Dodgers Continue to Build Through Prospects

The Dodgers have won the National League West the last six years. They must be doing something right, though they have not won a World Series since 1988. In 2016 myworld rated them as having the second best prospect class with Corey Seager, Julio Urias, Jose Deleon and Grant Holmes. The last two years myworld has put them in the ninth spot. Last year the Dodgers who made Top 100 lists included Walker Bueler, Alex Verdugo, Yadier Alvarez, Keibert Ruiz, Yusniel Diaz, Jeren Kendall, Mitchel White, Starling Heredia and Edwin Rios. That is almost a starting lineup with a couple starting pitchers.

Myworld would probably rate Keibert Ruiz as their top prospect this year. Catchers who can provide some offense are not easy to find. He can also hit from both sides of the plate. His defense is solid, his arm is strong and the intangibles appear to be there. A 26 percent success rate on the caught stealing front is evidence of an average arm. His bat has the potential to hit for double digits in homeruns while hitting for a relatively high average. He will not be an automatic out as it appears most catchers are nowadays. Last year he played in AA so expect a full year in AAA with a possible September callup.

Gavin Lux would rate next on the list, and this is a bit of a surprise. The 2016 first round pick appeared to be somewhat of a bust after hitting just .244 in 2017 with issues throwing the ball accurately. His errors at shortstop were still pretty prevalent last year, but with Corey Seager planted at short the best position for Gavin may be second. His bat showed a little more life last year with a .324 average and 15 homeruns between High A and AA. Another full season in AA and he could be ready for the Dodgers by 2020.

Jeter Downs could be a steal from the Reds. Named after Derek Jeter, the Dodgers acquired him by saying goodbye to Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp in a trade with the Reds. Jeter still has some progressing to go, but plays the same position as Gavin, so where he fits is a question mark. He did hit for marginal power (13 homeruns and .402 slugging) in Low A and showed good speed with 37 stolen bases. His range and arm probably fit best at second base, but if his bat plays he could cut it in a super utility role.

Edwin Rios strikes out too much and is pretty stiff to stay at third base. First base may even be a challenge. His speed is non-existent so playing the outfield is not in the cards. What Edwin has is the ability to hit the ball hard when his bat makes contact. A 23/110 walk to whiff ratio is a red flag but he did hit .304 in AAA. The best thing the Dodgers could do for him is to trade him to an American League club where he could play DH.

Will Smith is another possible catcher for the Dodgers. He was also a first round pick in the 2016 draft. His bat may not be as consistent as Ruiz, but the pop is there, enough so that the Dodgers used him for 43 games at third base. There was a bit of a struggle in AA where he finished with 9 errors and an .880 fielding percentage. The bat is powerful enough to slug 20 homeruns between AA and AAA. The tools are there for him to catch, with an above average arm and soft hands. A .138 average at AAA means he has more seasoning to do at that level before he suits up in a Dodgers uniform.

In the outfield myworld is not as high on Alex Verdugo as many are. We think he will end up being a fourth outfielder. His bat does not seem to hit for the big time power that teams look for in their corner outfielders. Last year he did hit .329 in AAA but against major league pitchers it dropped to .260. The one big criticism with him is his lack of fire to want to be the best. He seems content on being average.

An outfielder who has power is D.J. Peters. His big issue may be an inability to make contact. Last year he struck out 192 times in 132 games. He did slug 29 homeruns, good for a .473 slugging average. At 6′6″ there is that Aaron Judge comparison, but his defense is not as strong. The arm exists to play right field. If Verdugo does not pan out Peters is ready for 2019. Don’t expect an average over .250 but 40 homerun seasons could be possible. He will see most of next year in AAA and the question is whether Steven Moya or Aaron Judge are the best comparisons.

Jeren Kendall is the antithesis of Peters. The 2017 first round pick is packed full of speed, but is not a punch and judy hitter. He had enough pop to blast double digit homerun totals. The speed will allow him to fit in centerfield and steal 40 plus bases. Like Peters he has trouble making contact with 158 whiffs in 114 games resulting in a disappointing .215 average. Despite the low average the Dodgers will probably promote him to AA.

Starling Heredia is a potential power/speed package that was signed for $2.6 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. After hitting over .400 at two different rookie levels in 2017 in 110 at bats, Starling could not find himself over .200 in 203 at bats at Low A last year. The 2019 season will be a pivotal year for Starling.

The Dodgers always seem to develop ace pitchers. Last year it was Walker Buehler. This year look for Dustin May and his mid-90s fastball. At 6′6″ he has good height, which is usually a problem for finding the plate. Dustin has no problem throwing strikes. He needs to develop a little more consistency with his curve, cutter and change, but the requisite pitches are there for him to fit in the rotation. Another half season in AA could make him ready for the Dodgers rotation in 2019 if he achieves success in AA/AAA.

Mitchel White was a second round pick in the 2016 draft who also has good height (6′4″) and a good mid-90s fastball. His best pitch may be his slider. A lack of command made him a bit hittable in AA with hitters tagging him for a .273 average. He has had Tommy John surgery right before competing for college and a myriad of injuries have limited him to less than 100 innings, except for last year when he logged in 105.

Dennis Santana is a converted shortstop and a bargain signing ($170,000) out of the Dominican Republic in 2012. As a shortstop he had a good arm, but after he showed his bat was lacking after his first year the Dodgers converted him to the mound. His fastball can rise north of the mid-90s but his poor secondary stuff could make him fit best in the bullpen. Last year hitters struggled making contact off him, hitting him at a .183 clip. He did get one poor appearance (12.27 ERA) in the major leagues but he hopes for more in 2019. Expect the Dodgers to find some room for him in the bullpen by mid-season next year.

Yadier Alvarez is a Cuban who the Dodgers spent $16 million to sign. They have not had much success with their Cuban mega signings. Yadier has a lot of flash with his fastball reaching triple digits. His biggest problem is finding the plate with 43 walks in 48 innings last year in AA. He has a good slider, which when combined with his fastball could make him a good closer. The lack of a third pitch will make it difficult for him to make it as a starter unless he can find the plate more. The Dodgers will probably put him in the bullpen in AA for 2019.

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