat. It would be nice if he was playing shortstop or second instead of third -- his most likely landing spot in 2020 -- but Kieboom should hit enough to be fantasy relevant this summer, and is an even better long-term play.

Drew Waters, OF, Atlanta Braves -- Waters wasn't nearly as good at Triple-A Gwinnett (.271 average) as he was in Double-A (.319), but we'll just call his "struggles" in Triple-A for a 21-year-old. The 2017 second-round pick is the rare hitter who has a chance to hit for average despite having a good amount of swing-and-miss because he uses the whole field, and he's also a well above-average runner who can use that to his benefit, as well. Waters is likely going to spend the first part of the season in Triple-A, but assuming he can keep the strikeouts to a dull roar, he is a definite add if/when he gets his promotion. 

Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox -- This list is in no particular order, but it is worth pointing out that Robert was the last player added. He makes loud contact with the bat speed to hit .300 or higher, but the patience at the plate is a bit troublesome, and you can't help but wonder if pitchers will exploit his aggressiveness. This might be nitpicking since Robert is one of the top prospects in baseball, and he wouldn't be considered so if he didn't have a good chance to hit for average. It's just something to keep in mind. 

Others: Brendan Rodgers, INF, Colorado Rockies; Jo Adell, OF, Los Angeles Angels; Evan White, 1B, Seattle Mariners; Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates; Nick Solak, INF/OF, Texas Rangers

Future Helpers

Wander Franco, SS, Tampa Bay Rays -- It's weird to say about a player that just turned 20 yesterday (Happy Belated, Wander) -- but it's almost impossible to imagine Franco not hitting for a high average. He makes hard contact from both sides of the plate, the swing is gorgeous, and his hand-eye coordination is sensational. We likely don't see him until 2021, but Franco is the best prospect in baseball, and of course he projects to hit for average at the highest level.

Jarred Kelenic, OF, Seattle Mariners -- Kelenic isn't the "lock" to hit for average that Franco is, but it seems pretty likely that he's going to put up a solid average at the next level, at worst. The former Met prospect recognizes pitches well, and his smooth left-handed stroke makes hard contact to all parts of the field. He's also a plus runner, so that doesn't hurt. Kelenic could come up to help the Mariners in 2020, but his chances to put up a strong average really start in 2021.

Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B, Minnesota Twins -- Kirilloff hit just .283 last season for Double-A Pensacola, but he dealt with injuries and some bad luck. The .348 average he put up in High-A -- while likely unrepeatable -- is a better example of Kirilloff's talent. Swings don't get much prettier, and he's an assertive hitter who won't pile up the strikeouts while working counts into his favor. Like Kelenic, there's at least a possibility he comes up to help the Twins, but he's a better long-term play than someone who can help in 2020. Not that you should discount him completely if/when he does get that promotion.

Andrew Vaughn, 1B, Chicago White Sox -- The third pick of the 2019 draft, Vaughn was one of the most prolific college hitters of the last decade, and he hit .278 while reaching High-A; a respectable number for a hitter in his first taste of professional baseball. Vaughn has excellent hand-eye coordinator, and the 21-year-old has solid bat speed and the ability/willingness to make hard contact to the opposite field. He's not going to leg out many hits, but it won't matter. Vaughn should be hitting in the middle of the Chicago lineup before the end of 2022.

CJ Abrams, SS, San Diego Padres -- There are several prospects with Abrams' profile, but in this writer's eyes, the best of them is Abrams; at least in terms of likelihood to hit for a high average. He's also another member of the 2019 draft, which is shaping up to be a pretty good one. The left-handed hitting shortstop hit .393 in 150 professional at-bats, and his bat-to-ball skills along with top-of-the-scales speed make him a candidate to win a batting title someday. There are some questions about his defensive position and how much power he'll hit for, but there's no doubt that Abrams has a chance to hit, get on, and steal an awful lot of bases in the next two-to-three seasons.

Others: Julio Rodriguez, OF, Seattle Mariners; Vidal Brujan, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays; Josh Jung, 3B, Texas Rangers; Corbin Carroll, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks; Jasson Dominguez, OF, New York Yankees

Christopher Crawford

Christopher Crawford is a baseball and college football writer for NBC Sports Edge. Follow him on Twitter @Crawford_MILB.